I'll never forget the moment I received 'the email' from my husband's mistress. I was at work at the time. At first I thought it was some kind of joke or spam – until I scanned down and saw my 18-month old daughter's name mentioned. My world stood still. I wanted to be sick. I picked up my bag, mumbled something about popping out and got in my car. I needed to be home before I could finish reading that email.
In the ten years we had been together, I had always trusted him. I could not believe what I was reading. It didn't make sense. Blow by blow, line by line the details were delivered to me. It had been going on for 18 months. They had been in love. He had stayed with her for days at a time when he was in town for work. She knew all about me. He had told her he was leaving me, but he never did. He broke her heart and suddenly she decided I should know about what had been going on. I confronted him and he admitted everything.
Those next few days I felt mostly numb, exhausted. I just couldn't gather my thoughts properly. The devastating pain came in waves. Mostly I just wanted him to come and tell me that it was all a bad dream and somehow fix it all. The one person I wanted to turn to to ease my pain was the one who had caused it, and suddenly I felt lost and alone and… homeless. I felt like my whole life was a lie. I spent hours just laying on the floor in my mum's lounge room. I tried to eat but I literally couldn't swallow food. I tried to sleep but for the first time in my life it required pills to do so.
I tried to tell myself, 'It's better this way. We haven't been getting along. At least this way he'll be amicable because he feels guilty.' But then this quiet little voice would sneak in, 'But now I know why he was treating me badly. Maybe now that it has stopped we can have a good marriage again. He ended it with her because he wanted me, maybe we've got our second chance.'
We went to counselling and within a few weeks I had moved back in. We were getting along better than ever and even talking about going overseas to renew our vows. I was journaling a lot and doing a heap of work on myself. I did reiki, used healing crystals and oils, worked with a life coach. I was on this incredible journey of healing. I really wanted to get our sex life back on track and I worked hard at being the seductress I thought he wanted. He liked it but at the same time I think he didn't know how to take it. It's like it all seemed a little too good to be true and he didn't trust it. I just felt rejected and hurt.
Now and then I would ask a question about something from the past. Some detail about what they did together, or whether something he had told me was the truth. One night I uncovered one of his lies, and I lost it. It was like I suddenly realised how important this woman had been in his life, and how much of an idiot I must be for trying as hard as I was. I was driving this thing and deep down I didn't even know that he really wanted me back.
Over the following weeks I started to see my marriage for what it was. I had never really felt fulfilled or truly loved by this man. I wasn't sure that he even knew how to love someone the way I wanted to be loved. I didn't know whether what I was looking for existed, but I felt that I couldn't stay in a marriage in which I knew I would like never have it. I could stay and know I'd never be happy, or go and risk that maybe I wouldn't ever be. I left.
I moved back in with my mum, properly this time. And the strange thing is, I felt SO bad for bailing on him. For giving up on him when he was making a genuine effort to work on himself. Throughout our intensive counselling he uncovered a lot about himself and I felt a commitment to help him through that. I just knew I couldn't do it as his wife.
I look back at the last few months of my life and while I wouldn't have chosen this chain of events I also realise that it had to happen. It had to be that bad, that painful. I would never have left him if it wasn't. I wouldn't have ever walked away from him if he didn't do what he did and shatter me to pieces. Even when he did, I almost stayed.
Now I have a chance to be me. I no longer have to try and live within someone else's value system in order to make them love me. As I write that I realise how sad it sounds, but at the time it just felt like compromise, and isn't that what marriage is all about? I now see that I was actually compromising who I was. I'm now on a path to figuring out who I am, outside of being his wife. It's scary and sometimes sad and confusing but I wouldn't change it. Everything is different but I'm on a path to becoming more 'me' than I ever was.
So often these days when I speak to him about our daughter I have moments of deep gratitude. I thank God that he cheated on me, as if he didn't I'd still be there. We'd both be unhappy and I wouldn't be me. I've made myself a promise that never again will I change who I am to make someone love me, unless that someone is me.
Due to the sensitive nature of this article, this Australian single mother author has chosen to remain anonymous. Certain facts have been changed to protect the identities of any parties concerned.
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