People often dream of fairytale weddings and perfect unions, but what happens in an unexpected divorce where everything you’ve built comes crashing down?
There I was, 37 years old on a hot summer night when my whole life changed in an instant. My husband and I had just returned from a date night at the movies. Off to bed, we went and I thought let’s top this date night off right with a little fun. Instead, I rolled over to hear this “I think I should move out.” Wait, what?!?! Let me tell you I had been married to this man for over 14 years. We had three children together (9, 5 and 2 at the time). We had built a 5,000 sq foot dream house together. I had recently quit my job to stay at home and support our family and his career growth. What the hell did he just say?? I instantly felt sick to my stomach. With my whole life flashing before my eyes and my security just pulled out from under me I had no idea where to turn or what to do.
We had “the perfect life”, didn’t we? Where did it all go wrong? What did I do or didn’t do? Did our marriage have issues, yes? Let’s be real any marriage of that length and that many children will have its share of issues. It’s called life, and it seemed he didn’t want that life anymore. At that moment, I had no idea why he wanted to leave. I was just frozen from the words that played over and over in my head, “I think I should move out”. He is just going through a mid-life issue. He’s just a bit delusional. We agreed that he would go on a long business trip for a few days… At least that’s what we told the kids.
After a few days away from home, he returned to tell me he was for sure moving out. We agreed it would happen in a few weeks. Those few weeks of living with my husband who didn’t want to be my husband anymore were atrocious. I cried every night—all night—while he slept. I would weep on the bathroom floor, vomit, shake and continue to cry. What the hell was I going to do? How would I tell my children that everything was going to come crashing down on them?
I grew up in a single parent home after my father left my mother. I experienced first-hand what my kids were about to go through. I had to do everything in my power to keep s*** together while my world was shattering. I went for days without sleep and very little food. I had to rise every morning and get my two older children to school. My middle daughter started kindergarten just two weeks after this, which now all seems like a blur to me. I hate that memory feels robbed from me.
The night before he moved out I sat there and watched my husband pack up his stuff. I was so numb but I couldn’t leave the room he was in, I thought maybe if I just stayed alongside him he would come to his senses. I should have just left the house but something wouldn’t let me. For some unknown reason, I had to sit and watch all this unfold before me. Oh, I forgot to mention that in our McMansion we were hosting a house guest through all of this. They had no clue what was unfolding in the house. I should have won an Oscar for my performances. I guess when you have a five bedroom, five and a half bath you can hide things pretty easily (Who the hell needs five full bathrooms!? God I hated that house).
I can’t even begin to explain what happened over the next few weeks/months. I found myself fighting for my marriage, trying to protect my children, looking for God and fighting for my life.
There it was. It was now official that he moved out and was living in an apartment down the street. I immediately sought out a therapist. Off of a recommendation of a friend, I found the most wonderful woman to help me through my journey. I am so thankful for her. Without her, I am not sure I would be who I am today. Her arrival in my life came at just the right time as I was in no way prepared for what was to come next.
Two weeks after my husband moved out he asked if he could come over so we could talk. He had something he wanted to share. Our kids were in bed and I could only hope he was coming over to tell me he was wrong and sorry and he was going to move back in. I was so wrong. The moment is clear as day to me even three years later. We sat on the back deck and he looked at me and said he was having an affair. I think my heart stopped for a minute. The hurt, the betrayal, the disgust bottomed out in my gut. Frozen again. I didn’t think it could get any worse than it already had. I got up, walked a few steps and collapsed to the ground. I just sobbed for a few minutes while he just sat there speechless. He didn’t get up, he didn’t try and comfort me, just a few weak words of “I’m sorry” I heard. I am not really sure how long I lay there. I do know I got up and did something I never expected to do. I walked back over to him, sat down and said we can work through this. Everyone makes mistakes and we can overcome this. You see if you had asked me three months prior to this if my husband told me he was cheating I would have told you I would tell him to get the f*** out and that I wanted a divorce. In the moment when it is actually your reality, and your family is flashing before your eyes, and the last 17 years—my actions were so much different than I ever thought they would be.
Hindsight he wanted and expected me to have the reaction I always thought I would have. It would have made it so much easier for him. But for the love of my family and all we had been to each other, I wanted to fight for our marriage. For the next six months, I basically let my husband lead two lives. It nearly broke me. I had lost almost 20lbs in three months (keeping in mind I was only 110 to start). I was a complete and utter broken mess. My children, fortunately, or unfortunately didn’t even realize that he had moved out for almost three months. He traveled so much, to begin with, that they just thought he was constantly on work trips. He would see them during this time but he wasn’t actually living with us. He would come and spend and day and then leave when they went to bed.
