“The day started like every other day with a 7-week-old baby, a 20-month-old, a 4-year-old, and two almost 6-year-old’s. Early. This day though, I was determined to find some answers. It had been weeks since I felt like I had any idea what was going on in my husband’s head and I was getting lonely feeling like I was raising five babies by myself. Since law school ended, we had begun to see less and less of him. I was exhausted from fighting this feeling that something was not right. So this day, it was going to be different. It was going to be a good one, even if I had to force it. I was determined to get him to see us. These babies, me… we were worth it.
I spent the day making his favorite food. I sent him perfect pictures of our babies. I cleaned every inch of the house. Each hour I prayed that today would be the day he came home to spend time with us—to see how great we were and realize how much he had been missing while he was out making money. We didn’t want money; we wanted him.
He walked in a few hours late. The food was cold. The kids were tired. He was even more distant. I tried to kiss him; he rolled his head the other way. The night was anything but the one I had envisioned that morning. He didn’t eat one bite of the food. He kept looking out the window like he was watching for someone. The kids went upstairs for a minute and I decided to be brave. ‘Em, we need to talk. I went to this marriage therapist, and I really want us to go together—you know—to figure out what the heck is going on.’ He said, ‘Did he tell you that you are crazy, like I have been saying for a while now?’ I responded holding back my tears, ‘No, actually he listened to me, and made me realize that maybe there are some things going on in our marriage that we can make better.’
He looked at me with hate in his eyes and asked, ‘Oh yeah? Like what?’ I took a deep breath and again gulped down the pain that was trying to come out. I had learned in the last few months not to confront him about anything—especially nothing about his distance and lack of interest in the kids or me. I decided to be brave and just get it out. I said, ‘Well for starters…’ my face burned, ‘I feel like lately, when you don’t want to be intimate with me—or even let me kiss you—I feel like… like… I am scared that… well… either I am not doing it for you anymore … or… someone else is.’
He was calm. Not the response I had expected. He said nothing. He looked up again, ‘And what else?’ I took another deep breath. ‘The kids have started asking me if you live here anymore, and I am running out of excuses for you on why you are not here for them. Something feels wrong; I literally am shaking all the time. I just can’t beat this feeling that something isn’t right. I texted my family a few weeks ago and asked them to pray for us…’ And that is when all hell broke loose.
He yelled as loud as he ever had, ‘Your family? Really? I hate your family. Pray for us? Like we are some poor people on the streets? Why would you tell them something is wrong? I could kick every one of their asses.’ He proceed to yell for some time about all the reasons he didn’t want or need help, all the while looking back and forth to the windows—scanning the street.
I felt defeated and alone. Soon the kids were back downstairs and watching a tv show on the couch. Emmett sat down by them and whispered loudly out to me, ‘See… look at me, I am a good dad!’ My heart hurt as I longed for my kids to see the dad he used to be. The man who was my best friend and loved my family, driving around three states every school break just to spend time with them. I missed the dad that used to throw them on his shoulders and take us on adventures. The dad who cared less about what he was wearing, and more about the memories we made. The dad who had no money in his bank account, but had so much excitement and love in his heart. I missed us—all seven of us. Even the kids had become shells the more distant he became.
He took a call in the back room—I could hear over the baby monitor that it was one of his best friends—who also happened to be a therapist—who I had contacted that day to see if he could check on him. The conversation I heard over the monitor was shattering. The things he said about me to this man… painted the picture that I was out sleeping around and abandoning my family. They were all lies. After a few minutes I turned the baby monitor off, wiped my tears, and started upstairs to put the kids to bed.
By the time I walked down from tucking in the last child, Emmett was off the phone. He announced, ‘Guess what? He thinks you are as crazy as I do!!’ I responded, ‘Well, if we are going to have HIM give opinions on our situation, shouldn’t he speak to both of us?’ ‘Sure, but you aren’t touching my phone.’ I grabbed my phone and headed to our bedroom. While unplugging the baby monitor, I dialed. All I heard on the other end was, ‘Ashlee what are you doing? You are going to ruin your family.’ I tried to get words in over his voice, ‘NO. You have to understand. I… there is something… wrong. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep. I can’t stop fighting this feeling that something is SO wrong. Please listen to me. I have reached out to our leaders at church, and a marriage therapist, and they all want to help us. I just don’t know what we need help with. I am here every day loving these kids. I have literally been going through the garbage to find just one clue on what is wrong. I am here waiting to love Emmett, but he is gone. Physically not here, but even when he is home, he is a shell of himself and I miss the heck out of him. I just need to know what is wrong so I can fix it. One answer! I fix things, I can fix this. But I have to know what is wrong. Please believe me, I need you to help me.’
After spending the last half hour talking with a very intelligent attorney, this friend was not to be swayed in his opinion about our marriage—or really MY—issues. He continued to tell me I was going to ruin our family. In the middle of our conversation Emmett came in and whispered, ‘I have got to run to Walgreens.’ The prior weeks had made it clear that this quick trip to Walgreens would turn into a night of me spending hours wondering where he was. I held the phone away from my face, ‘Emmett I beg you. Don’t leave. Stay here. We can figure this out. I love you.’ He turned away as he muttered, ‘No, don’t tell me what to do. I am going to go.’
