There isn’t much in my life that I hold dear, more than my family. This includes my children, my husband, my siblings, and my niece and nephew. That being said, I learned something more about myself this past year. I learned how much I valued my marriage.
I never thought of my marriage as a thing or something in and of itself, until its demise. I learned that my marriage meant as much to me as my family. Not only did my husband have a great value in my heart, just because he was mine, but my marriage as well held great value to me.
Here is my story.
On October 1, 2017, I talked to my husband on the phone. He was complaining to me that our 13 year old daughter was being rude and disrespectful to him when he was dropping her off at her friend’s house. I told him I would discuss the matter with her. I texted her and even called her and told her how important it was to respect her parents; that she didn’t have to agree with them, nor did they even have to earn it; but, that it was her own character that was at stake. She listened to me and agreed to be nice to her father.
Later that day I picked up this same daughter from her friend’s house and took her home. When we arrived at home, she took my hand and told me she had something to tell me. She instructed me with words I had frequently told to her, to, “Sit down and take a deep cleansing breath.” I obeyed, sat down, and breathed.
She went on, “So, Jazmin and I hacked in to Dad’s Facebook account and found out that he’s been cheating on you with at least four different women. The first account was in November, 2014 and the last occurrence was on August 15 of this year. The women’s names are Donna, Debra, Debbie, and Carmen.”
I was shocked. My jaw dropped. I sat, stunned and in disbelief. I had no idea. I was completely caught by surprise.
After the reality of the situation set in, I started feeling. I started texting my husband, “Now I know why Hannah doesn’t respect you.” I turned to my daughter and told her, “You have my permission to not respect your father.” I continued texting my husband, “You’ve been cheating on me and all the kids know.”
I had my daughter read some of the discovery that she thought I could handle hearing; statements from my husband saying how he didn’t love me anymore; statements about how ‘the church knows that I deserted him and that he no longer loves me and the church told him it was okay to see other women.’ He asked for the women’s addresses; they were given.
My other kids joined in. Together, they told me how one of the women was my husband’s ex-girlfriend from 26 years ago and how he told her, “I’ve been thinking of you the ENTIRE TIME!” I was crushed. Another hard to hear statement was, “Do you still have a smile on your face?”
The kids told me there were also a lot of nude pictures. My oldest daughter sat and described the ex-girlfriend’s nipples to me. This was nothing I would have ever expected to happen in my “good Christian home” – my children and I sitting around the dining room table talking about their father’s girlfriend’s nipples! My, how our family had degenerated.
I texted my husband and told him he had been hacked and that he was a lying cheater and that I was done. He denied it all. The evidence was plain. My daughter screen-shotted the proof to me and I forwarded it to him as confirmation of what I knew. I couldn’t really look at the evidence myself I had to quickly forward it and delete it. I did not want to see his betrayal.
I made a quick decision. I decided two things, maybe three: I would no longer talk to him, attend any family events on his side, and I would file for divorce.
The following day I pondered my marriage and my wedding ring. I realized how hard it was for me to peel that wedding ring off my finger. Although my husband had betrayed me, I knew he meant everything to me. No matter what he had done to hurt me, his importance to me was huge. He was my husband and my children’s father. I realized that my marriage meant an intact family. My marriage was my vows to this man and to God “for better or for worse.”
It took me one full day until I became willing to remove my wedding ring and say good-bye to my marriage, my in-tact family, my husband’s side of the family, and even my step children. I texted all of the family members and informed them of what had happened and what my decisions were. This was the hardest day of my life.
As I write this, it is almost three months later. I was in triage for the first month. I cried all the time. I remember going to the dentist during that first month, and I sat in that dentist chair and cried for three solid hours. The dentist and his assistant had to continually wipe the tears away from my eyes. I would cry and cry and cry.
I kept to all my decisions. I changed my husband’s name on my cell phone to, “You Deserve Better,” and I blocked him. To this day, I have not heard his voice again. This decision to not talk to him was one of the healthiest decisions for my recovery I could have made.
Surprisingly, I feel good today. It hasn’t been very long, but I allowed myself to grieve, to realize my worth, to say good-bye to my betrayer, to take care of myself, and to be set free from the belief that I could not have a good life as a divorced woman.
In fact, I am happy. I am truly happy today.
I will share with you how to be happy after betrayal. As mentioned above, there are certain steps that I took that were extremely healing to me. In addition to those I already described – acknowledging the loss and allowing the tears to come, I sought help. I talked to old friends. One of my oldest friends had been cheated on by her husband as well. I called her every single day and cried on her shoulder. She listened, advised, and encouraged me. In addition to this, I talked openly about my pain to all my friends. Everyone was supportive.
One thing that didn’t go over so well was talking to my family. For some reason, to this day, my family still can’t handle it. They love my husband and his side of the family. They are deeply grieved over this schism. Unfortunately for them they had to choose sides. Obviously they had to choose my side, but it is at a great cost.
Divorce is very destructive.
I listened to music. I listen to good, soothing music; music that I could feel to. I am a Christian, so I would listen to good Christian songs that resonated my heart. I would listen over and over and over again to the same songs, allowing myself to feel the sadness and also the hope that I needed to survive. Now I listen to happy music, such as Depeche Mode and The Rolling Stones. In this exercise, I learn that happiness counteracts hopelessness. Music is a huge resource in my recovery journey.
I write. I write my feelings. I write letters. I wrote my husband a good-bye letter and sent it to him. I said everything I had to say. I wrote on paper, to him, that I was done. I felt it. I cried about it. I sent it.
I started meeting new men. I allowed myself to open my heart to the possibility of new love. I gave myself hope and took risks to meet new men. Even though I’m 54 years old and haven’t dated since my 20s, I gave myself permission to live my life without reservation. I may be old, but I’m not dead. As long as I am alive I have a life to live.
I started learning Pilates. This is challenging, but I needed a challenge in my life. I need things to push me forward and keep moving on. Pilates is teaching me that I don’t have very much “core strength;” but, I like seeing how weak I am so that I can strive to be stronger. This strengthens me both physically and mentally. This reminds me that I am a strong survivor and that I can overcome hard things.
I no longer look back at my lost dreams and the hurts caused to me by my husband’s betrayal. Instead, I look forward. I mentally picture myself turning the page in a book to a new chapter. I am on my new adventure as a single mother, and yes, soon to be divorced woman. I am looking at spending Christmas Eve alone for the first time ever, and I am not sad or afraid.
I have learned that no matter what life throws at me, I can survive and even thrive. I am not afraid of the future. I feel confident in myself. I know my values and am proud to be a woman of integrity. I know how to love deeply and am not afraid to continue to love deeply. I know that even if I get hurt by a person, I would rather be a person who is willing to invest in my relationships and risk the pain of betrayal than not to invest at all. I am proud of myself for being a loyal, faithful, honest wife. I do not in any way feel responsible for my husband’s infidelity. I know that he had freedom to make his own choices and that his character is his to own, not mine.
I thank God for giving me a tenacity and a confidence to overcome great heartache and I am very grateful that today I am free from the bondage of being defined by any role – even that of “wife,” a role I hold dear. I have learned that as I face my biggest fears, I have a strong confidence in myself and in my God, that I will be fine, no matter what.