“If you start a relationship being the other woman, you will never be the only woman.”
As I poured my coffee and sat on the couch to watch the morning news, I took a deep breath. I was on maternity leave and my baby was in her bassinette. Our nanny was busy getting my son dressed and ready for Preschool.
I could hear the noisy neighbors across the courtyard of our small apartment complex which we were renting while our home was being remodeled.
They were leaving for work and bustling about with all the things in their hands as they passed our living room window talking about dinner that evening and making their way to the car park in the back.
I felt utterly fabulous that they were going to work, and I wasn’t! All felt so right in my world. I was married to the man I’d loved for 14 years and we just had our second child, a girl named after my Grandmother.
While I was sipping my blissful cup of perfect Joe, my boss phoned me and asked me to help him with my crazy client who was blowing up his email.
I worked in the Hospitality Industry and in June 1999, I was working as a third-party Meeting Planning contractor.
Prior to my going on maternity leave, I was working with a client on a meeting that was to be held in Hawaii. My client was a handful and he needed guidance on managing her.
I told him to forward the email to my husband’s email, so I didn’t get distracted by looking at what was in my inbox while I was on leave. While I waited, I remembered that my husband had sent out a birth announcement email to our friends giving the details of our daughter’s beautiful birth, sure to leave out the hours of labor I was in whereby I made him swear that we would have no more children as I screamed that I was not about to deliver another watermelon through a keyhole for him or anyone else!
Sigh…Thankfully, his email was all sugar and spice and everything nice.
Then the dreaded sound I really didn’t want to hear…the good ole southern sound of” Yahoooo!” The email was in my husband’s inbox.
Before I went there, I decided to look at some of the emails in his outbox telling our friends of the blessed event that just happened and how blissfully happy we all were.
So, as I started to troll the email, I came across one that I didn’t recognize.
I opened the email to see before me my husband professing his undying love to some strange woman.
I went numb.
I couldn’t see.
I couldn’t hear.
I couldn’t feel my hands.
I couldn’t speak.
My heart started racing and my mouth went dry. I walked into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror, at my exhausted self and just stared for what felt like hours. I couldn’t cry for some reason. I believe now that I was in shock.
I got dressed quickly and told our nanny that I had some errands to run and would be back in a while. As I closed the door behind me, I could no longer feel myself walking. It felt like I was gliding across the walking path to the car park. I don’t remember opening the door or even turning on the car.
In retrospect, it was foolish to get in my car and drive at all, but I had to find a place that I could be alone. I pulled out and drove.
Then with every ounce of courage and bravado, I pulled over and got out my cell phone and paged my husband. He was still carrying the pager from when I was pregnant.
He was a teacher and didn’t have an office line and calling on his cell was useless since he couldn’t pick up during the day. But getting a page from me meant he needed to excuse himself and call me back.
It was our 911 for each other.
Within a few minutes, I got a call from him. “What’s up?” I told him that I wanted to ask him a question. He said, “Okay, What?”. I then asked him, who the person was with that email address?
He huffed and staggered and said, what? I don’t know!”
I then told him that I was going to ask him the question again and this time he was going to do something new. He was going to tell me the truth.
The phone went deadly silent. In that silent and terminal moment, I received the answer.
Yes, that fateful day was twenty years ago. A long time has passed. My children were 4 weeks and 4 years old. They are now 20 and 24.
I have written 9 articles for DivorcedMoms.com to help any woman who is a single mom and who may have experienced infidelity.
On two occasions I have received very personal and negative comments from someone. The first time it happened they intimated that they knew me and that I was a whiner and lying.
The second time they mocked me for “regurgitating” my divorce story twenty years later and told me to seek help.
Did They Think I Was a Threat To His New Wife?
My assumption is that perhaps this is the woman he married and who I only have ever known in email phantom mode. It was someone whose life has also been personally affected by my story apparently.
And this has made me think about what the affects this whole thing has had on the woman he left us for?
Please note that in no way am I accepting or excusing this woman after taking a baseball bat to my life and my children’s lives. But as she was so agitated at my “regurgitations” perhaps 20 years later, she is sitting unsettled by the choices she has made in allowing this man into her life and into her family.
Here are the benefits to her that I know to be true.
He is handy.
He can make anything and grow anything and play anything.
He is brilliantly smart, a supreme athlete, and good looking.
But he was having an affair while his wife was pregnant.
All those fabulous attributes are fully clouded by the real ugliness that prevailed.
A counselor once told me early into the experience that even though I could not imagine how I would survive or recover from this, the woman he left me for would have a much harder time.
I was astounded that she had this opinion. When I disagreed with her, she told me that this woman would never really be able to trust him, ever. Nor would she be trusted by him.
Even though she was his coconspirator, in the quiet of her mind she will always know that he left because he was found out first. He didn’t come directly to me and confess his love for her and tell me he was leaving me because he loved someone else. In fact, he has never told me that he loved her. I found out and confronted him and told him to leave.
She will never know if he chose her for love or for need.
So yes, to her point twenty years is a long time to regurgitate.
But here is what has happened inside those twenty years.
I have realized that I am amazingly strong, and I do love myself despite the hard things I have endured by an infidelity. If I had not experienced this, I too would be telling someone that had carried her grief this long to let it go and do as she suggested, “see someone”.
I have never met the woman who my husband left me for.
I have never met the woman whose home my children had been taken to.
I have never even met the woman on the other end of any of the emails that have cryptically come my way.
Many people have disagreed with this. First, I was never allowed to meet her. The obvious initial fear was that I would treat her badly.
But as the years went on, I realized that if perhaps we did speak, we might have been given altered facts. Interpretations of each other that were not true.
At this point, I no longer have anger for her. I am fascinated by her. I have never known a woman like her, and I am glad for that fact.
This is not the kind of person I would have in my circle.
All these years later, she is older and I assume she has had a few stolen moments here or there to recount the actions of her life.
I am hopeful that though neither one of them has apologized for hurting my children and me so profoundly and forcing such unforeseen change in my life, I hope that they both feel some sense of remorse. I hope they just feel period.
I am coming to the classroom late maybe by talking about this time in my life twenty years later. But I am talking. And I am hopefully helping other women to learn that they too will continue to grow even twenty years after a divorce. It feels good too.
So, know this, though I am still working on forgiveness for these two people, I wholeheartedly forgive myself for the things I did and things I didn’t do that led to my husband leaving his family in the first place.
And as I too am now older, I take account of things in my life. But one thing I know for sure is that I have done the best job I knew how to do with the cards I was dealt in order to keep moving forward. Even if it has taken me 20 years.
Joyce Henderson McLeod says
Karen, while reading your story I feel it’s never to late toward healing from your past experiences. I’ve been married twice, I’m 66 years old divorced with three adult children. together over 30 plus years of loving and caring for my family made me who I am today! I’m still healing everyday is a blessing and I’m still standing! I admire your strength, courage, and if this is your time to share your story…you have someone like me who understand that time is the important part of life, it bring out your aftermath in moving forward like your story, thanks for sharing, maybe someday I’ll share more of my storyline.
Well said Karen..Proud of the facts u said here from a very strong willed woman who also does have integrity…something cheaters can never have..
Michele coco says
Thank you for your article. I now know that after 7 years of divorce and not meeting the mistress now wife that there are others out there like me. It is comforting to think from a new perspective that 2 cheaters will never have trust even though they seem so hap[y. Picking up the pieces and putting them together is a big task. Take care and god’s speed and strength.