When do you know that the person you are with is not ‘the one’? And, more importantly, what do you do about it?
I think I realised mere months into my relationship with my now ex-husband. In fact, I remember the exact day. It was five years ago today. Four bombs had gone off across London and our beloved city lay frozen in disbelief.
The ‘sign’ was utterly trivial compared with everything else that happened that day, but it had an impact nonetheless: At the end of the working day, the man I was with didn’t make his way to me despite working minutes away in the City. He didn’t ask to walk me home despite living on the same street I did. In times like that, you reach out to the people closest to you, but there I was, picking my way through city streets – crowded but alone.
We married three years later after one ‘break’ and four other ‘signs’ that I ignored; small infractions with deep implications. To guard against those implications, I trained myself to be as indifferent towards him as he sometimes was towards me. And it worked – for a while. I convinced myself that companionship and stability were apt substitutes for real passion, real love, but illusions never last. And so the cracks began to appear. I started to spend more and more time alone, upstairs in my study while he caught up with work in front of the TV. The cracks eventually gave way to a river of distance – one neither of us knew how to cross.
The first time I found an incriminating message to another woman, I didn’t quite believe it. He was one of the good guys, you know? The sensible, respectable Ronan Keating type. Now I know that innocent faces are often the most deceitful of all. I ended it as soon as I was sure he was being unfaithful. He tried lying, begging, crying to keep our charade intact, presumably to ‘save face’, but my shock and disgust were tinged with a tiny wisp of relief. I didn’t have to spend the rest of my life with someone that didn’t want me unequivocally – and so I left.
I once read that infidelity is not about ugly or beautiful, stupid or smart, boring or charming; it’s about old and new. While that soothed my wounded ego, I think it was more a question of right and wrong. We were never right for each other, but we were too cowardly to admit it.
The thing is, I’m not convinced that people who are right for each other are immune to infidelity. It’s why I refuse friends’ offers to matchmake. It’s why I’ve been apprehensive about dating since the break-up a year ago. I can’t be with someone I don’t trust. I have never been, nor do I want to be, the type of girl that feels the need to check text messages and emails or constantly question her partner’s whereabouts. Until I’m sure I won’t turn into that girl, I will happily stay single.
Some have questioned whether I’m truly happy alone. The truth is, being with someone you love is better than being single, but being single is infinitely better than being with the wrong person. So many people stay in relationships simply because they’re comfortable with the status quo, or because they’re scared of hurting the other person, or because they’re scared of being alone. I went through a lot of trauma because of my ex’s unfaithfulness, but at the end of the day, I’m glad my hand was forced. You see, cowardice is an easy option and I may just have stayed comfortably numb forever.