I remember the time you left your phone at home in our first apartment. It was an old loft close to campus. It was raggedy, the stove was too small, and mildew stained the grout in the bathroom. It was our first home. We filled the dusty apartment with mixed-matched hand me down furniture and invited everyone over because we were so proud to be starting a life together. You left for work that morning, as usual, to the Boys and Girls Club (a job in which my friend put in a good word for you) and I was still in bed, not quite ready for class. Your phone rang, and I innocently answered.
“Hey baby,” a lady said, although the number was saved as Simon.
I didn’t say a word and quickly hung up the phone. I was so confused.
Maybe she had the wrong number? I thought and decided to look at your texts.
I can’t wait to taste your pussy, read one of many texts to Simon.
Now I’m frantic; my heart racing. I couldn’t fathom the thought of my fiancé doing this. I called Simon back.
“Hey baby,” she answered again.
“Hi, this is J’s fiancé. I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on,” I pleaded.
Lightly chuckling, “You need to ask your man,” she replied.
I remember the time I answered your phone in the middle of the night in our second apartment. One that was a little bit nicer, with a gym and a proper-sized stove. It was our first home as husband and wife. I was finishing up Med Tech school, working, and studying, and you supported me through it all. You made my lunches every morning and gassed up my truck. I loved being a wife. I normally followed the rules and stayed clear of your phone, but it was unusual for you to get calls so late.
“Hello?” I sleepily answered.
Another woman replied.
I quickly and carefully jumped up to continue the conversation in the bathroom without waking you up.
“Hi, this is J’s wife. I’m not trying to start anything. I just want to know what’s going on.”
“He just got my number at a gas station and all we’ve done is talk. That’s it,” The mystery woman replied.
I remember the time I tried to break into your Blackberry while you took a nap, and couldn’t figure out the code. We were in a much nicer luxury apartment. We wanted something gated because you were going to Iraq for a year. I was finally done with college and working the night shift at the Children’s Hospital. Life was good. We bought a new car, I got my hair done every week, and we went on regular dates on my off days.
I needed visual evidence to confirm the lewd voice messages from mystery women I discovered while hacking your voicemail the previous night at work. I grabbed your keys to the truck I recently bought you as a surprise upon your return from war. Your wedding ring was in the console alongside a small packet of lube and a gas station-sized box of condoms.
I remember the time I tested positive for Chlamydia. I was in the second trimester of my pregnancy. A pregnancy that was nothing short of a miracle after two surgeries, fertility drugs, and the threat of a hysterectomy. My doctor’s medical assistant quickly called in my prescription of antibiotics and assured me our son would be fine if my STI was treated promptly. I was embarrassed, worried, scared, and angry.
“J just tell me the truth! I know you are the only person I’ve been with!”
I hated you in that moment. I hated being pregnant in that moment. I could not understand why you put my life and our baby’s life at risk.
“It just happened while I was in Iraq. We had a bad mission and I was scared. I’ll go get tested ASAP,” you nonchalantly tried to justify.
You tested negative. You got it treated without my knowledge, and you only admitted to infidelity after accusing me of cheating and possibly carrying someone else’s baby.
I remember our 10 year anniversary. We had a beautiful home, a huge backyard, two dogs, and a happy kid in a good neighborhood. We decorated for Christmas, had BBQs in the summer, and passed out candy on Halloween. Our kid had his first five birthdays in that house. I wanted to do something special because we had been through so much as a family in the last ten years, and somehow survived. I remember laying in the bed with you planning our trip to Denver. I was excited to go on a grownup trip, just the two of us, with lots of edibles and sex. I worked so hard through the holidays; working overtime plus my second job, so we could have the time of our lives and rekindle what was slowly slipping away. I posted pics of us at Red Rock Park on Facebook and expressed how much I loved you. Scrolling through the comments, something unusual caught my eye.
I need to talk to you about J, the comment glared. I recognized this feeling. I was in denial. I briefly asked you if you knew this person, and you said no. I accepted your response.
The next morning, while you were showering after a late night of anniversary celebrating, someone sent me a direct message. It was the same person that commented on our picture the previous day. I couldn’t deny it now. The stranger sent me screenshots of graphic and heartbreaking correspondence between the two of you, detailing sexcapades and wanting to see each other more.
I calmly asked you, “J, what is this?”
You confirmed what I already knew, and so did she on the conference call.
I remember reeling in emotion for three weeks, not knowing if I was really ready to end our marriage, and also not knowing how I could bear any more heartbreak. I finally decided I had enough. I told you I wanted you to be happy, even if not with me. I told you, you didn’t have to change and that I was letting you go because you should be who you always wanted to be. I remember being scared of what this decision would do to our son and our families. I remember mourning the life I thought I was going to have; growing old with you and enjoying retirement and grandkids. I remember trying to convince myself that it must’ve been something horribly wrong with me for you to behave the way you did.
I gave away my power too many times. Every time I forgave you, every time I denied what was obvious, every time I made excuses for what was going on, every time I tried to change to make you happy, pieces of me died. I made you my god; I wanted your happiness more than my own. I validated myself based on your perception of me.
It has taken a lot of work since then to regain a sense of who I am, to shift my negative thinking, and forgive myself for the part I played. I imagine life post-you is like being an addict in recovery. I remind myself regularly that I am worthy of joy, a life of purpose, and that I held the key to my own happiness all these years. It hasn’t been easy. Some days I’m triggered by simple things like being late for our son’s football practice or missing PTA meetings. Other days I wallow in a self-loathing funk thinking about how I stayed for so long.
Despite the immense progression of healing, there is one thing I still struggle with.
When our son asked why, you said, “I didn’t know if mommy loved me.”
I struggle with this because of all the things I doubted in myself during our relationship; whether it be my weight, how I kept our home, or even sex, loving you is never what I questioned. I did, and to be honest, I still want the best for you. I want you to be the man you always aspired to be. Not for me, but for yourself and our son. The same joy, and happiness, and love I deserve, you do too. Maybe one day you won’t have to question whether I loved you, because I remember there was a time when you didn’t.
You just knew.
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