Then I saw the WhatsApp. It read, ‘I’ve decided to leave you … the dogs are fine and with me.’

I was married for 14 years and in a relationship for 19 years.  Her name was Helen.  I thought she was my forever girl.   We are both introverts and met through my best friend.  I did my level best to screw it up at the outset, only just managing to ask her out before she walked away.  In weeks we were living together.  She soothed me, was easy and fun to be with.  She had been married and hurt before, and I had endured a troubled upbringing and a baron decade in my twenties in terms of relationships.  I didn’t know how to date.

Our relationship was, in my view, solid.  We had moved into our dream house in 2021, a beautiful cottage in the country.  We had no children, we had always had dogs instead and I thought we had it all.  2022 was a harder year, I had a rubbish year at work and my mental health suffered as a result.  I became self centred and took my eye off the ball.  We got a second puppy in an effort to build a family unit and to distract my mind.  I thought things were OK until the 8th December last year.

I came home from work in the dark to find my wife’s car missing.  She often went to meet a friend on Thursday afternoons to walk the dogs so I thought little of it.  Ditto when I found the outdoors patio furniture missing.  Then I peered through the windows of our lounge and saw furniture missing.  I panicked.  My mind stopped.  I couldn’t compute it.  It was surreal.  I thought we had been burgled.  It didn’t make sense as I nervously unlocked the door.  Expensive items were still in situ – where was Helen? Had she been kidnapped? I ran out of the house frozen with fear.  I had to ring her to check she was OK.  And then I saw the WhatsApp – it simply read ‘I’ve decided to leave you …. the dogs are (with me) and fine’.

I felt like my world ended that night.  It was deeply traumatic.  I rang her phone for hours until she answered telling me that she was only doing do so ‘out of courtesy’ and to stop me calling.  I got 12 minutes.  I clung to every word – searching for hope and answers.  In truth I got few to none.  There were platitudes and mistruths.  I urgently asked if there was someone else and was told not.  I asked if she still loved me and was told ‘I’m not sure’.  I subsequently learned that was a gentle let down.  That evening felt like eternity.  I had no one to call (my Mum was in hospital).  I didn’t sleep a wink, I just begged for the hours to pass.

How I managed to work the next day is a mystery.  I had two friends due to come down that next evening for a meal at the local pub.  I messaged them with the horror of the situation.  They were both brilliant and still came down to see me and take me out.  Little did I know it at the time but they were the first two members of my support team.

There were 17 days to Christmas and my Mum was in hospital.  In fact she had been operated on the day before (the day my wife left).  I went to see her and cried my eyes out in the ward.  She was in shock.  She is 80 and didn’t really know what to say or how to soothe me.  But she was alive and there.  It was something.

Before Christmas I exchanged messages with Helen enquiring about our dogs.  She sent a photo.  I had hope.  Then she talked about custody and I questioned why.  Her father and step mother were really supportive towards us both and invited me around for drinks.  I desperately accepted.  Then on the weekend before Christmas her father (who had been similarly abandoned by Helen’s mother) phoned me and shattered any hope.  He was speaking on her behalf.  ‘Its over’ he said.  ‘You need to move on’.  I didn’t hear what came next.  I collapsed to the floor in my spare bedroom and didn’t get back on my feet for 3 hours.

The next day I emailed Helen and made a mistake.  I declared that I might have to accept it was over.  She replied like a lawyer, thanking me formally for my email and confirming that she would now start divorce proceedings.  I was shattered but livid.  For the next few days I fought back, freezing bank accounts, changing locks and trying desperately to cleanse myself of her.  It was forlorn but it made me feel better.  It drew a vitriolic response but I didn’t care at that point.

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Every day over Christmas I drank to get through and took Diazepam.  I developed a phobia about the postman as I waited for the divorce petition to come.  My GP was amazing – another member of the new support team.  When it did come (12th January via email) I was shattered.  I emailed her in shock.  A week later her lawyer wrote to me to instruct me not to contact her.  I still didn’t and to this day, still don’t know where she and our dogs are living.

It’s now nearly six months on and I’ve not spoken with her, in any form, since.  The divorce is going through the motions and she continues to act with coldness and cruelty.  It’s almost starting to wash over me.  My friends (I’ve had to go out and make and remake them) have been amazing, including some of her family.  Every single day is hard.  I’ve started a new job which was tough to begin with but has also been an enormous aid.  I don’t know what the future holds.  I’m still living in (our) cottage but I know its only for now.  I’m learning gratitude and to try and look after myself and not be too hard on me.  I’m very proud of myself for coming this far.  I’ve always been a fighter and its that which has got me to this point in reasonable shape and health.

If you have made it to this point then I thank you for listening.  It’s been cathartic to tell my story again (as I have done a number of times this year to anyone who would listen).

Simon x

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