Three weeks to the day. Three weeks since my husband took me out for dinner while the kids were visiting their grandparents. Three weeks since we came home from dinner and he said "we need to talk". Immediately I knew what he was going to say.
"Have you been cheating on me?" The words echoed in my mind and my heart raced. The years of him going to "watch football" at a friend's house immediately flashed through my mind. How many times had I joked to friends and my sister that he might be having an affair? No way, not my husband. I was just joking. That wasn't a possibility. Even when I saw on the cell phone bill a huge number of texts to one number a while ago, I questioned who they were to and my husband made up some answer that I accepted. I didn't want to know the answer. I didn't want to face the heartache in case, oh my God, it's really possible that he's been cheating on me.
My husband was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010. When he left, I was sad but a little heady with excitement over having a whole year to do as I wished and also to have some extra money to do it with. Of course I worried for his safety, but the thought of being free (as free as you can be with two little ones under the age of 6) for a year was intoxicating to an independent woman like me. I did as I pleased during that year. Saw friends, went on vacation, adopted a dog that my husband didn't want (not proud of that fact but I lost my mind and my God, it was just a dog... why begrudge your wife and kids a distraction while you were gone.) Little did I know that the dog would be one of the incidences that convinced my husband that I "didn't know what was important to him" and therefore somehow justified his decision to have an affair for a year and a half.
"Have you been cheating on me? Who is she?"
"Jesus, I knew you were going to turn it into being about her and it's not about her. It's about the fact that I'm not happy and I'm not in love with you anymore...." On and on he would go telling me about how he wasn't happy and he wanted a divorce. It felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach. I hadn't been happy in the 2 years that he had been back from Afghanistan either. I blamed it on his seeming depressed all the time. I just wanted him to be happy so I encouraged him to have hobbies, ride his motorcycle, go fishing, watch football at his friend's house. Little did I know that I was giving him the excuse he needed to carry on a long term affair. How could I have been so stupid, I thought? I've given him a free pass to have an affair because I thought he was depressed and needed to find a friend and something that he enjoyed. I never suspected that the reason he was depressed for the last year was because (I believe) the guilt about the double life he was leading was weighing on him. Jesus, who can lie to your wife and kids every week for a year and a half over where you are going? "Daddy, are you going to watch football?" "Yes, I'll be home after you go to bed." What kind of sick person can do that? Apparently quite a few people, both men and women, from all the incessant research I have been doing online. Are there no morales in the world anymore? Infidelity doesn't seem to shock anyone these days, except for the person who is living it.
The first night that he told me about the affair and the divorce, I sobbed and sobbed in his arms and I believe we even slept in the same bed together. Shock, weakness and a need for comfort I guess. The next day I called in sick to work and went to my parents' house and told them the news. They were shocked to say the least. Nobody EVER thought my husband would do that because about 17 years ago, it was discovered that my father-in-law was having a long term affair with a neighbor and it tore the family apart. Years of agony of watching my in-laws fight through the affair, move to try to save their marriage, have the mistress from the affair track down my father-in-law, have him move out on my mother-in-law. Years of watching this drama and bitterness go on and on and ultimately lead to my in-laws getting a divorce and my mother-in-law moving back by us and my father-in-law almost dropping off the face of the earth. My husband hasn't talked to his father in about 5 years and my husband's siblings have seen him maybe once or twice in that time frame and maybe talked to him a handful of times. How could someone who had gone through that first hand and seen the devastation that it brings do the same thing years later? Apparently what you have lived is your first instinct and your default way of dealing with something... according to my counselor. My husband at some point in his mind starting compiling a list of all my transgressions (I made him feel bad about himself, I put myself on a pedestal, I spent all of our money, I've made him unhappy for the 15 years of our marriage)... He used this as a justification for surfing the web and finding a woman who I guess would carry on an affair with a married man who had a wife and kids waiting at home for him. I haven't asked many details about exactly how this all transpired. I do not want to know all the gory details. I go insane enough when I let myself wander in that direction. I don't need more information to feed the flames. A year and a half of carrying on an affair and then finally saying "Life is too short to be unhappy" (a direct quote) and telling your wife that you want a divorce. No thought given to the repercussions of how this would affect everybody else. Me, the spouse, who wasn't really happy in the marriage but certainly wasn't expecting to have this bomb explode in my life. No thought about the children who might one day find out that Daddy did the same hurtful thing to Mommy that grandpa did. Obviously they are too young to hear about that now but years from now, will all the bitterness seep out? No thought about my husband's mother who rents the other side of the duplex my parents own. How awkward is that living arrangement now? No thought to my husband's career that could be shattered if infidelity is discovered. The military apparently doesn't like adultery although the odds are slim that he would actually lose his position... but to even risk it? Unfathomable.
The only way I can explain this to myself and be able to look the father of my children in his eyes and not hate him is to think that he has lost him mind. Mid-life crisis, PTSD, depression? I have no idea but there is no other answer to what he has done. I take responsibility for my part in some of the unhappiness in my marriage. Recently my husband said that I just consider him an inconvenience in my life. There was a ring of truth to that. But was he an inconvenience because I was subconsciously aware that he was cheating on me and it was self-defence? Or did I actually consider him an inconvenience and just wanted him to go away? I'll struggle with the guilt of this for a while. Maybe it was self-fulfilling and every time I let myself wish that I wasn't married, I was pushing him into doing the most heinous thing that one spouse can do to another. I will accept the partial blame of an unhappy marriage but I will not accept the blame of pushing him into an affair. You don't force your mate to do that, that's a choice they make on their own. They might rationalize it in their heads as my husband is doing but there is no excuse.
So now I'm left to try to figure things out. We haven't told our kids yet about this. My husband is still living in our house, probably for another month. We will probably have to sell our house because we can't financially afford two households. Some moments I'm so angry at my husband that I could scream at him and say horrible, painful things to him. (Although I don't think he'd react much, he doesn't seem to care what I think at this point.) Other times I look at him and pity him for the crap that he has brought down on all of us. That's a heavy load to carry. But I really believe that he's so messed up in his own head right now that he won't even be affected by that burden of guilt at this point. Maybe he never will. Maybe he'll always blame me for being the unsupportive wife who doesn't understand him and I drive him to do whatever he did.
At this point I'm left with my own doubts about what kind of a person am I? Do I believe the awful things he's saying about me? Some of them unfortunately ring true and I must reflect on those? How do I move forward with co-parenting with this person that I don't even know anymore? I know I need to hide all of this from the kids. He's their father and he always will be. And in my weaker moments, I still want him included in our family. I even am planning a family outing next week (hopefully after we tell the kids about the impending divorce) so that the kids will see that Mommy and Daddy are still a team in parenting and that we both still love them very much. Isn't that the practical, rational thing to do after all? Tamp down all the heartache for your children and let them love their father since he's the only one that they'll ever have? I'd like to think that I've handled this whole thing calmly and without reproach so far. I didn't fly off the handle and attack him or his girlfriend. I didn't send a message to all of his friends saying that he's a liar and a cheat. I didn't inform his boss that he's destroyed our family by his thoughtless actions. Did I refrain from doing this because I am the better person? Or did I refrain from doing it because I know that I share at least some of the blame in not working very hard at cherishing my husband?