The day you discover a spouse’s affair is called D-day. That word became a new part of my world. A big part of my life for two years has been measured by how far I have (or haven’t) come since D-day; when it happened; how it happened; what is next; what was learned; and most important to everyone around me– that I move on.
No matter how far I am past D-day, those moments stick with me always. Maybe not all at once, but little zingers pass through my mind and remind me of those moments. Here is my story of discovery.
On the night of our fifth anniversary, when I arrived home after spending the day with a family member (on a beach that was too windy and behind sunglasses crying at the sight of couples and families everywhere), he was upset and said “I’m sorry for what I’ve done to you.” He said he needed me to sit down and he needed to “tell me everything.’ At that moment, I remember feeling relieved and thinking – my husband is finally talking to me, things will make sense now.
His three hour confession that night involved many disclosures (another d word): numerous exchanges of video chatting and photo exchanges with online affair partners since the early days of our marriage, physical contact with his female best friend during the weeks before her wedding; physical contact with two female coworkers; and an eight month relationship with his current affair partner, who he told me was his true “soul mate.” He told me that with her, things were “the way they should be.” I’m not sure if, before this moment in my life, I really understood what it felt like to go numb. I don’t think I was able to cry in those moments. I don’t think I was able to really process what I was hearing. I remember staring at the sliding glass door, at the white pieces making grids in the glass and staring into the darkness outside as I listened to him and, held his hand. My newborn son – 8 weeks old – was asleep in his swing nearby.
At first my husband stated that he’d ended the relationship, which I remember him describing as “fully intimate” – words that filtered in and out of my brain. He described his affair partner as a “very free” person who had three young children. But he then continued to say that he broke up with her that afternoon and wanted to work on telling the truth in his life and fixing the damage done to our marriage. He slept on the couch that night, and I remember pacing back and forth in our bedroom and then taking out a notebook and writing everything he had told me.
The next morning, I found him reading emails on his phone. He told me she was “very angry” with him for breaking up with her. He did not want her to be angry with him, he said, because they shared everything. He said he needed her to know all about his conversation with me last night. I asked for his phone. He was reluctant at first, but he gave it to me and I read their email exchanges. He wrote that she was his one true love and that he would never feel the same about anyone else. I continued looking through his phone. I found pictures of my son, sent to her from the hospital on the night he was born. I found pictures of everything in my home, every room, including my husband on our bed and a picture of the baby with my cat. I found hundreds of emails and photos. There seemed to be nothing about my life and my husband that wasn’t sent to her through email.
That night, holding my son, giving him his midnight bottle, I felt like I could not breathe and I realized – everything about being pregnant, delivering my first child, bringing him into the world with a husband who stood by my side and coached me through delivery – it was all an act. When I saw the pictures on his phone earlier that day, it was as if he was giving away every piece of my life to some secret observer who had been included in my pregnancy. As I looked at my son drinking his bottle, I felt a level of fear that I can only describe as – it felt difficult to breathe. I woke up my husband and sat in a chair crying while he finished feeding the baby.
For the days immediately following, I did not tell anyone. I emailed his affair partner. I sat by his side as he cried in bed telling me he missed her. I stayed home while he took my car to work, saying his car reminded him of her. I monitored his phone, which he had asked me to take from him so that he could avoid her if she called. I intercepted an instant message from her angry 17 year old niece, asking how he could hurt her aunt like this when he had said he was going to marry her. I stayed in contact with him through email and instant messaging throughout the work day.
Two days later, we went to a family/marriage counselor, an appointment I had scheduled the previous week when it was clear we were headed toward our fifth wedding anniversary with no plans of celebrating it. I sat and listened as he retold the therapist all of the details I had heard two nights before. It was summer, but I felt freezing cold and had to wear one of his work shirts from the car. When he finished talking and the therapist looked at me to ask how I was doing, I told her that I felt like I was boxed in some sort of cage – I felt cut off from everyone. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and my eyes and head hurt worse than any headache I’d ever felt. As we drove home that night, I asked if he wanted to start arranging to stay somewhere else for a while and he said yes. We drove home, where his mother was caring for the baby. I listened as he confessed everything to his mother, and this time – the third time I’d faced this discovery – I ran to the bathroom and threw up. He followed me and held my hair.
After he’d talked to his mother and packed a bag, he stood at the front door and I don’t remember what we said, but I remember that it seemed like he was exchanging some sort of pleasantries with me, as if he was leaving on a vacation or business trip. I hugged him good-bye and listened to his car drive away. I didn’t yet know of the words “healing journey” or any other words and phrases used when reading about infidelity, (those labels came later) but when he left, I think I already knew I was going to be facing the damage alone. The next day, I told my mother and my sister. My mother-in-law stayed and took over daily care for my son. For three days following, I came down with the flu and stayed in bed, trying to stay away from my son to prevent infecting him, and travelling to and from storage boxes to find cards, letters, and pictures of my married life. I continued writing my thoughts in a notebook.
Within days after leaving, I found out my husband had resumed his relationship with his affair partner (which I discovered – of course – on Facebook). I started the divorce process and returned to work after three months of maternity leave. I confided in four coworkers who I felt I could trust. I was afraid to return to work, to the place where – when I had last been there – I was pregnant. Unfortunately (and fortunately), word travels quickly in work places and even within family. But as word travelled, I was relieved when someone would unexpectedly check-in (and I was sad to learn how common infidelity is as others shared that they, too, had experienced it). These random, unexpected check-ins provided a sort of unexpected life line as I struggled to accept my new reality.
It’s been two years since those moments.
My divorce was final in February this year. I do not feel that divorce is the only route after infidelity. I feel only that it was a necessary choice for me.
I consider myself to still be in a place of healing, but I am glad that that word Discovery does not necessarily direct my thoughts to discovering cheating anymore.