A therapist once told me that there is a good reason committing adultery is part of the ten commandments, and that he believes there should be an extra one- Not with your partner’s best friend.
My sister and I grew up in the suburbs of NY, life was perfect in every way and I recall it being fun. My father had this friend Jonas who used to come over with his wife and kids all the time. We would swing off the tree whilst the men would BBQ and the moms would make salads in the kitchen and scold us for running around the house, a regular American show.
We had a few dogs, a terapin won at the summer fete, and dinner parties where children would say hello and be herded to bed immediately.
One night my father simply didn’t come home. I waited for him to check I had brushed my teeth properly and tuck me in, a routine that happened nightly. When I asked my mother where he was, she looked into the sink and said, ‘I am sorry, Daddy isn’t coming home again.’ And just like that, my childhood ended in a flash. He came by a few days later to take his suitcase and boxes and took me to eat waffles at the local diner. He was awkward and uncomfortable around me, and I recall needing to pee, but I held out. I sat there squeezing my legs together waiting patiently for the meal to end. He mumbled something about adults making mistakes and that it was nothing to do with me or my sister and that he was sorry he couldn’t come home. My dad was broken, I was broken.
My mother always liked a drink, but after my dad left I would find her asleep at the kitchen bar with a bottle of whiskey. I would goad her into getting into bed and in the morning I stopped waking her to make our lunch box. A few months later and she announced that Jonas was coming over and he was staying. He wasn’t with his kids. It was wrong, it felt wrong.
Jonas, that warm funny man who would drink beers with my dad by the bbq became this stern cold man that looked down on me. He was tall.
In no time Jonas moved in, and Daddy stopped coming to the house to collect us. My sister and I would wait down the road with our bags and he would watch us walk to the house when we returned.
Jonas was mean. I knew him my entire life as this warm man and the minute he moved in he became a dictator. I could no longer do this, I was no longer allowed to do that. My mother was no longer affectionate with me and she stopped asking me about my day, homework, everything. I stopped existing.
My father, broken by the events became bitter and harsh. He became the atypical, divorcee dating younger women and going out to bars till late. He had a string of crappy relationships and he trained my sister and I to hate and never trust a soul again, The warm family man became a shell of a person and immersed himself in bitterness. My dad turned up as much as he could, and as much as I wanted to leave my mother and live with him I knew he was incapable of caring for me. I felt I had no choice other than to continue to live in the cold emotionless house I was supposed to call home. My mother was into exercise, her hair, manicures and ladies that lunch. Jonas was into Jonas, and I became the carer of my sister. His children joined us every other weekend and holidays. I liked them, but the dynamics changed and we were all on eggshells around each other well into our 40s.
In the 80’s hitting your child or not your child was still considered acceptable, and I was hit daily for answering back, for chewing loudly, for breathing and for existing. It never physically hurt but emotionally each blow damaged my heart. I was desperate to go to school in another State and never come home again but this wasn’t an option. At the age of 18 I left home with the intent of never coming back ever again. To walk away from these cruel people and get on with my life. Ha!
For some reason I wanted the warmth back, the memories of the past niggled and nudged me to search for the happiness I once had from my mother and father and it led me to keep on trying and to keep on getting burnt. I found the most broken men on the market and I stayed with them until I couldn’t take their shit another minute. The fact that I was even attracted to this level of dysfunction saddens me, but that was my baseline of normal.
My parent’s divorce took a chunk out of me. Mummy having an affair with Daddy’s best friend took a chunk out of my ability to trust men or women or a loving relationship. My father met someone, someone nice enough, but even then, he never stopped hurting and he never let go of the bitterness or the misery. It lingers.
Besides the cold unwelcoming atmosphere at home, the next most damaging thing about coming from a broken home for me was the packing. The back and forth and unpacking and packing and unpacking. I can’t not unpack- it causes me so much anxiety- and I laugh when I see Instagram posts about being a psychopath if you unpack immediately. Having two homes, two bedrooms, one where I never left anything, knowing that my time was up at 7pm. It left a scar for life. I can tell you when it is 7pm without checking the clock.
I hated going to my dad and I dreaded coming home to my mum. Neither home was emotionally safe for me, and in today’s world my mother’s home would have been considered physically unsafe. I was hit daily for so many years and shouted at constantly. Even though my mother had the affair, she hated my father to death, and I reminded her of my father and her infidelity. Justified because they are still together, loving and all.
I am an adult now, divorced, with one child. I am a living example of the consequence of adultery on relationships and friendships. I am considered secretive but the truth is, I am private. I don't trust anyone, and I learnt not to share.
If I could turn back time I would have left with my father. I would have begged for different. I would have moved to another state for work and avoided coming home. I would have started therapy before I got into a serious relationship. I would have found a way to heal the scars that still have soft scabs that fall off every time someone tries to get close to me.
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