WHEN LOVE IS NOT ENOUGH
The night we met was one I’ll never forget, I remember knowing at the time that it would change my life forever. He was tall, broad and handsome, and immediately I felt safe in his arms. Something happened that night; it was as if every previous heartbreak had led us both to that moment, led us both to each other.
We fell in love very quickly, it’s a cliche but for me it was probably from that very first night. Real love; that proper movie type love, can’t keep your hands off each other, hate being apart for even a second type of love. It was passionate, it was intense, it was everything I had ever dreamt of. He cared for me in the way I had craved and he loved me like no one ever had before. He healed my old wounds with his touch, and laying with his arms wrapped around me I finally felt at home.
On a bad day he would drive the 170 miles between us just to kiss me goodnight. When we were together we spent our time memorising every inch of each other, and when we were apart we spent hours on the phone. Talking about everything and about nothing, learning so much about the other one. Within weeks he had moved his whole life so we could be together. He bought me flowers every Friday and I packed his lunch with little love notes hidden inside every night. It felt like heaven, and I’ve never been happier.
The morning I took the pregnancy test was just like any other. It wasn’t unusual for my period to be late, I really wasn’t concerned. I got ready for work while I waited for the test and quickly glanced at it on my way out of the door. Panic rose from within me in a way I’d never felt before, I felt so much fear looking down at that little line. Fear of what we’d done, fear of what would happen next, fear of how to tell him. Fear of how to tell anyone. The next few weeks were a blur of emotion. Suddenly it felt like we barely knew each other, and yet we were about to become a family. It took so long for me to feel the emotions you’re supposed to feel when you get that kind of news, so long for the fear and the panic to subside. But we had each other, we loved each other, we would make it work.
My pregnancy flew by. We moved in to my parent’s house to save and search for the perfect family home. I was constantly exhausted and he had a new job working nights. We passed each other like ships in the night, promising ourselves it was worth it. Promising ourselves we would survive. But the flowers and the love notes were forgotten, and the cracks understandably started to show.
Once the baby arrived he was brilliant, I couldn’t have asked for a more hands on and supportive new father. I struggled to establish breastfeeding and he was there helping me to succeed, reminding me that I could do it, giving me the strength to carry on. I found the stress of our situation really hard to adapt to, but he picked up the slack and kept me going in the best way he could. He was amazing and he gave me the time, the support and the belief I needed to become the best mother I could be. I never even told him how grateful I was for that.
Once he returned to working nights things became rough. He’d get home and fall asleep on the sofa, not wanting to risk waking the baby up by coming upstairs. Once the baby was awake it would be his turn to go to bed while I headed out for the day. Quality time as a family was rare, quality time as a couple wasn’t something we ever got. The time we did have was spent catching up on the house work I struggled to do, or bickering about why I couldn’t get it all done. He felt under appreciated and over worked, and I felt lonely, and totally not myself. We had no time for “us” and we didn’t even see it as a problem. We forgot all those feelings we used to have for each other, replacing them with resentment, stress and sheer exhaustion.
The first time I found out, a piece of my heart broke and it will never recover. It was all just words, but reading each one was like a knife to my chest. Words he used to save for me, feelings and emotions meant for only us, typed in dirty messages to woman after woman. He left, but he was sorry, and we wanted to make it work. So we tried again.
We fought so hard to make it work. Argument after argument we promised each other never again. We loved each other, we loved our son, we wanted to be the family we had imagined being. But wanting something is never enough.
The next few times were all the same, my suspicions were never wrong. Each time I would go through his phone and find exactly what I was looking for, but it never hurt any less. He couldn’t stop. I don’t know if he even wanted to. Looking back now I can see that he was searching for the feelings he wasn’t getting from me. I had thrown myself into motherhood, we had thrown ourselves into nurturing this little baby, both of us completely forgetting that our relationship needed just as much care. He was desperate to feel appreciated, to feel wanted, to feel needed. We were falling down a hole so deep we couldn’t get out.
Four years on from that positive test, and my life is so far from how I had imagined it would be. Eventually we admitted defeat, realised that our problems were just too big to fix, the bridges were too burnt to repair. He moved on, so did I, and we are living our lives apart. We are giving our son the best possible childhood by creating two happy places for him to call home. There is no more bickering, no more bad feeling. No more sobbing into pillows and no more broken hearts. We can show our little boy what healthy relationships are, we can teach him the importance of being happy, we can tell him that Mummy and Daddy love him very much, and we can do that better when we are apart.
But it doesn’t make it any easier. It doesn’t ease the pain of my broken heart, or take away the endless amount of regrets we both have. Hindsight can be an awful thing, and looking back it feels like it could’ve been so simple to fix. But we were young, things were tough and we couldn’t see a way out. We didn’t have the steady foundation we needed to survive, we weren’t at all prepared for how hard it would be. We put our child above our own needs, rightly so, but we forgot to prioritise each other’s. We forgot about Us, we forgot about relationships needing to be nurtured and worked on, we forgot we loved each other enough to figure it out.
I’ll never excuse his actions, and what he did brought me more pain than I even knew possible. But looking back I see how we got there, and I would give anything to go back and save us from ourselves. There are so many things I would do differently, so many changes I wish I could make. I see all the opportunities we had to appreciate each other, all the chances to build on what we had, all the times we could’ve turns it into the incredible thing it should’ve been.
Ultimately we can’t go back, and I can only be grateful for the times we were happy and for all the memories we made. Together we are raising the most beautiful son who is turning into the kindest, most generous and thoughtful little person. He is as strong as he is soft, he is as smart as he is funny, he is the perfect mix of the two of us. He will grow up with a mother and a father who love him, and each other, dearly. If only that had been enough.
Lauren is a gentle mama to Dilan aged 3, documenting their adventures on her blog Dilan and Me. Based in Norfolk, UK.
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