Don't cry on my shoulder about your cheating man – I know you'll take him back!
21:41 GMT, 29 August 2012
The text came just as I was dashing to get an early train. But I didn’t need to check who it was from — my friend Julie has been sending missives most mornings for the past few months.
Each update informs me — in great detail — about her current state of mind: how she’s feeling, how she’s slept, even whether she’s been able to face breakfast. And each one always ends by asking when I might be around to talk.
I am not, by the way, Julie’s counsellor. I’m just a friend who offered a shoulder to cry on when, earlier this summer, she made the devastating discovery that her husband of eight years had been having an affair.
Reunited: Anthea Turner and Grant Bovey have got back together after his infidelity
It’s a similar set of circumstances to the one Anthea Turner found herself in recently when she discovered her husband, Grant Bovey, had been playing away from home while she was working away.
While for my friend Julie there are no children in the equation, she has had to come to terms with her husband Jerry moving out of the marital home. She is struggling to come to terms with such a colossal betrayal by the man she adored — and who she thought adored her.
She needed friends to lean on and, sympathetic to her predicament, I was happy to listen, even when it felt like Groundhog Day. I would disguise my boredom as, for the umpteenth time, she replayed the moment when she first had suspicions, how he looked when she confronted him (affronted); how she looked when she asked him to leave (pale, but dignified).
I know every cough and spit of what has been said between them.
We’ve gone through his family history, his behavioural patterns, his moral code, his most private and peculiar habits (did I really need to know, for instance, that this debonair man-about-town can only get to sleep by sucking his thumb).
'I find it almost impossible to
understand how she could consider taking back a man she had – on her
darkest days – professed to hate'
I know when he’s phoned, how he
sounded, how long the call lasted. She’s quoted from self-help books, I
know she’s seen a counsellor and how she went on a retreat, but came
back the next morning saying there was only so much lonely wandering on a
windswept beach she could manage, and was I free for a glass of wine
To start with, other friends shared
the load. Then, after a few weeks, I noticed my fellow members of the
Support Julie Group had managed to surreptitiously resign from their
counselling duties. I alone remained steadfast.
Call me gullible, but because I work
from home, my husband is frequently away and I don’t have children, I
suddenly found myself as chief coach in the ‘getting her through this
And honestly, I didn’t mind, because
if — God forbid — I ever found myself in a similar situation, I’d hope
she would do the same for me.
I didn’t even mind — too much — that
Julie’s problems took over my life, even risking the irritation of my
husband by having her to stay at weekends.
Julie and I go back a long way after all. We met at work 15 years ago and have been friends ever since. We’ve seen each other through thick and thin, and after she and Jerry moved nearby several years back, we often got together with our husbands in tow.
Tea and sympathy: Sharon felt she'd wasted her time listening to her friend complain about her cheating husband as she then went back to him (posed by models)
But she was my friend first and my loyalties lie with her. So, when she was giving it both barrels about Jerry, and asked for my opinion, I’d give him both barrels too.
The more she told me about their dreadful marriage, the more I had to agree she might be better off without him. This was a man who’d once locked her out of the house because she’d got home later than promised and who’d thrown a cup of tea against the wall because she’d accidentally shrunk his favourite sweater.
The affair was clearly just the icing on the cake. Why, I asked her, did she put up with all his bad behaviour in the first place
Then, last weekend (when she was staying with us), I thought she’d finally turned a corner. She seemed stronger, more determined, eager to move on.
We even sang along to Gloria Gaynor’s epic song for all scorned women, ‘I will survive!’ When she left on Sunday, I sighed with relief. My work is done, I thought.
Imagine, then, how I felt when I fished my mobile out of my bag on Monday, only to read not an update on her mental state, but a series of sentences ending in exclamation marks: ‘Guess what! Jerry was waiting for me when I got back last night!!!! We’ve had a long chat — lots of faults on both sides. We’re going to give it another go!!! What do you think!!!’
I sat on the train, staring open-mouthed at the phone.
What did I think I thought she was a bloody fool. How did I feel Furious and let down.
I have given hours of my life to this messy situation, cancelling other arrangements, neglecting other people, cramming in chores in order to give her time to get over this man who has hurt her time and time again.
But what had been the point Given the chance, she’d clearly always intended to go back to him, whatever indignities he put her through. What a waste of time and emotion.
I’m not saying I would wish a failed marriage on a friend, but not only is it obvious that this man has treated her dreadfully, the more I’ve learned about their life behind closed doors, the more I don’t like him. Not only is he a cheat, but he’s mean-spirited, sarcastic and sulks for England.
'While she might have reconciled with her husband, I fear our friendship may not ever be the same'
I feel exhausted by the whole thing and a bit of an idiot for not saying enough is enough earlier.
I find it almost impossible to understand how she could consider taking back a man she had — on her darkest days — professed to hate.
Christine Northam, a counsellor working for Relate, explains that for my friend to get through a situation like this she had to go through a cycle of emotions.
She says: ‘It’s a natural part of the process that after the initial shock, anger kicks in — which is why we may focus explicitly on our ex-partner’s shortcomings.
‘It’s only later that we’re able to take a step back and look at what’s happened rationally. It’s then we may conclude that there could be other reasons someone has behaved badly — and be prepared to give them another chance.’
That might well be the case, but what about the poor friends who get caught up in the mess I can’t help wondering, for instance, how Team Anthea — her supportive network of friends — have felt on learning that she and erring husband Grant are reunited.
‘What you have to understand is that when you provide a shoulder to cry on, you also play a role,’ says Christine. ‘You’ve been supporting someone who’s been dependent on you — and it can be like a rejection when they no longer need you to be there.’
Which is all very well, but this was a part I never knew I was auditioning for! And so, rejection or not, I’m still peeved.
While she might have reconciled with her husband, I fear our friendship may not ever be the same.
For a start, I don’t think I’ll ever completely accept what she tells me about her marriage again — whether or not things work out.
But it’s also impossible to erase the fact that I’ve told her what I think of Jerry. Now I can’t help but wonder how I’ll look him in the eye and be civil without feeling like a hypocrite.
A few hours after Julie sent me the text — which for once I hadn’t replied to — she called me, sounding slightly embarrassed.
‘I probably exaggerated some things about Jerry’s behaviour,’ she assured me, no doubt also wondering how awkward it’s likely to be next time we all get together for drinks.
‘What about meeting for a coffee to have a chat about it’ she suggested. I hesitated for a moment — and then I told her I was busy. Until about Christmas.
Names have been changed.