Betrayal is as old as Methuselah and so is infidelity. Betrayed is just one of the sickening emotions I experienced when I ended a marriage that extended over half my life. It provided sleeplessness, loss of appetite, becoming a new two-pack-a-day smoker, and having half of my hair fall out in clumps. I guess feeling devastated and having daily bad hair days was not enough to contend with; it seems I’ve kissed my old career goodbye as well. Apparently his long reputation for bad behavior in the industry we both worked, reflects on my professionalism as well.
After filing for divorce, sitting still long enough to watch TV or even read a book was challenging. Everything reminded me of something in our shared almost 30 years together; it was painfully claustrophobic trying to avoid memories of him or us together. The churning in my mind and heart seemed endless. (It would be nice if infidelity came with something else besides feeling devastated? Like thinner thighs or a gift card? Instead it seems to come with a prescription for Ativan.) Adding insult to constant injury became the humiliation of finding out not only about the last affair, but an endless history of his chronic infidelity during our marriage; his never-ending parting gift.
Nora Ephron entertainingly relates in Heartburn how her husband Carl Bernstein publicly cheated on her when she was pregnant with their second child, in full view of Washington DC society. One of her zings, was describing the other woman as having “a nose as long as a thumb,” coincidentally, a perfect description my ex-husband’s highly unrepentant, big nosed middle-aged girlfriend. (My first thought when seeing a photo of her, was at least she could keep her thin-as-a-noodle upper lip dry in the rain with that snoot.)
Wives deal with the heartbreak and the literal physical pain of finding out their husband’s cheat every day. That initial period was excruciatingly painful for me and the women I have spoken to since have all described those initial few days and weeks, when their marriages abruptly came to an end, the same, “I took to my bed and everything went to hell for weeks. I thought about killing myself daily and would have, if not for my children. I stopped eating, bathing, bushing my teeth, and became intimately acquainted with Xanax. Friends had to almost spoon-feed me.”
I didn’t take to my bed because I had to go out and sell window coverings for commission-only, the only job I could find re-entering the workforce. I sat in my car between appointments though, crying and smoking, then spraying myself with enormous amounts of air freshener and chewing mints till my mouth was numb, trying not to gag my customers. (Nothing like a smelly woman, with a tear-stained face, selling you shutters. I closed several sympathy sales I’m certain.) The best analogy I heard about the painful repetition of being told about all of his cheating, that brought me to the undeniable conclusion that my marriage was a complete sham, was that it was the same thing as a deep wound being re-injured over and over again. I would start the microscopic process of healing, then boom, more stories would come out. (Honestly, I don’t know how the guy had the strength to stand up, so prolific was he in his extra-curricular activities.) My new best friend during that period, or as I like say, “my therapist,” suggested writing a goodbye letter to my ex for closure: “Dear Ex-best friend, ex-lover, ex-partner, father of our children, the man I spent over half my life loving…..FUCK YOU!” There’s my goodbye letter.
The added humiliation from all this enlightenment about my husband’s apparent habitual infidelity made re-entering my old career difficult in ways I hadn’t anticipated. I began finding out that my husband had demolished whatever good reputation I thought he’d had, due to zipper issues, namely, keeping his up in the workplace going way back. In spite of many people in our business knowing about his escapades, no one told me. Now I cringe knowing how stupid I looked, every time I bragged on his accomplishments. If I had a dollar for every time I have since heard, “I could not understand how an astute person like you about so many things, could not know her husband was screwing around all those years, especially with female employees. Were you comatose,” I would have a nest-egg instead of looking at retirement around age 90.
The final nail in his career as an executive was being fired for having an affair for years with the thin-lipped, big nosed middle-aged husband-chaser I described above. She worked for him and apparently had an enormous and irritating sense of entitlement as the boss’ girlfriend that pissed-off all the wrong people. (I hate to think he was so stupid not to know that everyone knew what was going on, especially since she was spreading around that she would be the next Mrs. Boss.) When their company wanted her fired, my ex, (or as the defendant’s lawyer described him in the lawsuit she filed, her married paramour), attempted to protect her from termination, he was the one the company canned for poor judgment.
I knew the side trip I had taken for 10-something years to raise two wonderful kids, while relocating eight times for his career, would be a disadvantage to regaining a step back on the career-ladder. I had no idea that being perceived as stupid because of who I was married to would be such a humiliating obstacle. One interviewer began relating more stories about my husband’s lack of professionalism when they worked together. I was taken aback, but I told him that during those years, the same time period he was referring to, I had a full-time career while being the main caretaker of our kids, our home, and our life, while always living in a new place where we knew not a soul, while my husband was gone Monday through Friday every week, supposedly working hard. In other words, I was overwhelmingly busy, so sorry, I missed the whole thing about him being the company skirt-chaser. I still don’t have a job back in my old career.
For most of our marriage he traveled for his job, so my lack of insight into my own marriage can be contributed to distance, as in miles. It was never my intention to be the “the little wife patiently waiting, keeping the home fires burning.” In the final, but now completely dissatisfying analysis, I loved him with all my heart and believed him when suspicions arose because he could say and do all the right things to numb my questioning mind, right up to the last second of our marriage. (Emotional manipulation be his name.) I now realize I put off important things. I put aside my own instincts and knowledge to go down a path of deep denial and had nothing but inner turmoil as a result. I put off my career for his. Helped him on a daily basis. Supported him a thousand ways. (Co-dependence is my middle name.)
I think I deserve thinner thighs or a gift card. Don’t you?
Are you a victim of infidelity?
- Infidelity: Knowing Why Doesn’t Keep Him From Cheating Again
- Top 3 Tips for Moving On After Infidelity, Plus 1
- Is Non-Physical ‘Cheating’ A Reason To Break Up Your Marriage?
- 11 Common Questions About Infidelity