I can still remember the white T-shirt I was wearing, the song that was playing on the radio, and the paralyzing feeling that took over my entire body when I heard the words, “I slept with your husband.”
You hear about pivotal moments in life, but you don’t grasp the magnitude of these moments until you live and breathe them for yourself. Moments where the breath is literally knocked out of your body. Moments where time stands still. Moments that change your whole life.
I remember telling “the girl” that I had to go. I couldn’t bear to hear the sound of her voice for one more second. It’s not that I didn’t believe her. Her words were cold and precise, and the disgusting story that she recounted was too detailed to be made up. I knew she was telling the truth. I felt it with my entire being.
My husband had cheated on me while I was asleep in the same house.
She asked if I hated her.
I had no words. I still have no words. I just hung up the phone.
I have not spoken to her since that phone call. It’s been over 7 years.
On the surface, our marriage was picture perfect. We had a beautiful, fairy tale wedding on a cold winter day in December. There was a yearlong engagement leading up to the nuptials, so there was plenty of time to plan every single detail, down to the hand-sewn beaded tiara that would be placed upon my long blonde hair and hundreds of white hydrangeas that would fill the church and reception to set the tone for a beautiful and elegant affair. It was the wedding that every girl dreams of. We had a large wedding party, because we had so many dear friends whom we wanted to include.
Only a few of them remain in my life now. It’s funny how many people jump ship when life gets messy.
The weekend when the incident occurred, I had been hosting a birthday party for my best friend. My best friend since preschool. We met when we were 4 years old, and had been inseparable from that day forward. She was my rock, my anchor, and my soul sister. If you are lucky enough, you may have one of these friends in a lifetime. Her family was my second family. We celebrated holidays together, went on trips together and attended every life event in each other’s lives. Almost every memory that I have in my life involved my friend, and her family, in some way. “The girl” who made “the call” to me that day was my best friend’s younger sister. She slept with my husband while I slept in the next room.
The weekend had seemed to go off without a hitch. I had enjoyed myself, and when I had left the house that morning, I felt like we had a refreshing, fun time. I thought life was good. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
My husband and I had taken separate cars that weekend, so when I got “the call,” I was alone. I called him immediately, and asked him to pull over on the interstate and wait for me. He didn’t ask any questions. He already knew. I pulled over to where he was waiting, and we both got out of our cars. I wasted no time confronting him, asking him if the allegations were true. They were, of course. He confirmed her story, and that was is it. My life literally changed in an instant. I told him to go home, pack up his stuff, and leave.
If only it were that simple, though.
The scene that you see in the movies, where the scorned wife throws her husband’s shit all over the front lawn and changes the locks only to see him again when they meet in court to sign the divorce papers, is not a real depiction of how a marriage really ends. It’s a process, a long and painful process.
Moving forward doesn’t happen in an instant. It doesn’t even happen in an hour, a day, or a month. It’s one step forward, then two steps back. You want to work on things. You are done. You want to reconsider. Did you make a mistake sending him away? Are you somehow to blame? Can your relationship come out of this stronger than ever before? These are all questions that crossed my mind everyday.
Every single day.
I tried to stay. I tried to fight for our marriage. I don’t know why, but I did. I guess because I loved him and wanted, with every part of my being, to forgive him and move forward with our lives. I guess I thought that if we could get through the darkness together, we could learn and grow and come out on the other side happier than ever, but I was being naïve.
To be honest, I’m not sure that he really wanted my forgiveness. He would make grandiose promises, then revert back to old behaviors. It felt like he didn’t care, and it became more and more clear that I was the only one trying to save us. And when you are the only one fighting, you realize you are even more divided than you thought.
You really start to understand how this happened and the person you married — or the person you didn’t know you married. You start to question your relationship, from beginning to end. Was your marriage even real, or had you created some image of what you thought your marriage was in your mind? Had you turned your head to certain behaviors and character flaws because you so deeply wanted the marriage to work? Did he even love me? I knew he didn’t respect me. It’s easy to blame your marriage problems on intimacy issues and write it off as an indiscretion, but this was more than that. So much more. This was a difference in views, morals, and accountability.
We didn’t belong together.
The outside opinions from friends and family were plentiful. They had been telling me to leave all along, that I deserved better, that I deserved someone who would put forth the effort required to maintain a healthy marriage, but the decision had to come from within. And it did, eventually. It just took me a little while to get there.
Looking back, I knew the instant she told me about the incident that our marriage was over. I knew the way things happened, the woman he chose to cheat on me with, and the fact that he did it while I was in the same house were things I could never truly move past. I know my boundaries, and he had crossed them all. But I was scared and insecure, so I tried to make it work. We had built a life together. A comfortable life. An easy life. A life that was hard to walk away from, but I did it anyway.
I decided to leave, but some women decide to stay. It’s a deeply personal choice, and no one can tell you the right answer. You have to do what is best for you and your family.
That marriage feels like a lifetime away now. The woman in that marriage isn’t me anymore. I was so consumed with looking like I had the perfect life that I had lost sight of the things that are truly important, like self-respect. The marriage that I have today couldn’t be more different; it’s night and day. We are truly teammates. We lift each other up. We respect each other. I’m convinced that God has a greater plan, and going through my divorce and coming out of it a stronger, more confident person was part of it.
I don’t look back at that time in my life with sadness or anger now. I look at it as the stepping stone to get me where I truly wanted to be. I was not my best self in my last marriage. I was selfish and materialistic, and the things that I valued in life were trivial and of little substance. I had lost sight of the woman who I had worked so hard to become my entire life and had become complacent.
Now, I have found myself again. My life is fulfilled. I never thought I would have a family, but now I have two beautiful children. My life isn’t always perfect, but it’s real and honest, and I’m no longer trying to put on a façade and be someone who I am not. I am content, and get to spend the rest of my life with someone who is actually worthy of my love and respect.
As for my best friend, we will never be like we were. It’s not fair, but when I look at her, I am reminded of what her sister did with my husband and a dark time in my life. I have moved on and just can’t go back there. I will always hold our friendship dear to my heart, but I have to focus on my new life.
My heart breaks for any woman who has been betrayed in this way. It turns your world upside down. It’s such a lonely, scary, and shameful place. I know it seems hopeless, but it doesn’t have to be. When people ask how I found the strength to move on, my best analogy is that I was like a swimmer in shark-infested waters; I just kept swimming, and didn’t look back. I couldn’t. I had to live minute to minute just to survive. I did not know where I would end up but I knew that I had to keep going and stay strong.
If you are dealing with a cheating spouse and have chosen divorce, you will be okay. It may not seem like it now, but you will. I had no idea how I would go on, it seemed impossible, but I did. This is just a chapter in your life, not the whole story. Be patient and gentle with yourself, and know that recovering from something so traumatic takes time. There is a light at the end of this devastating tunnel; you just have to keep going. Don’t let the stigma of being cheated on and the fear of starting over keep you from the future that you were meant to have. There is a partner out there who will appreciate and respect you and will not take you for granted; you just have to find them.
But first, you need to find your new self and love the shit out of her.