“Have you ever prayed for something for so long, and then when you got it, you wondered why you asked in the first place? For almost a year I had prayed, ‘God, this can’t be the life You have for me…You gotta get me out.’
I should’ve known. I saw the signs. I knew the patterns. We had been married for over 10 years, and I knew this man. But I was ok with it. I had been praying for an out, and if what I suspected were true, I could finally be free of him. I was so over it: the lies, the attitude, the absence, the entitlement, the ego. So done.
He was traveling for work and I was looking forward to the peace his absence would bring to our house. With two kids and a newborn, peace was a rare commodity. I always pack our bags when we travel, and he has always asked me to pack for him when he travels alone. This time though, he insisted on packing his own bag. He bought new clothes and a fancy backpack to bring as his carry-on. I thought to myself, ‘I wonder who he is trying to impress.’ He had been working like crazy and so I decided not to give it any mental energy but to allow him rewards for his hard work.
I’ve never been so excited to drop anyone off at the airport. I needed some downtime, and so did our kids. While he was gone, we spent the glorious 4 days building forts, having movie marathons with popcorn, and playing at all the local parks.
When it came time to pick him up, I drove to the airport in complete silence. I knew in my spirit that something was different, and to be honest, I was more irritated than angry. I thought it was disrespectful to waste so much of another person’s life if you wanted to wander around so much seeking validation from anyone who would flatter you. He climbed in the car, the happiest I had seen him in a while, and asked if I had missed him. I’ve never been a great liar, and couldn’t even bring myself to answer. I thought it was rude to answer honestly and was done lying to protect his feelings. He had lots of sarcastic remarks for my silence, and I didn’t care. I knew what he had done, I just had to be patient enough to wait for the proof. We have walked this road before, this was all a familiar dance with him. Years of nasty doctor’s reports, cryptic messages/phone calls, and behavior patterns later, you learn.
His suitcase sat on the floor for nearly a week. We were in a tiny apartment that couldn’t spare the floor space. He kept insisting he would take care of it, so I waited. When a week went by, I unpacked it myself and added its contents to the laundry. Well, most of its contents. Because inside that suitcase I also found tags from women’s clothes, bank statements of money he had withdrawn, and a large receipt from an Adam & Eve store.
Rage burned within me, but I had my proof. I called my best friend and told her what I had found.
‘I knew I was right.’ I blurted out when she answered. ‘Things like this always come into the light. I’m just glad I didn’t have to wait so long for proof, and it didn’t involve me having to make another trip to the doctor.’
She paused, and exhaled deeply, ‘What are you going to do?’
I came up with a plan to confront him. She would watch the kids for us while we went on a hike. It was something we like to do together and tried to do regularly, so I didn’t feel it would raise any flags. But, he knows me too. He knows that when I have reached the point of silence, others should be very worried.
So he relentlessly asked me, ‘What’s wrong with you? Fix your face, you look miserable.’ It was all I could do to hold my tongue and keep my temper. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of getting a rise out of me.
So I said what we always say: ‘Nothing. I’m fine.’
When inside I was screaming, ‘That’s because I AM miserable, you sorry excuse for a man! You’ve wasted my life and my time, you selfish narcissist!’
But I didn’t. I waited. I prayed. I tried my best to keep myself calm, all while running soap-opera-style scenarios through my head.
‘What does she look like? How did they meet? Why doesn’t he just leave? He’s such a coward. I’m so over it.’
Saturday morning arrived and it was Memorial Day weekend. The trails were busy and I was beginning to lose my nerve. I didn’t want to be the girl screaming at the guy on the public hiking trail in the middle of the woods.
So we walked and talked about normal things. It was kind of nice. Even though in the back of my mind the narrative was different. ‘This isn’t real. He isn’t this guy. You know what he did. It’s over.’
I knew in my heart that I wanted it to be over. I was done with the games and the lies. I was done being someone’s second and third and fourth choice. I was made for more than that. I was handcrafted with a vision and for a purpose. I let those truths wash over my wounded heart and fuel me for the conversation that was long overdue.
We drove to our second trail and he kept asking, ‘What’s wrong with you?’
It has to be my least favorite question on the face of the planet as people only ask it when they are responsible for your demeanor.
His snarky question triggered me, and I boiled over. The years of hurt, emotional abuse and disregard caught up to me.
‘Why don’t you tell me what’s up with you? Why don’t you man up and tell me whatever it is you need to say?’ I said a little too loudly.
The shift in me took him off guard a bit and he deflected, ‘What are you talking about?’
I refused to play the game. I just kept repeating the same question over and over again while he deflected and dodged the truth. I did not back down. My pitch changed each time his avoidance required I ask again. Realizing that we weren’t hiking another trail anytime soon, he pulled into a nearby parking lot and asked me to get out of the car with him. He tried to pull me close, and I punched him in the arm. He gave some lame excuse about the receipts and tried to make it seem like I was imagining things. Of course he was. I just kept repeating myself over and over, ‘Just man up and say it. I already know. Don’t you think it will feel better to stop with all the lying?!’
