The accounts of the day I found out about my husband’s affair are as clear as day. Documenting them today is memorable for a few reasons. This weekend marks the one year anniversary of the day my world fell apart. I also think that putting it down in words will help not only me, but others who may be going through the same thing. If you have, I am so sorry.
The day started like any other. My husband went to work that day, and I was home with the kids. We had mountains of laundry to tackle, and I’d spent the greater part of the day cooking food, cleaning the kitchen, tackling the ever-growing mountain of laundry, chaperoning trips to the park, solving crises, orchestrating naps, mopping up spills, wiping noses and sometimes tears.
I looked forward to him coming home from work. I always did. He’d been up early to get to work, and we missed him. We’d have a family dinner, put the kids to bed, and enjoy some quiet time together. We both have such busy lives, those quiet moments are rare, so we’d grab them where we could. Some nights, we’d sit together in the office, working in parallel on our own work, one of us managing the iTunes playlist that would be the soundtrack of our evening.
That night, we put the last of our kids to bed, and I collapsed on our bed, prepared to completely hand myself over to sleep. I’d been running since dawn, and this sudden moment of solitude hit me like a ton of bricks. I was tired.
My husband walked into our room and asked me whether I was coming downstairs. I told him I was tired and contemplating going to sleep. He told me I should come downstairs. I resisted. He insisted. He said he had something important to discuss with me.
I came downstairs, casually flopped myself on the sofa, and made myself available for discussion. Whatever was up was certainly serious – his expression was….expressionless. He sat down next to me, looked down at his lap, and started to cry. My husband never cries. I’ve seen him cry only once in our relationship, and never since we’d been married. My immediate reaction was to hold him, to comfort him, to protect him from whatever was causing him such pain. As I moved closer and wrapped my arms around him, he turned his face away from me, and gently prevented the hug. “No”, he said, “don’t do that”. I was confused. My husband has always had the “hugs don’t FIX anything” mentality, so I assumed the hug wasn’t welcome for that reason. I pulled back the hug, and instead tried to rest my head on his shoulder. I figured it would show him the comfort I wanted him to feel, without being as intrusive as a hug. He moved away, and once again whispered “Don’t”. Whatever was up was really bad. He was shaken, and I was at a loss for how to fix it.
The following excerpts of what was said are paraphrases of what was actually said. Once the words came out, I was in a fog, and it has been a year. I will never forget WHAT was said, I just may not be perfectly accurate in describing HOW he said it. I will do my best.
“You’ve been living your life with me in a way that I feel you don’t have complete control over your life. I have been making decisions for you, and steering your life for you. I want you to have the best life possible, and I don’t want to be the one projecting the course for how you live your life. Right now, I think you are living your life with only part of the information needed, and I need to give you the rest so that you can make the best possible decisions for you”.
I assumed he meant that he wanted me to take more financial control over our day to day lives, have more input, be more involved. I assumed he wanted me to be more proactive, to learn more about the finances, to get in knee-deep in the mundane tasks he had assigned himself, and become a partner in them. I knew he was burdened by carrying that load, and maybe that is all this was. It wasn’t.
“For the greater part of this last year”, he began, “I’ve been in a relationship….with someone else”.
My mind went blank. Where I was didn’t matter. What time it was, didn’t matter. What was going on in the world didn’t matter. The fatigue I’d described feeling moments before didn’t matter. If I was hungry, thirsty, sick…it didn’t matter. Whether the kids were OK upstairs in their beds didn’t matter. For a brief moment, my children didn’t exist….nothing did. It was as if the world had fallen away, and I stood on the only remaining pedastal of earth beneath my feet while the world I knew crumbled around me, and there I stood – alone. It was gone. The world as I knew it, was gone. Who was this stranger sitting next to me, and how did I marry him?
Before I could manage to hear the details of the WHENS, the WHYS, the HOWS or the WHERES, and needed to know the WHO.
