Infidelity Counseling Network (ICN) is a not-for-profit that provides telephone peer counselling to women (and men) dealing with infidelity. Their trained volunteer peer counsellors support each client through personal recovery. This service exists entirely on donations.
Over the next while, I'll be posting guest blogs from a few of the ICN volunteers. Some have marriages/relationships that mended; some do not. We all have to walk our own path. If you'd like to know more (or donate!), please visit Infidelity Counseling Network.
by Clarity M.
I was 17 when I met my husband at a university in the Midwest. He was a nerd with pizzazz, and I was a sheltered girl from a rural community in Chicago. The first 12 years of marriage was nothing short of bliss. We traveled, we frequented jazz clubs and we laughed at almost everything. When he looked at me, it was a deliberate and lustful stare; he would tell me that I was just as beautiful as Cindy Crawford or Halle Berry (yeah, right). And, his home-cooked meals filled me with joy. For the first time, I felt loved unconditionally.
He proposed to me on the day of my graduation. My father was livid. He didn't believe that my soon-to-be husband could take care of me financially due to his recent college dropout status. Because my heart ached without being near him, I accepted his proposal and ignored my dad’s warning.
After the birth of our daughter, 12 years into our marriage, I noticed a significant change in my husband. He became distant, disengaged with childcare and absent from most, if not all, family gatherings. In short, I was living with a person who appeared to be stranger. Our conversations were few and far between, sex was non- existent, and his “golfing trips” were frequent.
One summer night, I bumped into my husband in the hallway in our home. He was groomed – manicured nails, trimmed facial hair and cologne. He told me he was hanging out with his brother that evening. No problem. I encouraged him to spend time with his younger brother, as they were not close. When I didn’t hear back from him until the next day, I grew worried. I called him several times, but no reply. The next day, he returned home and told me he'd gotten drunk and hadn't wanted to drive. Again, no problem. He rarely went out and I certainly didn't want him to drive under the influence of alcohol.
Several weeks later, he looked at me sheepishly. “I’ve been having conversations with a woman,” he said. What did that mean? He didn’t admit to having an affair, just that he was talking to a girl he’d met in a bar. I was devastated. "Why?” I asked. He didn’t have much of an answer, but his eyes were empty and our conversation was robotic.
The silence between us was brutal. I felt unwanted. I tried to seduce him but he turned me down.
Around that time, I'd had a car accident. I wasn't hurt, but had misplaced the police report. I asked my husband for the keys to his car so that I could look for it there. He yelled at me for asking for the keys. We never yelled – we rarely argued, so this was unusual behavior. I waited until he walked our dog, so that I could look in his car. His irritability increased my curiosity. And, that’s when I discovered telephone records of the same phone number, along with approximately 1,000 text messages.
My husband’s “conversations” were a full-blown months-long affair.
I was enraged and I wanted him to feel my pain. I wanted to hurt him – emotionally and physically. How could he do this to me? I raised our child practically by myself, battled Lupus by myself, was home alone with our daughter. I never looked at another man. I was loyal. I had integrity. Oh, I was more than angry at him.
I had tracked down the other person and discovered that she was my husband’s employee. A woman in her 20s (and roughly 20 years younger than my husband). I talked with my mother and she said, “Once you learned who the other person was, did it make you feel better?”
It never makes you feel better, my mother said, only worse. You’re giving the other person power. You’ll question your appearance or his judgment or preference. Focus on you, my mother said.
I attempted to forgive my husband after learning of his affairs. My self-esteem was shot. We went through couples counseling, I purchased new clothes and sex toys and accepted my husband calling me expletives while having sex with me.
There are people who will tell you that an affair will actually make a marriage better. In my case, it didn’t make it better. Our marriage was broken. I don’t think we knew how to deal with our issues. We met and married young, and our relationship stopped working after our child was born. After some weeks of counseling, my husband decided to leave me and our three-year-old daughter to “find himself.”
Now it was up to me to reflect more deeply on my own life. I accepted his leaving. I knew that this was a temporary setback, an event that did not define my character. After years of my own counseling alone and the deaths of my parents, I decided that my marriage was not worth fighting for. I could no longer co-exist with someone who deceived and abandoned me, and who made almost no effort to recover our marriage. My light had been diminished, and I needed a burst of spirituality and self-recovery. Time to re-invent myself. A rebirth.
Betrayal is a life-altering experience. It took me a year (and a lot of self-reflection exercises!) to truly learn to love myself. For nearly 24 years, I was someone's wife. That was my validation. Now, I had to learn enjoy being alone without being lonely. To be present in my life, to “show up” for each moment, not just exist within it. While you can’t predict or control another person’s behavior, you can control how you deal with it.
Our lives are not linear; it's all the wonderful side roads that makes life wonderful, complicated and worth living. I’m now living more in the present, appreciating life, accepting what is and moving forward with a renewed sense of being. And I love myself enough not be disrespected, diminished or demeaned. I have elevated my thinking about relationships. I am no longer stuck on stupid and glued to dumb.