I felt like a broken record. A used, sad, lonely broken record.
He finally told me. He said it was one time. He said it didn’t mean anything.
I knew it was horsesh*t and I told him so.
‘It’s Memorial Day weekend and you have the time off. Spend some time with the kids and I want you out by Monday.’
He grew emotional as the weight of things started to hit home. He tried to say good things to me, to explain and rationalize his actions and to pacify me into backing down. I did not. I wanted out. We don’t have family here and none of his friends would allow him to stay with them. The week to follow was miserable and suffocating. The space to breathe that I so desperately needed, I never got. He slept at his office one night but called me repeatedly. I let him talk to the kids, but I had no words left. I called a friend, our previous pastor’s wife and talked to her. She was gracious and motherly and helped me work through a few technical details. I logged into our phone account to get the information I needed, then I changed the passwords.
That’s when the notification came through.
I got a Facebook message from her husband saying that he thought our spouses were carrying on an affair. He told me about messages he had found, gifts and additional suspicions. I confirmed his fears with what I knew. My heart was heavy for him, but I had enough on my plate and was in no mood to help him with his sleuthing efforts. I was tired of social media. She’d had the nerve to stalk me on all my accounts, so I returned the favor. I mean, you gotta know what you’re dealing with, right?
I realized though, how tired I was. How I was emotionally withdrawing even from my kids. It wasn’t an intended reflex, but that was the path I was on. I had to do something. Not for him, or even for our family, but for me.
I started being more intentional about what I was listening to. Instead of watching TV, I listened to podcasts and sermons and worship music. There was an album out at the time by Bethel music called You Make Me Brave. The title track was an anthem that got me through some of the darkest points of this journey.
He decided to go on a faith-based men’s retreat that helped men battling addictions. I was grateful again for the peace at home but thought it ridiculous that he got to go on a nice trip while I was still home picking up his mess yet again. I decided I didn’t want to waste any mental energy thinking like that so instead, I prayed that this trip would be a catalyst for him to start on a path to being the man he wanted to be…the man I always saw in him.
He came back from that retreat different. I could see it, feel it.
He apologized the way I felt an apology should go.
And I felt nothing.
That was a weird place for me to be in — shut down emotionally and feeling nothing was new territory. My heart had gone into survival mode and I was unaware.
He asked what I needed to move forward. So we sat down over the next few days and put what we like to call ‘guardrails’ in place. These are basically boundaries that are meant to help us both feel valued and protected within our relationship.
-I gave him a list of people to choose an accountability partner from.
-He was not to go out with people we didn’t know.
-No emails, social media messages, physical contact or private meetings with members of the opposite sex without the other person present.
-A complete social media fast for at least 6 months.
-No sex for 90 days, or pressure/guilt about it.
He set all those things into place immediately. We began counseling and I was leery. My heart was fragile and honestly, I was terrified. My thoughts were running wild. ‘What if things changed the way they should? What if counseling helped us toward the breakthrough that we needed? Did I want this to change for the better? Did I want to stay and take that chance?’
The 6 months to follow were long and trying. There were good days, and there were really crappy days. There were days it seemed safe to let hope rise, and there were days I plain didn’t give a rat’s hind end. But he kept at it.
He put in the work, for himself and for us. I watched him grow, gain healthy confidence, love us well and be proud of who he really was — no masks anymore.
Meanwhile, I still felt flat. Like the pulse on the medical machine that everyone is waiting on to jump back up and beep again.
It took me almost three more months to realize that we had made all this progress and covered all this ground, and I was still emotionally flat. I had to make a choice to reenter the world, to engage in what was around me, to show up for my life. I had to get to know myself again, what I liked to do, how I liked to spend my time, how I liked to work and pour into others. I had to decide that my life was not the sum of things that have happened to me, that I wasn’t what people said I was or the average of all the failures I had been through.
I had to decide that I wanted more out of my life and that it was up to me to do something about it. So I chose to live, not passively, but purposefully.
I made a choice. I made a choice to love again. I made a choice to show up for my life every day, no matter how it turned out. I changed how I approached my personal life, our marriage, our parenting responsibilities, and my business.
I loved my work and have been in the beauty industry for over 20 years, helping women look beautiful. Now, I focus more on helping women feel as beautiful as they look. I want women to know how valuable they are, to know their true Identity and own it in every area of their lives. I want women to feel empowered to care for themselves with the same level of care they pour into everyone else. I want them to know how truly beautiful they are so that it overflows into every area of their lives.
I hope that through my story, women can find authenticity, hope and practical steps to implement on their own journeys. I have several friends who were walking the same path around the same time as me and ended in divorce or separation. Things won’t always turn out the same way for us as they do for others, but at least we can work toward cultivating a beautiful life with whatever we have to work with.
It has been three years since the discovery and our reconciliation. We have since had our fourth son and are finally developing a healthy relationship.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Stephanie Ann Ferguson, founder and creator of CrazySexyClean. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter. 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.
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