My life changed dramatically the day I uncovered firm proof of my husband's infidelity. Of course I knew something was really, really wrong, and I was in serious CSI mode for several months trying to pin point exactly what the hell was happening.
I found clues. A woman's perfume on the passenger head rest of my car. The same perfume on one of my husband's collars (He always told me he hated perfume, and loved my natural smell). A stained pair of his biking shorts (I won't elaborate, but use your imagination). Odd stories that didn't add up. Really bizarre behavior on his part.
I questioned him at the bottom of the stairs one morning before he went to work. "Look at me. Have you ever, ever in the past, or are you now being unfaithful to me in any way?"
"N, no," he stammered, "Wh, whhat, do you want me to say?" followed by a quick exit.
But in April, 2011 I nailed it. He had accidentally left his laptop at home that morning. I was dutifully backing up our family's computers after the kids went to school. I saw his laptop, opened it, took a few turns at his password, but couldn't crack it. I gave up, plugged it into the external hard drive and began backing up.
After I finished the back up, I accidentally clicked on an old file on the external drive. I kept clicking deeper and deeper until I saw the file for his password-protected journal. One more click. Miraculously, it opened.
I remember exactly where I was standing and what I was wearing when I opened the file. I started reading explicit details of their deception, and the sickness crept in. I felt my knees wobble, my pits began to sweat, the nausea brewed from the bowels of my gut. I looked at my chest and my incredulous heart leapt out of my chest.
My therapist would later describe this as a traumatic event and warned me that I would feel these symptoms in my body again whenever I had a trigger.
I told myself, "Be calm. You cannot have a heart attack. You have two boys. Calm down and breathe. And live... for them."
In his journal, I learned my husband of nearly 21 years had been having an affair (with a nearly 20 year younger colleague, big surprise) for going on 3 years at that point (it began when he turned 50, can that be more cliche?).
The instant I read the journal, I called a friend to verify this woman's existence. My friend confirmed, "Yes, it's true, she does work with him and she does exist. Oh my god, I think I'm going to throw up." This dear friend became a life-line for me during the hardest part of my recovery.
The initial shock subsided long enough for me to stop uncontrollably shaking when I texted my husband. "The jig is up. I know all about [ - - - - ]. Don't come home tonight."
He replied, "OK, just let me know when I can come home for a change of clothes."
Not, "Oh my god Kerry, I am so sorry, please let me come home to try to explain. I am so sorry. I'll be right home."
No remorse. No apology. No explanation. No guilt.
In fact he probably felt relief. A huge burden had lifted for him. The unfaithful spouses want to get caught, and they get sloppy. He was getting sloppy. And now the jig was up.
He moved into a hotel.
I lived with this new, devastating reality trying to devise a plan to stay sane for three, excruciatingly drawn out days before my eldest son looked up from dinner one night, "Hey, where's dad? I haven't seen him in a while?"
Running interference, I chimed, "Oh, he's at work. He's been really busy."
My therapist advised me to make a plan with my husband to tell the kids together we were splitting up. I shared this with my husband. My husband, however, dismissed this idea. One night, five days after I kicked him out, I left the house and sat in a Starbucks parking while he went back to our family home to gather some of his items. That was the plan. Just drive home, chat with the boys, get some clothes, and tell them you have to go to work again, and on another day we will sit down together as a family and tell them. When I returned home, my eldest was in bed trying to study for a vocabulary quiz (yes, I remember this) and my youngest was in the upstairs guest room watching TV.
I walked into my eldest son's room. He was 17. He turned to me confused, "Dad told us, Mom. He told us he slept with another woman and he is moving out." I sat on the bed with him, he began to cry. With everything I could muster I tried to soothe him, even as my own heart was breaking, "You know what? We have lived a very charmed life, you, me and your brother. Up until now. This will hopefully be the worst thing that ever happens to us. Your dad is a damaged man. He did this horrible thing because he is fighting demons and has been for a very long time. I am so sorry he did this to us, but we are strong, and we will make it through this." We held each other and cried.
