I’m writing this post on a beautiful sunny day in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and can’t quite believe it’s November already – we are a month away from ending a year that will go down in my personal history book as one of the best and worst years of my life. 2018 has born witness to absolutely devastating losses, betrayals and overwhelming pain as well as radical change, deep spiritual transformation, a much-needed liberation and healing. Before the year ends, I feel it is time to set the record straight on some things.
I am not, and have never been, a vengeful person, despite what others may think. I can however be brutally honest and can’t be doing with pretence or injustice. For three years, I held on to secrets to protect someone I loved – The Good Husband – to the point where it did me harm – affecting my health, my ability to do my job properly; it affected everything. My position at school became untenable because the person I relied upon to support me, fight my corner, my boss, was also the person who could be vindictive, manipulative, capable of throwing me under the bus with parents and staff whenever our personal relationship was not in a good place. As he seems to treat everyone else so well, it was hard to take and took its toll on me, which I told him many times. I had thought about reporting him before I left – no one should ever experience being treated the way I was in the workplace because of a bad personal situation; no teacher should ever feel that they are constantly under negative scrutiny and attack – but I had changed my mind as I hadn’t wanted to cause trouble for him and his family and I also didn’t think I would be believed. Unfortunately, things happened which meant that everything played out in a way that I really didn’t want.
If it had just been a toxic personal relationship I would have sucked it up, left at the end of the school year as I intended and got on with my life. That was what I wanted to happen. I had happily worked at our school for seven years before he took over as Principal, had excellent relationships with students, staff and parents and my kids always got great results. I was proud to work at our school and there had been a running joke with friends that I would never leave. In the two years I worked with him when he was Principal and our relationship became increasingly toxic, everything deteriorated. Before I resigned last November – with the intention of leaving at the end of the school year – I was told that I had developed a reputation for being difficult to manage, was unapproachable and unsupportive of the students – that’s the thanks I got for running UCAS without extra pay, the times I marked students’ coursework in my holidays, the struggle it took to manage a full-time job with Fibromyalgia that was in debilitating flare-up mode at that time etc. Who wants to work at a school that perceives you like that after years of service? It was soul-destroying. Of course, people didn’t know then everything I was going through that was making me desperately unhappy, with the exception of a handful of trusted friends I confided in, I kept it all to myself and I felt I couldn’t say anything. It was an incredible burden.
March was a terrible month. Every day there was some new sh*t, either work-wise or between The Good Husband and I, and I felt increasingly fraught, so wound up it caused physical pain. I knew I only had a few months to go to freedom and tried so hard to make it to the end of the year. I caught him in a silly lie, called him on it, then when a parent savaged me over email about not having enough video cameras for his son to film his GCSE project, The Good Husband allowed him to attack me and completely undermined me, implying to the parent that I had not properly supported the student. I was enraged and told him once again we were done, I wanted nothing more to do with him. For the three years we WhatsApped, his profile picture was always a picture of his daughter; to spite me, he changed his WhatsApp profile picture to a lovey-dovey one of him with his wife. When I kicked off about it, he changed the picture back to one he knew I loved of him and his daughter in Tbilisi to appease me, but the damage was done. I snapped. The hypocrisy of it just made me sick to my stomach. Enough was enough. Men who truly love their wives do not message other women in an inappropriate way or tell those women that they have feelings for them. I asked him many times over the years if he wanted to stop messaging with me and he always said he did not. I should have stopped messaging with him, should never have got involved in the first place. I kidded myself that because we had taken the decision not to sleep together, that we were doing nothing wrong. That was naive, and kept me stuck in an emotional affair in which I had all the heartache and guilt of a full affair, and none of the ‘benefits’. I was completely faithful and committed to a man who was content to have his cake and eat it, his ego massaged by two women. That, however, was my choice and one I would have accepted without revealing our relationship had he not treated me so unprofessionally in the workplace with dire consequences.
After yet another fall-out, in the Easter holidays, I wrote my blog post ‘How To Date An Arsehole’ https://wp.me/p9u5hw-4K to get him to realise how toxic the whole situation had been, what he had put me through, in the hope that it would end and he would leave me alone. I posted it, and waited for repercussions. I know he read it while he was away on holiday but he didn’t contact me – to be fair, I had asked him not to. When we returned to school, no one in management spoke to me about the post, though they must have been aware of the complaints that had started to come in from parents. I was completely unaware the post had caused any fuss until I was summoned to a meeting at Central Office. I had been off sick for two days and explained that I was unable to attend the meeting as I was not well enough to do so. That night I emailed the CEO and The Good Husband, requesting a meeting – it was time to report him and address what had been going on – but neither replied. I woke up to a formal letter of suspension, telling me that I was not allowed to set foot in the school I had worked at for nine years and not allowed to contact anyone. I was gutted. The reason for the suspension was given as follows: I had written a blog that contained inappropriate language, sexualised content and contravened the moral values of the UAE. Realising I was probably legally unsafe to stay in Dubai, I packed a suitcase, booked a flight and a week’s accommodation in London, and was out of the country six hours after I had been suspended. I was told by HR later that I had done the right thing by leaving the country. I have no idea what students and parents were told about my sudden departure, no one ever told me.
