Added: Allyn Searles - Date: 05.10.2021 04:58 - Views: 25903 - Clicks: 8000
I'm a bastard. No question. The facts speak for themselves. On a Monday night in May, two years ago, I told my wife of the affair I'd been having for six months. By Thursday of the same week I was gone. I had left my year-old marriage, my nine-year-old son and my eight-year-old daughter for a woman five years my junior. What a bastard. Since leaving I have, inevitably, found myself in conversation with many other bastards. In fact we're quite a club. We seem to have unerring radar which picks each other out at work, at parties, or in idle chat with strangers.
We all tell our tale with an oddly matter-of-fact Wife is away come over and play. It's the same kind of tone with which soldiers relate war stories. To those who've never been in battle, the matter-of-factness of military men is incomprehensible; it's as if soldiers have been to a place so incomprehensibly traumatic they have entered another plane - one of stunned serenity. And so it is when listening to the leaver bastards. But what's striking, as they unfold their tales, is that they're not bastards at all. This should hardly come as a surprise since truly terrible people are few and far between.
Yet why is it we're so eager to stigmatise the leaver, and to damn them without a thought? Even though marital break-up is common, and even though "two sides to every story" is as well-worn as any cliche, we still seem to want to promote the idea that relationships fail because one person is to blame.
In the case of my own marital break-up, my wife managed to carve a whole new career out of the seemingly indisputable truth that my departure made me a bastard. Although not a journalist by trade, she began a weekly column in the Independent entitled "Beloved and Bonk". Under the pen name Stevie Morgan, she told the tragicomic, Posy Simmondsesque tale of how her once-decent hubby became a reckless cad - leaving her standing in her wellies in the lanes of Devon for a younger, more beautiful metropolitan mistress.
After the column came the book. There was clearly an appetite for the claim of a woman, not known to any reader, that her husband left her just because he had been turned soft in the head by the sensual blend of bright lights and sweeter skin. Needless to say though of course the whole point of being a bastard leaver is that you don't get to say it the reality was a little different. During our marriage my wife had been repeatedly unfaithful, and permanently unhappy.
Often she would conjecture that we'd be much happier apart. When I began working in London, she insisted we move from our home in Bristol to Devon. When I protested that I would see less of her and the children, she replied simply: "So? Later, we both confessed to having fantasised about the other dying so that we could be with the children, but be rid of the marriage.
When I sat down to tell her of my infidelity on that fateful Monday evening, I was meaning to tell her the affair was over, and that I was sorry. But even as I tried to do so, I realised something had happened - something fatal to our marriage.
In my new relationship with someone else, I had experienced emotions and seen possibilities I never knew existed. Never mind whether my relationship with this new person continued or not, I knew I would never feel the same again about what a marriage could be.
At that moment I knew I had, as a matter of decency and honesty, to leave. I knew I couldn't repair my unhappy marriage because, through my new relationship, I had met myself - and I wasn't the person who should be with my wife. And so it was that, even if my new lover had refused to take me, I would still that week have left my wife.
I knew this would take some explaining to other people. And I was prepared for strangers, or even acquaintances, to chorus: "What a bastard! I thought the shock of my departure would prompt concern to find out what had really been going on.
And when, within four months of me going, and even as she began her weekly column, my wife had a new live-in partner, I thought everyone would accept the change as best for both of us. But no - I had left, and to take that action is the unpardonable sin. People I had been close to for years shut me out. Since talking to other leavers, I realise this experience of rejection is typical. Yet what's most striking about almost any break-up, when you really go beyond the basic facts of the matter, is that there are no villains. Break-ups almost invariably involve two good people who find themselves in a muddle.
Lost in that muddle they may do cruel things; but the really nice man or woman who you were great friends with last week doesn't become an utter bastard overnight. Tony Parsons argues that the person and more particularly the man who leaves is to a small degree brave, but to the greatest extent a coward.
I would claim the reverse. Leaving is cowardly because it is likely to be the precipitous termination of something that should have ended more amicably, mutually and gracefully some time before. By leaving, one person blows a whistle on all the unresolved issues of a relationship, and says: "I'm off. But leaving also takes enormous courage.
Anyone who leaves a long-term relationship has had to ask some pretty profound questions about themselves and what they want from life. They've had to make equations out of present misery and potential future happiness, and back their hunch that they have the right answer. They have to know what they want in a way few would ever choose to confront. When I found myself in the kitchen telling my darling, innocent children, who trust me and love me, that I was going to leave, it was like watching myself draw a sharp blade across their skin. To think of that moment makes me cry to this day.
