You are often in my thoughts but particularly this week as it would have been our 20th wedding anniversary. It’s got me reflecting a lot on what was and perhaps what might have been. We’d already been together 11 years and had our girls when we married. It was as much a celebration of what we had as well as an expression of hope for the future. We did have more happy times ahead but somewhere we lost our way and grew apart. I’ve thought about us a lot since then, changing my view of things as I’ve come to terms with it all. This letter is to say sorry for the wrongs I did you. I don’t think you’d want me to send it to you somehow so you’ll probably never read it but I do need to say it so here it is.
You were loyal and dependable right from the start. I couldn’t quite believe my luck. I didn’t think much of myself back then so it blew me away that you wanted to be with me and treated me so well. I know I struggled to be as loyal and dependable back – especially when you were in Germany. Looking back I think it was my way of protecting myself from the pain of separation – a childhood scar that runs deep. You came back and we settled down, bought a house together. I carried a lot of guilt though. It was a crack running through the foundation of our relationship. We built over it and round it but we never really repaired it.
I think we were happiest when the girls were little. I loved being a family, loved seeing you play with them. You were so much calmer than me, more patient. Together we were a good team, yin and yang. Giving my children a stable childhood was a priority for me after the instability of my own. You were the rock that we organised around and it worked.
So what changed? I don’t think you did. You’re quite a straight forward person. I was always the emotional, moody one – searching for more; more fun, more meaning, more anything really! Easily frustrated, easily bored, often distracted. I think you felt neglected by me a lot of the time. I’m not really the good wife type much as I wanted to be. I prioritised the girls, my work, my friends, the horses over you at different times in our relationship. If you did complain I’d quickly shout you down. I’m more verbal and more domineering. I organised everything and I ruled the roost. I’ve become more aware of how controlling I can be in recent years and I’m truly sorry for that. I think it comes from a place of not liking myself very much. I needed everything to look perfect, to be perfect or risk it all crashing down. I’d justify myself by complaining about your passivity. That’s part of the story but this is about apologising for my faults not naming yours. I’m sorry I couldn’t be more accepting and appreciate the good instead of trying to make it better all the time and making you feel not good enough in the process. I’m learning to be in the moment and see the beauty of now but back then I was always chasing something more and in the process lost what I had.
Recently I’ve been wondering what part alcohol played in our eventual demise. You often said I was at my best when I was re-toxing! I don’t think my relationship with alcohol was ever healthy. The irritability and restlessness I now recognise as part of addiction were part of our daily lives and I attributed them to something else that needed sorting or changing. I’ve finally got around to changing myself instead of everything around me. We had a lot of fun times but I never really knew when to stop. In many ways you were my brakes and kept me from the worst of myself for many years. My drinking really escalated after we split up. I did care what you thought even if it didn’t always look that way. Thank you for your tolerance.
When we moved back to the UK I had an uneasy feeling that this was similar to my own childhood – moving back followed by separation. A sense of history repeating itself whether we wanted it to or not. You said you thought we would never split up whereas I’d always feared we would. We were ok for a while but you hated your job and got miserable. I think the rot really started when Button died. We both loved that dog like our first child. I wanted another and you didn’t. I later understood this was about grief but at the time I thought you were being unreasonable and selfish. Eventually you cracked and we got another dog. I don’t think you got over thinking how selfish and unreasonable I had been about it. If only we’d been able to talk about it. Soon after I got back into riding and bought horses. You didn’t approve at all and couldn’t help showing it. No big arguments just smouldering resentment. For me this was exciting and life affirming but to you it was a load of money on something that took me away from you – you couldn’t relate at all. You couldn’t share in my pleasure and the resentment on both sides became a wall between us. You’ve always been cautious with money whereas I’m impulsive. I earned more but had taken on your fiscal anxieties until the horses. Looking back I moved the goalposts without discussion and did what I wanted with little regard for you. You put up with it but didn’t like it. We started to live increasingly separate lives.
I didn’t talk to anyone about how we were. The idea of separating out our lives was too much to contemplate. Eventually I did talk to a friend and then to you. I said I was unhappy and wanted to see if we could change things; if we couldn’t then I wanted to split up. 3 weeks later I met C. I was surprised how shocked and upset you were. It seemed to come out of the blue to you whereas it had been in my mind a long time. I hated seeing you hurt so much. It was the hardest thing I have ever done – causing you and the girls so much pain. If I hadn’t have met C then I think I’d have bottled it like I did when we nearly split early on. I don’t think that would have been good for any of us though. It was too late by then. I was relieved when you met someone quickly and got yourself back together. We divorced easily without too many arguments, managing to live in the same house for another 12 months. I’m proud that we did that. I wasn’t prepared for the difficulties that came after between you and J. You were such a devoted dad I never expected that to change. I know the way I was in those early months didn’t help – I still thought I could tell you what to do and it took me a while to realise I was making things worse. You wanted distance and I had to learn that I could no longer set the terms of our relationship. I missed you as a co-parent and a friend – I still do. I think J reminds you of me and that was too much for you to bear at the time. Now it seems like neither of you know how to fix it. I hope that one day you figure it out for both of your sakes.
When you break up with someone it’s easier to hate them, ruminate on their faults and tell yourself you never really loved them anyway. How else do you walk away? I am now in a place where I can say I loved you very much and I’m grateful for the love you gave me. We were together for 24 years; raised 2 beautiful intelligent daughters and had lots of good times. I am thankful for all of it and my only regrets are the pain I’ve caused to those I love including you. Sometimes things aren’t meant to be forever but it doesn’t mean they were not meant to be. I do hope you are happy.
With love always L xxxx