By Karen Clarke
So after finding out that my husband, let’s call him “J” was cheating, the first call I made was to a woman’s centre to set up a counseling appointment. Not to my mother, God, never to my mother, not to my best friend, but to a counsellour. Odd, huh?!
I needed to make sure that I didn’t screw things up. I had to make sure that I found the way out properly, functionally, differently than before, when I would throw him out for lesser offenses, and then regret it. I booked my appointment, called one girlfriend, briefly explained the scenario and made plans to stay with her for the weekend.
I felt physically ill, shakey, and my heart literally hurt. The impact of what I had just learned and the inevitable shameful fallout was more than I could even comprehend at the time. All I could think of was,”We’ve been married for less than 4 months. How can I explain to people who were so happy for us?”
I wasn’t mad. yet.
I just knew I had to get the hell out of my house and fast.
I grabbed the kids after school, threw some suitcases in the car and raced to my girlfriend’s.
In hindsight, it was the best thing I could have done. I didn’t want the kids to see a confrontation that would be knowing my temper, be volatile.
As I have matured, I have learned when earth-shattering things happen in my life I have to process the event first, and then react. Not thinking before reacting can often make a bad situation worse or shift the focus from someone else’s behavior onto mine. I still look back at myself with a kind of awe that I was able to act so sensibly, knowing how much pain I was in. But I wasn’t shocked. As I have said before, I knew before I knew.
My friend was extremely kind, and never made me feel ashamed or embarrassed. As we sipped our drinks that night after getting the kids to sleep, (ok, I guzzled, she sipped) she suggested ironically that
I was now part of a prestigious club.
“If Haley Berry, one of the most beautiful women in the world gets cheated on, why should any of the rest of us think we’re immune?” she said wryly.
She made it clear that the shame was his not mine, and that I should never feel embarrassed to tell those close to me what was unfolding.
I’ve learned through this experience that women don’t take this lightly, and they are indignant on your behalf but all the while they quietly accept that infidelity is the norm.
It’s as though we all expect each other to have to face this at one time or another and are resigned to the inevitability of it happening. Almost like the well known and dreaded stats, one in three women will develop breast cancer, it would appear one in two women will also develop relationship cancer.
I had discovered the “lump” early and it was time to explore my different treatment options.
I have read and discussed first hand the accounts of others, and how they have dealt with the discovery of a partner’s betrayal. My first instinct, heavily fueled by alcohol, was to lash out, do damage, strike hard and hurt, the way I was hurting. But I didn’t want it to be about me. If you do something to the offender they are more than happy to have the opportunity to quickly shift the focus away from them and onto you.
So, although I have read accounts (and I will confess briefly considered the thought) of spray painting BMW’s with zingers like, “I hope she was worth it!” , giving away prized wine collections, breaking into work email accounts and notifying complete address books of the news that he has Gonorrhea, or even taking out billboards revealing that he is a cheating whore, I chose to take the higher, albeit, the less immediately gratifying road of staying true to who I am.
I am a good person and I refused to let him change that about me.
I won’t lie, I did pitch a glass at his head once, without provocation, while he was doing dishes. It missed but shattered thunderously into a million little satisfying pieces. It was orgasmic. But that was it.
We came home from my friend’s two days later. I had not left any explanation of where we were, and he didn’t ask. I was certain his girlfriend had called him after we finished our conversation and informed him that his”wife” had been in touch, so I didn’t feel it necessary to justify my disappearing act.
He slept on the sofa for two more nights before I finally felt ready to deal with him.
I told him we needed to talk and asked him if he wanted a drink. He declined.
I poured myself a stiff gin and tonic and requested he join me at the kitchen table. He obliged and I took a deep breath, steadied my shaking hands and began the most painful conversation of my life.
Before beginning, I asked him to do me one favor. Do NOT, I requested, do me the additional disrespect of denial. If, after hearing me he said nothing, I would prefer silence to another lie.
I prayed for strength and I began.
I apologized for invading his privacy but admitted I had searched his cell phone because his behavior was so suspicious and although he claimed I was always paranoid, I needed to put my feelings to rest one way or the other.
I explained that I had seen the text messages soliciting two different women the night before which prompted me to dig out the old phone bill I had confiscated. Then I explained how I began calling numbers and was finally fortunate enough to speak to the woman who gave me the information about their affair. I spoke almost conversationally, emotionless, as though I was relaying gossip about someone else and stuck only to the facts. Inside though, every muscle in my body felt tight.
He kept eye contact with me while I spoke. When I stopped he asked me if that was all. I nodded and he got up and left the room. He had said nothing.
I felt a huge sense of relief like a massive burden had been lifted off my shoulders and transferred onto his, where it belonged.
I went upstairs, musing that single life would not be without small benefits. I loved the freedom of not having to shower before bed since I was sleeping solo.
J came up shortly afterward and defiantly opened the bedroom door.
He demanded a name, the name of the woman I spoke with.
There it was.
It had taken him 20 minutes to re-group but that was going to be his pathetic strategy.
I told him I was sure he already knew after speaking with her that she was not comfortable giving me her name.
“If you don’t have a name then you have no proof”, he said.
“You seem to be under the assumption that I need you to confirm something I have already confirmed myself,” I said.
He started to argue and I cut him off fast. The heat in my voice stopped him
“At this point, you really are just lying to yourself, to do what? Save something you already threw away?”
“Get out of my room, I said, ” And shut my fucking door.”