Ruth Livingstone
2 min readAug 2, 2019


Forty years up in smoke

It is one year and four days since I discovered my husband was having an affair. A serious affair, not a one night stand. Three years it had been going on for – three years of deception and betrayal – and I only found out because she sent me an email and told me all about it.

It was almost impossible to believe. In fact, at first I thought she was drunk and playing some weird kind of joke.

We had been married for 38 years, and had been together for 45 years. The pain and desolation was almost unbearable.

Anyway, that was a year ago, and today I did something I’d been planning to do for some time. I opened my little wooden box, where I keep all the letters he wrote me during our 7 year romance before we got married. I read a few of them first. It was difficult, both emotionally and from a practical point of view, because his hand writing has always been terrible.

It was painful to see the affectionate greetings, the phrases of love, and all the little kisses after his signature. Painful, but also strangely reassuring too. It wasn’t all a lie, then. Our lives together had been happy and he did love me once.

I opened up the barbecue, lit a match, and began to burn the letters. I did it slowly, one at a time, with a glass of wine close by. There were a lot of letters. It took almost half an hour.

Now there is just a pile of ashes left, still warm, and still smouldering where old pieces of charcoal have caught alight. I feel sad, but relieved too. Breaking up a marriage is a long and tedious process, and much more complicated, in fact, then getting married in the first place. Now the letters have gone and it’s another step in the process of separation. Another job crossed off the list.

I meant to burn the letters on the year anniversary of finding out, but you will notice I missed my target by four days. The weather across the UK has been atrocious for a week, with torrential rain falling, and so I had to delay the bonfire until the storms cleared.

Life doesn’t always go to plan.



Ruth Livingstone

I was an NHS GP for 25 years. Studied creative writing at Birkbeck University. Now walking around the British coastline in very slow stages.