My best friend said, “Once a cheater, always a cheater.”
My sister said, “Now you can go have an affair of your own.”
My therapist said, “Many of my patients have worked with excellent divorce lawyers.”
But my mom said, “Why do you think he did that?”
I was 42 and I’d been married for 16 years. We had three kids, a hefty mortgage, exhausting work schedules and a mounting pile of pet peeves that we pretended to tolerate in each other.
That summer, there would be times when my husband stumbled home at 11 p.m. on a weeknight. I was so busy being annoyed at him for waking me up with the bathroom light that I didn’t think to ask where he’d been, if he’d had dinner or if he was drunk. I remember one Saturday when his cell phone rang — three times. We were in the kitchen and he refused to answer.
My husband was a cheater, and I was a fool for not noticing.
Then one day, he accidentally sent me a text message intended for her.
When he got home, I laid into him. I dressed in hurt and betrayal and spoke with hate and vengeance. He apologized and professed regret, but I was convinced that the only thing he regretted was getting caught. I kicked him out, and for three weeks I gathered names of divorce attorneys and fumed over the cost of his hotel.
“Why do you think he did that?”
What a question. Why did I think my husband had an affair? Because he’s an asshole! Because he’s weak! Because he doesn’t appreciate what he has! Because I’m not good enough.
For days I wondered what was wrong with me, and I wondered what was wrong with him. At the same time, he kept calling and texting, sending flowers and emails. After three weeks, I finally answered the phone. I gave him a curt report on the kids, the car repair and the family vacation I’d canceled.
And then I agreed to try couples therapy.
I realized that after 16 years of raising a family and building a life with the man I had fallen in love with… I missed him. Our marriage was worth fighting for.
By some estimates, more than 30 percent of married people have been unfaithful. In our case, my husband’s cheating was a sign that something was wrong in our marriage. As seemingly unforgiveable as his actions were, I was also complicit in ignoring our issues and refusing to do the work of keeping a marriage alive.
It’s been five years since the collapse and resurrection of my marriage. Most people think I’m insane for forgiving him, but going to therapy was the single best thing we’ve ever done together. I will never fully get over the shock and betrayal, and he will forever have to live with the regret. But I can say with full confidence that I am in love with my husband and that he is in love with me.
And that if he ever does this again, I will make his life a living hell.
Illustration by Lisk Feng
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