Three years ago today, I made one of the toughest choices of my life.I was on vacation for a week from school (teacher here!) and it was Saturday night, school would resume on Monday. I was up late, which was usual for me on vacations as I tend to give in to the night owl in me. My husband and I had gone out to dinner and bowling for a little fun because on February 1st, we had a huge blowout fight about how distant he was being. We agreed that we needed to make more of an effort to bring fun back into our relationship, and that after living together for 3.5 years (married for only eight months at that point), we had become complacent. He had been weird all night, going to the bathroom more than a few times and obssessed with his phone, checking it incessantly and texting.
He had gone to bed around 11 that night and I stayed up until about 1 am. When I went up to bed, I accidentally woke him up, to which he responded to by going downstairs for a late-night snack. He had said something earlier in the night about how our thick down comforter was making the bed really hot at night and might it be time to change to the lightweight comforter for the springtime. So, since he was awake, I went into the closet to get the lighter comforter (since he claimed to have no idea where I kept any of this stuff!), and grabbed the old one to fold up. When I picked up the old one, his phone was laying on the bed, under the covers where he had been sleeping. Weird. I saw the phone and I felt a pinch in my chest--for real. I had some sort of muscle spasm. Then, my brain had about 1,000 thoughts in under......3 seconds?! Yes, it was like slow motion, but super speed all at once. I knew. It all came together. I knew that if I picked up the phone, there was no turning back. I actually remember thinking to myself, "T, if you pick up that phone, you know you're leaving him, right. You know this. You can't live with forgiving him--again." (Again=another story for another time) I picked up the phone and saw a text thread from someone named "Eric" that read from Eric, "Good night. xoxo." My husband must have answered back, but I don't remember what it said, I only focused on the other person's remarks. "Goodnight, daddy, miss you, xoxoxo." Daddy? Eric? Miss you? XO? The pinch in my chest go stronger and I felt like I was going to lose control of my bowels. Okay, still with me now? Then, I was faced with the choice. I knew I couldn't go back. I had to deal with this, but how? Time was running out, suddenly, I was propelled back into the moment and heard him downstairs closing cabinet doors and the fridge, eating something. I knew he was going to be back upstairs soon, what do I do?
I went downstairs to see my husband (in the nude, mind you because that's how he slept) standing over the kitchen island eating a yogurt. I had no idea what to say or do, but somehow, I found a place of calm and the words came, I said "Who's Eric?" extremely calmly. He asked me to repeat. I did. He said a friend. I said friends don't talk to each other like this. Who's Eric?! (That last sentence I yelled). He didn't answer. He then demanded the phone. I refused. He then approached me and I moved away, he then pushed me onto the floor and pulled it from my hands. I said "Fine, I don't need the phone, I've memorized what it said. Who is this person!?" He said no one. I demanded that he sit down at the table. He said I had no right to look at his phone. I said, "I'm your wife, I can look at your phone any time I want. Be a man, sit down at this table and tell me what is going on. It's over. Tell me what is going on." And he sat down, silent and looking down at his lap. I asked "Is Eric a man or a woman?" He said a woman. I said "Is this someone you met online? On Craigslist?" (how I knew that is another long story. Refer back to the "forgive him again" statement earlier.) He said yes. I asked "have you met this person in real life?" He nodded yes. I said "Have you had sex with her?" and he said yes. I remained calm (which is so weird because I'm an intense fighter and you'd think I'd be yelling and screaming, but I wasn't...) I asked how long had this been going on? He said a few weeks, maybe 2 months. A FEW WEEKS, MONTHS? I said something like "M, I told you I'd never ever put up with this again. You lied to me for the last time. I ran upstairs, grabbed a bra, my toothbrush and makeup bag. I put on my shoes and grabbed my coat and keys. I walked to the door and said "the next time I see you will be with a divorce lawyer. I'm done!" and I stormed out. The whole confrontation lasted maybe ten minutes, perhaps eight.
I got in my car and had no idea what to do or go. We were supposed to spend the day with his parents the next day, so I called them--yes, it's about 2 am. I called their land line and said on their voice mail: "Hi, it's T. I'm sorry to call you this late, but I wanted to let you know that M and I won't be spending the day with you tomorrow because he's sleeping with someone else and has been for about 2 months, or a few weeks, you better ask him. Anyway, it's not the first time he's lied to me and I'm no longer going to be married to him..." click.
I drove to my parents house. They live about 15 minutes away. I pulled up to their farm and in the quiet and pitch black night, I fumbled for the keys. I walked into their room and woke them up from their sleep and said "my marriage is over, he's having an affair." and burst into tears. The tears finally came. My parents got up and we all sat on the couch together talking for about two hours. They were 100% supportive of whatever choice I would make--to stay or go.
I went up to bed and tried to sleep, it was hard, I barely did, but I managed probably 45 minutes of sleep. I texted my best friend, who lives an hour away and said "When you're up, please call me emergency" at 6 am. She had two little girls under the age of 3, so I knew she'd be up soon. She called me immediately, I told her, she said "I'm dropping the kids at my parents and I'll be there in an hour." She was. I heard her come in the house and ask my dad how to find me, she ran upstairs, got in bed with me, spooned me and hugged me and we both cried together. To this day, just thinking of that moment brings me to tears. Friends. I don't know what we are, but it's more than just friends. We debriefed it all, I recounted everything. His mother had called me, she called her back and battled that storm. She called my husband and said "get out of the house, T and I are coming over to get some of her things and the dog and you better not be there" and then she made me get dressed, dry my tears, put on makeup and go to Target with her. I walked around in a stupor, a fog, a bubble, I don't know. I sort of remember it.
Then, the night fell and the next day came. I took three days out of work and stayed in pajamas. On Thursday, I got up and went to work and tried to act like everything was okay. The word on the street was I had a stomach flu. Didn't I? The worst part of it was seeing clippings from various thoughtful colleagues on my desk or my mailbox from the Sunday paper of my wedding announcement....it took a few months to get in the paper and THIS was the Sunday it appeared? Ironic, I say, ironic!
Then, Friday came. And another day....before I knew it, a week, a month, six months, and even a year. Now, it's three years later. I remember Feb 21, 2009 like it was yesterday and it's crystal clear in my memory, more so than what I did yesterday, in fact. I wonder if it will always be like that. The point to all of this is that I now know that this was a blessing. A change in my trajectory forced by the universe, begging me to change paths. At the moment, I didn't know how I'd live through the next day without falling apart. I watched everyone's lives around proceed as normal, while silently inside in a turmoil, screaming "my life has just fallen apart!!"
Life goes on and the days pass and somehow, healing comes, but it's not easy and you can't be passive, expecting it just to occur on its own. People have said to me how much they admire my strength, but you know, I felt like I had no choice but to be strong. There was no other option. I left and I never looked back. I saw him one more time in person a week later and yelled a few choice words at him and asked for some answers, but ultimately, the answers didn't matter. It was over regardless of why/how/where/who. My life changed and that was that. Forward was the only place to go.
Maybe someone reading this today (or someday!) is going through what I went through and to you I say: go forward and believe that your life is taking you to a better destiny. Have faith and be strong. Strength is in there, you have no idea how strong you really are.