Steph’s Story

Whole Hearted

I think if you’d have asked me when I was a teenager or in my early adulthood, I would’ve had a pretty unromantic view of romance to begin with. I didn’t want some prince to come and sweep me off my feet. I believed that love was possible with different people and that you made a choice with somebody that you had a connection with, to put the effort in and to make it work.

That’s what I did with my partner. I chose him because I respected him. He was a lot of things that I wasn’t; a lot of things that I aspired to be. And he brought things out in me that I loved, and I think that was the same the other way around. We lived a really exciting life. We travelled, we went all over the globe together and apart. And the relationship worked really well. We finally got married after years and years of being together.

It wasn’t really until my daughter was born several years after we got married, that the truth began to come out, because the secrets that he had carried around began to be bigger than he could control. They began to take a life of their own and they began to deeply affect his mental health and our relationship. That’s the difficult thing though, I can’t talk about his addiction without reference to his depression, which has been extreme at times. It can be very difficult to begin to unweave those threads.

I’d lived with his depression and his secret sexual life for several years by the time I found Whole Hearted. There were several points when I thought I couldn’t take any more. But when you’ve got children, those calculations change.

What I know from my own experience, and now from the other women in Whole Hearted, is that when you’re in a relationship with somebody with an addiction like this, they lie and they lie and they lie. And there’s two things that I think are really striking about the situation I’m in now. Firstly, that I trust my own intuition more than I trust my partner’s words. And that’s quite something, you know. I trust my own gut feelings, I trust my own dreams, I trust my own itchy skin more than I trust him stood before me, telling me something straight out of his mouth. And the other thing that I think is really important, is that my own husband is the least safe person in my whole life at the moment. He’s the person who has the most capacity to harm me, and is the most likely to do it. Even with my unromantic view of love, if you’d call it that, those are pretty bitter pills to swallow.

I’m still not sure where we’re going with our relationship, but we have a family, so there is absolutely no chance of just jumping ship. We’re trying to work out various things, and sometimes it looks hopeful and other times it looks less so. He’s still one of the people I respect the most and I can’t imagine my life without him.

Whole Hearted has given me a couple of things. Firstly, it’s given me a space to begin to articulate the problems that I have. When something is so clearly wrong in your relationship it can be incredibly hard to name it, to put words on it, and to describe it. Being in a community of women who are going through it and have various insights and the guidance of the coaches, has helped me massively to be able to name what’s happening to me. To be able to really specifically pull apart threads of what I’ve lived and dealt with. It’s also given me an immense ability to analyse what’s happening, and to understand myself and my partner. It’s helped me to work out what action is possible for me, because when I joined the group, I felt so powerless and I felt so hopeless that anything I could do could change the situation. I know now that there’s nothing I can do to change him, but there’s a lot of things I can do to change myself. And that’s been really powerful as well.

I think, without Whole Hearted, I would probably have succumbed to the kind of mental health problems that long-term abuse and hurt and betrayal can produce in a person.

I think I would be utterly hopeless. I think I would be utterly unable to articulate my own needs and desires. What I can say now is that I’m - and this is a bit of a cliche because lots of people say it, but it’s the truth - I’m hoping for the best, and planning for the worst. And I’m hoping there’s a day when my partner can really look me in the eye and really say sorry, understanding the damage that he has done to me. And if that time doesn’t come, I am not done with life yet, and I’m not done living, and I’m not done with love.

I’m so grateful to Cat and to everybody else involved in the group for being a safe place in a very stormy sea. And I have immense levels of respect for everything that they have achieved in such a small time, amongst the women that I have gotten to know in the group. I’m so grateful that they have helped me transform my own life when it felt so on the rocks.