“Yes so…,” and then she was silent for a few seconds, or longer.
“Where do I begin…” she began again but her voice trailed off.
“I think…,” she continued and so far she has told me nothing.
Just I was about to indicate that maybe we should not have the conversation as agreed, she launched and never stopped until she asked “Questions?” towards the end.
It was a conversation, more a monologue, about separation and while it has been years it still appeared a difficult topic for Sherry (not her real name).
“When I separated from my husband people would come to me and say ‘Girl you know you are so strong, look what you went through and you are okay,’” she began. It may be [she dragged out the ‘be’] that nobody knew but that doesn’t mean that it did not hurt.
“Some people cannot go through hardships without unburdening on someone else. I found it hard to do so. But then again, as I look back, my husband was my confidante. Our relationship was of such that it was him who I told everything. It was difficult to now go and talk to someone else,” she explained.
Sherry has been separated from her husband for many years and this might be the first real conversation she has had about it; I did not ask. I sat and I listened, almost afraid to ask questions and all I thought was ‘Yes you are a strong woman’ but I did not say it then.
“When that resource was taken away from me, I felt I had no one I could have unburdened on. And then I did not want people to feel sorry for me. The worse thing is to have somebody pity you,” she said simply.
“When I got married I said it was forever and I never expected it to end. You know we even made plans for our retirement, and then suddenly it was off the cards.
“Initially I did not believe it was going to end. I thought he would have come to his senses, because after all we had made all these plans,” she said quietly.
“My husband was unfaithful. And you know usually when men are confronted the first thing they would do is lie – unless they are really caught red handed. They would lie and then if they are sorry, they would be contrite.
“Well that happened for like a second. And then it was my fault; he started to blame me. I was not available. I was this and I was that. After a moment I did not even recognize myself. And then I realised that with him rationalizing his behaviour, it was not going to stop.”
For any relationship to get over such a hurdle, she said, “there is need for forgiveness… You would expect the offending party to say ‘you know I messed up and all that…’ But when a person is blatant and you know it is not going to stop what do you do?” she asked not expecting an answer.
“In such a situation, if you decide to stay you have to make up your mind that you are going to live with the affair/s and you can, if you don’t care for your partner anymore. Or you decide you are going to be miserable, but lie and pretend to the world that all is well. I was not prepared to do either,” she said flatly.
“I left and I acted sensibly,” she said, and probably without knowing it she explained why people felt she was so strong.
“When I moved I did get a lot of feedback and people were saying ‘you stupid you should you not move out, let him move out.’ But I felt that if there is an alternative between peace and misery, you take peace. He would still be having affairs and there would have been confrontations and I would have kept doing the same thing over and over.
“After a time, I went through a period of meditation and introspection and made peace with myself and with the whole situation. Not that I did not look back with regret, but I made peace.
“I lived a single life and during the first few years I was sad but I knew it was the end.
“Eventually, there came a point when I thought of him and it did not upset me. And a little later on, I found I could talk to him without all of the anger and harshness.”
I was thinking to myself—no questions were asked up to that point—that she is really good in the sense that she is strong and then she used the word.
“I am in a good place. Though I feel that at some point he should have figured out a way to say sorry. But we don’t talk about it. We are friends, well not friends, friends but we are okay,” she said.
But you are strong, there I said it, and she smiled.
“There was a point when people said, ‘you are so strong’ and I use to laugh to myself as I was at my weakest; it was then that I used to cry and cry and I would think about things until my brain wanted to explode. You know, you were going along happy, happy and then your whole world collapsed,” she said of what was her marriage. “Maybe we should never have gotten married but if we didn’t then we would not have known.”
But he should say he is sorry, I said quietly.
“It does not matter anymore,” she said in the same tone. “Not to me. Perhaps he should say it for his sake. If I did someone wrong I would want to say I am sorry; I would have to.”
So you don’t cry anymore? I asked.
“Oh no, all the tears have dried up,” she said with a short laugh.
“When I look at the things I have done and what I have accomplished, I don’t think I would have ever done them, if I had not been shaken up. I recognize that life takes a certain path and you just have to go with it.
“As they say, things happen for a reason.”
I knew at that point it was the end of the conversation. Part of me wanted more and another part had had enough; I was happy she had shared.