And that’s when I knew for certain that he was cheating on me.
I married my college boyfriend back in 2003. We were these foolishly naive kids (er, young adults) who got engaged after just three months of dating, and then we got married about a year after that.
We didn’t have a great marriage by any means. It was wrought with trouble from the start. I had to deal with jealous fan girls and groupies following his Saint Louis punk band. We couldn’t have penetrative sex because I had vaginismus, a sexual dysfunction that we couldn’t understand at the time. His mother had been my good friend (or so I thought) up until two weeks before the wedding when she declared that she’d never been okay with our relationship.
While none of our issues were totally insurmountable, neither one of us was equipped to maturely handle our troubles.
After two years, our relationship devolved into a certain sort of comfortable discomfort, if you know what I mean.
We got used to being roommates who occasionally fooled around. We got used to arguing over petty things around the house. And we got used to living with a relationship that was never quite right after the wedding.
We were used to doing nice things for each other when it wasn’t too hard. But we didn’t know how to be very nice when life got harder. So, we fought. A lot.
To make matters worse, he and I both battled depression, but we experienced it in very different ways. It was hard to understand each other when we didn’t act the way we thought a person should.
And neither one of us behaved like healthy partners do.
In the winter of 2005, I spent a couple of months away from my husband so I could spend some time in Minnesota to see some specialists to help me deal with my worsening PCOS and endometriosis symptoms.
In some ways, our time apart seemed to help our relationship. We talked on the phone every night and we each seemed to genuinely miss the other person. But when my husband drove me back home to southern Illinois in December, I was horrified to see our apartment was an even bigger mess than when I left.
We planned to move out of college housing for the new year, so I came home to the job of packing up the mess. Although we moved into a fun little apartment above a Chinese restaurant, and for a minute things felt like a brand new start, I couldn’t shake the feeling that things had changed in a negative way.
But I couldn’t put my finger on the changes. It was mostly a premonition. Sometimes, I thought I was being paranoid. There were comments I heard his mother make on the phone to him, about things he’d “better” do. I didn’t know what she was talking about, but it occurred to me that he could be having an affair.
After all, my husband was spending a lot of his downtime on Facebook reconnecting with old friends. Soon, I noticed he was getting text messages from his former high school sweetheart. In those days, I didn’t have a cell phone so we frequently shared his. When I asked him about the messages, he always had some excuse.
Oh, they were just friends. That wasn’t a love note, it was just song lyrics. On and on it went.
My husband’s birthday was also in January, a couple of weeks after we moved into the new apartment. I don’t think we had anything super special planned that year, but I made him some sort of cake and we decided we’d go out for dinner when he came back from work around five.
But at nearly six o’clock, I knew something was wrong when he still wasn’t home. I had his cell phone with me since we didn’t have a landline, so I called his work to ask when he had left.
I got the surprise of my life when the person I spoke with told me he hadn’t worked there for at least two weeks.
There was no longer any question in my mind that my husband was having an affair. I didn’t even know where the heck he worked. And I didn’t know when or if he was coming home. He was just gone, standing me up for his own birthday.
It was probably 10 o’clock by the time my husband finally got home. His immediate explanation was that he’d fallen asleep in his car after work. If I hadn’t called his work, it would have been an almost believable lie. He did suffer from narcolepsy and honestly could fall asleep just about anywhere.
But I already knew he wasn’t at work. Or, at least, not at any workplace that I knew about.
The worst thing about all of it was that he still wouldn’t tell me what really happened. He kept insisting that he wasn’t lying at all. We had an epic argument, until finally, he admitted that he’d quit his job and simply didn’t want to tell me because he was afraid that I’d get upset.
Ultimately, that was always his answer for his lies. He put it all on me. As if I was so unreasonable that he couldn’t tell me the truth about, well, anything.
A couple of days later, my husband finally did leave me. He left me by leaving a note on a paper plate and stuffing it into our mailbox. Within a week, he drove me back up to Minnesota and we never saw each other again.
Some of his last words to me were that “he knew god would never forgive him.” He claimed he was sorry, but he never told me the truth. He never admitted that he was cheating, despite exchanging all those messages with his ex.
I’m not sure when he and his high school sweetheart went public with their relationship, but they did get married (and they stayed married, from what I understand).
So, I’ll never know why my husband even bothered bringing me back home that December. I later realized that his mother had been on the phone telling him to end our marriage sooner rather than later because she knew he was seeing his ex.
And I doubt I’ll ever understand why he kept lying to me. My husband didn’t just lie about the big stuff, like cheating on me or leaving his job. He lied about the small things too.
Like his every day habits. Or whatever was on his mind. I realize now that early on in our relationship, he decided that he’d rather lie than risk my frustration or displeasure. Like it never even occurred to him that lying would make my reaction so much worse.
I’ve been in enough romantic relationships to understand that you can’t excuse lying to your partner for the sake of “sparing” their feelings. That’s not how a good relationship works. The longer you lie, the more it hurts your partner in the end.
You also can’t worry about protecting yourself from their anger if you want a healthy connection. That’s not love. If you can’t be honest with your partner, it doesn’t always matter why. What matters most is that you actually deal with it.
Excluding abuse where a person flies off the handle for just about anything, most lies we tell our partners are to spare our feelings, not theirs. We don’t want to get into a fight. We don’t want to deal with the consequences of disappointing our person, so we don’t. Instead, we put it off. Or, at least, we think we can put it off.
We wait, because we think we can avoid the pain and disappointment in their eyes. But that’s not how it really works.
My husband waited too long to tell me the truth. About anything. And in the end, I cried a whole lot more tears just because I couldn’t make sense of all his lies.
I couldn’t understand why he held onto the lies when telling me the truth earlier would have been so much less painful for the both of us. He must have thought that covering things up was somehow better.
When you think about it, that’s really pretty sad. He could have saved us both a ton of trouble and ended things when I was still in Minnesota. He never should have come back for me at all, but he was deeply conflicted, and when we’re that conflicted with ourselves, we don’t make the best choices.
Human psychology 101, right? But I guess we were a little too naive back then to understand the basics of a healthy relationship.
Our marriage only lasted two-and-a-half years, and I made a whirlwind of mistakes along the way. I’m just glad that things like this taught me to start paying attention to my gut.