After our guests had left and our child put to bed, my husband and I were face to face with all the chaos. I had spent the entire day sick to my stomach. I felt defeated, angry, disgusted and slightly validated. While I truly had believed that things were on solid ground between us when I discovered the affair, There had been times in our marriage where I was incredibly insecure, and my gut was telling me there were things he was not telling me. I had always felt especially queasy around this woman that would go as far as calling me names in the grocery store if she saw me. Knowing that I was right in my instincts about her was both validating and sickening. I asked if it had happened before while we had been together and he said no. After this initial question, I suddenly felt a surge of empowerment. The things that I wanted for our life together and the things that I wanted for me were crystal clear in that moment. We had married each other with the understanding that divorce was not an option. If we were going to be married it was for our entire lives. As I considered what I called My Life After Knowing, everything felt miserable, but what I wanted and expected was very clear.
I told him that the only steps in fixing the mess that I would lay out for him, were that he cut off all contact with her, that he must tell his friend the truth, and that he answers any question that I have honestly. Sometime in the next few days I sent him an email telling him he needed to figure out the answers to the questions he wasn't answering. I wanted to know details, because my version of our time together while this was happening was not real. I unleashed nearly seven years of being made to feel paranoid and like I was not enough for him.
Our marriage was good, and we had many good times, but in the difficult times I was made to feel as though it was my fault: that I was not meeting the expectations he had for me. I bent over backwards to make our lives better in the hard times, and he was simply never at fault for our problems. Pornography and masturbation had always been a problem in our marriage. No matter how many different ways I tried to explain how it hurt me and effected us, it fell on deaf ears. I felt unwanted and unneccesary, which made me try all the more harder to be what he wanted. In the first year we were married, I had finally received some answers concerning a health matter. I was learning to manage it, and dealing with the symptoms when he told me that he no longer loved me the same way that he did before we were married. Sex was about him when we had sex. He was taking night classes after work and would be gone until nearly mignight most nights. The events of this first year strongly influenced my view of myself within our marriage. His words haunted me, even though things did get better.
After my email, he wrote out a response and read it to me. It outlined his regrets and his plans to make it right for us. He was crying so hard that he could barely get through the letter. It was the first time in seven years that he apologized sincerely.
Nearly a month After Knowing, another serious discussion culminated in him not only revealing two other affairs, but that he believed he had an addiction to sex. One of the affairs was before we were married, and one occured during our first year of marriage. He had been lying to me about how late his classes went, and instead was trolling around bars looking for casual sex opportunities. The sick feeling returned.
To pretend it was anything less than nauseatingly difficult would be a falsehood. I had flashes in my head of how much easier it would be to slap him and walk away. How I wanted to hurt him as much as he hurt me. I replayed our entire life together and nothing seemed true. I looked at photos and I hated what I saw. It was all a lie. I felt stupid, even though I had long ago convinced myself that he probably had cheated on me during the first year we were married. I felt angry.
Something interesting came with that anger: it was a kind of selfishness. I was no longer apologetic for not understanding how to make him happy; rather I was determined to give him the chance to make me happy and to treat me the way I deserved to be treated. I felt as though I had vowed to be his wife and that I was going to hold up my end of the bargain despite the fact he had failed to hold up his. I wanted a chance at happiness, and I wanted our child to have both parents in a loving marriage. I was not staying in the marriage for his sake or for our child's sake: I was staying because I deserved to be happy, and I deserved happiness with the love of my life.