Before I begin I'd like to request that you suspend your judgement for the duration of this post. Both the Other Half and I are aware of the hurt we've caused and are dealing with the guilt. It gets easier with time but the knowledge of how we came to be so happy will never leave us.
I arrived home from my work trip at 3.30am. I was exhausted. I had been crying on and off since the departure lounge at Gibraltar airport as I simply didn't want to go home. When we arrived at Gatwick there was a long delay even disembarking the plane as steps could not be found. We then had to take the train over to the other terminal to collect our hire cars which in itself was a protracted affair as a member of our party refused to accept the first two cars allocated to her and spent a great deal of time inspecting the third before finally agreeing to take it. It was a two-hour drive home and I dropped three people off on the way. All the way home I was fielding increasingly angry calls from the Ex who, despite having been appraised of the situation, seemed determined to hold me personally accountable for my late arrival home. When I finally arrived and closed the front door behind me the sense of suffocation was unbearable. Despite his earlier protestations to the contrary the Ex was asleep upstairs, so I unpacked my suitcase and sat down with a drink to catch up on the news and unwind before going to bed. Ten minutes later the living room door flew open and the Ex threw a duvet at me with the words "Well, you made your mind up. I haven't seen you for four days and you'd rather watch the fucking TV". Charming. So I spent the rest of the night on the sofa which was a comfortable, familiar place due to the fact that I'd slept on it pretty much every night since Small Person was born four years previously. The next morning the Ex refused to even speak to me. I called him to find out what was going on and he suggested that I call into his place of work to talk things through before heading off to work myself. When I arrived he attempted to employ his usual tactic of pretending he'd "forgiven" me (for what, I can't imagine) and assuming everything would be ok. His face on learning that everything was about a mile past ok was something of a picture. I can't believe it took me eight years to say it but the relief once the words were out of my mouth was indescribable. I went to work and by 11am the next day had rented a flat and set in motion our separation.
The Other Half remained abroad for a further few days during which time we texted and used MSN to stay in touch. We learned an awful lot about each other in that time and arranged to meet when he got back. I spoke in a previous post about the human mind's ability to compartmentalise and this kicked in with me almost immediately. On one level I was in the middle of leaving my home and causing great upheaval in my daughter's life. On another I was experiencing the heady rush of a burgeoning relationship. On yet another, I was resolutely not thinking about the fact that the Other Half had been married for a very long time. I was also successfully not thinking about his wife, or the damage and hurt I was potentially causing. I can't justify my behaviour but I'd ask you to step into my shoes for a moment, if you wouldn't mind. After languishing for years in an unhappy marriage I had met a man with whom I shared a sense of humour, a love of music and pretty much an outlook on how life should be. He made me laugh like nobody I'd ever met (still does, every single day) and in a very short time, and completely unwittingly, had shown me that I was worth something - that I deserved much better than I was settling for. That I deserved more than endless sulking, violent rages and petty, small-minded squabbling. That I deserved more than a man who thought nothing of humiliating me in front of friends, who couldn't afford me the simple courtesy of speaking politely to me, who cared not at all for my feelings, hopes or fears. A man who preferred me to be very overweight as it took the weight off his own insecurities. A man who, in short, didn't deserve me. Faced with this I took the selfish decision to simply go with it - to embrace it and to hell with the consequences.
Those consequences turned out to be nearer and harsher than we could have imagined. On his return, the Other Half and I arranged to spend a weekend together. This of course demanded a cover-story. The cover-story was, of course, blown and the Saturday morning found the Other Half's life in turmoil. I of course understood that as far as his marriage was concerned I would always be the loser and as such I gracefully accepted that we couldn't see each other any more. This was always going to be difficult as we work together but believe me, we really did try to keep things on a platonic footing. This was incredibly hard - to hold something lovely for such a short time only to have it snatched away was painful for both of us - but we understood that our actions had caused our pain and that of others and, as such, tried to move on. Fate stepped in again however, and what happened next was so shocking that nobody could have anticipated it.
In the early hours of September 13th, 2004, the Other Half woke up with an agonising headache. He spent the next few days vomiting and unable to walk due to the complete loss of his balance and disorienting double vision. Both he and his wife assumed that he was suffering from a stress-related migraine, and a trip to the doctor confirmed this suspicion. When he returned to work he was still experiencing double vision. I could see that his left eye was turned in so that he was effectively looking at his nose, and ventured that maybe other people shouldn't be able to see physical evidence of simple double vision. I nagged him to make another appointment with his doctor which he duly did. The next I heard on the matter was via a phone call in which he explained to me that he was at the hospital. The doctor had referred him to the opthalmologist, who in turn had referred him to the neurology department on noticing a large amount of blood behind his left eye. The following day's MRI scan confirmed that the Other Half, far from having a migraine, had instead had a brain haemorrhage and was pretty much lucky to have survived it. This was an awful time for everyone - the Other Half naturally feared for his life, his wife was mortified that her annoyance at what she assumed was a migraine resulting from the discovery of his infidelity may well have been the last contact she had with her husband, and I was feigning indifference at the office while panicking that he would die. He didn't, and was discharged after a couple of days to convalesce at home. He was signed off work for six weeks and during this time our email and MSN correspondence resumed. We met up whenever we could and by the end of October neither of us could deny it any longer - we had fallen in love.
When I look back on those times it's a bittersweet feeling. I was living with my daughter and enjoying a wonderful relationship. It was everything I could have hoped for. Except for the part where he left my bed and went home to get into his with somebody else, that is. The weird compartmentalising thing saved me once more and I continued to cherish the time we spent together and, when we were together, avoid all thoughts of reality. Poor old Fifi Sis was subjected to endless conversations in which every word and subtext would be analysed. Although I would never have admitted it to him, or dreamed of asking him about it I wanted him to leave his wife. Things eventually became intolerable in this respect - every time he told me he loved me I wanted to scream "So why aren't you with me then?! If I'm so fucking wonderful why don't you want to be with me?". Of course I never vocalised my dreams. If we were to have a future together it had to be on an equal footing and if I asked him to change things for us we would never have had that. I eventually came to the conclusion that in the long term it would be less painful to end things than to continue as we were but struggled to find the courage to do it. I didn’t want to as I loved him so much and didn’t want to contemplate how life would be without him but there didn’t seem to be any other solution. The very next morning, out of the blue, he called me at 8am to tell me the very thing I'd been hoping for - he was leaving his wife. This is the part I struggle with. It was (and still is) hard to reconcile my happiness with the devastation she must have felt on hearing that her partner of twenty years was leaving her. I have nothing to say that could ever justify any of this and I don't expect any sympathy. As I've already said, I know what I've done. I can't change that and on an entirely selfish level I wouldn't want to. Maybe karma will get me in the end and in five years time I'll be crying as he tells me that girl from the bar didn't mean anything to him and that it's me he loves. Who knows what the future holds?
So, that's pretty much it. Next year we're planning on buying a house and moving in together. Small Person adores him and I have a sneaking suspicion the feeling might be mutual. The Ex and I are now on speaking terms and mostly working together to secure Small Person's future. I am happier than I ever dreamed possible - I honestly thought that things like this didn't happen in real life. The simple fact of the matter is that the Other Half and I are soulmates and we know how lucky we are to have found each other.
Blimey, that turned out to be an epic - perhaps I should have made it a three-parter. Thanks for listening.