There’s no wisdom clinging on to a relationship when you are absolutely sure that there’s no future in it whatsoever. However, how do you know when it’s time to call it quits? Sometimes, it needs ugly fights, finding out about the other people involved, a whole world of mess and damage, and sometimes it just takes a gut feeling.
Here’s a story of a woman who realized that she was married to the wrong person and all it took her to know that was a photograph. Her intuitions were proven right eventually and through this letter, she shares her story.
For months, my husband of 12 years, Peter*, had been moody and withdrawn. I’d put it down to work stress – he’d been overseeing a big project in his high-profile civil service job – and booked us a holiday, where I hoped we’d have a chance to reconnect. It worked.
We spent a happy week snorkelling, cycling and reminiscing over the last time we’d been in the Caribbean – our first ever holiday together to St Kitts in 1997.
Over balmy evenings fuelled by rosé, we agreed that when we got back Peter would focus less on work and we’d both make our marriage more of a priority. We returned home happier than we’d been in a long time. Or so I thought.
On our first weekend after the holiday, we went for a walk in a lavender field. The light was so perfect that I grabbed my phone and took a series of selfies. Later that afternoon, I downloaded the photos to my computer. One of them jolted me.
In the picture, the lavender field was in the background, the sun was blazing and Peter was looking directly at me with an expression unlike any I’d seen before.
It can only be described as thinly veiled contempt: there was a sneer on his lips and a strange look in his eyes, as though he hated me. Meanwhile, I was smiling at the camera in my sundress, unaware.
In that moment, I knew our marriage was over. Five years earlier Peter had confessed to an affair with a colleague; I’d forgiven him and we’d moved on. Suddenly I recalled how he’d been snappy and impatient around that time, and it hit me that he might be cheating again.
That night, while he was in the bath, I checked his work phone. And there it was: a text message, sent the previous week, arranging to meet the same colleague he’d had the affair with. I stood silently outside the bathroom for 10 minutes and when Peter came out, I told him I knew.
He immediately got defensive, saying he’d heard this woman had cancer and he’d wanted to see how she was. The fact he could lie so swiftly stung almost as much as the infidelity. That night I was numb. But two days later I felt calmer and asked him to move out.
He finally broke down and admitted the affair. I was furious that it had taken a photo to shake me out of my naivety. But mostly I felt desperately angry that I’d given up having children for this man.
Peter is nine years older than me and he already had a grown-up daughter when we got together when I was 31; he told me he didn’t want more. Reluctantly I’d agreed, telling myself that just the two of us would be enough.
After he left, I felt my life was over. I couldn’t get out of bed, I barely ate or slept, and my hair began falling out. I started seeing a counsellor. After a few months, I realised how unhappy I’d been with Peter. Since the first affair my self-esteem had been eroded.
Gradually, I began doing things alone; I went to the theatre, booked a spa holiday and started considering my future.
Two years on, I’ve set up my own social-media business and learnt to scuba dive. I also sold our home and furniture and bought my own house – a real fresh start.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that, at 50, I can’t have children. And though I’d like to find a partner, I’m in no hurry. I’m enjoying being me. And yes, that photo has been deleted forever.
*Name has been changed. As told to Georgina Fuller
Things could have been a lot worse but thanks to this one photograph, the damage was controlled.
Source: The Telegraph