A QUICK POTTED HISTORY FOR THE UNINITIATED
Steve and I were together between 1989 and 2013. We had two young children and a thriving family business together. I met Helen on the school run in October 2010 and by September 2013 (two days after my Mum's funeral), Steve and Helen's affair was revealed. What followed was so brutal that I eventually felt compelled to write a book (Too Relieved To Grieve) about my experiences, to document how the children and I grew through what we went through; essentially to help others in a similiar sinking boat. And here we are.
I HAVE A QUESTION
As and when you have been available for a new relationship, and you found a desirable object of your growing affection, how attracted would you have been if they immediately started displaying callous and cruel behaviours, in the service of their severe and bloated selfishness? What a turn on, right?
I ask this question because this is precisely the way in which Steve and Helen's intimate relationship began. Oh sure, they had known of each other since October 2010, when Helen and I had first become friendly, but Steve was initially revolted by her at this time, nicknaming her Fugly, no less. Helen began working almost immediately to discard her husband of 20+ years (Lee) and to secure her availability (so it appears in 20/20 hindsight), but Steve still had to transition out of his Fugly opinion. Helpfully however, Helen lost in excess of 42lbs during the spring and summer of 2013, and less was more in this context - and yes I know, I really should have seen it coming, but it was all meant to be.
Over time, Steve became visibly and vocally insecure about my deepening friendship with Helen, and said he felt like I was drifting away from him. In fact, once Helen had despatched Lee to the marital wilderness, Steve asked me to lessen the intensity of my friendship with Helen and "come back to him". So impaired was my judgement however - clouded as it was by my 'Helen-blindness' - that I dismissed his plea with something along the lines of: "She's a single mum with two kids to look after by herself, I can't leave her now!" He noticably shrank before my very eyes, so it's more than fair to say he gave me fair warning for what was to come in the months ahead.
If Steve truly felt that that I was drifting away, then he was right because, for all the reasons I go into in the book, there was nothing to grasp in our marriage so I let go. By the spring of 2013, Steve had started noticing Helen's flagrant availability, and clearly calculated that one Fugly was better than potentially nothing, because could he function alone if we separated? Theoretically, if he had left me for no other reason than our love had died, could he have lived for an indeterminate amount of time, potentially forever, by himself? I'm willing to bet all of the money in your pockets that his soul screamed "No!"
So, having to calculate the lesser of two evils, Fugly or nowt, Steve had to become someone Helen would be attracted to and obediently became someone capable of great cruelty and callousness, in a swirling soup of unrelenting selfishness. At the end of the day, like attracts like, and we can simply ask Lee how cruel, callous and unrelentingly selfish Helen can be, as she has played their two children like pawns and stopped him from seeing them. Now my children had to be jettisoned from their father also, it seems.
Whilst there's no question, in my opinion, that Helen is the 'brains' of their relationship, slyly and hypnotically guiding Steve towards her desired outcome of our divorce and zero contact with his children, Steve is ultimately responsible for his own actions. And make no mistake, I have done nothing to prevent him from seeing his children; there are no e.g.: court orders in play and never have been. This is a Faustian pact entirely of his own making, which he renews every day. Meanwhile the children, Sofia and Alex, have had their hearts and minds smashed and splattered on the temporal whims of their once beloved father. It's been brutal for them.
JUST HOW EMOTIONALLY BONNIE & CLYDE IS THAT?
I feel almost certain there would have been an erotic charge between Steve and Helen as they dismantled my life and the lives of my children, as they sprayed their cruel and callous bullets of unrelenting pain and hurtfulness into our hearts and minds. How else could they have to continued to behave in this way otherwise? I imagine they got off on their temporary power of forbidden lust, because if they had felt so much as a scintilla of remorse, compassion or decency they'd have stopped hurting us long before we grew impenetrable. But they didn't, they got worse at every opportunity they had to be better.
How are these attractive qualities in any new paramour? What kind of person is turned on by the hurtful capabilities of another? At what point, if ever, did either Steve watching Helen crush Lee underfoot, or Helen assisting Steve in his attempts to crush the children and I think to themselves: "Hmm, if they can do this with me, they can do this to me?" Isn't that a dark and soulless thought? And why am I telling you about this now?
EPIPHANIES AWAKEN THE SOUL
Well, I had an epiphany is the short answer. You will note in Too Relieved that I have quite a few epiphanies, and I'm always grateful for them, they reveal so much. This is the gist of the epiphany in question, not written about in the book because it came later.
When we were together. Steve and I would occassionally watch a DVD of Adele, Live at The Royal Albert Hall. One of the songs on the set list is Someone Like You. As you may already be aware, Adele wrote this song following a painful break up, and would frequently become emotional whilst singing it; she certainly became emotional whilst recording the DVD.
Once Steve and I had separated, I naturally found this song too painful and too lyrically on-the-nose to listen to, and so I didn't. I mindfully chose to avoid that pain whilst dealing with so much other pain; notably my children's broken hearts. What I had to accept was that I had loved Steve so deeply and completely, that it was going to take me a long time, and a lot of resilience, to climb out of those feelings, and this song would have me losing my bearings and toeholds, sending me back to the bottom of my emotional well, again and again. And when you have two young children to rebuild, and the family home deliberately repossessed from under you (in a bid to snaffle the considerable equity), you just don't have the time to indulge your own emotional healing.
My epiphany came many years later, well into the "Oh bloody hell haven't you gotten over him by now?" range. The thing is, I didn't want to rush my healing process, I didn't want to numb it, mask it or self medicate it; believing these models to be a hiding to only more eventual pain. I have never shied away from doing the hard things, sometimes to the point of sheer bloody mindedness, so I was determined to feel the fear and do it anyway. Half the time though it was because I didn't actually have a choice (in my efforts to remain outwardly calm and capable for the children), but then again, I wouldn't have done things differently if I had.
So there, I was, many months after our divorce, having listened to Someone Like You all the way through, without realising I was listening to it and not living it. Huh, interesting. This realistion stopped me in my tracks and I had a little think about it, to process the ramifications. Then something seemed to bubble up from my deepest recesses and I found myself saying out loud: "I don't want someone like you. I don't want you at all. I want more than you ever gave me and I want more than you're capable of giving me". And the weight lifted entirely off my shoulders and dissolved into the ether. In that moment I was entirely at peace. I understood how and why what's meant to happen always does, and this was good for me and ultimately good for the children. Sure, kids do need their dads, but not toxic, mentally unstable and emotionally abusive dads. There is no place in my children's lives for cruel, callous selfishness.
And you know what? I am not attracted to cruel, callous selfishness either, so I feel like the trash took itself out. I can't be with someone capable of despicable levels of short term, hedonistic destruction, and I pity those who are. Maybe it's just me, but I feel sorry for Steve and Helen. I have a little insight into their shared existance since Bomb Drop, and what they've had to endure during these past few years, and it's not been great; but these are the consequences of their actions. They chose to dance with the Devil, and when you dance with the Devil the Devil doesn't change, the Devil changes you.
Nevertheless Steve, I still "wish nothing but the best for you" and the future you deserve.