I am numb and panic stricken at the same time. I can’t find my bearings.
Anger, fear, anxiety, disbelief, sadness…
My husband is having an affair…
We leave Griffith Park and agree to talk at home. I take my daughter with me in my car and my husband drives back alone.
I call and text friends frantically asking anyone if they can take Emma for a few hours. None of my friends respond to my texts on this beautiful Sunday afternoon.
I call an acquaintance in the neighborhood whose children went to a co-op with Emma years ago. I don’t know her well enough to ask her out of the blue for a last minute favor, but I am desperate for answers from my husband.
I uncomfortably feign some family emergency. I guess learning my husband is having an affair counts as one.
She agrees to have Emma over for a few hours.
I drop off my daughter, who clings to me, sensing something is wrong. I’m anxious, unfocused. I pry her from my trembling body, rush back to my idling car in the street, and drive on autopilot the half mile home to have it out with my husband, not noticing anything on the way except the anger boiling inside me.
I scream and cry for hours, unpacking all the grievances from the past 11 years of marriage into our tiny living room which fills quickly with anger, resentment and sadness.
I’m still in shock and shaking. The adrenaline won’t stop; it’s a horrible out-of-control feeling I have not felt since my childhood: when something unexpected and awful happened. If I accidentally spilled a cup of milk, the angry reaction from my father had the same crippling effect on my body and mind.
I haven’t felt this powerless in thirty-five years.
I vent my anger, and the disbelief in my husband’s poor choices.
All the cliches about affairs are true. The deception is the most painful part because you’ve been lied to by someone you considered a friend and confidant your entire young adult life. They look different to you now, like a stranger. Your view of them is altered irrevocably.
Nothing I thought I knew makes sense anymore.
We talk for hours about our marriage and the dynamic we have spent years mutually constructing. The push and pull, the compromises, the unrealized promises – the making of a long term marriage.
We discuss why we have been disconnected since the birth of our daughter. Each of us know the reasons for this recent divide, but never voiced them clearly to the other until now.
The painful truths marriage can hold and hide, when the two people in the union are not as satisfied as the early years of matrimony promised them, when the potential of the lives planned together is not the current reality, is discussed ad nauseam. The disappointment we carry needs to be heard by each of us and digested. Grievances need to be aired, the cobwebs of miscommunication need to be dusted off. Brutal honesty is required.
He admits to his emotional absence the last few years. The toll of holding down a day job as a telecommuter for his friend’s web design business to support our family, while simultaneously pursuing his lifelong dream of becoming a rock star is wearing on him.
It started wearing on me a long time ago.
Yet, he is still not totally honest with me and I can feel it.
He is overwhelmed with life while I admittedly put all my energy and time into our daughter, leaving little room for his needs.
We share similar goals but are trying to achieve them separately and not confiding in the other our loneliness and isolation. We’ve been acting like roommates for the past few years, rarely spending time together as a couple, or even as a family with Emma.
I have felt alone in my marriage for a long time.
Let me clarify, alone, not lonely. Everyone gets lonely, that is part of the human condition. I never felt it my partner’s responsibility to make me feel not lonely, that is just part of life. But I was alone…left alone, feeling like I was not part of his team.
I am married to someone who has doggedly pursued his dream of becoming a successful musician at the expense of our marriage. I am culpable because I went along with it quietly. I begrudgingly agreed to move from a city I love, to Los Angeles, to pursue his dream with the understanding that if he still had not “made it” as a successful musician after living in LA for five years, we would move back to San Francisco to live and start a family.
We have been in LA for ten years. My husband hasn’t come close to making an income from his music.
His dream didn’t include me, even though I supported it wholeheartedly.
With the arrival of Emma, I felt isolated at home with an infant, no immediate family around me for support and an absent husband.
For most of Emma’s life I felt like a single parent navigating my way through first time parenthood, and at the same time dealing with infertility. There was a long year period when Emma was not in school and my husband worked during the week at the job which supports our lifestyle, while spending weekends and evenings on making his music. I rarely complained. When I ran into friends and acquaintances at our local coffee shop they would ask “Where is your hubby? We never see him…you must be exhausted.” I would wearily reply “Working in the studio.”
I was a single parent to our small child, and I was burnt out from it by the fourth year.
We voiced all of these previous unspoken complaints and more. After hours, true communication and understanding had been achieved which allowed the anger to subside a bit. We felt closer than we’ve been in over a year.
The subject then turned to “the other woman”.
My husband slowly confided in me small bits of information about her and what I learned rendered me speechless.
It is true, their affair had not been going on for long, a little less than a month. That makes sense, it lines up with something that had recently happened between us.
I thought it even more irrational he would agree to move in with her after knowing her for only a short time. This rash decision did not speak well of her either, especially her character as a mother. Their collective selfishness, at the expense of their children, disgusted me.
At the end of our several hour, air-everything-out session he changed his mind and realized it is not the best idea to move in with chaos.
The fact that I had to point out to him that moving in with a woman he barely knows and her three children would have a devastating effect on our daughter – no matter what happened to our marriage – had me seriously questioning how well I knew this person I had known for close to 14 years, and what kind of father he is.
That I had to highlight this insight for him – to prevent our child from suffering any more pain than she has already witnessed today – that he is incapable of coming to this conclusion himself, is unsettling to me. That it is up to me to persuade him to put his child’s needs before his own needs – a grown man, a trait in him I had never witnessed to such an absolute degree of selfishness – is disturbing to me.
I have chosen to put our daughter’s needs first, without a second thought, nearly every day for the past several years. That he would so thoughtlessly decide to live with another person with three children, when he is a father of a five-year-old, I am not sure I can forgive.
We agree to talk more later. We agree to get help this coming week from a therapist to try and sort all this crap out. We both feel we can commit to working on our marriage and try to repair what had been broken, then…just maybe, we can possibly get through this marital storm, and come out the other side as a more bonded pair, with more compassion and empathy toward one another.
We were both spent from the emotional roller coaster we had just ridden for hours. I need to be alone, but have to get Emma from one of the longest play dates she has ever had. I had no idea what mood I would find her in, after I unexpectedly dropped her off at a neighbor’s house, which is very unusual in the world my daughter inhabits, and I know it caused her anxiety.
The adrenaline that flooded my body earlier this morning had finally subsided to a slow drip, the panic dissipated and I just felt…numb. Numb and exhausted.
My head is pounding from the crying and emotional volleying with my husband; my voice hoarse from the hours of talking and fighting. My brain feels like it is still in a fog. I can’t concentrate. I feel beaten down, and extremely hurt.
I am not sure of anything at this moment except that I need to see my daughter. I want Emma. I need to hold her in my arms and never let her go.
A sinking feeling is growing in the pit of my empty stomach…I would need to muster all the strength I had for the next coming months. My daughter would need me now more than ever.