If you've read "The Moment My Heart Shattered", then you'll know that when I was 12, a woman, my dad was having an affair with, followed us on holiday with her husband and her two kids. I overheard my mum and my sister arguing, as my sister had discovered what my dad was up to and told my mum. I heard everything. They didn't know that and I never told anyone. It was another 12 years before my mum and dad finally split (with a great deal of encouragement from me and my sisters). Those twelve years make so much more sense now. Now I have inside information on how it really feels to have your husband cheat, my parents' relationship, as it appeared to me, is a lot easier to understand. However, at the time, these years were very confusing, very awkward, emotionally sterile and uncomfortable, and very difficult. I didn't really understand the full implications until recently.
In all those years, I never, and I can honestly say, NEVER saw my parents argue. Not once. Whatever was going on between them, they kept away from me and my sisters. What I did see, or maybe sense is a better word to use, was an uncomfortableness. A permanent atmosphere. Like when two people have had an argument and then have to pretend because there's other people around. That pretty much sums up my childhood. Emotional stalemate, which spread to how they interacted with us.
Don't get me wrong, I grew up in a very privileged life. Both my parents worked, I lived in a big house, we went on holidays to France, my sisters and I (I have three) all did music lessons, dancing, gymnastics and other out of school activities. From the outside it was all pretty enviable. The first five years after the discovery weren't too bad, from what I can remember, but my mum got slowly more and more emotionally withdrawn, as my dad continued to live a double life. He was always "working", had no clue what was going on with us most of the time and was usually asleep on the sofa or forgetting to pick us up from somewhere. At 17 things started to appear again. I would catch my mum crying. She would disappear out to the "postbox" for half an hour. I had no idea what was going on then. One day my dad was rushed into hospital as he was coughing up blood. It turns out he had blood clots on his lungs and was very ill. I remember catching a bus from school to go to the hospital to see him, that first day. I distinctly remember my mum sitting in the chair next to him looking incredibly uncomfortable and distant. Turns out she had been at a solicitor's discussing divorce when she was trying to be tracked down. She never went through with it.
Two years later, my older sister was at university. My other sisters and I were called into the living room where we all sat on the sofa together. My dad then proceeded to tell us he was moving out for a while, at the request of my mum. He said it was all to do with his "despicable behaviour" and that he was sorry. I don't remember much, except that we were all crying. That night I sat up with my mum and she told me what he had been up to. It was heartbreaking. There was more than one. He was going to leave us all at one point, but we think she dumped him. My mum had found letters he had written, confronted one woman at their house. It was terrible. There's no point in going into more details as it's all horrific. Cheating is simply horrific. Men (and I know women cheat too, but my experiences are of men doing it, so that is what I am writing about) act disgustingly. Callously. Cowardly and with zero consideration or perception of how their actions may permanently affect the people closest to them.
That night she asked me to meet her, the next day, at a Mark's and Spencer's card holders' evening. I was working at my first proper job since leaving sixth form, so could meet her after work. As I was waiting outside, I saw her walking up the high street with my dad, holding hands! For the record, I had NEVER seen them hold hands! I was like WTF?! I spent the next hour or so walking round the store with them as they joked about underwear like the night before had all been imagined. Clearly, I was looking at my mum wondering what the fuck she was doing, unable to say anything to her, while my dad was behaving like nothing had ever happened. It was completely bizarre, incredibly uncomfortable, and one of the many, many times in my life where I held it all in for the sake of family.
Two weeks later, after my dad had been staying at his mum's, we were in another family meeting. This time discussing whether he should be allowed to come home or not. My younger sisters were being very amicable and saying they wanted whatever mum wanted. Me, on the other hand, was quietly raging. I could not look at him. Could not agree, so said nothing. I simply sat there, opposite them, and cried. When my mum asked me what I thought, I apologised and said I couldn't agree and would never agree. That I didn't believe a word he said. That I didn't believe he was sorry, in fact, I said he wasn't sorry, he was just sorry he had been caught. I was disgusted with him and did not see him as my dad at all. I remember how he sat crossed-legged on the floor in front of me crying. At one point he got up and tried to hug me. I pushed him away and told him he was not my dad and that I didn't want anything to do with him. That if mum wanted him home, I would go along with it, but as far as I was concerned I no longer had a dad.
He came back home. He walked in a room, I walked out. I didn't look at him, talk to him or acknowledge him at all. I simply pretended he didn't exist. I stayed out of the house as much as I could. I lost all respect for him completely. My life took a turn for the worse. I just lost direction completely. Bad friends, self-destructive behaviour. I woke up one day after a particularly difficult few months and thought "what the fuck am I doing?" My life was fucked and I was only just about to turn 20. I applied to be a nanny in America and 3 months later I was gone. It was one of the best things I ever did.
All of this has been recounted in my recent counselling. It's not like the first time I have ever told the story or even the first time I've had counselling where it's been brought up. But it's the first time it has been brought up since I have experienced infidelity as a wife, not a daughter. The first thing I noticed, I wrote about in "You're Not Crumbling, You're Growing". This is where I realised the plaster had been ripped off this old scar, when I recognised that old familiar feeling of disgust and lack of respect. I was feeling it again. It was so familiar. That then led me to onto realising a lot more about how my mum and dad interacted with each other. I saw my mum in a whole new way. I'll write about that in another blog.
The other huge thing I realised, is how I learnt not trust anyone. Not only did I not trust my dad, I didn't trust my mum either. I had no idea if or when my life, as I knew it, was going to be pulled out from underneath me. I didn't trust my dad because of what he'd done, but I also didn't trust my mum as I had no idea what she was going to do about it. I lived amongst a stale emotional atmosphere. There were rolling eyes and looks of contempt. There was an air of constant annoyance and disapproval. My dad behaved as nothing had happened and my mum's lips were constantly pursed. It was a conflicting and confusing atmosphere to obliviously soak in every day. I realised now, I was always (subconsciously) waiting for the house of cards to tumble, while cultivating a deep sense (again, subconsciously) of not being good enough for your own dad to want to stay.
And if you don't trust your parents, who can you trust? Everyone out there has their own agenda. Does anyone really act with your best interests in mind?
My mind was blown and my concept of trust shattered into a thousand pieces and put under a microscope. Talk about headfuck.