The day you casually picked up my husband’s iPhone and tapped in his code to take an Instagram picture of yourself, I felt sick. I didn’t even know his code. You were oblivious to my gut-wrenching aha moment and your blatant over-familiarity.
He slowly started to criticise my ideas in our family business meetings and my supermarket purchases at home. He mentioned that you never bought tuna in spring water as tuna in oil is much healthier. I started buying tuna in oil.
One day he lugged home three bags of activated nuts from the markets you’d bought for him and threw them in my pantry. Another day it was blueberry muffins you’d baked for our snacks. How helpful. How sweet, he remarked.
When I popped into our business after work with our two children, there you were barefoot and in tiny shorts working on the floor of his office. So busy.
“It’s so hot today,” you exclaimed, while I was feeling just fine in skinny jeans.
There you were again laughing and puppy-dog eyeing him over your laptop as I happened to walk into the same cafe with our daughter after ballet lessons.
You booked his accommodation, suggested restaurants to him and nail bars to me. You plaited my daughter’s hair and tickled my son when I wasn’t there.
He was coming home later every night. Usually 9pm, sometimes ten. I would ring to no answer, only to get a terse text: ‘5mins away’. I would sit and wonder what was so urgent in our small business that he couldn’t work on his laptop at home with me. What was so much more important that he would miss night after night of two delightful toddlers splashing in a bubble bath, slurping yoghurt and fruit and reading fairy tales.
You were more important.
And as you became bolder, more wide-eyed to his glances and an easy ear for his self-inflicted marital woes, I became anxious, insecure, panicked. I became thinner, blonder, a better cook and more capable mother. I organised tennis games, family dinners and after-work drinks. But nothing, nothing could change his vacant stare when he was around me.
I became so paranoid of my fledgling family breaking apart, I started following him on Find My iPhone. What did I find? Yes, as he insisted, he was always, always in his office – working flat out for us.
I questioned and begged. I dressed up and I undressed. I was told I was crazy, jealous, pathetic and weak. In truth, I was lonely, unloved, emotionally abused and naively I realize now – desperate to save my fledgling family.
One day he told me he couldn’t live like this anymore after a long day celebrating the Melbourne Cup (with you). You know what? Neither could I.
In retrospect he was doing me a momentous favour. He said he didn’t love me. Now I know differently – it’s easier to pile blame on someone else rather than face yourself in the mirror. He declared he could never love me again and he was leaving. He told me only crazy people follow their partners on Find My iPhone. And yep, he was probably right. I was no longer myself.
When I finally confronted you with my questions, you sneered at me. You, who’d treated me like an intruder in my own relationship. You said, ‘What a story you’ve conjured up you weak, WEAK woman’ then you cruelly asked if I’d forgotten to take my ‘crazy pills’ that morning. It’s true – the crazy ex narrative is awfully useful in these tumultuous times. As the victim, I was bewildered by your ferocity and disappointed in your lack of depth and insight. You refused to come back to work unless I was banned from our business. My ex relented, so I was no longer able to pick up my children from the business I’d quit my career to build.
Of course, as everyone will tell me, I can’t completely blame you. He was the one attached. He was the one with children. And yes I do recall vaguely, he can be quite charming and deceptive and mysterious. And you are not a mother. Not yet. You don’t yet understand the pain of your tiny children asking you where Daddy is, every single night. And then finally having to tell them he’s never coming home again.
My hurt is irreversible and my pain runs deep. Time will help people say. As a sensitive and successful journalist, my only revenge is my pen and a deep, inner knowing that one day, ONE day, you too will walk in my shoes. One day, maybe three years from now or maybe ten, you’ll be sitting at home with a cold dinner in front of you and a cold glass of wine in your hand while your children sleep, wondering where your husband is.
As one of your favourite singers, Shakira warbles in Don’t Bother, “The ring you gave to her will lose it’s shine.”