I discovered my husband's affairs thanks to the scribbled phone numbers on dirty cocktail napkins I found in his pocket

Tracey Folly

*this is a work of nonfiction based on actual events that happened to me personally

I found other women’s phone numbers in my cheating husband’s pockets.

I was still a young newlywed the first time I found a scrawled phone number on a scrap of paper in my husband's pocket. As soon as he arrived home from work, I confronted him about the name and number. The name was common for both males and females, and I didn't imagine it could be a male friend's number.

"That's not a girl," my husband replied when I asked him about the phone number. "It's a dude."

Although I didn't believe him, he would prove me wrong. I met the person whose name was written on that slip of paper, and he was, indeed, a dude. In fact, my husband and I ended up camping with him and his girlfriend. Crisis averted.

My luck wouldn't hold out because the next time I found a hastily scrawled phone number written in black Sharpie marker on a cocktail napkin in my husband's pocket, it did belong to a woman.

In total, I found three phone numbers. One of them belonged to the aforementioned friend with whom we had gone camping. The other two phone numbers belonged to other women.

Since my marriage predated the prevalence of cellphones, writing phone numbers on available scraps of paper was the norm. And since my husband liked to frequent sleazy bars while I was home sleepless in bed, these phone numbers were always written on crumpled cocktail napkins.

If these stained cocktail napkins weren't enough evidence of his wrongdoing, there were always his friends to confirm his actions. When his friends were around, they often spoke as if I weren't even in the room--even when that room was inside the house for which I alone paid the mortgage.

"That was so funny," one of them remarked to my husband, "watching you stagger out of the bar with a girl on each arm." They all laughed while I fumed, but I didn't say anything.

I think I was just biding my time until I grew strong enough to file for a divorce.

While I admit there are plenty of innocent reasons why a married man may be in possession of another woman's phone number, that wasn't the case. My husband was a prolific cheater, and I caught him multiple times outside of the phone numbers in his pockets.

After the third phone number, I decided I'd had enough. I knew I couldn't trust him anymore. But before I filed for divorce, I needed more evidence. So I began spying on him.

For the next few weeks, I watched my husband and his friends every night. I saw him go out to bars with women who looked like trouble. I witnessed him with a woman at the beach. I listened to their conversations on the phone, and I followed them to see where they went.

The more I observed, the clearer it became that my husband was cheating. It wasn't hard to figure out who he was cheating with, either. He flirted with other women incessantly, and he talked about them constantly.

I knew then that my marriage was over. I had no choice but to leave. But I couldn't bring myself to tell him yet. Instead, I waited until I was sure he was going out again with the same woman. Then I told him I was filing for divorce.

He was furious. He denied everything, of course, and accused me of lying. I was determined to have the last word. I gathered all of his phone numbers and the names of the women he cheated with, and I showed them to him.

"What are you doing?" he asked me. "You're crazy!"

"Don't worry," I said, "you can keep seeing these women whenever you want once we are divorced."

"You don't know what you're talking about," he said. "I'm not cheating on you. I love you."

"I don't believe you," I said.

He tried to make excuses, but I was done listening to him. I packed my bags and moved out of our house.

Now, I've been divorced for a long time, and I still don't understand why I stayed in that marriage. It was so hard to watch my husband cheat, and it made me feel powerless. His cheating wasn't the only reason why I left him. There were other serious issues as well, but the cheating was the hardest to forgive.

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Writing about relationships online since 2009.

Massachusetts State

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