I stood at the kitchen sink six years ago trying to scrub out a stain I knew wouldn’t budge. My hand turned numb as I clutched the sponge, and my three kids stood in the kitchen waiting for me to make breakfast. They were 4, 5, and 7. The tears spilling down my face turned into heavy sobs, and I fell to the ground. I wasn’t able to hold it in anymore even though I was trying to be strong for them, and it tore me apart.
The night before, my husband had confessed his affair. Then, that morning, like everything was normal and unchanged, he headed to work.
I had never been so scared of what my future might hold. I had not worked in over seven years, I had three little kids who needed me, and I had to be strong for them, but the central focus in my mind? How I had failed him and our marriage.
We had not been intimate for five months. I was never in the mood. I was so exhausted. And while I wasn’t as sexually adventurous as I had been when we first married, he was still the one. He was still my person. I wanted to be married to him. We were still enough.
I blamed myself for letting things slip away. I’d denied him over and over. I somehow thought he felt the same way about me that I had about him: We would stand the test of time, and this was just a phase. I just needed time.
I took it on — the whole damn thing. It felt like a boulder strapped to my chest, and I let it rule my world for six long years. My best friends and sisters would tell me to stop, that this was his choice not mine.
Fuck, even when I went to see my gynecologist after learning he’d been sleeping with a woman in her 20s whom he barely knew, and she couldn’t perform the exam because I was such an emotional wreck and told me I had to let go of the blame for my own sanity, I still couldn’t do it. My shortcomings were all I could see.
After a few months had gone by, I’d be driving down the road or combing my daughter’s hair, and my husband’s affair would haunt me. It felt like I was walking into shards of glass on purpose, but I couldn’t help myself. It would hit me like a ton of bricks at random moments.
I decided I was unlovable, I would never be good enough for any man, and I sucked at relationships, so I should just stay. He was a good dad. And I was terrified of separating our family, of splitting my time with my kids.
Then, after six years, the fog just started to lift.
I wasn’t the one having sex with another woman in our family car when I was supposed to be out with friends.
I wasn’t the one who was visiting her at her apartment in the middle of the day one Tuesday afternoon while my partner was home watching three kids and my 3-year-old niece, waiting for me to come home so we could take them out for ice cream.
I wasn’t the one who brought her paintings home and passed them off like a customer had given them to me and proceeded to hang them up in my office.
And I for damn sure wasn’t the one who fell into the arms of another without telling my other half I was feeling ignored, lonely, and desperate.
No, I was at home holding our family together, working my ass off, making his favorite meals, and washing his underwear. I was carrying on with my life thinking we were just going through a bit of a rough patch, and I still loved being married to him.
I was not there; he was there. He did this. I had nothing to do with this betrayal of trust, and now that I see it for what it actually is, I’m back. And I feel better than ever.
The day I realized his choices were solely about him and not me, I felt like I’d lost 180 pounds. And I did — because I decided he had to go.
After smashing all the damn paintings he brought home and finally ending our 15-year marriage, I’ve let go of my feelings of worthlessness. This affair, this horrible thing that happened, is not my fault. It will not define me any longer.
Looking back now, it has made me stronger. It has brought me closer to myself. I let go of it all, and I don’t just mean I forgave myself. I forgave him too. I cannot move forward with what this wonderful life has in store for me if I am still mad and angry with him for what he did to us. Being angry with him was only holding me back. He had already moved on.
I am not without fault in our marriage. I was not perfect, but I never looked to anyone or anything else to replace his companionship. I thought he and I would be forever, that we would work through challenges and come out the other side — together.
And the fact it wasn’t enough for him made me feel like I wasn’t enough for anyone. And that is bullshit.
Listen to me, please: If your partner steps out on your relationship and betrays your trust, never put yourself through the shit I did. I don’t care if you stay or you go — the choice is yours — but know it’s never your fault when another person decides to be unfaithful. Don’t spend years shaming and blaming yourself like I did. You can’t get those years back and you’ll regret it later, trust me. You are not there forcing them to be intimate with someone else, whether it’s emotional infidelity or a full-fledged affair. Their choices are their choices, not yours.
It’s not because you aren’t enough. It’s because they aren’t.