One woman’s account of losing her marriage, finding it again, and changing in the process.
Update: You can listen to a more recent interview with Robin in Episode 112 of The Recovery Room podcast.
Pain from kneeling on the shower floor radiated up knees and into my legs; hot water poured over me, stealing my tears before they could run down my face, but I didn’t notice. All I could do in that moment was cry out over and over again, "God, please save my marriage."
I begged God to do something, anything to bring my husband back. I knelt for an indeterminate amount of time, hoping my dedication and denial of pain would bring the answers I wanted. I pleaded and made deals, trying anything to make God fix things. But our prayers are not always answered in the time or the way we want.
The Unexpected Storm
One month prior to my pleading prayers, I thought I was happy. I thought my husband loved me. I had no inkling of the storm that was about to descend.
That night started out like many other nights before it. The work was done, kids put to sleep, and I lay reading in bed, waiting for my husband to return from the gym. When he arrived home, I immediately felt a tension in the room. My husband of six years sat shakily on the bed, looked me in the eye and with a trembling voice told me he no longer loved me.
I just stared dumbly at him. I didn’t know how to process the words coming out of his mouth; they seemed to hang there in limbo waiting to be addressed and confronted. A bomb had just exploded and all I could hear was a deafening silence.
After storms have raged and torn down everything in their path, survivors are left with a destructive stillness. And here, in the midst of the worst storm of my life, I couldn’t acknowledge or begin to address the words he spoke. All I could think about was having to make the kid’s school lunches for the next day.
He followed me as I numbly got off the bed, made my way downstairs and calmly spread peanut butter and jelly on pieces of bread. He sat at our kitchen table waiting for my reaction while I methodically finished the task. I thought if I didn’t answer him, if I didn’t acknowledge those awful words, maybe when I woke the next morning it would prove to have been a nightmare. I didn’t want it to be real, so I went to bed on that night hoping to awake from this awful dream.
It wasn’t until the next night that reality finally sunk in; there was no way to avoid what came next. He walked down the stairs after putting our children to bed and told me he wanted a divorce. All I felt was cold, hard anger. The warm rush of it began in my chest and rose to flush my cheeks. Failure at my marriage was not an option. I had never quit anything in my life and I wasn’t about to start now. I yelled and asked how he could just walk away without even trying to save our marriage. I questioning him as to why our family wasn’t worth fighting for. I did everything I could to convince him to stay. I didn’t understand how he could love me one day but not the next. I wanted to know what was really going on.
I saw no warning signs leading up to his declaration. No fights. No heated arguments. No slow deterioration of our marriage that had a discernible path. His answers as to why he suddenly felt this way were vague, leaving me without answers. But, after an emotionally taxing night, he agreed to go to marriage counseling and try to work through our issues.
The next two weeks brought a roller coaster of emotions. I never knew which version of my husband would walk through the door: the one who was trying save his marriage or the stranger who now flinched at my touch. I couldn’t figure out where we had gone wrong or how we ended up in this place. We started looking for a counselor to help us find the answers.
During this time, my husband began omitting the three words that I had taken for granted our whole relationship. When he left the house each morning, instead of saying “I love you” as was his custom, he just offered a cold goodbye. The entire time we were working on our marriage he never once told me he loved me. I never knew the absence of words could cut so deep and hurt so much. There was so much I didn’t know anymore.
After two weeks and more arguments than I could count, my husband packed his stuff and moved out of our house. He left me with a gaping hole in our closet, my heart, and sad children who could not begin to understand the enormity of what just happened. That’s when I found myself on my knees in the shower, making promises to God I could not even begin to keep.
After he left, I considered the counsel of many people who told me there was more to the story he wasn’t telling. A man doesn’t just wake up one day and decide he no longer loves his wife without a reason. With a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, I pulled up his cell phone records and saw what I didn’t want to face. The same number showed up over and over again in phone calls and text messages. Through the wonder that is the internet and Facebook, I was able to put a name and a picture to the woman behind the numbers. As I grabbed my keys to go confront him, all I could think was this isn’t happening to me.
