Friday, 17 July 2015

The Everthere

Misty November Morning and Me
This time last year my wife was selling up the family home and preparing to move to Canada. I don't have the exact date to hand but one day last summer I was installed in this flat so she'd have a place to come home to, as and when. I'm still here but we're separated and I hope to never see her again. What a strange year.
I've been wanting to write something about it for a while. I don't seem to feel the need to write as often as I did - I don't seem to feel the need to 'explain myself' as much as I did, but it's been going around in my head and putting it down here seems to be a good way of 'parking' it so I don't have to think about it any more.

What I don't want to write is a bitter diatribe about her. I don't feel bitter for a start, or not very. I don't really do bitter. Actually I feel sort of ok. I think maybe the separation was one of those things that was a long time coming, and frankly a bit of a relief. I love this flat, and though it's frankly way too expensive for me, I'm prepared to not have other things in order to be able to keep it. I certainly don't miss the garden at the old house which was getting neglected because I was too busy at the nursery.
Fact is, I'm not sure I miss any of it. I still see her kids, though they're with their dad, and I got a lovely fathers' day card saying how I'd always been there for them and I was incredibly chuffed with that. They've had their GCSEs and A levels to contend with this year, and their nan died (my mother-in-law) as well as the general upheaval.

Frankly I'm not sure what to make of my equanimity. Did it really mean that little or am I in denial? Am I going to wake up one day and realise what I've lost and be heartbroken? We were only together 10 years, of which only six were married and living together. We had no kids together and have nothing to squabble over, possessions wise. She owned the house with her ex. Sometimes that ten years seems like a weird isolated lacuna in my life, and now I've woken up and come back to normality. I can hardly remember what it was like when it was good, although I know it was good, and for quite some while. We were so warm and silly. There was a time when I knew we would grow old together and it was a good thing. I was done. I didn't need anyone else. Our first dance at our wedding was The Everthere by Elbow, which is about this very thing -

All my saints have taken bribes
Singing, "Going, going, gone."
All the angels taken dives
Leaving you the only one

If I loose a sequin here and there
More salt than pepper in my hair
Can I rely on you when all the songs are through
To be for me the everthere, everthere?

Slide into another book
Now and then laugh out loud
Throw that very dirty look
Which says, "Okay, stop staring at me now."

If I loose the sequence here and there
Less derring do than quiet care
Can I rely on you for a good talking to
To be for me the everthere, everthere?

If I loose a sequin here and there
And take my time on every stair
Can I rely on you when this whole thing is through
To be for me the everthere, everthere?

Unfortunately the DJ screwed it up - played it far too loud and distorted and no one knew what it was about and we stumbled through our dance. We should have requested We Have All the Time in the World - she sang it to me once as part of a concert... That's a good memory. Turns out of course we didn't, but that's why the song is so poignant. Whatever the words say, the music tells us it's actually about loss.

I used to love just looking at her - I was so incredibly chuffed with her. I can't remember what that felt like now. Somewhere along the line we lost that. Too much 'real life'. No drama - no infidelity or violence, just, you know, falling out of love I guess. We used to joke about how bizarre it was we got on so well, considering how little we had in common, but I think that caught up with us in the end. We ran out of things to talk about and I would end up going on how I felt about my life and she about the NHS and how terrible it was. I think it hardened her.
Last Christmas, when we finally split, I got an email from her reinterpreting our entire time together in terms of my failings. She was very angry. The final straw was a posting on here that mentioned her by name and implied that she was the female equivalent of a selfish bastard. I apologised profusely and felt cold and sick. It was stupid and indiscreet of me. But now here I am again and I just think, should she ever come across this, that she'll just have to put up with it because I have to do what I can to look after myself now.

And I know I was hard to live with. I had quite severe depression, as many do, but I was not someone who can't face getting out of bed, just quietly suffering in the other room. When I get depressed I try to force myself on and I get frustrated and anxious, clumsy and bad tempered. The less I feel like doing anything the more I feel I should be getting on with things. The result is usually some sort of climax where I hurt myself or burst into tears or do a bit of ranting, or sometimes, I throw something. I got migraines often and dizzy spells. I had tinnitus and deafness in one ear. When we were first together I let her see all this. I told her she was the only person i'd ever really trusted with it and she gave me love in a way I'd never known before. I worked on it almost obsessively because I could see what effect it was having on her and the kids. I finally consented to taking anti-depressants and going back into counselling - two things I probably wouldn't have done otherwise, and I did endless amounts of self-analysis, partly using therapeutic ideas I'd picked up here and there, partly from a CBT book on self esteem she bought me and I reported back to her, to get her feedback on what I'd been thinking. (I've written a lot about this in previous posts.) Weirdly, just too late as it happens, it seems to have paid off. It's been over a year now I've felt able to cope with life in a way I never have before. I still get low every few weeks for no apparent reason but I no longer seem to feel the need to go over and over it in my head as I used to. It's very hard, when you're in the middle of a depressive episode, to see out - to know that it will pass - to not see it as the way you will always be, but I am better at it now, and when I'm in the middle of it I can see the signs and not let it get out of hand. Even through the upheaval of this last year I've remained remarkably calm - not by suppressing my feelings but simply because I understand how they work. I feel ok today. I didn't feel ok earlier in the week. Nothing in my world has changed. It's just how it is.
She will miss all this - how I am now. She left at the exact time I got it together and she won't get to enjoy it. On the other hand, had we stayed together probably we'd not have changed. We'd run out of things to talk about. She wasn't remotely interested in plants and didn't like my music, and wasn't nearly as much into debating things as I was (the kinds of things that make up most of the posts on this blog) or at least, not in such a rigorous analytical way as me. For my part I tried to take an interest in her midwifery and associated topics but increasingly it became about how crap the UK system was and how great it would be in Canada. In short, we ran out of common ground and increasingly, I filled the blanks with my opinionation.

