The day he returned from holiday, I was at a wedding. I couldn’t wait to get back and talk to him, but when I did, he was unusually quiet. I put it down to jet lag and tiredness, but the next day was the same. He’d go quiet for long periods of time and tell me it was because he was unpacking or doing his washing and other chores. I knew he probably had a lot on and left him to it.
He had a couple of days off work before he had to go back and he suggested meeting up for lunch. Much as I wanted to, I said no. I was worried about what might happen if we did. We’d already crossed some lines, that wasn’t one I was prepared to cross with a married man. He tried to persuade me to change my mind for a couple of days, but I told him firmly it wasn’t going to happen. Eventually, he said he understood and he didn’t want to force me into anything I was uncomfortable with.
A week went by and things still seemed different. As the weekend approached, he told me he’d organised a surprise party for his wife. He’d planned it months in advance and the invites had been sent out a while ago. This was the first I was hearing about it, but I didn’t say anything. On the day, he sent me pictures of the venue. It was huge, very classy and a lot of effort had clearly gone into it. As the time of the party grew closer, I told him he should concentrate on his family for the rest of the evening and I’d text him the next day. He told me there was no need for me to go, but I left him to it. The idea of him texting me during her birthday party seemed a step too far. He continued to text me for an hour or so, but I didn’t reply and eventually he thanked me and turned his attention back to the party.
The next day, he was back to acting aloof. He’d tell me he had nothing on that day, then disappear. I’d always made it clear to him that he should never feel as though he had to talk to me all the time. There was no obligation and I expected nothing. He’d insist he wanted to talk to me all the time and even the hours we did talk for, weren’t enough. Once or twice, he’d gotten a little upset when I’d been quiet in the mornings, which was usually my busiest time at work. Back then, I was also worried about texting him first in case his phone rang out at an inopportune moment, but he assured me it was always on silent.
After a few days of his sudden disappearances, one weekend morning he told me he’d gotten everything out of the way and was free to talk to me for the rest of the day. Then he disappeared again immediately. I figured he’d been called away to do something, but when he did come back, no explanation was offered. I made a light hearted remark about it taking hours for him to reply and instead of explaining, he corrected me on how long it had been. I was having a bad day and the uneasiness of the last few days finally came to a head. I didn’t want to argue, so I told him I was going to go and calm down.
My friend Paul had suggested meeting up earlier and I’d said no, but I changed my mind and went to see him. He took one look at my face and knew something was wrong. I couldn’t talk to him about it, I hadn’t told anyone about us. What could I say? It didn’t even make any sense to me. A few other things were going on at the time and embarrassingly, I started to cry. I very rarely cry and was completely mortified. Paul was fantastic. He let me cry all over him, got me tissues, made me a drink, got me some food (he knows me well) and stayed with me until I calmed down. The only explanation I could offer was that I’d fallen out with a friend. I know he suspected there was more to it, we share an office after all, but he didn’t push me.
I’d been checking whatsapp on and off all afternoon and he’d sent a few messages apologising and saying he didn’t realise he was being different and the only possible explanation could be that he felt something for me and was worried it was wrong. I finally replied, reiterating the fact that I didn’t expect anything from him, just for him not to laugh off my concerns or say things he didn’t mean. The one constant thread throughout our time together was me saying again and again that I only wanted honesty. He had to be himself. I never ever wanted him to do something because I wanted him to do it, even if I didn’t like it, he had to be himself. Every time we had a disagreement, I was reluctant to tell him the reason because once you do that, people alter their behaviour and try to do what you want them to do. I don’t think a relationship is sustainable once one of you starts doing that. They’ve got to WANT to do something. To his credit, even when I suggested a few days apart, he didn’t disappear. He kept texting even when I ignored his messages. That was the moment I think I realised I was falling for him. When he found out I’d been crying, he seemed contrite, even tweeting he’d upset someone and would never forgive himself.
When we’d discussed our families and previous relationships, I’d told him about all the issues I have. I was brutally honest about it from the start. I know I can be difficult. I have a complicated relationship with my dad. We don’t get along and away from polite company, we don’t talk to each other. This has had an effect on my relationship with the rest of the family as well as my personal relationships with men. I won’t go into details here, but I told him everything. How I push people away before they can do it themselves, how I prefer having a row with someone than being ignored by them. One shows passion, the other is about indifference or control. Like everyone else, he told me he was sure my dad loved me, but after hearing all the details, he seemed appalled and promised he’d always be honest with me and never walk away.
When the one person who is supposed to love you unconditionally, doesn’t, it becomes hard to believe anyone else ever could. It took a lot for me to tell him about this part of my life. I’d done it once before and had it used against me. At the time, it had felt like I’d been punched in the stomach and it had been the final push I’d needed to walk away from what had been a very destructive relationship with a man who even years later, I believed was the love of my life.