“Who is it?” I asked. In the back of my mind it was there. I was pretty sure I knew, but something inside of me hoped it wasn’t her. If it was her, it meant that he’d not only betrayed me, but had also deceived me, lied to my face, covered up, and stroked my self esteem with lies, all in the name of continuing his deceit. It was her. My stomach hit the floor, and the feeling of emptiness that washed over me in that moment is something I cannot describe. It is like suddenly being without bones….no support, no musculature, no foundation. To stand up would have meant to collapse. There was nothing left of me. And then he told me she was 2 months pregnant with his child.
The next half hour were spent describing how this came to be, and why I hadn’t been told sooner. Despite what advice I would soon receive from therapists and friends, I wanted every single detail. When did they have sex, where did they have sex, how did they have sex. Was it good for him, did he like it, was she better than me, does he miss her. These were all questions plaguing me because in that moment I was now in direct competition with this woman who’d stolen my husband’s intimacy away from me, offered him things that perhaps I hadn’t, and I needed to know it all. In that time immediately after he revealed his betrayal, I needed to gain as much information as possible. “Any painful information can’t hurt me any more than I already hurt”, I thought. I felt like I’d been kicked to the ground and said “you’d better give it all to me while I am down here, because I am NOT going to get up on my feet only to learn about it later and get knocked off my feet again”. I will get up, and I will get up ONCE, and from that moment on, I will stand. That was how it felt, and that was what I wanted.
Experts in the area of infidelity are probably split on whether finding out all of the gruesome details from the betraying spouse is a good idea. Both options have their own negative outcome – it is just a matter of what you will best be able to handle.
To not know the details gives you free reign to fill in the blanks with your own assumptions – assumptions which may very well be inflated and false. You may find yourself painting a picture that never happened, scenarios that never came to be, and situations that didn’t unfold in the way your imagination is playing them. On the other hand, to learn the details provides you with the opportunity to replay those details in your mind, like a movie that won’t turn off. You won’t be able to soothe yourself by saying “maybe I am making more of this than actually happened” because it will have happened, and you will have received the play by play. I am not saying one is better than the other, but just know that you need to be prepared for the fallout of whichever option you choose.
Of course, you hope that if you ask for the details, that your spouse will be forthcoming and offer them freely and honestly, and not continue to leave you in the dark.
He answered every question, and carefully composed his responses. He wasn’t doing so in order to craft a believable response. He was trying very hard to phrase his answers in ways that would minimize my pain. I know this now, but I am not so sure I knew it then.
After listening to him tell me how he’d become vulnerable to her advances, and how she was just in the right place at the right time, and how even though he takes full responsibility for his choices that she had been manipulating him into the relationship using disclosure to me as her weapon, I could no longer listen. I started to enter a fog and could no longer process information. I soon realized that I had been unconsciously fiddling with my wedding ring, twisting it and turning it on my finger as I sometimes do when I am nervous. I became aware of the ring, and suddenly was disgusted by it. As he continued to talk to me, I walked quietly across the room to where my husband was sitting, opened his palm and placed the ring in his hand. “I don’t want this anymore”, I said, as I walked out of the room, and headed upstairs. I needed to be alone. I needed to scream. I needed to wake up from this horrible nightmare.
I walked into our master bathroom, grabbed a towel, balled it up, collapsed to my knees and screamed as loudly as I could into the towel. I needed to muffle my screams so as to not wake the children. It was a silent scream.
I fell asleep alone that night. He asked me if I wanted him to leave. I didn’t. He is my best friend, the one I turn to in times of crisis, and now he was the cause of the crisis. I was confused. I needed to sleep, and I did – alone.
When I woke up the next morning, I knew something was different, but didn’t quite know what. I thought it was perhaps the fact that the sun was pouring through the window when typically I have the blinds shut. When by force of habit I looked over to his side of the bed, he wasn’t there, and I thought maybe he’d woken up earlier than me. Then it hit me. It hadn’t been a dream, it was very real, and today was going to be the hardest day of my life.