Exactly a year ago, we were on a long-awaited family ski holiday. I hoped the clear mountain air, and children’s laughter would dissipate the cloud T had been living under for weeks, give him a chance to relax and discuss whatever aspects of “us” were making him so unhappy.
One evening, as he was still miserable, as my attempts to make him laugh, relax and to cuddle him seemed to bring more pain than comfort, I confronted him. Given his revelation the previous week that he believed “we” had a problem, this took some courage, and the desperation of someone who can no longer bear helplessness in the face of their partner’s misery.
The result was a freefall into terror as the full extent of his disengagement came to light. First, he no longer thought he loved or trusted me, leaving my baffled mind trying to understand what may have killed his love and trust for me. I understood things were seriously wrong for him, I could sense the extent of his despair and rallied all my strength to fight for us, to understand what caused us to run aground so spectacularly. This is when he said that he didn’t think he had the strength to carry on, and fight.
At this stage, I remember feeling like I had entered a nightmare, where the unthinkable suddenly looked me in the eye: I was the one to utter the word separation. My panicked mind attempted to process the information, thinking out loud about consequences. How were we ever going to manage financially? Given that I had left my job in the UK, I may have to move back. How could we manage full stop? What were we going to do about the children? But the only real question underneath my frantic rambling was how could this be possible?…
We had just spent the last 18 months struggling through moving in together, becoming a family, the demands of his job, settling my son and me into a new environment, our daughter’s first year, trying to find a new balance… But by then, things were finally looking up as our daughter got older, his job would become less stressful, and everything became more settled. This resolutely felt like an absurd time to give up.
He went home, saying he needed to sleep, be alone and think things through before we talked. I remember telling him to do whatever he needed, that we could talk when he felt ready. I stopped eating or sleeping, yet put all my energy into staying alive. I remember going skiing every afternoon with my son, changing my daughter’s nappies, trying to keep functioning. I was lucky that my brother and sister held things together, cooked and kept the children entertained, listened to my endless shocked litany.
I clung to the conviction that the man I loved, my daughter’s father and son’s step-father would not just leave me without giving us a chance. There is an extremely high probability that meanwhile, he spent new year’s eve with the New Ms T (but I would not realise that for another six months).
On the first of January, I called to see how he was doing. He said he was fine, but wanted a separation, because he needed to live alone and find himself.
On the following day, I loaded to car up in a daze of sleeplessness and pain, slipped on ice carrying my daughter, and fractured my tailbone. Then I drove home for three hours to face T and realise that his mind was made and there would be no talking.