Life after that was a blur, my head and my emotions were all over the place. Online abuse meant I had to delete my Twitter and Facebook accounts and I kept a low profile, waiting to find out what was going to happen and if I was going to get the money I was entitled to. I was allowed to resign – the implication being if I went quietly then I would get my money and a reference. I also expected that he would take responsibility and resign too but that didn’t happen. Some friends stopped speaking to me but I had to be cautious who I spoke to anyway and I knew that true friends who genuinely cared about me would stand by me once the dust settled. An amazing friend arranged to sell the possessions I had had to leave behind in my apartment. At that point, I just wanted my complaint to be taken seriously, for me to get my money so I could go travelling, and to just get on with my life. Whenever I asked what was happening about my complaint, I would be fobbed off. I was told it was confidential but would be dealt with – though “perhaps I would feel differently once I went travelling”, i.e. they just wanted me to leave it. And I almost did.
No one ever asked me to take the ‘Arsehole’ blog post down. I found that quite strange. I would have expected my boss/ex to ask me to take it down once the complaints began but perhaps he didn’t know just how serious the situation would become or he was hoping it would lead to me being fired to get rid of me. The suspension was just a formality, we all knew I could not return and I was OK with that. I was prepared to take responsibility for my actions. I took the blog post down the first time as a gesture of goodwill, I didn’t want to cause more trouble and wanted to ensure I got my money. I played the game. When I wasn’t paid and no one bothered to tell me I wouldn’t be getting any money until I sent my passport back to Dubai and my visa was cancelled (so no money for a couple of weeks) then I felt less amenable. In anger, I put the blog back up to show them that they shouldn’t mess with me. When I made my complaint to Central Office, I provided details and evidence of the inappropriate relationship plus some names of people they could speak to who knew – I had thought that would be enough for them to take me seriously. Apparently not. In a phone call with HR I was told off, and warned that I would not get my money if I breached the non-disclosure agreement they made me sign. Again, I played the game. I shut my mouth, took down the blog post and waited…
In July I briefly returned to Dubai to close my bank account in order for my money to be released by the company. It felt bittersweet. Nice to see some friends but mentally and emotionally I felt I had moved on from the place that had been my home for so long. Two weeks later, I got my money and feeling quite benevolent, I sent The Good Husband a lovely message wishing him well. I immediately re-blocked him though as I needed to protect myself – the last time I had spoken to him (after I had left Dubai) and attempted to end things nicely, it had lead to an argument. All was well, until I was told by a friend that The Good Husband was leaving our school at the end of the school year and was sent a copy of the official announcement by the CEO. No one had ever bothered to follow up my complaint with me, the CEO had never replied to any emails I sent her or let me know what had been decided. There was no acknowledgement of or apology for how I had been treated – I had even told them the relationship had lead to a nervous breakdown and I had briefly left Dubai but I made myself go back for the sake of the students – yet there it was in black and white text – public praise. The CEO was proud of all he had achieved and would miss him. I couldn’t believe it. She was proud of him! I tried to get my head around it and let it go, I even tried to be nice about it and sent him a genuine message on Instagram congratulating him on his new job (he ignored it and blocked me; that was expected) but in the end, me being fobbed off and then him being publicly praised was too much for me to take and I went public with his identity. However, if I had been treated with respect and there had been a conversation letting me know that his behaviour had not been condoned, but it had been decided that it was best for all concerned for him to complete another year, then I could have accepted that. And if at any time The Good Husband had asked me to take down the posts about him, I would have. All of the drama and turmoil could have been avoided if the situation had been handled better.
Why was it OK for him to initiate an affair, kiss me in school, be emotionally abusive and unprofessional, but not OK for me to have written about it? He kept his job and I was suspended. How was that fair? We both ‘contravened the moral values of the UAE’ so there should have been consequences for both of us. I felt I had no choice but to publicly reveal his identity and I still stand by that decision. The cost has been high – loss of reputation, loss of friends – but it was a matter of principle. I didn’t want to go public, I didn’t want to cause harm to a family, I didn’t want things to end as badly as they did, I’m not heartless, but when there were no consequences for him and there had been so many for me, to not reveal the truth, to not expose the hypocrisy, for me would have meant I was just condoning his behaviour too. I couldn’t do that. I’m not that girl. I fight for my beliefs. Despite everything that happened, I don’t consider The Good Husband to be a bad person; he has good qualities otherwise I would not have loved him as deeply as I did. A generous way of putting it would be we brought out the worst in each other – but ultimately he was in a trusted position of power and should have acted accordingly. There were things that happened that should not have happened and he should have left me alone when I asked him to. I can only be hurt so many times before my wall will go up and stay up. I’ve never had a relationship end quite this badly before but such is life. I tried to end it many times, for both our sakes. Perhaps relationships as tempestuous as ours was can’t end well? I know he reads the poems I wrote about us sometimes and reads my blog… BF: Look after yourself and your family.
Apologies have already been made to those who deserved them but publicly I would like to apologise to the students who were left without a teacher for the last few months of the school year – you know now that it was not my choice to leave you. I wish you all all the best for the future. Thanks to those of you who sent me lovely messages on Instagram and have chosen to follow me – you guys kept me going through some dark times.
There will be those of you reading this who will be thinking why is she still writing about this, why doesn’t she let it go. I haven’t written this post to gain sympathy – I’m neither looking for it, nor need it – but just wanted to set the record straight about why I left Dubai, why I went public about what happened, so a line of closure can be completely drawn. I know many people feel I should have kept my mouth shut, continued to protect him, and I understand that. With distance, comes hindsight and perspective. Lessons have been learned. Time brings forgiveness and healing. The truth has been told and life goes on for everyone. Bad memories fade, I feel no animosity towards anyone, I’m grateful that traumatic endings have lead me to where I sit now – a quirky cafe on a cobbled street in San Miguel, a bowl of freshly made guacamole ready to be devoured and a head and heart full of the places I’ve been and people I’ve been fortunate to meet since I began travelling in June.
Take care, Lisa.