I’ve seen it time and time again – the woman scorned. Her husband: a no-good cheater who destroyed their picture-perfect life. This isn’t that story. Instead, I was the no-good cheater, the one who would have been branded with that scarlet A.
I met my husband when I was 18 years old – a child, one who had been sheltered for a long time before being essentially abandoned to raise myself. He was a gift. I found him when I was rebounding from a toxic non-relationship in the midst of dealing with my younger brother dying from cancer. He was sweet and pure and exactly what I needed at that moment. And once I found him, my whole world revolved around him, especially in the wake of my brother’s death.
My husband is, without a doubt, a catch – one I do not deserve. He is a tall, fit, good-looking man, and one who is a doer and provider – he shows his love through acts of service (for those of you who know about love languages). I am beyond grateful for how he takes care of me and our children, but he does have one glaringly ugly fault: the man is incapable or avoidant of deep and meaningful communication. For someone who spends her days analyzing literature and communication, this lack of intellectual stimulation has, in the last 20-plus years, left me feeling overwhelmingly unstimulated, and even worse – LONELY – in my otherwise “storybook” romance, as some people would choose to deem our marriage.
I have not ever been or claimed to be the perfect, saintly wifey. And thank the universe for that. Several years into my relationship with my stoically reserved future husband, I met a man (then man-boy) who would also become a cornerstone of my life. This man filled the gaps that my future husband left unfulfilled – a match of wit, understanding, and communication that made me seriously question my future. But he was young and unsettled and still searching, while I was ready to start a life and a family. I vividly recall the day he learned of my engagement to my husband. I felt nearly as bitter as he sounded when he congratulated me.
And yet, time moved on, and we kept in touch. He did not attend my wedding, though he was invited. He checked in when he learned of my first pregnancy, and consoled me when I miscarried. He seriously dated and proposed to someone, and I was happy for him. They never got married. I had my first child. We talked and flirted through my awful postpartum depression. He met someone. And when he checked in shortly after his engagement to her, I drew a line.
I only wish that line had been drawn in permanent marker. Several children and nearly two decades later for each of us, we reconnected, not that we were ever really disconnected. We slid right back into witty banter and deep conversations like there had never been any break. And just like that, I found myself in the midst of an affair. Long, thoughtful conversations gave way to heated confessions and whispered “what ifs.” I still very much loved my silently stoic husband, but I found myself also in love with this man who knew my spirit more than I did at times.
But like most affairs, the end was painful and messy and ugly. I don’t think that either of us stopped caring for each other – we just understood that we wouldn’t choose each other in the end. We were both committed to our families most of all.
I’ve spent a year and some change trying desperately to find myself and define my role as a wife and a mother in the wake of my heartbreak. I have missed him every single day, but I also know that my world cannot revolve around the dream of “what ifs” when I know the reality of “what is.” What and who I am is a flawed woman, one who has made mistakes. But I can ground myself in my role as a mother – I can be present and involved. The same goes for my marriage – my rock of a husband deserves a wife who, while imperfect, is present in our relationship, is TRYING.
Infidelity isn’t always the end. Sometimes, it is the beginning.