I guess the fact is we grew apart - the ultimate reason I suppose for most marital break-up. We just didn't get each other any more. A time came when I was trying to explain my latest thinking on what was wrong with me, when it became obvious that she didn't get it at all. I'd be trying to tell her about this amazing new realisation I'd had and how things were getting better and she'd just tell me I'd said it all before and that I was just as bad as ever. My going on and on about it became more about trying to make her understand, because after all, this was the woman I was going to grow old with - my Everthere, and if she didn't get it, who would? So I kept trying, and in the process infuriated her more and more. She likened me to her mother - needy, attention-seeking and over-emotional, and disapproved of my method of self-analysis, which she believed was perpetuating the problem. Like many people faced with depression she came to believe that I was wallowing - that at some level I liked being unhappy - that I was comfortable there. I disagreed vehemently (I love it when I'm confident and positive and hate it when it passes) but that was another cause for argument. Of course she'd never say outright that it was my own fault that I was depressed but because I didn't follow her advice and give up on the self analysis it became my fault. And somewhere along the line she lost patience and I became a problem. She came home angry and exhausted from work and spent all her time on her ipad in her room. I went up there periodically for a bit of warmth but spent most of my evenings watching old boxed sets in our bedroom.

The ironic thing probably is that the marriage probably caused my depression more than it helped. Don't get me wrong - I've always been prone to depression/anxiety/anger, and there's a lot of it in my family, but I don't think I've ever been as depressed as I was those six years we lived together. I'm always oppressed by others' expectations of me (or what I imagine they expect of me) and in living with a partner, I have nowhere to escape to, to have a breather, to get my head straight, to just be myself, in my own space. Always, I feel that something more is expected of me, and that my partner is quietly seething at my selfishness. Even when she and I were close I felt this, and went out of my way to do more than necessary to make things good for her. I always did more housework than she did, not that she did much - usually it was just a blitz when visitors were expected, but this was ok because she worked longer hours than I did. (We agreed on this early on.) I made real home cooked meals regularly. (She did the big special occasion meals and the routine something-from-the-freezer type things.) I did The Big Shop every week. All my wages went into the family purse every week. I did the laundry most times and all the washing up and the recycling and the bins, and the garden of course. She tended to do the dusting and vacuuming but I did the wet works (kitchen, bog and bathroom) at least as often as she did, and at least as much DIY, although she was the one with the plans. (I hate DIY.)
I'm pretty sure she'd argue with most of this, because as far as she was concerned I didn't do it 'properly'. This seems to be the latest go-to position for aggrieved women, dissatisfied with their men. Before, their men didn't lift a finger around the house, now we do but we don't do it 'properly' (ie, we don't do it how they would like it done).

