My husband and I have been married to each other twice. We got married, we got divorced, and then we married each other again.
When we married the first time, we were far too young (for us anyway). He was going off to grad school, and marriage seemed like the next logical step in the perfect life I had envisioned. We had been together for two years and had known each other since high school. What could go wrong?
Freaking EVERYTHING went wrong.
After the wedding, we moved to San Diego, two hours away from our families in Los Angeles. He started school, and I got a job as a preschool teacher. He stayed up late every night studying, he still wasn’t doing well, and was perpetually worried that he would fail. Because he was never around, loneliness set in and I started spending money — our money, the money we received as a wedding gift. I would buy clothes and shoes in hopes that it would fill the void between what I thought marriage would be like and what it actually was. When he found out about my secret spending, he was beside himself. The betrayal led him to cheat on me.
Without telling me, he left and went up to Los Angeles where he slept with his ex-girlfriend. This wasn’t just a one-time deal either; the affair continued until our marriage collapsed a year later, and he dated her for a while after that.
During that year, I had a feeling this was going on, but I didn’t have proof. I never searched for proof–I eventually just left after he told me he was unwilling to go to couples counseling. Instead, he asked for a trial separation, which didn’t sit well with me because I saw it as a way to stretch out the inevitable. I waited until he was gone over Thanksgiving weekend, packed up all that was mine, and moved out without telling him. I drew up divorce papers and met him at a local coffee shop where we signed them. He brought a bunch of stuff with him that I left behind.
It was over.
For four years, I was absolutely unwilling to love anyone or anything but my job and my guinea pig. I tried and failed to have other relationships. At one point, I was dating a guy who was more terrified of commitment than I was, and that was clearly unhealthy. It turns out that it’s best to stay single for quite some time after the demise of such an important relationship. I drank myself to sleep every night and had nightmares riddled with guilt and shame. I would sit in my studio apartment and cry because of what I had lost.
Since I didn’t have proof of my husband’s infidelity, I naturally blamed the demise of our marriage on myself. I hated myself. We didn’t speak during these years.
One night, in a crying fit of rage, I texted him to ask him the question that had been haunting me since the divorce. Did you cheat on me? I figured that a few years of not speaking would be enough to convince him that there wasn’t a reason not to be honest. I was right, and he admitted that he had. He admitted that it was a mistake. He apologized.
Another six months passed before we occasionally started texting back and forth. He asked me to dinner one night in the fall of 2012. We met up at the same coffee shop where we signed our divorce papers, wearing matching outfits, and it immediately felt like the happiest times in our past relationship. The difference was, we were two totally different people than we were in our first marriage. Matured, happier, and more willing to cope with change. I attribute this to the fact that we both (separately) went to therapy and to just simply growing up.
I was naturally weary of this new relationship because it was also an old relationship that ended in a horrible way. After we became intimate again for the first time, I started bawling in bed next to him. I told him that if he ever cheated on me again, he would never see me again. It took me a long time to trust him, but in the end, I did and do.
I was there when he solved the proof that led him to finish his dissertation. I was there during his final defense, when he got his PhD. He proposed on the 4th of July in 2013, and I said yes. We found out that I was pregnant that same year and we got married again. We had a courthouse wedding and only invited two people. There was so much less pressure to be perfect because we weren’t and we aren’t, and we are OK with that.
We have two kids now and we’ve been happily married for almost five years. He works at a local university and I am fortunate enough to be able to stay at home with our children.
Do I worry about him cheating again? No. I wouldn’t have put myself in this situation had there been any doubt. He is the love of my life.
I understand that our story isn’t the norm. I know there will be judgment; it comes with the territory. But, sometimes, broken relationships can be salvaged. Sometimes they are worth fighting for. It’s up to each individual couple and each individual person to make the changes that lead to forgiveness and reconciliation. And it’s really no one else’s business — unless you happen to write an article about it.