I know there have been about 18 million different articles, books, and posts about how to cope and heal from infidelity. Don’t go into this hoping to find professional advice — I’m just a guy who was married to my best friend for 10 years that discovered multiple affairs towards the end of our marriage. We had eight amazing years together and two years of hell. This is simply my story of how I got through it and slowly regained my confidence after the dust settled.
Anyone whose significant other has had an affair knows it’s much more than a physical act. There are so many layers of emotion to unpeel and work through. Also from our end, there are also several stages of your partner cheating. Each of these emotions and specific moments of discovery can affect us in some pretty intense ways. I’m going to walk through the timeline of my story and how I felt at each step. Hopefully people can find encouragement in the same way I found encouragement from others’ stories.
Like I said earlier, my now ex-wife and I were married for a total of 10 years. The first eight were pure bliss. It was a truly serene relationship filled with joy and trust. We fell in love, got married at 19, worked our way through college together, went on adventures, volunteered in the community side by side, had four beautiful kids, bought a home together, had an extremely healthy physical intimacy, counseled other young married couples and supported each other’s dreams. When I say there was a lot of trust, I’m underselling it. In those first eight years, I can honestly say I don’t think either of us ever lied to the other. In no way is that an attempt to brag, it’s just the truth. We were TIGHT.
However, rounding that last happy year, I just began noticing tiny little things. Again, as anyone who has been through relationship infidelity can tell you, something just felt off. We were still going strong. In my mind, I figured it was just the stress of work, raising four kids, or our new home that was giving me these flickers of concern. It went on for a few months, and truthfully, I just kind of shook them off because I knew I had nothing to worry about. Then finally it happened, my friend called me about something that had happened. I was confused because my wife (at the time) told me something completely different. Honestly I wasn’t even mad or upset when I brought it up to her, just confused. It was that moment, when I saw the look in her eyes, that was so jarring. It might sound silly to some, but that one lie seriously hurt me. It was the first time (I knew of) being purposely deceived in our entire relationship. Once the first mistruth was in plain sight, others started to pop up in random places.
I had no idea what was going on. Also, I didn’t talk to many people about it because I’m a guy and typically we try to “fix things ourselves.” So I started by inquiring about where she was going late at night or why she was skipping work during the middle of the day. Of course at that point, it was almost impossible to have an easy sit-down conversation about it. She was in avoidance mode, and I was in detective mode. This caused more tension since neither of us had ever dealt with this before. She wasn’t used to not being open, and I wasn’t used to having to pry for information about her life.
After a few months of this, things took another negative turn when she stopped coming home at night. It was just me and the kids, but she just stayed out “with friends.” She began to take extra steps to cover her tracks. Always one step ahead of me. When we were around each other, she password locked her phone and started paying for things in cash so I couldn’t get any information from the bank statements.
It’s easy to say looking back that I should have just let her go then. But at that point I still had some trust left in her. If she said she wasn’t having an affair, then she wasn’t. She was just going out with friends each night and sleeping over at her friend’s house, because she might have had a little too much to drink.
Trying to describe that situation is nearly impossible, but if I had to try, it would be: My brain was telling me: “Look at the facts. She hides her phone at night, pays for everything in cash, and spends the night out multiple times a week.” On the other hand, my heart was telling me: “She would never cheat. We are beyond close and each other’s true best friend. I’m sure this is just a big misunderstanding.” It was all a giant tug of war between my head and my heart. A back and forth between the facts and the feelings.
Even now as I type this, years later after it happened, I feel a bit nauseous. Reliving this moment is never fun nor easy, but for so many of us this moment happened. I officially found out she was having an affair. She left her facebook page open (she changed the password a year prior), and I saw the messages. It was in that moment, I realized the extent of it all. There were multiple affairs happening. My best guess about it all was she suffered from postpartum depression and struggled with some slight substance abuse, which led to an initial affair. Truthfully, I believe that crushed her but she was too ashamed to talk about it with me. She masked that guilt with more substances which led to more affairs.
