Just into the second year of my marriage, I found a charge on a credit card bill for an escort service during a time when my husband was traveling for work. I was devastated. We had a newborn. I went home and cried to my mom. She told me “oh…guys do things like that…don’t get worked up.” I told my father, he scoffed, called him a “dumb shit,” and looked back at the television. My mother told me to go back home and keep the peace. I told my mother-in-law…and I received the same message…it’s just what guys do. Really? I felt so alone and confused. I never told anyone again. I questioned every emotion I had surrounding the incident and buried them deep down inside of me with all the others not knowing how to cope with the pain and loneliness I was feeling. This was the beginning of a whole new nightmare inside of my already secret life.
I did what my mother told me to do. I went home. I did let my husband know I wasn’t happy about it, but I let it go, just like she instructed me to. We moved on. No harm done. A little mistake. An error in judgement. I had just had a baby. I obviously wasn’t what he needed or desired. I’ll fix it. I can be better. That’s all it could’ve been. Right?
Not really. He was just warming up.
As the years went on, the discoveries continued. A strip club visit here, another one there. Online chats with other women. Pornography on hotel bills and magazines hiding in his computer bag. Sex became less frequent. Then it became scary. One night he raped me. I was trapped underneath the weight of his body, may face buried in his chest, I was unable to get out. I told him to stop, I couldn’t breathe. But he didn’t. He was angry. He was in a different world. I did not know the man on top of me. When it was over I remember sitting alone in our bed crying harder than I ever had before. I remember thinking to myself that the intensity of my tears felt very foreign and weird. What was wrong with me? When he came back out of the bathroom I said to him “What was that?” His response, “Ya..that was bad.” and he got into bed and fell asleep. I must have stuffed this away too, because it took another 10 years to remember it happened.
I kicked him out a short time later when I learned he was still messing around. He lived on his own for six months. We went to counseling. He joined a sex addiction group. He went to therapy. I went to therapy. We had 5 children by this time. I told no one what was going on in my life. Despite the fact my family all lived within 10 minutes of us, I managed to keep this all a secret. After all, it’s what guys do. Who was going to help me? He said he was sorry. I told him he could come back home. I thought I was being the bigger person by being forgiving and loving and sympathetic to his “disease.” We carried on in peace. Things settled down and I trusted him again. For awhile.
The memory of the rape (and one other) was triggered by yet another discovery 8 years later. A text conversation I saw on his phone, which then led to the discovery of many, many more text conversations, and the discovery of coffee dates, hotel room charges during times he wasn’t traveling, meet ups in the parks during the day while he was supposedly working, an Ashley Madison account, among other dating site subscriptions. And these were all proceeded by the discovery of thousands and THOUSANDS of dollars spent on massage parlor escapades over the course of many, many years. Dozens, probably hundreds, of women. Too many to count or remember the details.
I left. I packed my bags and took off for three weeks leaving the kids behind with him. I told him I needed space to figure out my next steps and that he needed to figure out his own. I couldn’t live this way any more. I don’t know why I had endured this chaos for 19 years. I thought I had to. I was told to. I didn’t know how to fight for myself. I’d been trained from a very young age that I wasn’t supposed to fight back. I just didn’t know that brainwashing was what I was operating on all these years.
After some explosive episodes over the phone, and through texts, he begged me to come home. He told me he was sorry. That he had told me everything. He handed over access to the bank account and I took control of all the money. He promised to go to therapy. He had an epiphany at church one Sunday and decided to get baptized that afternoon. He had seen the light. He was sorry and he was willing to do the work to make this right. He wanted our family in tact. All my prayers were answered. I went back home. Foolishly.
Something was off. I knew it was. I could sense it, just as I had sensed before all the other discoveries. I wanted to believe this was finally over. I wanted to save my family. I was terrified of what divorce would look like. I didn’t want to hurt my children or disrupt their lives any more than I already had. I was trying to figure out what my role was in all of this breakdown. Was I too controlling? Too high maintenance? Not attractive or skinny enough? I was desperate to take the blame and fix it all.
I don’t know why all the other incidences didn’t seem like they were serious. Maybe because he insisted that he had actually never had intercourse with these women. They just “messed around.” He had always saved that for me. That was untouchable. At least that was what he said. I don’t know why I believed him. I don’t know if I did actually believe him. I still don’t. But I accepted it. I clung to it. But it suddenly became serious when I realized one of his employees kept coming up out of nowhere. A lot. They were just good friends. Right. I knew better by now. I set boundaries. He bucked them. I couldn’t control it. He had been having an affair with her all along. While I was away…when he was baptized and washed clean by the Lord…he intermingled her children casually with ours.
He was sneaky. He told me he was going for a “prayer walk” one night last summer while I was waiting for him in bed. He was gone for a long time. I tried texting and checking his location but his phone was shut off. We were talking in bed after he returned and I asked if I could see his Apple watch. I started scrolling through it. He forgot to delete the texts off his watch before he came to bed. I saw everything. He was walking with her. In our neighborhood. Talking about their future and their next steps. I was stunned. I didn’t even know what I was feeling. Was it rage? It was bigger than anger. I grabbed his phone and found the contact info for this woman’s husband. I called him, despite the fact that it was 2am, and informed him our spouses were having an affair. He informed me he already knew and this was the second affair his wife had had in their office. I hung up and stared in shock at my husband as he stared back in shock at me. He couldn’t believe my behavior. He had the nerve to tell me I was the one who was out of control.
But as the story goes. We danced again. I stuffed feelings and froze in time. I told him I wasn’t giving up on him. We went to therapy. He went through the motions. I believed he was truly done and wanted to change and save our family. We had made fools of ourselves in front of our children at times and we wanted to rectify that. Or so I thought. He continued his affair, but he eventually got caught at work. Amazingly neither of them lost their jobs. Probably because he was an executive. I was humiliated. I’m still humiliated. But I haven’t left him. It’s been another year. I don’t know how. I feel trapped.
I’m scared. I’m lonely. I’m frustrated. I’m so hurt. I’m damaged goods. Who would want me after all of this? I’m 41 yrs old. I have six children now. I don’t even trust myself to make a good judgements on other people’s character. I expect the worst in every situation. I’ve been used my whole life and it’s all I know. I don’t even know what “real” love is or what it looks like. I hear my mother’s voice in my head telling me how great my life is. I have loving, supportive parents who have made great sacrifices for me all my life. I have a husband who makes good money and a big beautiful home. I don’t have to work and I can stay at home to care for our children…I should be thankful…after all, it’s just what guys do.