I remember the day my father left our family and moved in with another woman. I remember the day my step mother left his house because of his infidelity. I thought I found a man who would not do to me what was done to them. I didn’t want to be another cliché, another couple who couldn’t make it because of an affair.
My husband wasn’t supposed to be “that guy”... until he was. After confronting him with the records, he denied everything. He told me it was a client for work and there was nothing going on. After looking at the times of the calls again, some lasting for an hour at 12:30 am, he could no longer deny what was so plainly obvious. He admitted to an emotional affair with this woman and told me he was attracted to her, but that was all. I chose to believe him. In some ways I felt relief at hearing the news. Finally, there was a reason behind the behavior and I could fight for my marriage thinking I now knew everything.
Unraveling the Reasons
At my urging, he agreed to break off all contact with her and resume marriage counseling. We decided that, for the kids’ sake, he shouldn’t move back in until our relationship was on steadier ground. Through the process of therapy, we began to unravel all the reasons our marriage had begun to come apart and why he sought out the attentions of another woman. We had failed to recognize the complete disconnect we were both responsible for in our relationship.
There were many reasons for our disconnection, including a period of depression I went through and a focus on the raising of our kids. Somewhere, in the middle of all that, we stopped communicating. By withholding our feelings we thought we were protecting the other person, never recognizing the walls we were putting up or the damage we were doing. The reasons for growing apart were many, but the way back together had one very clear path: complete openness and honesty with each other.
Over the next couple of weeks, I started to glimpse the man my husband used to be. We began making date nights. He was opening up and talking more. I thought we were finally making headway with the worst now behind us. We agreed that he should move back in so we could have more time together to work through the issues.
Through all this, I was still checking cell records and emails to reassure myself he was keeping his word. While searching the computer history, I discovered he had opened a new email account that I wasn’t aware of. It was like being hit in the chest with a baseball bat. I couldn’t breathe; the weight of his betrayal was crushing. In what seemed like a recurring nightmare, I confronted him with what I had found and he again denied the account was his, until he couldn’t anymore. He finally admitted he was talking with the other woman again.
Letting Him Go
My heart shattered. I was left lying on the floor, all the pieces scattered around me. All I could think about was why wasn’t I enough for him? What was it about her he just couldn’t live without? Here was some woman he hardly knew, taking away my husband and the father to my children.
After another confrontation, I knew I couldn’t do it anymore. He moved out again, for the final time, and I had to let him go. There was no fight left in me. I was emotionally wrecked. I had lost at least 10 pounds I didn’t need to lose.
I wrote him one last e-mail to let him know I couldn’t fight anymore. Love is a choice. In any marriage, things aren’t always sunshine and rainbows and we can choose to keep loving the person we vowed to love, or we could take the easier path and walk away. I let him know he was choosing the wrong path and he would answer to our children one day for the decisions he made. I sent that email with a heavy heart but knowing I had to pick up the pieces and move on. My children needed me to pull it together and be strong for them. I knew my oldest child would possibly remember this day forever, just as I could still remember what we ate for dinner the night my father left our family.
After sending my final email, I stayed home from work as I had for many days over the past two months. I was checking my email when I saw one from my husband. With a trembling hand I clicked open the most painful letter I have ever read. He came clean about everything, from the start of our relationship to the end. He admitted to what I should have known before. He had, in fact, had a sexual affair with the woman and lied about it this whole time.
As the whole truth came out and the tears streamed down my face, I thought the pain would finally crush me completely. But as I finished the letter, it was as if everything inside of me shifted and the past eight years of our relationship came into clear, sharp focus. All the reasons for our disconnect, all the hurt we had done to each other, all the things that had led up to this point were finally made transparent.
It was like somebody held up a mirror to our past and there was no turning away from what I saw. There was no excuse or justification in the choice he had made, but suddenly it all made sense. There were no more questions left unanswered and for the first time I understood why he made the choices he did.
A Choice To Make
As I lay on the floor sobbing, asking God why me, I realized I had a choice. I could let this turn me into an angry, bitter person or I could stand up and face what came next with an open heart and open mind. The worst thing I could have imagined happening to me did and I was still here, still breathing. The sun was still shining outside. I had a choice to make. I called my husband and told him to come home so we could talk.
