Aside from the requisite “how are you?”, the most frequently asked question I have received over the past three months is “did you know?”. The straight answer, is “no”. No, I did not know that my now ex-husband was having a mostly long-distance affair for at least four months under our roof. Having said that, I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t pinpoint what.
Shortly after the election, I felt like our marriage was doing better. We were having great discussions about our frustrations with the results, but also things we could do impact our own community and healthcare in a positive way rather than just sitting back and doing nothing. I might even say that the election was somewhat of the catalyst for my decision to go back to school to pursue public health.
In December, the wind shifted, though. We began arguing more and he seemed distant. He called up my parents and asked for a plane ticket for his birthday (in July) to go to Comicon in Salt Lake City, which the happily gave him. He made some strange comments about maybe having me do my public health internship (which isn’t for over a year) in Arizona, where my parents have a place. I remember saying something like “are you crazy? My home is here with you and the boys and there are plenty of internship opportunities here”. He let it drop then, but brought it up several more times over the coming months. Apparently, during this same time, he called up my dad and said that I was unhappy here and thinking of leaving him and the boys and moving back to Washington. My dad just assumed I was going through some homesickness and holiday blues and didn’t take this seriously, and he is still kicking himself for not bringing it up with me at the time.
Over the course of the next few months, I began honestly begging him to find another job. People kept quitting at his job and he was very unhappy with his director and he was “working” 60 hours a week. He would work all day, then come home and go immediately to our home office where he would work until dinner or soccer, come down and make an appearance until the boys went to bed, then often go back up and “work” until after midnight. When I later found out about the affair, I began going through our phone records and found he was spending 1-2 hours during the work day on the phone with her, then an additional 1-2 hours at night after I was asleep. In February, we got into a big fight over his job and his work hours it was during this fight I finally yelled “you are choosing your job over your family. Do you want a divorce? Is that what this is?”. He wouldn’t answer me and gave his requisite “I don’t want to talk about this now” and left. The night I asked him if he was cheating on me was the night he finally gave me my answer.
Aside from the work hours, there were also many subtle clues that something was seriously wrong. I remember being in the kitchen making dinner one night and Messi was helping and he came in and dropped a few groceries on the floor and tried to go to the office without a word. I asked him to help put things away or something like that and he barked some harsh comment about how demanding I was at him. Messi, who idolizes his father, piped up with “that was really rude dad, all she did was ask for some help”. We had multiple encounters like this, which were out of character for him. I also noticed he hadn’t been wearing his wedding ring and asked him about it and he said “oh, I keep bumping it at work and I was worried it will chip”. I should have been very suspicious with that because as a hospice nurse, he was way less hands on than in other nursing jobs and he had always worn it. He also didn’t wear it when we went out as a family and one day in February, I noticed a dust circle it left on the dresser. In all fairness, I wasn’t always wearing mine during that time, but that was because I gained weight when we moved and it was a little too snug.
As the March date approached of his trip to Comicon, I found myself inexplicably panicked. I chalked it up to being worried about having the boys alone for 4 days (funny to think of 2 months into being “alone” with them). I remember bursting into tears at a soccer game because I was trying to figure out how to juggle the boys, my soccer volunteer mandatory commitment, and a big grad school assignment I had due. This was extremely out of character for me, but I remember sitting on the bleachers crying while feeling this deep dread about the trip and feeling guilty for not wanting him to go, when he hadn’t gone away alone since we adopted the boys. The day he left for the trip, he hopped in the shower with me and gave me the most amazing head massage and then we curled up together and took a nap before I brought him to the train station. As he was leaving, I asked him to put on his ring and to be careful and protect our marriage, which he agreed to do.
That weekend went very smoothly for the boys and I and they were well behaved. We saw Beauty and the Beast and went out to eat. The soccer tournament had been cancelled due the big snow storm earlier in the week. During that weekend, though, I believe he only called us once and Mr. Social Media, did not post a single picture of this big event he had been so looking forward to. When I later asked him about it, he said “oh, it was just kind of low key and I just wanted to save my memories for myself, but I sent you and the boys a few pictures”. He returned home on a Sunday afternoon and immediately my peaceful weekend with the boys was brought to a halt. He walked in the house and began stomping around complaining about the mess of boxes (an Amazon delivery had come right before we headed to the train station) and was very short with the boys and I. It would be 5 days before I would ask him the conversation that would shatter my world. And yes, that trip to Salt Lake City for “Comicon” (planned in December), was the trip where he met up in person with her for the first time and they spent the weekend together in a hotel.
So, the answer to the question people have kept asking is no, I did not know, but I knew something was wrong. I falsely attributed most of it to his job and I did try and address it and I tried to fight for my marriage by asking him to find another job. Should I have pushed more, and sooner? Maybe, but I had nothing concrete to push him on. You know, the old saying “hindsight is 20/20”. Friends, my reason for telling you all this is that if you think something is wrong in a relationship, it probably is. Don’t be afraid to ask those tough questions, but be prepared for an answer that might threaten to swallow you whole.