By the time I found it all out, it had happened multiple times. Most were random one night flings, but I learned one was a serious boyfriend over the past year. To be honest, of course the idea of my wife physically being with other men was hard to handle. But I said earlier, she and I always had great sex so I knew those flings were pretty much all just due to the substance abuse and altered state of mind.
It was the one long term boyfriend that hurt me the most. That’s because she shared much more than her body with him… she shared her heart. That’s what hurts the most about affairs. More than the breaking of trust, the physical act of breaking the covenant, the stolen money, it was the casualness in which she gave away that emotional bond we had. I’m not down playing the fact that my blood boiled when I began to learn and actually talk to some of the men she had slept with, but just imagining her laying in the bed while they planned out a new life together broke me. We had spent years pouring love, life, encouragement, and hope into each other. I was the one who stayed up late helping her with her college coursework because she struggled with math. It was me who woke up in the middle of the night, placed the babies at her breast to eat then burping them and changing their diaper so she could sleep. I’m the one would worked in a burning hot warehouse loading trucks to support the family, so she could finish her Master’s Degree. I was the one who had been there through thick and thin for years and years.
So now both my head and my heart knew the truth. I felt so betrayed and crushed. If my absolute closest friend in the world didn’t see the value in me, why would anyone? My self-worth and self-confidence bottomed out. She tried to console me. She would say, “You are still great. I’ve just changed. People get divorced all the time. Just let me move on with my life, and you move on with yours.” Needless to say, that didn’t help. I was a total wreck.
Rediscovering my self-worth
I waited around for as long as I could in the marriage. (Of course, I ended physical intimacy as soon as I found out about the first affair to be safe) Just praying and hoping for things in our relationship to get better. They never did. I continued to pray and seek God for guidance about what I should do. Finally, I felt peace in my spirit that it was time I agree to the divorce she had been asking me for. So we got divorced. I got the kids. She got every other weekend with them and her freedom. Now to be fair, we were still cordial. We talked it out. There was a mutual agreement that she had been an amazing mother for a long time. It was just obvious that the disease of addiction had taken its toll. We discussed that hopefully one day in the future, once she found healing, she would feel more comfortable with a greater role in their lives.
It’s time like these when we learn there are things we can’t control and things we can. We CAN’T control the depression that comes from heartbreak nor the mistrust/anger/sadness that comes from infidelity. We also can’t always control the outcome of events. Even though we might have tried our best, things just happened a certain way. We especially cannot control how other people behave. However, we CAN control how we react. Of course trust is shattered or our relationship ends, depression sinks in, our emotions are a bit unpredictable, BUT we choose what impact that has on our lives.
It was the timeless but true advice that really sunk in with me: Don’t let else anyone define my self-worth. Of course, I wasn’t a perfect husband. I wasn’t a perfect dad, friend, son, or employee either. However, I tried and continue to try. I just kept on taking one day at a time. Some days were tougher than others, but the important thing was to not give up living. As seasons passed, I saw more and more people going through the similar issues. So I began to spread love and encouragement where I could.
*Fast forward to now* Over the past four years since my divorce and living life as a full time single dad of four, I learned that through heartbreak and hardships we receive this amazing gift of compassion if we choose to embrace it. So yes, those affairs were a major factor in breaking up my marriage, but now I have such an insight and empathy for others with similar hurts. That’s where the healing comes… from loving others. Just sitting around in my sadness only festered my feelings of worthlessness. But opening my eyes to the pain of others and spreading kindness is the most amazing way to find a healthy sense of importance of our lives. The more we give of ourselves, the more valuable we see the person looking back in the mirror. Of course, taking care of our own bodies and minds is vital. We shouldn’t work ourselves to death serving others. It’s such a pure sense of joy that comes from using our own life story to spread love.
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Seth Megow, 33, of Valdosta, Georgia. For hilarious stories featuring his kids and posts on divorce/single parenting, check out his family blog, “Who Put My iPad in the Dishwasher?” Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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