I should have known something was up. My husband of 16 years was working very long hours, looked and acted stressed out all the time, had lost a lot of weight, and seemed secretive with his cell phone.
But he had always been a stressed-out workaholic, and I knew he hated his current boss and felt micro-managed at work. And he had always been completely trustworthy.
He worked in the civil service and had a very black-and-white view of right and wrong, which was one of the things that had attracted me to him in the first place. He wouldn’t even borrow a pencil from work, because that was stealing government property. I had joked early in my marriage that he could never cheat on me because he couldn’t tell a lie to save his life. Boy, was I wrong!
I did have suspicions. I wondered what was up when I saw him driving home from work, coming from the complete opposite direction of his office. And there was that time I saw an inappropriate text message from one of his employees, something about being so tired after work that day, she fell into bed naked.
But he had completely logical explanations for those things, (yes, even for the naked text) and I felt like a raging bitch for even suspecting him of doing anything wrong.
Plus, I had been stressed out for months myself after a horrible year at work and a resulting job change. So, when I asked if we were OK, and he assured me we were and that he would tell me if we were not, I wrote it all off to a “bad patch.”
Every marriage has those times, right? When we feel more distant, when we aren’t as happy as we once were, when it seems like we are just going through the motions of life and not connecting.
We would both work through our stresses, spend some more time together as a family (our son was then 7), and things would get better. I just needed to give it time.
And then, one Saturday afternoon, while my husband was at work again (or so I thought) I decided to clean out under my bed.
My first thought, when I found the ring, was that maybe it was my sister’s, and I had somehow managed to pack it in my luggage after my visit back home a month previously. And then it somehow …fell out of my luggage? …and ended up under my bed?
My mind was working overtime, trying to find a logical explanation for the existence of a ring I did not recognize in my most personal of spaces.
When I realized it wasn’t finding one, I felt my stomach contract with a wave of nausea, and a low buzzing sound started in my head – a sound that didn’t go away for a full week.
I went into the bathroom, closed the door and sat down on the closed toilet seat. I held the ring in my hand and took a cell phone photo of it. Then, before I could chicken out, I whatsapped the photo to him. No words, just the photo.
It took him a few minutes to reply.
Him: “What’s that?”
Me: “I found it under our bed. It’s not mine.”
Me: “Do you know whose ring it is?”
Him: “I’m coming home.”
Right then, I knew. I knew that my suspicions had been correct; He had been cheating. And she had obviously been in my bed.
I threw up.
Then I texted my sister.
Me: “I have a problem. Mike has been cheating.”
Her: “Is this a joke? That’s not even funny.” (She didn’t believe it was possible, either).
Me: “I’m not joking.”
The drive home from his office should have taken him about 25 minutes, but he was home in 10, so he obviously had not been at work like he had told me he was.
The conversation we had when he got home was conducted in urgent whispers behind closed doors to as not to alert our son that anything was wrong. It was like pulling teeth. I didn’t get angry or raise my voice, just calmly asked to explain what the hell was going on.
Angry and defensive, he denied any knowledge of the ring, its owner or how it got under our bed. He turned red in the face, threw his arms up in the air, stormed out of the room and slammed the bathroom door behind him.
My phone was blowing up with texts from my sister, wanting to know what was going on. I couldn’t answer her. I wasn’t sure myself.
Then, finally, he gave up, came back into the bedroom and sat down on the edge of the bed.
”I’m sorry,” he said.
And there it was, the admission of guilt that ripped open the last few threads holding my heart together.
I asked if it was the employee who had sent the text message about sleeping naked. He nodded.
I asked if she had been in my bed. He nodded.
I asked if he loved her. He nodded.
I sat on our bed, silent tears rolling down my cheeks, as he packed an overnight bag. Knowing I needed to be alone to process what was happening, I texted a friend with a son the same age and requested an emergency kid sleepover, promising to explain later.
Then I wiped my eyes and slapped on a smile while I told our son how lucky he was that he was going to a surprise sleepover.
The second the door closed behind them, I dialed my sister, barely catching my breath between heaving sobs, and wailed into the phone. After similar calls to my parents (who asked me to repeat myself several times, as they too, could not believe that he had cheated) and my closest girlfriends, I was cried out. I sat silently, staring at the wall for hours while the sky outside grew dark then lightened again — not sleeping, not thinking, just sitting with the enormity of it all.
My marriage was over. How could he have done this? How could I have not known? How could I have let it happen? What do I tell our son? What the hell do I do now?
He came back the next afternoon and I think he thought we could work it out somehow, that he could apologize and we’d go to counseling and move on. I laughed in his face and pointed to a large duffle bag into which I had emptied the content of his dresser drawers.
I might have been willfully blind and ignored the signs of trouble, but now that I knew the truth of it, I gathered every scrap of self-worth I had left and told him he was never coming back. My momma didn’t raise any fools.
My momma actually arrived that night, having jumped on the next flight she could get from more than 3,000 miles away, and took over the running of my life, cooking, cleaning, so I could focus on putting one foot in front of the other, and making life as normal as possible for my son.
That has honestly been the hardest part for me, creating normality for him while my life fell to pieces. I promised myself even before Mike left that day that I would never say a bad word about him to our son. I might hate him with a burning passion, but my son deserved to love and admire his dad without me bad-mouthing him.
I have seen too many children damaged by being torn between parents in the aftermath of divorce, and I pledged to take the high road no matter how hard I had to bite my tongue. And I have taken some pretty big bites in the years since that day. Like the day we arrived at court to finalize our divorce and I found out that Mike and the other woman had moved in together after getting married.
But honestly, I am so much happier today than I was in my marriage. I thought I had found my soul mate and settled in for life, ready to take the bad with the good. But the bad had slowly taken over the good and I guess I settled too far.
After a year or so of counseling, I now know I deserve better and can ask for what I want when it is not being offered. And if someone doesn’t want to give me what I want, I can walk away. That’s an empowering feeling.
And do you know what else was empowering? Pawning my engagement and wedding rings.
Story written by an Anonymous –