The garage door slammed and the baby started to scream. I hung up the phone. For hours I bounced that little baby. The screams were full of the same fear that I held in my heart. Something was wrong. I promised Tytus over and over that everything was going to be ok. I picked up my phone many times to call my mom, or a friend, but I wouldn’t let myself dial. I couldn’t stand to have another person tell me that everything was ok—or worse, have someone remind me that I was going crazy.
The hours go slow when you are holding a baby who can’t be calmed, but this night they were even harder. Around 10, he really started to panic. His screams were piercing and there was nothing I could do to get him to calm down. I could feel it too. I dialed Emmett’s number a few times in a row. No answer. I text him and asked if he was ok. Nothing. Silence. The loudest silence I had ever felt.
Around midnight the baby finally calmed down and I laid him in his bed. The feeling of isolation and being alone really set in as I sat in a silent house full of sleeping babies. For a moment I thought about going to look for him, but that would mean leaving my kids. There was no way I was going to do that. So I just sat in the silence begging—still—for one answer.
The next thing I knew I was awakened by a pounding on my front door. The walk to the entryway felt like it was in slow motion—every thought in my head telling me that this could be my answer. It is a police man and Emmett got in a wreck in his fancy new truck… and he will be in a hospital bed and he will need us. Everything will be ok. They will take you to him and you guys will have the moment you have been longing for all day.
I opened the door slowly to three people in street clothes. Eventually they got me to let them in, and eventually I found myself on my front couch with strangers. I got a lot more than one answer that night. I don’t remember most of anything they said—just words and phrases—but I did hear enough to learn that my husband was having an affair with a paralegal from our office. Her husband had come to find them together at the Walgreens. And in a moment when he could—and should—have used his words or even his fist – he took a gun instead. Emmett was gone. By two shots of a gun, he left this world with a bullet in his heart and in his head.
He died in a moment of fighting for another man’s wife, when he should have been home fighting for us.
The thing I remember most about that night wasn’t the answers that I received, but the fears that shook my very being. The lies that came pouring into my mind—posed as truths—about who I really am. Not enough. A loser. Not worth it. Stupid. Naive. Blind. A waste of breath. Unworthy. An embarrassment. Alone. Ugly. Pathetic. Unimportant. Broken. Disgusting. Useless.
It has been 8 years now. I have seen a murder trial come and go. I have fought many battles and cleaned up many messes for a man I loved. I have spent many moments hating him. I have walked many dark roads because of three people’s choices. I have felt humiliated and betrayed—the whole world found out in the same moment that I did. I have felt ripped off—I didn’t get a chance to choose if I stayed or if I left him. I have felt like a victim, and literally was for almost a month straight on one side of a courtroom. I have suffered from anxiety and severe PTSD. I am deathly afraid of guns. I have felt unlovable, and used. I have questioned what parts of my life were even real—or if I was living a life full of love one sided all along. I have felt grief. I have felt more anger than I ever knew possible. I have felt pain that I wouldn’t wish on my worst of enemies—including all three of them. Worst of all, I have spent a lot of time hating myself. Letting those lies that took over that night eat me alive.
But, the last 8 years didn’t just take things from me. I have been blessed with a light I didn’t know existed. I have seen miracles. I have watched children who could have used this story to hate—show more love. I have learned what it is like to truly forgive. I have felt God in the walls of my home and in the hearts of my babies. I have seen angels. I have stood on stages airing dirty laundry—that I would have much rather shoved under a rug—to help, even just one family choose each other. I have cried on tv many times sharing our story with a prayer that my testimony can change just one heart. I have written about my darkest hours on a blog, I thought would be used to help my children one day understand it all. And in doing so, met millions of friends who have been stuck in the dark too. I have started a non-profit to help other victims of trauma. This world is full of pain—I am not unique in that—but I am so thankful for a story that has shown me that we can find light even in the darkest of moments. We can stand when we feel we have nothing left to give. We can fight even the battles that we cannot see. My story didn’t break me, and it has been a gift helping others find grace in theirs too.
Someone once asked me out of all of it—writing a book, Dateline, Dr. Phil, Crime Watch Daily, the non profit, etc—what I would say my greatest accomplishment has been after living such a tragedy. To that I answered: ‘Finding my worth.’ That is a battle we all have to fight for. Not everyone will love us; some might even intentionally hurt us. There will be days when those we love forget us—or choose to not see. There will be moments when we feel as though we are all alone. The answer isn’t getting someone to tell us we are enough. It is figuring that out for ourselves. There is grace in our stories, and when we remember that, we will never walk alone.
I am now remarried and just gave birth in May to a baby girl named Kennady. I am happy.
Your life is a gift. Don’t waste it. There won’t always be a do over—do what it takes to get it right. There are many people in the world who need your light. Never forget the ones who need you the most.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ashlee (Birk) Boyson of Utah. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook and her website. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read more stories of overcoming marriage issues:
Provide hope for someone struggling. SHARE this story on Facebook to let them know a community of support is available.