As time went on, these unfulfilled expectations became not in my imagination. Looking back on it now it is obvious that she did indeed expect more from me.
Firstly, I wasn't family oriented enough. She told me early on that the kids did not need another father as they already had a perfectly good one (he is still a good friend) but still there was this frustration with me that I did not want to join in more. It was difficult for me because I don't come from a very family-oriented family. I've always been quite solitary and never really understood kids, even when I was one, as I have explained elsewhere, and I never pretended otherwise. I tried hard to be a father, in my own way, and ultimately I seem to have done ok, but still, from quite early on she was agitating for me to be more a part of her family. Interestingly, they didn't get on with each other anything like as well as my small residual family, and fell out often and vociferously, but they had this bond I don't have with mine, and her sense of the importance of family was something I simply never had any real understanding of. The fact is I found it very difficult to adapt to her family - it was completely foreign to me. But nobody could accuse me of not having tried, and although I never measured up to her expectations, in the end I think I did ok.
Secondly she increasingly objected to the fact that I was not more sociable generally. She has loads of friends and really loves just going round and having drinks and chatting, or karaoke, or going dancing or running or whatever it is. The fact is I'd like to see people more but I find it quite exhausting. I can rarely really relax in company and I get fidgety and feel there are other things I'd rather be doing. Plus her friends were mostly not interested in the things I'm interested in, or in my way of talking about them. They were mostly nice people - don't get me wrong. She's a nice person. If you met her you'd almost certainly like her. I just only have so much energy for socialising. That's pretty much all there is to it. She didn't like that.
Thirdly there was an issue with sex which I won't go into in detail but it was partly a result of her feeling bad about how she looked and partly about having to fit it in around children and domesticity. Suffice it to say, I just really don't feel like it last thing at night and I think, for any couple living together, sharing a bed every night, picking up each others dirty undies, slouching around in those faded leggings and tee shirts, it's a real challenge to keep it fresh.
Finally she got fed up with the fact that travelling was not a big part of my plans for the future. We were at opposite ends of our lives in many ways. She'd been doing the responsible mum and employee, home owner and provider since she left home, whereas I'd been moving around doing different things all my life. Her kids were nearly grown up and she was ready to go. I had my new business and was ready to stay. Interestingly, if I'd said yes to going to Canada we might still be together. Then what would all these complaints mean? I'd have had to give up my nursery, leave behind my bro and my mum and this landscape that means so much to me. She said in one of her last emails that all she ever wanted was for me to be happy but I really can't see how that can possibly be true. I'm pretty sure I'd have been much less happy there (I did emigrate once before, for a year, to Australia, so I have some experience of these things.) The simple fact was that she couldn't really understand why a person would not want to travel. She assumed her kids would take the first opportunity to move out there with her but they show no signs of wanting to. They have their own lives here, and with both their parents in the travel industry, travel is not a big deal for them. She regretted not having the chance to travel when she was young but her kids don't feel the same way. It's her dream, not theirs, nor mine. I'd like to do a few trips in the future but at the moment my priorities are in my business. Plus I just love my home. I know it's uncool to say so, but I really do.

I never hid any of this or pretended to be someone I wasn't and never really wanted her to change (except maybe to be a bit less anxious about her body). I guess she fell into the age-old trap of getting into a relationship with someone on the basis of them changing, but nothing is more guaranteed to make me anxious and depressed than trying to be with someone who really wishes I was someone else. So when she sent that email around Christmas time last year, reinterpreting our relationship in order to make it all my fault, it was this she was talking about. I had been the wrong person almost from the start, and I simply hadn't tried hard enough to be the way she thought I should be. I think she'd supported me in my quest to deal with my anxieties and depression because she assumed that it would lead to me being more the man she wanted me to be. In fact of course it has lead to me being more comfortable with the person I actually am, which is not at all what she wanted.
Anyway, I wrote back to her to try get her to admit that it couldn't all be my fault. It hurt to see our life together trashed but she was angry (something I guess she'd been keeping bottled up all that time) and so it was justified. She did concede that (in theory at least, and possibly to shut me up) it must be to some extent her fault but I suspect if I asked her to point out any one thing that was actually her fault I doubt she'd have been able to come up with anything. I really think she thought she was completely blameless in all this.

Now? Who knows? I've not spoken to her since. The fact is, by the time we came to break up, pretty much everything I did was wrong. Our last time together, when she came home from Canada in the October because her mother was ill in hospital (too late as it happens to actually speak to her before she died) was completely rewritten to put me in the wrong on pretty much everything. I know people do this - when love breaks down, people justify it by making the other person out to be an utter waste of space. And I know I did not handle those few weeks well - she was worrying about, and then mourning, her mother, true, but I was mourning my wife and marriage. I don't know how one is supposed to balance those two. Anyway I was not completely reasonable the whole time. It was not all exactly the way she would have liked. What a surprise. When she left last August we held each other and cried and cried at the airport. When she left in November we hardly bothered.

I don't know. I'm still angry, obviously. I know I was hard work but marriages survive much worse things. I never turned to drugs or gambling or booze. I always made it to work. I did my bit. There were times when we were both very upset and usually me apologising, but there was never that moment where we looked at each other and said 'If something doesn't change we're going to break up'. It was always just about my faults and me changing. It was never about how we related to each other, and it was certainly never about how she was. We both knew something was seriously wrong but neither of us ever said 'Look we need to stop this and try something else.' That would have been the moment when we got some help, maybe some counselling. That's both our faults. And then it didn't have the chance to happen because she went to Canada. She just gave up on us.
But maybe there was nothing to be done. I think ultimately we were too different and in the end we really didn't have anything much to talk about. We fell apart, and really, looking back, it's hard to see what kept us together so long.

So now what? Well like I said, I still get tearful and tired periodically but nothing like I used to, and sometimes I still get migraines, but my deafness has all but gone. My last dizzy spell was in September soon after she left and it had me in hospital overnight - I was picked up off the side of the road unable to drive or even stand up, being sick in the verge. Apparently it's all migraine-linked but I've hardly had any symptoms otherwise.
I've started dating, but I'm not sure I'd ever want to cohabit again nor get involved with anyone with young children. Luckily quite a few women my age seem to have the same misgivings. I'm worried about the money since Miss Green died back in May and I have no regular work, and yet somehow it's not really getting me down. I love this flat and I have a good lodger (I like living with other people, just not with a girlfriend/wife apparently) and the nursery, though hardly paying its way, is very satisfying. I'm ok. I really am, and I expect she is too.