I refer to the night I found out my first husband cheated on me as the moment my life broke in half. For eighteen years, I built a happy life with an otherwise good man until he burned it all to the ground. Our divorce kicked off a downward spiral in my world for the next decade as I tried to replace the love and family he shared with me with a series of horrible decisions.
Up to that point, I was as naive as they come, believing we would always be married and nothing would ever change. The fact that he dumped me for the receptionist in his office who had pink hair and tattoos was shocking in its silliness, yet I felt like less of a person because of it. Surely nobody would ever love me again for, as my husband said, I was a joyless person who had no life and was worthless. Why wouldn’t I believe what he told me? For a large portion of my life, I trusted in every word he said and had great faith in him.
“You know how I know you would never cheat on me?” I once asked him in better days.
“Because you’re too honest and trustworthy. You wouldn’t be able to live with yourself.”
That shows how much I knew. I believed a man as solid as he was would never break a vow, especially with two small children involved. He was completely shocked when I filed for divorce after he wouldn’t stop seeing the receptionist.
“Sometimes people get back together,” he complained.
It was too late. In my eyes, the marriage was over the night he confessed, and it was clearly over for him even before that. Reconciliation would have been like putting toothpaste back in a tube. It just didn’t fit anymore. My father-in-law tried to tell me that cheating was no big deal and “acceptable these days,” but I knew better. The hardest part was letting go of the large family I’d been part of for years, the only family I really ever knew. They were mad at him at first, but it wasn’t long before he went back to being the saint he’d always been to them, even with his mistress sitting in my chair at their dinner table.
I completely understood their need to rewrite history and make me the bad guy. After all, he was their blood and I was not. He was the son and brother they would have as a family member for the rest of their lives, and they certainly couldn’t spend it being mad at him. Still, even more than losing my husband, losing his family hurt ten times worse.
I’m remarried years later to my third husband. The second one was a cheater as well, but I expected it from him and wasn’t shocked. It seemed minor compared to the other reasons I left him, and it was a marriage best forgotten.
My husband today is truly the greatest love of my life. I knew it from the second I met him. He taught me was real love was, not just lust or loneliness or desperation. He’s the best friend I’ve ever had.
Even so, given the right circumstances, it’s possible that he might cheat on me one day. I don’t think anyone is completely immune. Not to say that I think he’s that type of person at all. He is very honorable and knows how much my first marriage hurt me. I don’t believe he would ever cause me intentional suffering.
That’s the difference between men who cheat and men who don’t. It’s one thing to say that you’re a moral, upstanding person, but it’s another thing entirely to act like one. Living one’s truth shows great integrity. When somebody lives that way, they never have to tell people who they are because it’s already evident. The integrity my husband shows every day is something he doesn’t have to brag about. He’s a great man, but he is humble in his greatness, which I think shows an awesome strength.
Nobody is perfect. I definitely have made my share of mistakes over the years, but they’ve all been lessons in one way or another. I know today that I’m not joyless and have plenty of life. I’m not something that another person says I am, even if I’m married to them. Once I learned that, it gave more weight to all my relationships. I came to my husband now as a stronger woman, and he has helped bring that out in me even more over the years. He lets me be who I am, and I do the same for him.
It’s incredibly hard to live with our own lies about ourselves. That’s true for people who think too highly of themselves and people who have terrible self-esteem. I’m very proud of my husband for his honesty and the ability to keep his heart pure in every situation. When we were first together, I remember I kept asking if he was mad at me. Of course, I’d done nothing to make him mad. It was my own paranoia that I’d be blindsided because I failed to “read” him correctly. I constantly worried that he would cheat on me, too, until I realized I really had no control over whether he did or didn’t.
I’m grateful that my story has a happy ending. I didn’t think I’d ever have anyone who truly loved me for exactly who I already was, but I’m realistic about that love. It’s not something I need to hoard but something to cherish. My husband is not my property and makes his own decisions, and I hope that he’ll choose me every day as the woman he wants to spend his life with. That’s more than I could ever ask for.