The pain of betrayal can be devastating. Families can break, so can hearts. This woman shares her deepest fears and doubts from the worst days of her life.
There are certain moments in our lives that can redefine our perception of life and the way we see ourselves. The day I found out that my husband was cheating on me was one such day.
I don't think I felt much that day. It was a regular weekday. I was running around the house getting the kids ready for school. I was checking off my mental to-do list as I always do. Breakfast: done. Casey's project notes: done. Calling the contractor for our house deal: check. Life was going in order. As planned. Until the moment I was doing the laundry—the next task on my list—when a cellphone fell out of the pile. It was not mine, or my husband's, and nor did it belong to my teenage son. Before I could put it away to check with the family, something about the phone felt wrong. Maybe as the mother of a teenager, you can't help but be guided by your intuition. After contemplating it for a few seconds, I turned on the phone.
The wallpaper that appeared on the screen took me a moment to register. It was a photo of a young woman in a tank top; she looked like one of those girls on Pinterest. Happy, pretty, carefree. And behind her was my husband. A little blurred, but clear enough to send a piercing dagger right into my heart. His hand was on her shoulder. His wedding ring—our wedding ring—was still on his finger. And that was enough to push all courtesies of privacy out of my mind, I checked the gallery. There they were. Rows and rows of pictures of my husband with the young woman. There were pictures that made me nauseous. The worst wasn't the one where they were engaging in PDA, but the one where he seemed deliriously happy. The ones where he looked into her eyes and smiled at her.
I don't remember seeing that smile on him in a long time. This was the perfect time for the voice in my head—the inner critic—to attack me. "You knew you weren't good enough for him. She could make him happy and you couldn't. This explains all the work trips. You should have...." Even before I could process the situation, there I was beating myself for not being good enough, pretty enough, interesting enough for the man who has been lying to me. He left me alone on so many days and nights; there were weeks when I had no help to take care of the kids nor someone to fall back on when I was utterly exhausted—emotionally and physically. Yet, there I was holding myself responsible for his actions.
A force beyond me took over and I checked the outbox, not the inbox. What the woman had to say to him didn't matter as much, but what he said to her is what I wanted to read. I read his messages to her, one after the other. Did that mean I made him feel old and dead? Was that what our marriage was to him? I felt the knot in my tummy rise and before I knew it, I was throwing up. I asked my cousin to take care of my younger one and left even before he could arrive.
There I was, walking in a crowded lane. People were going about their business. A family struggled to load their luggage into their wagon. A mom held her child close as she braced the evening cold. A young woman walked past swiftly, her eyes on her phone. I tried to make sense of all that was happening. I had fled the scene to escape the voice in my head. I agreed with most of what it said, but not this one. I knew I had done nothing to deserve this.
My phone rang. It was him.
I put it back in my bag. The knot in my tummy returned. This time, it felt tighter and more painful. How did I not see the signs? When did it begin? Is that why he never came home on time through the week and was away on "work trips" on weekends? Is that why his phone would ring so long before he picked my calls? Is that why he never looked at me like before? The image of him smiling into her eyes hit me hard, and right there in front of strangers I let my stoic guard down and allowed myself to cry. I didn't have answers to many of my own questions, how was I going to handle questions from others?
What did she want from him? What about the kids?
That was 3 months ago. I still don't have answers to those questions. And I still wonder about the future of my kids. There are days I think, if a woman can take my husband away just because she was younger, wore nicer clothes, and had fewer worry lines on her face, she can keep him. But then there are days when I wake up hoping this was just a nightmare. I wonder how something that started with so much love can turn so ugly. And the one recurring thought is how I could have been so wrong? But I do not let his actions, his lies, or his betrayal question my self-worth.
I know that I was true and I gave the marriage and our family the best I could, every single day. If that wasn't enough for him, it's his loss. And I'm glad I had the courage to ask him to get out of the house. I haven't made my decision yet. But why should I leave my house, the home I built, the family I nurtured day in and out to move when it was him who was away most of the time? It still hurts. The pain is real. But I am done letting him decide how I feel about myself. It's likely I will never take him back even though he has apologized. But that can wait. I want to now take care of myself and build back the little bits of my soul that are broken.
For once, I choose to put myself first before others.