The stark details of that day will forever be etched in my memory. Fortunately, it fades a little over time.
I opened the mail to find a note addressed to another woman, a name that I vaguely recognized. Inside of it (yes, I opened it) was a reminder for an OBGYN appointment. My gut told me this was all wrong. My stomach twisted and burned and all of my blood rushed to my feet. I felt dizzy and my heart started to race. I called my husband who was at work at the time and asked him about it. His words were hollow and shaky “I f-d up.” My heart sank and I fell to the floor. He was my best friend, my rock, my lover and my partner. How could this happen? I lost him. How did my life fall apart in an instant?
My husband had an affair with a married woman, who also happened to find out that she was pregnant at the time of the affair. A paternity test was done and my husband was (thankfully) not the father of the child.
During the weeks that followed the news of the affair, my life was turned upside down. My husband was in a deep dark place, as well as I. It was the ugliest time in our marriage. There were nights when I cried so hard in my bed I didn’t think it was possible to cry that much. I felt so alone, like no one could possibly understand what I was going through. I also couldn’t tell a lot of people because I was so ashamed of what had happened. I was embarrassed and incredibly hurt that my husband would do this to me, to our marriage, to our relationship. I wiped any evidence of him clean from our home. He stayed away and I wanted it that way. We decided to go to counseling because we couldn’t have a decent conversation on our own. Whether we were going to try to work it out or go our separate ways, we needed help, whether it was to heal or to help us with closure.
The decision to stay in our marriage did not happen over night. It was a process that took months to work out. It required both of us to be all in. We got raw and we got real in therapy. All of our insecurities, doubts and expectations came forward in a tiny little room. I’m so grateful for the therapist that we had because she pushed us. She made us deal with it, all of the ugliness and pain. I will never forget that time when I let out a loud roar of pain and sadness from that room, afterwards hoping that there was no one else in the building at the time. The only way through the darkness for us was to deal with it.
So here we are many years (and children) later. I can’t say that I’m happy that my husband had an affair, but I am grateful for the way we survived it together. I know that our relationship is stronger on this side of it. We continue the dialogue about trust, as it will be a lifetime issue for me. I have chosen this life and I accept it. My husband reminds me everyday that he is all in, and I need that. He knows that I need that.
What is most difficult about what I’ve experienced is the isolation that has gone along with this event in my life. In my experience, the isolation never seems to go away. I feel like I can never disclose that I am a survivor of an affair. I’m still worried about what other people, including friends, might think of me.
We’ve all heard it before, “How could she stay with a man who did that to her? Does she have no self-respect? I would never do that. “ In reality, you don’t know what you would actually do if you were in my situation. You don’t know that I have an incredibly strong marriage with a beautiful man whom I intend to spend the rest of my life with. It takes an unbelievable amount of courage to stay and work on your marriage after an affair. I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do for everyone, but it’s the path I chose and I’m happy that I did.
I chose to write this blog because I know there are other moms out there who have also survived their husband’s affair. I want you to know that you are not alone. I want you to know that a moment doesn’t define you, but how you get up, dust yourself off and move on does. You are strong and smart and beautiful and you deserve the best life. I understand your pain and I understand your feelings of isolation. I wish that as a society that we were more accepting of mistakes. People make mistakes and not a single human being is perfect. Whether you choose to try to work out your marriage or if you feel it’s best to walk away, I support you.
So to all of my fellow girlfriends out there who think “that could never happen to me” think again. You never know what life will throw at you. As a survivor of an affair, the nicest thing that you can do (for your friend) is to be supportive and listen with an open mind. Don’t be quick to judge or excited to share some steamy rumors about my life with other people. Create trust for your friends, because that’s what they need the most. My hopes are that someday survivors like myself won’t feel like hiding anymore.