The day I found out that my husband had slept with his mistress in our home was the day I knew I would have to leave the family home behind in our divorce.
The mistress’ husband was my informant of the affair between my husband and his wife. He showed me photos of their respective cars, parked neatly near each other in broad daylight at a local motel on Good Friday. That murderous day in the Bible was also the day that my marriage bled out.
In the zombie-like state I lived in the first few days after I confronted my husband, after he fled our home to move in an apartment with his mistress, and as I tried to go through the daily motions with our children until we could sit them down and tell them we were divorcing, it had not yet entered my head that the evil act could have also taken place in my very own home.
This realization came only days later, as my brain caught up with my shock-riddled body. I began to wonder about the logistics of what my husband had done with this woman. The mistress’ husband had been tracking his wife’s movements, and he thought the affair had gone on for a few weeks.
Where else did they do it? I thought. A strange wave of chills ran slowly down my body as I considered that my own home could have been one of the scenes of the crime. They couldn’t have gone to a hotel every time. I would have seen that his credit card bill was unusually high, even without seeing the specific charges. She didn’t have much money and her husband only worked part-time and was often at home, so it was unlikely they ever did it there.
And so I asked my husband in a text message if they had slept together in our home. I told him that I needed to know, that I deserved to know the truth, and to please be honest.
I stared at that ugly word on my screen for the longest minutes, in utter horror that he had actually been honest, and despite the fact that I knew it was most likely true anyway. Five minutes later he texted me back that it had only been once, that it had happened in his office and not our bedroom, and that he had been the one to initiate it. As if that made it any better.
I trusted his answer that it hadn’t happened in our own marital bed, crazy as it was to trust anything anymore he told me from that point onwards. But every time I came up the stairs and saw the entrance to his office I thought of them in there.
Did they do it on the bed?
On the chair?
Backed up against my dead mother’s antique dresser?
I kept the door closed from then on so that I wouldn’t have to see in the room when I mounted the stairs with my children at night to put them to bed. My husband had the gall to complain that the room was beginning to smell “musty” when he came to sleep there – alone – once a week during our temporary bird’s nest custody arrangement until we figured out what to do with the house.
There was no doubt in my mind that no amount of repainting nor redecorating could fix the fact that a devastating event had happened in my home. I could never use that room for any purpose whatsoever without thinking of what had occurred there. I also had memories of serving coffee to my husband’s lover in my dining room, when I thought she was a friend.
She had been to my house on several occasions before she came clandestinely, and I could hear the walls mocking me. Leaving that house was a natural decision for me.
But it was not a decision that many people understood. Usually it’s the mother who stays in the family home with the children. The children were coming with me, at least more than half of the time, but he did not want to sell and wanted to stay in the family home. Many people found our decision strange. Not wanting to get into the specific reasons every time, I often fell back on my catch phrase “there’s something to be said for getting a fresh start in a new place.”
Financially, it was without a doubt the soundest decision I could make. Having very little income of my own, I was not able to buy my husband out. I gave up being a home-owner, at least temporarily, but I received half of the home equity to invest for a future home purchase. By avoiding a sale, I saved on half of the expenses we would have lost to a real estate agent, and I also saved the time and hassle associated with going through a sale.
But when I moved into my rental home, I did question whether I had made the right decision. Faced with the mess of moving and not yet feeling at home, I missed the comforts of my previous house. This house was smaller, older and had less upgrades. Gone were my hardwood floors, updated cabinetry, walk-in-closet, and prettier landscaping. I also had to deal with the gut-wrenching knowledge that his mistress was now living with him in my place.
But, I had a home I could afford while my ex was saddled with a suffocatingly high mortgage. More importantly, I could walk in the door with a clear conscience that no one had ever entered that home with the intention to defile the principles I held most precious. The confirmation that I did the right thing came from my ten-year-old son shortly after the move when he declared spontaneously that he felt more at home in our new house than he did at the other house where he had spent the last four years. Home is where the heart is, indeed.