I do not believe in regrets at all because everything we do in our lives was appropriate for precisely that moment in time and would have been entirely in line with our knowledge, experience, confidence, maturity, aspirations and resources. However, if I were granted the opportunity to change just one thing in my life so far, it would have to be the letter I wrote in 1991 asking my ex-husband to return home that Christmas for us to try again after he had gone off to live with another woman.
We had been married for 22 years up to then. It had been a very rocky time for a couple of years. He had gone off to live with his sister's best friend for 6 months. Sensing that he still felt as strongly about me as I did of him, I decided to give one last effort to save what we had and wrote to him giving him the option to spend Christmas with us, or to file for divorce. If we enjoyed the time together, he could return in January, on a day agreed by both of us. If he didn't wish to spend Christmas, I would take that as the final farewell and would start divorce proceedings in the new year.
He did return home for the holidays and we had an interesting time trying to pretend all was normal! He returned to his lady friend afterward but, instead of sticking to our agreed date for coming back home, he returned when he liked, 10 days later. And that was my first mistake: allowing him to change the date without our joint agreement. From then on, it was downhill all the way as he felt he was doing me a favour and pleased himself at every turn. As I was in my no confidence phase, and didn't love myself very much, I allowed him to call the shots.
When he returned, he was extremely guilt ridden and placed the blame for going off with someone else squarely on my shoulders! He found every excuse not to be loving or affectionate and became as detached as he could be. He would not talk about anything that happened between us and how we could go forward, and our life from then on was punctuated by drink and silence. I felt even worse at such an impasse. Of course, I also felt very vulnerable, lacking in confidence, knowledge and emotional support as I did then. We began having rows, terrible rows that seem to take place only at night when the world was asleep and he had drunk a few too many; relentless rows that kept us locked in the past recounting and rehashing every negative thing we could no longer affect or help. It was tragic.
Amidst this ongoing melee, two concerned teenagers grew tired, stressed and emotionally scarred by the constant bickering between us, but we were too busy getting angry and resentful with each other to notice. Unbelievably, for 10 years we continued like that, intermittent sparring amidst the frosty calm of betrayed emotions and searing pain. Engulfed in a jarring conflict of nagging hurt, which degenerated into violence, and fuelled by fear of the consequences of leaving each other, we became hostages to blame and accusations, while I felt exceedingly intimidated and powerless to change the situation. I watched myself change from someone who hardly said an unkind word to anyone into another being entirely, matching my ex-partner word for word in bitterness and animosity, while being on the receiving end of the odd fist or two.
Then one day, after the latest black eye, I woke up and realised I had had enough. I wondered what the last 10 years was all about. I began, at last, to notice the effect on our children, when they selected me for the blame. They hadn't wanted me to have him back and, to them, nothing was better when he did return, so it was all my fault. Especially for breaking up the happy home too, in their eyes. In fact, they did not speak to me for 10 years.
So just one little letter of genuine care and love, and it reaped such sad rewards.
Given the opportunity to go back in time, I would not have sent that letter. Instead I would have filed for a divorce in 1992. Hopefully, we would then have had the next 10 years to start our lives anew with some dignity, some love, perhaps new partners and new directions, instead of spending it in the awful unproductive hell that we did. Above all, my children would have been spared such a stressful and negative time of their lives and we would all have been much better for it by now, assuming, of course, that the Universe did not have other ideas!