So much was happening and swirling around me all the time. I tried desperately to protect my children from what I deemed my failure. Clearly, something was wrong with me for my husband to reject me and pick another woman over his wife and his three young children. I stopped doing everything I loved. I stopped exercising, watching shows I enjoyed and listening to music. I was consumed with trying to figure out how to save my family and my existence. I was once such a confident person who now felt useless and unwanted. At the same time, I was desperately trying to not let my kids see the destruction that was happening to me. One day, in particular, I woke up and got in the shower. My whole body went numb in the shower, my heart was racing and I had pains in my chest. I thought I was dying. I crawled out of the shower and called the only three friends who knew my life was in turmoil at this point. No one answered. I just lay on the floor not knowing what to do. Was I dying? I ultimately called my husband…. I was so broken. Turned out I was having a panic attack. If you have never had one they are all consuming. My therapist suggested anxiety medication but I didn’t want it. I could do this, I could get through it, plus I just knew he would come to his senses and everything was going to be ok, wouldn’t it?
Around this time, it was November, one of my best friends suggested I purchase a devotional, Jesus Calling. It turned out to be one of the best purchases I had ever made. I had been debating going to church again. I grew up Catholic but had gotten away from the church in high school. I wanted to go back but I didn’t want to attend a Catholic church. I had another close friend who attended Hope Community Church in Raleigh and I was ever so slowly making the decision to attend. I wasn’t ready yet but it was there in the back of my mind.
As the months rolled on I was slowly losing my battle with winning my husband back. In one of our last joint counseling sessions before he quit “working on us” I already knew it was over. My therapist had us sit and do an exercise to discuss qualities about each other that we respected so we could focus on some good things between us. He listed a few and talked about them. I sat there and looked at this page full of suggestions. I couldn’t come up with one, not one quality, that I respected in him. I was completely and utterly disgusted at this man whom I had offered grace and forgiveness to and he still couldn’t choose his family. You see everyone makes mistakes, but it is what you choose to do in the face of that mistake that speaks to who you really are.
The holidays were upon us and I finally decided I would attend Christmas Eve service at Hope. I went by myself. I sat and listened and just cried. I cried and cried but yet I felt a peace come over me. I knew this was a place I wanted in my life and something I wanted to make a constant.
After Christmas, I told my husband I couldn’t do this anymore, he either picked me or her. I gave him a week. He told me at the end of the week he wanted to come over and share his decision with me, that he wanted to have dinner with the kids and then he and I would talk. Clearly, any man who was going to come over and have dinner with his family was going to ultimately pick his family, right? After we put the kids to bed he told me his decision. He said if I was going to make him decide at that moment he picked her….. Instantly I ran to the bathroom and threw up. Again I laid on the floor in a fetal position. He tried to come and comfort me and I just became possessed. I got up and started screaming at him and hitting him. I told him to get the f*** out. He said I was being irrational. I basically chased him out of the house and beat on his car windows until he left. I walked back into the house and called a friend…..I was silent, she said she would be right over. When she arrived I was laying in the guest room, again in a fetal position just crying. It was over……over.
In the weeks that followed I hit what I would effectively say was rock bottom. I thought I had been there before but this was different. I would go to work and barely be able to function. I was numb, fighting tears all the time. One day I couldn’t stop shaking, my heart was racing. I knew it was time for some medication. I didn’t want to be a zombie so the doctor and I agreed I would start the medication that would take 4-6 weeks to settle in and I would manage the best I could until then. In that time, my husband had moved out of his apartment and into a townhouse. More concrete evidence it was officially over. I will never forget the first night I dropped my kids off at his townhouse for their first official weekend at dads. Up until this point, they were not staying with him at his apartment. I dropped them off and drove my minivan, that I hated, back home. I pulled it into our three-car garage and closed the door. I did not turn the car off. I sat there for almost 20 minutes with the car on and the garage doors closed. It is probably the only time I was truly thankful for the size of that f***ing house. I started to get light headed and I said to myself “what in the hell are you doing? You have three wonderful children who need you and I need them. I do not need this man to make me happy.” I turned the car off, crawled up the stairs, literally and into my bed. Tomorrow would be a new day and the start of my climb out of hell.
After that, I focused on myself and my children. I worked so hard on me and in the long run him leaving was one of the best things that could have happened. Of course, I wish we could have repaired our marriage and worked on ourselves together. That said in the end you can only control you and I knew that I had done everything I could have to save my family and my marriage. I can look myself in the mirror and be happy with what I see. The road to fixing me has been such an insightful and unexpected journey. My faith, my relationships with my friends and family have grown so much. So much good has come from such disaster. I had to just trust the path that God put in front of me, trust my strength and know the light that shines from the darkness is all worth it.
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