I walked into my youngest son's room. He was 15. I had a similar, heart-wrenching conversation with him. He blurted, "Dad just sat us down at the kitchen table and told us he slept with someone and was moving out. I thought he was kidding, but then I looked at his face, and realized he was serious." His slight body shook with pain, confusion and sorrow. "I'm not going to have to live in another house, am I?" He was deeply frightened.
My sons and I were in shock, but this was to become our new "normal." They had to get up and go to school the next morning. I had to get up and make them lunches. Their dad would not be coming home, ever again, to be a part of what was our familiar, "normal" family.
Up until that point, we were an upper, middle class, suburban, "normal" family. We were the blonde haired, blue eyed, athletic, attractive, intelligent, successful, fun, talented family of four. Our first names even rhymed. My boys had, by their own admission, a very happy childhood with just minimal times that truly sucked. My ex and I rarely fought, even though life wasn't perfect, and we almost never fought in front of the boys. Later, a few months after the split, I checked with my oldest. "On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you have rated your parents' relationship? He said, "8."
"Damn, pretty high," I thought. I gave us a "6." Still, a "6" was not bad, in my mind, for a couple married for 21 years and together almost 25 years.
This breakup was shocking to most of our family and friends. He hid it very well. (At least I wasn't the last to know. ) When this happens to you, you go back in your head to all the conversations with friends, family, with him, and try to piece it together. How did I miss that? I suddenly remembered his best friend telling me a few months before the split, "Kerry, whatever happens between you and him, just remember, this is NOT your fault." I didn't know what he meant at the time, but his best friend must have been in on the duplicity.
On the bright side, our kids didn't grow up with screaming, fighting, abusive parents that then got an ugly divorce. They went from an 8 out of 10 ... to an ugly divorce. Better than many other scenarios, actually.
The days, weeks and months immediately following the breakup were unbearable. My therapist assured me it would eventually be ok. "Just take it one moment, one hour at a time," she texted. "You are suffering from something similar to PTSD. Allow yourself to grieve."
I did the best I could in those days right after the fall out, but it was difficult when everything I knew was suddenly different. A good friend told me, "You have to stop thinking of yourself as a Mrs., and start thinking of yourself as Kerry." I screamed, "Geezus, give me a minute to digest the fact that the last 25 years of hopes and dreams with this man have disappeared."
Break up songs destroyed me. Songs that reminded me of him were brutal reminders of my former (just days ago) life. I stopped listening to NPR. Current events? Osama Bin Laden was killed a few weeks after my trauma, and I honestly have no recollection of this. I was in a fog.
Suddenly I had real empathy for people (like my mom) who suffer from clinical depression. I got it. It was real. Before this experience, I didn't get it. Depression can take you down, and keep you down. But I couldn't stay in bed. Being depressed was too depressing. I got up each morning and put one foot in front of the other for my kids, and for myself. It wasn't easy.
This happened four and a half years ago. Two and a half years ago the divorce become final. He is remarried (with the same woman) and expecting a child. I'm still healing, still processing, and still grieving my Plan A. I'm also trying to forgive. It will continue to take time. Certain things even now trigger the PTSD. Finding out about the pregnancy, for example, put me in a tailspin for a few sad, confusing, self-pitying days. And then with the help of my friends, my beau, my family, my yoga, myself, I get out of the funk, again.
Ask anyone who knows me well, I'm definitely moving more forward than back. Many wonderful things have come out of this dreadful experience: I have a new job, I have a whole new set of single and yogi friends, I'm dating a great guy, I'm more empathetic and less judgmental of people, my relationship with both of my boys is deeper, I'm closer to my true friends and family members who have supported me through all of this, I'm more complete than I ever was when I was married.
Each day, I try to find the joy, freedom and blessings in my new "normal."