I knew he was lying. His story just didn’t make sense. As the truth slowly came to light, my world was first cracked, then shattered into a million pieces all around me. How could I have been so blind?
The unveiling of the truth started in New York. He had surprised the heck out of me by taking me on a big trip to DC, New York, and LA. We had just bought a new house and a new car, too, so I was amazed that my frugal and fiscally conservative husband would splurge on a trip like this. He did have business in DC and LA, but still – bringing me along was a big extra expense. We were enjoying the trip immensely. We had been through a lot in the previous years – job changes that took him to another city during the week, my mom’s Alzheimer’s, three kids and their many activities, my job and promotions, kids going away to college, moving permanently to the city where he worked – it was just non-stop for several years. It felt like it had taken a toll on our marriage. We went through a period where we fought a lot a few years ago, and then it got better, and now I thought we were becoming close again, and I was happy just to be with him. I remember standing at Dupont Circle in DC, telling him how happy I was to be married to him. When all else was lost, I thought I could always count on him to be there for me and to do the right thing.
He fell asleep at his computer one evening while I was sitting across the table from him in our hotel room, reading a traveler’s guide. I didn’t want him to get a stiff neck, so I woke him and told him to go to bed, which he did. Then I sat at his computer to check my email since we had only brought one computer with us on the trip. I was enraged by what I found, though I later found out that it was only the tip of the iceberg.
It was open to his email, and right there on the screen was an exchange of emails between my husband and his first girlfriend. The letters were not romantic – but they were chummy and comfortable – she knew everything about our family. It was obvious that they were in frequent contact because she mentioned events in my children’s lives that had happened over the last six months, with the last one occuring just in the past few days. The most telling thing was that they used acronyms as pet names for each other. I couldn’t tell what the acronyms stood for, but that was not a good sign.
I didn’t know how to react at first. I was stunned. He knew I would be upset if he started up a relationship of any kind with her. But still he chose to be friends with her online? As I sat there in shock, he woke up enough to realize that he had left his email open. He flew off the bed to come see what I was looking at. I closed it just as fast so he didn’t see what I saw. He said, “what are you doing?” He relaxed as he looked at the computer, thinking that he didn’t remember but had actually closed the email. I told him I was about to check my email and said nothing, and he went back to bed.
I looked at his inbox. There were several more email exchanges between them, mostly forwards with little notes to each other about having a good day. A couple were regular letters, telling each other about what their children were doing. He had been writing to her all during our trip, too! They always used their pet names for each other and always ended the emails with all these other acronyms, which I couldn’t make out. I sat there for some time, taking it all in. How could he do this? Why did he do this? How close were they? The way he had flown off the bed told me that he really didn’t want me finding out about it. And he was writing to her right in front of me – I was sitting right there! Finally, I decided to wake him up and confront him. I slapped his leg and said, “You need to wake up right now. You’ve been in contact with Laura?!!”
He was remorseful and apologetic. He said that he knew I would be mad that he had lied to me and had hidden something from me, so if I wanted to leave him, he would understand. He said that their alumni association had circulated an email list when their school was planning its 100th anniversary gala, which was held a few years ago. A bunch of them had contacted each other and now regularly sent forwards and such. He said they were just old friends keeping in touch. I asked him about their pet names. He said that it was nothing, that she had just wanted to do that for fun. I asked him if everyone had a pet name. He said he didn’t know.
He asked me to please not tell the children. He said it wasn’t worth the pain they would feel if they found out their dad had lied to their mom. I agreed to it for the moment. I told him I couldn’t promise I would never tell them, but for now, until I had time to figure this all out, I would not say anything.
I was angry and hurt and humiliated. They had made a fool of me! How dare they? Did she laugh behind my back, knowing she was sharing personal things with my husband that I didn’t know about – even things about me? How dare they share pet names? People who were “just friends” did not share pet names. Only people who were flirting or actually romantically involved did that. Could I believe him? I was very doubtful.
The rest of the trip was and still is a blur to me. We saw people and did things and went to Disneyland. People probably noticed I was quieter than usual, but no one said anything to me about it. The night we got home, I brought it up again. I told him I found it hard to believe him. Those pet names were a problem for me. And what about all those other acronyms? What did they mean? What kind of relationship did they have? He wouldn’t say. He became furious, yelling and screaming at me – and yes, looking at me right in the eyes – and he said, “Relationship? What relationship? There is no relationship! We are just friends on an email list! That’s it! I’m sorry if that makes you mad, but that’s all there is to it!”
I wasn’t satisfied. After he went to bed, I got out his laptop again. I searched it thoroughly this time, and what I found made me sick to my stomach. Hundreds of love letters between them, starting from six years ago. My hands started shaking uncontrollably as I clicked on each email. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I gasped out loud at each proclamation of undying love, of longing and desire, of regret for the ties that bound them to their families, of the plans to meet each other.
My daughter lives downstairs, and in spite of my shock, I was aware enough to know that I didn’t want her to see me like that. She had said the night before that she was going to carpool with her husband the next day, and I heard him leave. So I thought we were alone in the house. I went into our bedroom, where he was getting ready for work. I showed him the laptop and said, “More? There’s more?! Hundreds of them… love letters. Love letters! You’re in love with her?!? How could you do this to me?!”
His face dropped. He sat on the bed, speechless. I don’t know what I said after that, but I ranted and raved at him for several minutes. All he could say was “I’m so sorry. I never meant to hurt you. Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it.” Then I screamed and cried like I never have before in my whole life. Even I could tell that it didn’t sound like any sound I have ever made before. It was gutteral and deep, like someone physically wounded.
My daughter, who had decided not to carpool with her husband, was still home and came rushing up the stairs. She thought I had been injured. I was out of control then, and spilled it all out to her. She tried to console me, but she was sobbing herself. My husband couldn’t face her. She had to get going, though, and she managed to pull herself together and go to work. I tore into my husband again. I even slapped him and called him names – something I have never done in my entire life. I was a wreck. I called in sick. I ended up staying home for two days, unable to eat or sleep or do anything. I later learned that I was in physical shock, and that the trauma was like that of any horrific event. I lost 30 pounds over the next two months. I think the worst is over, but I’ve read that it could take months or even years to heal. I’m not healed yet, over four months later, and though I know I am still in the trauma phase of recovery, I am better than I was that day. I still do not sleep well. I still do not eat well. I cannot focus on anything. But I am better.
At first, I thought there was no option but divorce. I told him he could stay in our bedroom until he found a place. I would sleep in the guest room.
The pain was indescribable. I felt like there was a huge hole where my heart should be, and there was a cloud of pain enveloping me, squeezing me in on all sides. My stomach hurt and I felt nauseous. My head hurt and I felt dizzy. I wanted to die. I contemplated how I would accomplish that without making a mess for my children to have to deal with. There was no point in continuing to live. The pain was unbearable. My husband didn’t want me. My children were all grown and didn’t need me. What was the point in continuing to live with this pain? There was no way out. No way out.