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Some people can handle guilt well, and can happily juggle more than one life.
I failed – the guilt was profound – and so began the painful but necessary process of erasing one and focusing solely on the other, the one that had come first.
As I have come to learn, most of those who grow up in a dysfunctional relationship are condemned to seek them out forevermore. In adulthood, I had become a rather complicated girlfriend, each relationship beginning well, but then growing fractured and ending badly.
I am bound to say, though, that I wasn't solely culpable. I ended up marrying one of these complicated boyfriends.
I was convinced I wouldn't make a very good mother and didn't want my son or daughter, in 40 years time, to dread calling me, fearful I'd berate them for some emotional crime or other. I'm not sure I entirely agree with that, but it is true that when we bought our first house together, we somehow conspired to buy a wreck that required a lot of our attention and focus. I didn't want an affair, nothing grubby, nothing seedy.
And for 12 long, frequently torturous months we painstakingly made it liveable and lovable. I had a husband, a home, yet I was missing something, intangible but palpable. I still loved my husband, but I wanted adventure, excitement, a reminder I was still alive. I began chatting to men online in private chat forums, concealing any obvious indentifiers of who I was but talking about my life, problems and thoughts.
While my husband spent most evenings catching up on the horse racing he'd recorded over the weekend, I began perusing chatrooms – not in pursuit of cybersex necessarily, but initially more for harmless flirtation, a little virtual attention.
He discovered messages on my phone and so I sat him down and poured the whole sorry tale out to him, feeling I was stamping on his heart with every word. I spent a lonely Christmas at my mother's house with nothing to do but wonder how I had got myself into this situation. I started therapy, and learned just how dysfunctional my life had been, and so little wonder I kept making new problems for myself.
I began writing everything down, to help make sense of it, first for myself, then for others.
He was by far the best of the bunch, a kind and generous man, but someone who could also be selfish and unfeeling.
We had agreed, early on in our relationship, that we wouldn't have children. Several friends, however, were convinced that our lack of children created a vacuum.