It’s not all been a bed of roses. I know it can be easy to focus on the upsides, especially in the beginning when a new relationship is fresh and exciting, but there have been many difficult aspects in making this leap to totally change all our lives.
First, having the courage to end a 12-year relationship was not easy. It had been the longest relationship of my life and the man in question was my children’s father. However, I had known for a long time that things weren’t as I wanted them to be between us, and while my coming out might seem the reason for that, it was by no means the only reason and our differences were, for me, too great to try and work through. Although it was difficult at the start I think he realises now that we were both in denial, not facing up to the reality that we just weren’t in love any more and clinging onto the relative safety and security of our familiarity.
Once Lea and I were aware there was something between us, even though we didn’t know what, we knew we had to be brave and end things, not just because we wanted to give us a chance but because regardless of whether we worked out or not our relationships weren’t right for us anymore and hadn’t been for a while.
That was a difficult call to make because once we did, it meant facing up to the fact that we would be breaking up the family unit for our children. We both come from divorced parents and each have our respective emotional baggage around that. So, the idea of consciously creating emotional baggage for our own children was painful, however much we believed that in the long run it would be better for them having two happier parents.
We’ve had to navigate our way through holding four little hearts and minds, and help them come to terms with all the change that has been thrust upon them through no fault of their own. There have been many challenges, but overall we have worked tirelessly to try and ensure they all have a voice and aren’t internalising their feelings. That’s certainly how I felt as a child, and there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that holding onto those painful and unresolved emotions from childhood can lead to illness and disease in later life – I have fibromyalgia ?
Helping the kids navigate their emotions has got easier as Lea and I have navigated our own, both individually and together. We were both pretty self aware when we met but being together has taken this to a whole new level! As we have processed our way through aspects of our own individual unresolved stuff and supported each other to look at our defences – the ways we hide and the games we play, often unconsciously – we have become better equipped to help our kids unpack their emotions and deal with them in a more direct and straightforward way. It’s been a steep learning curve though and continues to present challenges!
All that said, despite the difficulties, challenges and sadness I wouldn’t change any of it. I have never grown so much in so many ways – ways that have helped me grow as a parent, as a partner and as a person.
I’ve made tons of mistakes and will doubtless continue to do so, but I’m living a life that feels far more authentic, makes me feel happy and offers my children a chance to see their mother taking her own needs seriously, managing (for the most part!) to have an amicable, adult relationship with their father and helping them learn emotional skills that sadly they won’t learn at school. That’s the thing with fireworks…after the loud bang and the shock, you’re treated to something spectacular ?
Well, I think the hardest thing has been making sure the children are as ok as they possibly can be with what’s happened. We’ve all worked really, really, really hard to make sure they know it’s not their fault.
Navigating the dynamics of each of them individually, as siblings in a pair, and then all four of them together has been and still is a massive challenge, and can be quite triggering for us both at times especially given some of the dynamics currently playing out. I think it’s probably been one of the biggest causes of friction between us, aside from some of our own stuff. Fingers crossed that the endless sportscasting will eventually pay off (for adults and kids!!!).
The second hardest thing was obviously the ending. How do you end a 22-year relationship as smoothly and amicably as possible for all parties? From dividing house things and sorting out joint admin to agreeing how things are going to work with the kids etc., never mind the emotional stuff.
It seemed much easier in the beginning strangely, but even months later it’s still not a clean break – not sure it’s really ever going to be given the kids and some of our respective ‘stuff’.
And then I think it’s been the realisation – from being in a new thing with someone – that we all have so much of our own shit to deal with. Obviously mine relates hugely to my adoption (rejection, abandonment and separation, as you can probably guess ?).
There’s something scarily powerful about the dynamics of being in a new relationship that will highlight all sorts of insecurities, patterns and behaviours that an existing ‘safe’ relationship just doesn’t. And being with someone who is so good at seeing my shit – sometimes before I even know anything’s going on – is both a blessing and a curse!!
But while this has been really, really hard, it’s also been one of the best and most precious things about what Becky and I have together…the ability to see through the BS and the defence mechanisms we’ve so cleverly hidden behind throughout the years to keep everyone else at bay is something I’ve never experienced with anyone before. There’s nowhere to hide and for the first time, it feels like I’m being really and truly seen for who I am by someone who gets me, sees me and loves what they see.
So yes, there have been some very tough times and there continue to be. But was it worth it and would I do it all over again? Hell yes!
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