“I saw the pictures and read the words, but my brain couldn’t understand. My arms were tingling, a strange feeling I will never forget. Alarm bells were ringing in my head. ‘What? Why was this woman, his assistant, texting this to him?’ I slumped to the bathroom floor, then shakily stood and made my way down the stairs, using the handrail to prop me up. I gasped for breath, ‘I… I… I… read… your text messages!!!’ I could barely get the words out; I was hyperventilating. ‘Please wake up from this nightmare’, I thought.
He looked confused, then gave me an answer, ‘Oh… it’s not what you think.’ I wanted to believe him. I wanted to believe I’d found this before it turned into a true affair. I wanted to believe it was an emotional connection and nothing else. And for the next two days, I did. He let me believe this; he apologized and made up excuses that seemed not quite right, but still believable. Sunday morning, December 23, I discovered it all. I discovered the affair in its entirety, and it shocked me to my core. It felt like the earth had opened up and I had dropped into hell. My life had turned upside down, my marriage and family destroyed in a matter of seconds. I filed for divorce almost immediately.
The next few months were filled with pain, tears, and weekly sessions with an amazing Christian therapist. I discovered coming back from an affair was very difficult, but still possible. In order to try, there had to be two factors: the spouse who cheated must cut off all contact with their affair partner, and they also must be willing to do whatever it takes to make the relationship work. Those were both essential in rebuilding trust, since trust is destroyed after an affair. I was told it would be a long, difficult journey. Because my husband did not fulfill either of these factors and took little responsibility for his actions, I moved forward with the divorce.
I was scared. I grieved my marriage, my hopes and my dreams for the future. I grieved what my children had lost, a home with two parents in it. Every time I read them a bedtime story, I was reminded our family was different. My kids now had to go back and forth between two different households. They did not deserve this; they deserved what I had growing up — two parents who loved and respected each other. Two parents who were married.
Even as I grieved for all of us, I began to focus on the positive, on what we DID have. My kids and I were able to stay in our home. They had grandparents and friends close by. They had a church community praying for them and watching over them. They had the same routines I’d established early on, so luckily, we were able to minimize some of the devastating effects divorce can have on children. Despite what we’d lost, we still had so much. I began to see the many ways God was working in my life.
During my marriage, I had put my faith in my husband, which was a mistake. Now, I would put my faith in God. I believed God’s plan for me was bigger, better, and more glorious. I grabbed on to the belief if I just kept moving forward, this new and better life would be revealed. But if I stayed in the mess that was my marriage, I would never get to experience anything else.
As the months passed, my heart healed, my tears dried, and I realized a world of new possibilities had opened up. Because it was now just me and my two young children, it was sometimes easier and more fun to do things, like picnics at the beach, without worrying about getting home on time. I realized I was lucky because I had my teaching credential, and while I had not taught in over 5 years, it was a career I could go back to when the time came. I could go after new dreams, including finally starting an Instagram blog called ‘Cute With Kids’ which focused on mix and match mom styles and comfortable (but cute!) shoes. It was something I’d always had a passion for, but just never had the time or confidence to start.
Ultimately, I could start a new life.
My confidence blossomed. I became a better mother for my children. I was present more. I learned to balance my time better, especially after getting a custody arrangement with alternating weekends. I had fought for full custody, terrified at the thought of a weekend without my children. So many people around me suggested a break from my kids might be good, I might enjoy some alone time. But I refused to see that. ‘No,’ I responded, ‘What would I do by myself all weekend? I’m a mom, I need to be with my children.’
We never see the blessings in disguise, because we can’t see the future. On those weekends I was alone, I slowly remembered my hobbies and interests, the things that made me who I was. I rode my bike and went on long walks, I visited friends, I drove in the car with the windows down and the radio blasting non-kid friendly music! I remembered all the fun things I loved to do, like playing tennis, reading, and shopping. I visited two of my best friends in San Francisco, and happily experienced my 35th birthday wine tasting in Napa, something I’d never done before.
All these experiences were only possible because of this new life, which resulted from this horrible affair and ensuing divorce. It was a blessing in disguise. And while I’d been so scared to have alone time, it ended up helping me heal, grow, and become a better mother for my children.
I remembered I WAS fun! In fact, I was so fun, I had a blast just hanging out by myself — something new for me. I remembered who I was; I was still a mom, but I was not only a mom. I was also a woman with interests outside of my children. I realized at some point, my adorable, chubby, pink-cheeked kids would grow up and leave for college, and if I defined myself through them, I wouldn’t know who I was in fifteen years. This was a good lesson, a lesson I certainly didn’t ask for, but an important lesson learned.
It has been over 12 months since I discovered my husband’s affair. A year ago, I didn’t know what I know now. While I’m no longer a wife, I’m still a great mom. I know I am capable. I am strong. I am honest, smart, kind, and funny. I am creative and talented. I learned how to start a blog and edit pictures. I began writing raw and honest posts about my life and my experiences surviving divorce. I have my church, my faith, my beliefs. I have my dignity, and no one can ever take that away from me. In fact, I can hold my head up high, hold my head proudly, knowing I did not choose infidelity or deceit. I chose to trust the man I’d married, and I was deceived. Yet I don’t blame myself for that; I can’t control another person’s choices. I can only control my own choices.
And so, I can live my life proudly. I can be a role model for my children. I can show them life doesn’t go according to plan, and when we are faced with hurt, with heartache that feels so strong it might rip us in half, we can allow ourselves to feel pain. We can grieve, seek help through therapy, lean on others, pray, and believe God is there with us. We can accept God cannot prevent these terrible things from happening, but He can help us get through them if we lean on Him.
We can truly love what matters. Because in the end, it’s not the jobs or the money we will be proud of. It’s how we lived our lives. It’s who we were as a person. It’s how we raised our children. And I believe my struggles have molded me into a better person and a better mother. I am stronger, resilient, and more understanding. And for that, I am grateful.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Caroline Kelley of San Diego, CA. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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