Friday 23 December 2016

Why I Can Finally Cope With My Daughter Spending Christmas With My Ex And His Lover - Her Testimony Will Resonate With Many Broken Families

Why I can finally cope with my daughter spending Christmas with my ex and his lover
Tomorrow, I’ll wave a cheery goodbye to my only child as she hops into my ex-husband’s car to spend her first Christmas away from me. Flynn, my eight-year-old daughter, will stay with her father, Philip, his partner and her three children in the home they share.
I will be alone on Christmas Day — I’ve chosen not to accept friends’ kind invitations — yet I feel neither bruised nor resentful.

Flynn goes with my blessing, as I’m honouring a promise she should not be made to feel torn between conflicting loyalties to two parents she loves equally. I know she’ll have great fun with her dad: his partner is kind to her and her children have welcomed her into their extended family. I’m delighted she will be happy.

Meanwhile, I will indulge in a long lie-in, enjoy a solitary walk in the glorious Kentish countryside near my home, revel in a soak in the bath, then eat lunch on a tray by the wood burner while watching the Queen’s Speech.

Two years ago, I never imagined I would anticipate Christmas alone with such equanimity. Rancour was consuming me as my suspicions that my husband was having an affair were confirmed when I discovered incriminating messages he’d sent his lover on social media. It was Boxing Day 2014 when our seven-year marriage imploded. Feeling betrayed, hostile and vengeful, I’d endured my darkest Christmas ever.

Yet, this year, aged 49 and contentedly single, I’m anticipating the brightest of festive seasons. It may seem odd to say I believe, from the wreckage of my marriage, that by strange alchemy a sort of magic has occurred.

For, although the pain of infidelity and divorce is, at the time, seemingly unbearable, it is possible to emerge from the misery stronger. And I’ve learned there are ways of negotiating this minefield of emotions to ensure a child has the best chance of happiness.
My ex and I have agreed that neither of us will compete for our daughter’s love or to buy her the most expensive presents. Neither will we fight over the time we spend with her or bad-mouth each other in front of her.
Hard though it has been, I’ve never suggested to Flynn that her father was to blame for our break-up.
After trying to avoid answering her question as to why we split up, I realised she was seeing prevarication as evidence she was to blame for our fall-out.
So I told her that Mummy and Daddy had stopped being best friends, and Daddy couldn’t have a new best friend and still stay married to me.