To open myself up to the possibility of that happening again was a huge step for me, but I trusted him completely. I believed him when he said he’d never walk away. In fact, with all the big declarations he made throughout our time together, the one that touched me the most was him simply saying he knew he could walk away from anyone else, but he couldn’t walk away from me because he couldn’t imagine me not being in his life. I didn’t want him to fight for me or buy me flowers or presents or big gestures of romance. I just wanted him to be there for me like he’d said. It was the one thing we both insisted on. He brought it up again and again. The most important thing was being there for someone you love. He’d do anything for them and he’d felt his wife hadn’t been there when he needed her most. So it meant a great deal to me that we never went to bed on an argument. He’d never walked away from me, so in turn, I didn’t push him away. I would take a break to calm down sometimes, but I always told him that I’d speak to him later and we always worked things out.
I grew to trust him more than I’ve ever trusted anyone. I never once doubted him, checked up on him or questioned anything he said. It never once occurred to me that he could ever lie to me. It simply wasn’t possible. This, more than anything else was completely out of character for me and something I’m still struggling to come to terms with because it’s obvious now that he must have been doing a good job of lying to his wife. If she suspected, he never told me about it, but looking back, how could she not when we were spending that much time texting? She must have trusted him like I did.
The other thing that was bothering me was, while he managed to find 3 occasions within 2 days to call me before his holiday and he’d called me twice from abroad, he hadn’t called me once since he got back. I knew he was taking his dogs for a walk and going out on bike rides by himself, so there were opportunities, but over a week went by and we didn’t speak once until one evening I was on twitter feeling a little confused and down in the dumps. He tried to cheer me up via text. We started talking about our favourite songs and lyrics , sending each other YouTube videos to watch and suddenly my phone rang. Once again we talked for hours, long into the night and he didn’t go until I sounded happier. I never asked him why he’d been avoiding me and looking back now, he didn’t ever give explanations for things. He would always apologise and say the right things, but there was never an explanation. I didn’t notice this until much much later.
Things returned to normal after that. When he had a minor health scare a couple of weeks later, I called him to see if he was okay. He seemed really surprised that I cared enough to do that and something changed in him after that. He told me over and over again that he’d never been able to rely on anyone before. We talked even more than before. He called me one lunchtime and after that it became a routine. We coordinated our lunch breaks and spoke every day. Even in the evenings, he would often go to his friend’s house and call me from the car. So when he told me at first that phones had been banned at his workplace and we would no longer be able to text all day, I didn’t think anything of it. He’d still sneak in the odd cheeky text and we spoke at lunch.
Then a few weeks later, he told me his twitter access had been blocked at work too. I found this a little strange since one of his roles at work was as part of the social media team, but again I didn’t question it. I thought it might even do us some good to have a bit of space from each other, but when I said that out loud, he’d get upset and say he didn’t want space, then ask repeatedly if he was being too clingy. I always put his mind at rest and found it endearing.
Before he told me he loved me, he sent me a long message telling me that the day he finally said those words, he wanted me to know he would mean them completely and there should be no doubt in my mind about their sincerity. How for once in his life, he didn’t want to rush things and wanted to do everything properly. It was a lovely message and it was obvious a lot of time and thought had gone into writing it. He’d told me on several occasions how previously he’d convinced himself he was in love but he’d never come close to feeling what he did for me. He told me he wasn’t quite sure how to handle it. Of the two of us, he was by far the more romantic, the one who made all the promises and he even wrote me poems, which if you knew him, you’d never have thought it the kind of thing he’d do. I often started a sentence with “If we’re still in touch when..” and he would tell me off for even suggesting we’d ever lose touch. “If you tell me to leave you alone, I’ll just ignore you,” was his standard line. I tried to be realistic and would tell him not to get carried away but he ignored me.
Just a couple of days after he sent me that message, he told me he was in love with me. I was so surprised, I didn’t say it back. In fact, I didn’t say it for a long time. I knew he found that frustrating. One night, he even told me to say it, apologising immediately afterwards when I stayed quiet. I knew I did love him, I’m sure he knew it too, but I was still so worried about whether or not it was going anywhere, that I held back from saying it. Once I did, I knew I’d find it hard to walk away. He was still with his wife after all.
He was due to have an operation in a few weeks and it was understood that once he’d recuperated from that, he would leave his wife. But one day, I got a message from him out of the blue saying he wouldn’t be around for a few hours and not to worry. I knew something was up and asked him what was going on and he admitted he was going to tell his wife it was over. I couldn’t believe what he was saying and spent the next hour or so trying to talk him out of it. Telling him he hadn’t thought it through, he was being too hasty, how would he deal with the operation? He was adamant. He had to do it. He couldn’t use her to help him through the operation and he was just too unhappy to stay a moment longer. His mind was made up.
I sat by the phone quietly panicking. Now that the time had finally come, I didn’t know what to think. Despite his many assurances that this day had been a long time coming way before he met me, I felt responsible. His circumstances hadn’t changed in any other way so why now? Those hours of waiting were horrible. I felt sick for the duration and I couldn’t get that picture of the two of them out of my mind. She seemed like a lovely person, she didn’t deserve this. They had a life together. What kind of person broke that up? The self loathing that followed was one of the most awful feelings I’ve ever experienced. It went way beyond guilt. I knew then, I’d never forgive myself for this. I didn’t deserve to be happy. Hand on heart, there wasn’t even a second where I felt relieved he was finally going through with it. The truth is, I’d never really thought he would…