I love you, but don't know if I can live with you after this…
Every kiss we ever share transports me back to our first one on the cathedral green.
Your polite request, asking me if it was too soon, made me tick the box marked ‘She respects me’. A rare find to the recovered middle-aged woman, who had beaten teenage abuse and ridden the waves of identity crisis, long after relinquishing a church unable to see her love as pure.
Not once did I feel you question my validity as formerly, in another life, there were men. But now I was with you, a woman, I had never felt so seen.
Our relationship felt terribly grown-up and mature. We had both experienced trauma in our formative years – some of it similar in nature – and we shared our pains and our recoveries with each other.
Maintaining our separate homes had felt like the responsible thing to do. Both fresh from unsavoury divorces, neither of us was inclined to merge in a hurry.
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Yes, we were bruised, but we were smugly knowledgeable about rebuilding ‘life-after-divorce.’ We had attended our separate therapies dutifully, graduating with full honours as well-rounded, regenerated women.
As we fell more and more in love I know that I often bailed last minute on tolerant friends, and I later learnt that you bailed on much more than that. The weekly Narcotics Anonymous meetings that had become so core to your survival, gradually slipped unnoticed.
Eighteen months into our relationship, my house got into some bother and needed some serious building work. You were generous in your invitation to let me move in with you for the duration. Secretly, I began to imagine ways we could extend the time. But I needn’t have – the pandemic did it for me.
There’s a very strong part of me that wants to run away from you and your silent misery
The few weeks we had before lockdown were bliss. You marvelled at my independence and we were able to go about our lives, separately yet synchronised. I think my favourite part was the cooking we did together – chatting over the veg chopping. It didn’t matter that the building works time had extended several weeks due to an unexpected snag – we were enjoying domestic bliss. Having someone to return to after work was surprisingly joyful. You’d jokingly yell, ‘Hi honey, I’m home’, and we’d giggle at our silliness.
When lockdown was announced, we both knew our respective job roles demanded privacy and quiet, and we struggled to find that compromise, battling to use the home office at Zoom times.
As the weeks went on, we fought more and more with enforced family life – the intermittent WiFi when we both had to Zoom in tandem, the bizarre food deliveries as our usual favourites became hard to come by and we bickered over things that we didn’t even know existed prior to this bizarre restriction.
You selfishly commandeered the TV remote, while I rearranged ‘your’ kitchen without permission. It became obvious that my method of conflict resolution didn’t sit well with you. I fight and demand to get things sorted right now – you freeze and say nothing, building insidious resentment.
You began to hide away, surrendering to the attack of the ‘black dog’ alone, until a few weeks into lockdown. Your eyes, puffy and tired, squinted at me as you said: ‘I am dying here.’
It felt as though my loud personality had drowned you in lockdown.
I realise that my very existence in your space pushed you over the edge
I had been cheerily searching for silver linings and ‘quick wins’ like grabbing the last available Waitrose slot and being thrilled about it – whilst you were shrinking farther away from life, the lockdown restrictions engulfing you like a noxious gas.
I had to fight for my place in the tiny home-office to work, as my job had to be done face-to-face, whilst you froze – both literally and figuratively – in the garage at those times, crunching your numbers, silently resenting me being inside in the warm.
I realise that my very existence in your space pushed you over the edge.
I had no idea how close you were to it.
Now, I’m battling my ‘make do and mend’ attitude in order to try and support you. I feel OK about not going to the supermarket regularly – I’m a creative cook – you, on the other hand, fight against the restriction, just because.
To be honest, I’m getting impatient with your malaise. I can’t remember the last time you smiled at me and meant it.
You are a shell of the self you allowed me to glorify in our early days. Now I see nothing but torture beyond those deep brown eyes of yours.
And the truth is, I dislike this shell that you have become.
I love you dearly, but there’s a very strong part of me that wants to run away from you and your silent misery.
Sitting here, back now in my own freshly decorated and carpeted home, I muse amongst the boxes. Should I consider lockdown as the saviour that allowed me a lucky escape from a woman with more baggage than Gatwick?
I grew to hate being around you when we were locked in without a choice, you became all the demons you had so successfully kept at bay for all those years. Your routine, your space and your quirky little ways that keep you sane and happy.
I shouldn’t hold your lockdown response against you, but it feels so incredibly unfair that our fledgling romance was put under so much strain so quickly.
I read and hear about couples who’ve been married for 20 years that are bickering and fighting relentlessly and I realise our relationship was barely rooted in comparison. We never stood a chance.
Despite the weeks of despair we have endured, I still, even now, sit amongst my packing boxes hankering for you. I don’t know if I can ever live with you now, having been stuck in lockdown with you. In fact, I’ve never been so glad to be home.
The lockdown may well have been a wrecking ball to any future we had together. But, for now, I’m still going to cling to our love like a lifeline and wait and see what happens next.
LETTERS FROM LOCKDOWN
If there was one letter you could write during this time of shielding, social distancing and self-isolation, what would you want to say?
In this new limited series, Metro.co.uk are sharing the notes people have been inspired to write by their own lockdown experience.
If you would like to contribute, please email [email protected] with the subject: Letters From Lockdown
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