When he walked in the door, I saw a broken man. He sat and sobbed on the couch next to me. I had never seen him cry, ever. I was sad, angry and hurt beyond words, but in that moment my heart broke for my husband.
What came across in his letter was a man who believed he wasn’t deserving of forgiveness or grace. He knew his infidelity was a deal breaker and he came clean as a way of absolving me of the overwhelming guilt I felt at the destruction of my marriage. It takes two people to destroy a relationship and I was as culpable as he was; I just chose to act out in different ways.
As we sat facing each other on the couch, I told him I didn’t know if I could ever get past this, but I also didn’t know that I couldn’t. Everyone is deserving of forgiveness, but whether our marriage could survive would depend on how he would act in the weeks and months to come. We went back to our counselor and it was like a different man was sitting next to me now. He no longer tried to hide his feelings or the things he had done. He understood the reasons for his infidelity.
Now we had to put in the work to reconnect. He committed to being completely honest about everything moving forward. I would have access to all passwords and accounts. Communication with the other woman was to never happen again under any circumstances.
Knit Back Together
We began to “date” each other again. It was like a bad blind date, but worse. We were awkward and unsure of each other. We sat across at dinner thinking we already knew everything there was to know about the other person and there wasn’t much more to say. It took a lot of nights drinking wine and bonding over a mutual love of Scrabble to start talking and reconnecting again.
Through this time we both realized we had changed a lot over the years. We began sharing our hopes and dreams for the future. I discovered who my husband was in the present, not who he used to be. Slowly, our relationship was knit back together stronger than it ever was before. We became more aware of what it takes to keep a relationship going strong. Cinderella may have lived happily ever after but for the rest of us in the real world it takes real work to sustain a marriage.
His affair changed me, changed him, and changed us forever. It completely altered the trajectory of our lives and we allowed the experience to mold us into better, stronger people. We were given the gift of a second chance and I felt awake for the first time in my life. The change occurred so gradually and through many different stages, I can’t tell exactly when it happened.
Over the past two years, I stopped accepting complacency in my life and started welcoming new experiences. Before I was content to sit on the sidelines and cheer for family members as they competed in running races and triathlons; now I cheer them on as I run beside them. My husband and I have found a new passion for running and competing and it has become something we enjoy doing together. I used to tell myself that I didn’t like new places or new things; I wasn’t one who welcomed travel. On a recent trip to Puerto Rico, I zip-lined through the mountains. The old me would have taken one look at the tiny wire connecting one mountain side to the other and promptly marched back down. I would have missed out on one of the most exhilarating and beautiful experiences of my life. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead. Instead of looking for reasons not do something, I now look for more things to try and places to see.
It takes a real man to admit the mistakes he made and take full responsibility for them. My husband did just that. He chose to not let the past define who he is. He is a better man because of it. I have had the joy of watching him evolve into a better husband and father since he broke down and admitted the truth. He has taken an active role in the lives of our children. When I see the love they have for him, I know we made the right decision.
He is now the kind of husband I could have only dreamed about. He has taken a genuine interest in who I am and encourages me in all aspects of my life. He truly wants what is best for me. We talk about what is happening in our lives on a regular basis. I feel like he listens with an open mind and takes into consideration my feelings, wants and needs in all decisions.
It hasn’t been easy. There hasn’t been a day in two years where some part of what happened hasn’t crossed my mind. It could be just a snippet of conversation between strangers or the story line on a TV sitcom that brings back unwanted memories. I have make the choice everyday to focus on the good of what came out of his affair and not focus on the pain those memories bring. I forgave my husband for the mistakes he made and we made the choice together to not let his affair define who we are as a couple.
It is but a short chapter in the story of us. Two years, almost to the day, after my husband moved back in for good, I stood on a beach as the outer bands of Hurricane Sandy swept over us. In the midst of this storm, I watched as my husband was baptized and I marveled at just how far we had come. I now stood on my own two feet, stronger than I ever thought I could be, more in love with my husband than on the day we said, “I do,” and excited about the chapters yet to come.
Sometimes God’s answers our prayers not in the way we ask but in the way we need to make us stronger, better people. I couldn’t be more thankful.
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