It’s been two years since my delinquent husband (I’ll call him DH) was unfaithful. And what a heart-wrenching, confidence-melting, rooted-to-the-spot shock it was. It was raining when the news broke – it had to be, of course, in order to create the gloomiest atmosphere – and I had the flu.
I shrugged myself into an anorak – red, matching my runny nose – and spent the day walking in the rain, phone switched off, tears of disbelief mingling with raindrops. Mumbling incoherently to myself as I walked, I tried to sort out my thoughts and my future.
My plans oscillated between driving into the unknown to never return – tempting, but unfair on the family, and swallowing all the tablets that had accumulated in our medicine chest – clearly not the answer.
At around the sixth kilometre, common sense must have kicked in. I found myself at the bank isolating my various cheque and savings accounts and emptying my husband’s. Tired and feverish, I crawled back to bed and decided to do nothing further. In any case, I had been assured the affair was over. DH was still home and I had time to consider my next move.
Coincidentally, we’d booked a holiday and it was to be a marathon: a tour of the UK, a river cruise down the Rhine, then a drive down the Amalfi Coast in Italy and, finally, on to Malta. It was an expensive dream and even more so after I’d treated myself to a new wardrobe. If we cancelled, we’d lose the lot – apart from the clothes, of course. I was too befuddled to make any life-changing decisions, so we went on holiday as planned.
The river cruise was in the company of friends our age, all contentedly married for decades. As my husband’s gaze caught mine from time to time, I felt cheated and itched to rip his testicles away from his body with my bare hands.
Back from holiday, we went for therapy in the hope of becoming glued back together. Wearing a benevolent smile, our therapist allowed us to talk while mentally writing her shopping list.
DH lied imaginatively and I believed what I wanted to hear. But he’s a terrible liar: stories would change mid-sentence, muddled up with former lies, becoming incomprehensible. It was only a question of time before he was exposed. “Dolly Drop Drawers” was still on the scene. Should I cut up his ties, shorten his trouser legs, kick him out or should I leave?
I took legal advice. If I left, I’d be legally and financially disadvantaged. I pictured myself old and dishevelled, shuffling through town, possessions stuffed into bin liners, scavenging for food. It brought me to my senses, so I decided to throw him out instead. It was his turn to experience shock.
Of course he came back – and I let him. Reality had burst his fantasy bubble. With “her” – a 37-year-old bus driver – he would have nothing. With me, he had a house, his classic cars and a good lifestyle. That’s hard to give up when you’re 65. As for me? He wanted a cook and cleaner and I fit the bill.
I convinced myself that he had returned because he loved me – the act even rekindled my affections. My excuse? I’m blonde! Besides, I’ve always believed in fairies at the bottom of the garden. But you’re right, he was still seeing her. I didn’t even need to poke around to check on him; she rang me herself and told me to keep him away from her.
By now how many nails were there in my coffin? Let me tell you, that phone call was the last one. Instead of lying in darkness defused of will and self-worth, the lid was ripped open and I was set free. I looked at this man – clearly, seeing him for what he was – and I didn’t like what I saw. The spell was broken.
Of course the road to recovery took longer than that, but I was on the right path. A women’s group and self-help books all assisted in healing me. I decided to let DH stay on. I would do the things expected of a wife. In return he would maintain the house and garden, provide the lifestyle I had come to enjoy and provide companionship upon request. Perversely, we get on – we always did – but love was no longer on the menu.
This new lifestyle was hard and lonely. Friends avoided us; either they didn’t wish to take sides or else they didn’t want to become unnecessarily involved.
Then, out of the mist appeareda man. Not just any man, but a “gentle” man. Not a knight in shining armour from some fairytale, but a “real” man. Not young – but wise, and kind and honest. Not a lover, but something more precious and lasting – a true friend to laugh and cry with, to hug and confide in. Having lost his wife and still nursing his grief, he recognised my pain. And with a generosity of spirit, he reached out, restoring my faith in human nature with his kind, simple acts.
So remember, when things are bad – really bad – do not give up. Someone, somewhere will find you, if you let him or her. They will offer you a hand and help you to your feet, gently brush away your tears and soothe your troubled mind. I’ve discovered it’s true: there are fairies at the bottom of the garden.
Natasha de Langue is a pseudonym. The author is 62 years young and enjoys seeing the funny side of situations.
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