I was sitting here earlier this evening, and happened to open an email from an old friend whom I hadn't spoken to in a while. In this email, she asked what I found to be a rather odd question, once I stopped to think about it in depth. Her question was whether I had regretted leaving a particular ex many years ago, who became a millionaire after I left him, but prior to his death of heart failure 9 years after we split up.
Richard has crossed my mind several times in the 3 years since he was buried. We were together for 7 years, went through 6 miscarriages of children together, built a business together, and were man and wife in everything except the legal sense due to the fact that while we cohabited we never formalized our relationship via the bonds of matrimony. I loved him deeply, even when I finally left him, and a large portion of me still loves him even though he was buried 3 1/2 years ago.
I left him because he was a diagnosed schizophrenic who refused to get treatment for his illness. Those who know me frequently laugh and call me crazy, but compared to Richard I'm so normal it's frightening to contemplate at times. I walked out on him after 7 years of pleading with him repeatedly to seek help, and his continual refusal to do so. I left not because I didn't love him, but because I DID love him. I loved him enough not to be one of his enablers. I loved him enough that it was less painful for me to walk away from our relationship than to watch him daily become more lunatic.
So have I had second thoughts, knowing that he subsequently pulled his act together, got treatment, and became quite a successful trader in the stock market, accumulating several million dollars in liquid assets before he died? A few, in my more wistful moments when bills are piled up and staring me in the face.
My friend's email though caused me to Really Think about whether I regretted it. After all, Richard went to his grave hating me as passionately as he had once loved me. His widow (I call my replacement that, although they were no more married than he and I were while we lived together - she was his live in and significant other at the time of his death, and had been with him by that time for nearly as long as I was with him) has refused to meet me, and I've been told that she hates me almost as much as he did.
If I hadn't walked out of his life, a couple of weeks after he asked me to marry him and formalize our long standing relationship, he would still be dead of heart failure. There are things that would have been significantly different for him though.
He would never have bothered to get treatment for his schizophrenia, had I not walked out. The goad of losing that long standing relationship was what he needed in order to pull himself together.
Without treatment, he would not have given up the hobby business and turned to trading on the stock market. He would not have become successful. He would have gone to his grave poor, ill, and resentful of the world for what he did not have and had not acquired, convinced that every shadow was someone coming for him.. He would not have met, and gotten involved with, the woman who eventually made him happy once he was treated and whole.
Yes, I regret that he could never see past the wound that was caused when I loved him enough to walk away. But that is the only thing about it that I can make myself regret.
I still miss him. I still love him. There's still a healing wound in my psyche where he resided for a very long time. I do not, however, mourn him. Instead I chose to cherish the memories we made together before his illness became all consuming, and to celebrate my own life and the knowledge that I made the right choice.