She accepted the explanation and a weight lifted from her shoulders. Like so many children, she’d convinced herself that she was the reason we were no longer a happy family.
And I took solace in the knowledge that, without my marriage — however flawed — I would not have had my wonderful daughter. She is the gift we gave each other, and this fact helped lance the bitterness between us.
What else had made the difference?
First: perspective. Something you will not have for a while if this Christmas you are one of the countless couples who head straight to a divorce lawyer as soon as the last of the pine needles are swept away.
The first Monday after the holidays is referred to by lawyers as D-Day (D for Divorce) because so many couples find the strain of being together constantly over the festive season, with no distractions, the final straw. Two years ago, I, too, felt betrayed, hostile and angry. No doubt many couples newly contemplating divorce feel the same. But before you take the scissors to his suits, consider the consequences.
Marriages do not drop dead; they die of lingering illness. Our marriage was no different. It had always been a tumultuous one.
A handsome Frenchman two years my junior with melting brown eyes, my ex charmed me from the moment we met, almost ten years ago, on a cold, mid-February night in London, despite the fact he was late.
As I vowed this would be my last online date, he bounded towards me. Cool in a black velvet jacket, shirt and jeans, he thrust a bouquet into my hands — red roses, not garage carnations — and I was smitten.
The romance clouded my judgment about what was to come. Our relationship was punctuated by the same pattern: his behaviour, my outrage, his abject apologies and my forgiveness.
Pictured: Danuta on her wedding day to ex-husband Philip, who she later found to be having an affair
Pictured: Danuta on her wedding day to ex-husband Philip, who she later found to be having an affair
I look back and feel sick at the rollercoaster we were on. We would argue like no other couple I knew, but I saw it as a sign of passion, not incompatibility, even though it hurt.
After our daughter was born, the grind of marriage with a young baby set in. We rarely went out and, when we did, the arguments became more vicious. The few things we had in common when we met — going to gigs, the cinema, eating out — dissolved from our lives.
I realise now how unhappy I was, how lonely I felt and how distanced from the vivacious and successful woman — I was a writer, journalist and researcher — I was when I first met my ex-husband. At the time, though, I endured the bickering animosity as I walked on eggshells in my efforts to appease him.
Then, a month before Christmas 2014, he floored me by informing me he no longer loved me. I felt as if my heart had been wrenched from its cavity. I cried until my eyes were raw. Reeling from shock, I tried to piece together the remnants of our relationship. We went, fruitlessly, to a counsellor. Christmas Day passed in a blur of misery.
Then, on Boxing Day, I discovered the reason for my husband’s cold detachment: for several months, he’d been having an affair. It was his Facebook page that incriminated him. A couple of hours earlier he’d breezed out of the house, immaculately dressed, to go to a ‘sports club dinner’.
‘What kind of sports club has a dinner on Boxing Day?’ I’d asked. He ignored my question, shrugged a goodbye and the door slammed.
As I scrolled through the messages on his iPad, there it was: evidence of his duplicity. He and his lover had already spent a clandestine weekend together and more were planned. A double hotel room had been booked for a sporting event I knew nothing about.
Before my anger could subside, I fired off an email to the other woman. ‘I know exactly what you’ve been doing with my husband,’ I wrote. I felt a giddy sense of release.
That night, when my husband came home, I confronted him. ‘You can go. There’s obviously somewhere else you want to sleep,’ I told him.
He denied it, even when I quoted from their messages. But within three weeks, he’d left to live in the flat he’d lined up to rent before I discovered he was being unfaithful.
With the revelation that he’d been cheating, it was as if a series of jumbled lines and squiggles had emerged into a clear image.
Here was proof that the implosion in our marriage was not caused by some vague existential midlife crisis as my husband had claimed to me. No, it was the result of the oldest cliche in the book: a male menopausal midlife crisis meeting a rich, 40-year-old mother of three in search of escape.
For me, this marked a tipping point. Self-doubt and grief turned to anger. I’d met the ‘other woman’.
This year aged 49 and contentedly single, I’m anticipating the brightest of festive seasons, writes Danuta
This year aged 49 and contentedly single, I’m anticipating the brightest of festive seasons, writes Danuta
She was a member of my husband’s sports club, and even had coffee with me in my kitchen. Even then, I’d tried to quell my unease that there was something disquieting about their evident closeness. Now, I felt vindicated — and it was liberating.
But I also found a perspective. What felt like the end turned out to be a new beginning.
As I went into freefall, I was caught in the net of friendship by my fantastic women friends.
They gathered to listen, to provide practical help and to introduce me to other friends who had been through, or were in the midst of, divorce. Such introductions saved me. I discovered a depth to friendships I’d not known existed.
Lou, who’d been through divorce ten years earlier, arranged girls’ nights out where I could vent my anger, but also laugh with a group of women. She lifted my spirits and helped me beat a gnawing loneliness that had crept into my soul.
Sarah, a busy married friend I met when the ex and I moved to Kent, sat in meetings with my lawyer, offered solace and encouragement and gave me a bolthole when I needed to escape.
She, along with Cath, took my calls when I was at my lowest ebb. Meanwhile, Amanda phoned me each day to make sure I was OK.
What my divorce did was reveal how many good women I knew.
I realised the folly of seeking to get even. ‘Don’t get involved in petty arguments by text,’ counselled one friend. And because I didn’t stoke the flames of animosity, my desire for vengeance dissipated.
After the split, my ex and I established a routine of regular contact, which means Flynn never passes more than five days without seeing her dad — one night a week and every other weekend.
Even though he no longer loves me, my former husband loves our daughter deeply. For us, it means the festive season changes every other year. Last Christmas, she was with me — and this year, Flynn and I will share our own early celebration.
Father Christmas has been given a special dispensation to visit us today, when we’ll also enjoy our turkey lunch and go to the panto.
When her dad arrives to pick her up on Christmas Eve, I’ll heed the advice of a friend who told me: ‘Be like the Queen. Just smile and wave.’
It may not be the Christmas I’d hoped for but, having faced my worst fears, I’ve discovered a resilience I didn’t know I possessed. And with the dust on my divorce papers barely settled, I’ve learned to be happy.
n Some names have been changed.

Via - Dailymail

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