It's not something nice people do because they suddenly don't care. It's what nice people can find themselves doing because they feel they have no choice. At that moment, they may be making calculations about the future happiness of everyone in the room. Who are they to play God like that? But equally, how can they not, when they know the central relationship is dead? I think in their hearts even those who shout "bastard" know the reality is very different - and that's precisely why they shout so loud.
There's nothing quite so intimidating as a person who knows their mind. We fear their self-knowledge might be contagious. And we fear that, infected by self-knowledge, we or those we love might also feel the need to change course Wife is away come over and play. Since almost all of us fear change, it's no wonder so many reject the one who leaves - the personification of change. The other evening I was talking about all this with a friend - a fellow bastard. I was saying how, the more divorce stories I hear, the more convinced I am that few who leave their marriages are truly villains.
We can all think of couples who are still together but who are locked in a mutual dance of unhappiness, bullying or blankness. Their marriages have become self-imprisonment in which both are suffering but neither has the honesty to confront their own misery and try to improve their life by leaving. When we marry someone we really, really do want it to be for life. Ask the leaver bastards - almost all of them would say they would much rather their marriage had worked out. They didn't want it to fail. Its failure will have cost them dear; when they leave, they leave behind a home, memories, old friends and routines.
They're likely to find themselves feeling naked, dispossessed and exposed, short of money, friends and a past. It's like pressing the delete key on a whole chunk of life. To a large extent we are our past, and when we walk away from our past we walk away from a part of ourselves.
It's a little suicide. That was the choice I made: to commit a little suicide in order to be free of a relationship in which I was dying. It was the most frightening thing I've ever done. But I'm glad I did it. The first instalment of the divorce diary of 'Stevie Morgan', as published in the Independent. My husband has just left me, so the dog has begun to chase the chickens again.
She has caught the sparks from the thunderbolt that has struck us all. This has meant that at moments of highest drama - such as, Me: "Don't you remember making love in the shower when we had a flat full of guests?
It is the sort of thing we would have laughed ourselves silly over a few weeks ago, but there seems to have been a bit of a sense-of-humour failure since Beloved came home and announced his imminent departure to be with Bonk in a Notting Hill love-nest. It's all in a perfectly noble cause, mind you: Personal Growth - his - and as he so very generously says, mine too. Sweet, really. I spent my first night of personal growth lying face down on our lawn chewing grass and keening into the worm casts. I have been doing lots of similar enhanced development work every night since.
Sadly, Beloved finds my reactions a little embarrassing. Having been brave enough to break free from the constraining shackles of marriage, he is standing in a shiny new world washed clean of all the cloying shards of years of wasted past.
So when I finally lost it yesterday, and smashed our entire dinner service very neatly in a skip and sliced up my arms for good measure, he was tight-lipped. He told me tersely to change my trousers because the children would be upset if they saw the blood. Later he asked if there was anything that "sparked it off". At moments like this, headlines flash before my eyes - such as "Aliens stole my husband". Is this the same man who used to balance peanuts on his nose for my entertainment and do walrus impersonations? Nothing much short of Paul Smith and Calvin Klein on his botty these days, and precious little peanut balancing since he became a weekly boarder in London and could officially say he was a film director.
Not a great deal of smiling, either. Do you ever see a film director smiling?
I blame it on the nasty corrupting world of freelancedom where they drink testosterone with egomania chasers. London media freelanceness did for Beloved, poor lamb. He rediscovered the joys of single life, this time not as a poor student but as a grown-up with serious dosh, glam job and a Clerkenwell flat. Coming home to a wife who knows her chickens by name and worries if the wind will snap her rudbeckias must have begun to seem a pretty unattractive option.
I mean, compared with giving Bonk a once-over against the glittering backdrop of the City skyline So I'm coming to terms with it all by thinking of it as a style decision. A country wife and kids just didn't fit with Beloved's Criterion dinners and Armani trews. Like wearing wellies to the Baftas. So what man would fit my new style? What exactly does match a divorcee with two kids and a rudbeckia fixation?
Well, let's put it this way - ain't no point ringing Alan Rickman and telling him I'm finally free. Something more countrified might be suitable and more accessible. I've never really fancied anything in tweeds but after 20 years of regular delightful bonking and now two weeks without, I may have to lower my standards. Or would it be simpler to have a sex clause in the divorce settlement agreement? You know, the cost of the mortgage, the Aga service and two sessions every month.
I'll have to ask the lawyer.Wife is away come over and play
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