“I got married when I was 18 years old. I remember thinking back then that ‘love’ was pretty permanent. My parents had a very strong marriage and I couldn’t imagine a day that I didn’t love my husband as much as I did when we got married, or that he would ever stop loving me. Our wedding was pretty great and I suppose for a while, life after was as well. We watched a lot of Law and Order SVU reruns and ate a lot of pizza. He played soccer and I watched, I didn’t necessarily have a hobby outside of that but I enjoyed supporting him. I considered it your typical marriage.
After about 2 years of marriage we became pregnant with our first child, a boy. He changed our lives in every way we could imagine, for better and worse. When we drove separate cars he would call me and want to talk. To be honest, it drove me crazy because I just wanted to listen to music or have quiet for a bit, but we talked anyway. We never fought, I mean NEVER. I would always have conversations with people about my marriage and brag about our relationship because we just seemed to get along perfectly, or so I thought.
You know how people say that relationships change after you get married and have children? I just thought that was what started happening. I guess I was naive, but I thought we were just growing accustomed to each other and it was the reason for the slow shift. Things slowly felt different and one day I asked him why. The answer I got was, ‘I guess I’m just not happy.’ When I asked what he wasn’t happy with, and if it included us, he said, ‘Yeah, I guess so.’ I panicked. I must have dropped the ball somewhere, done something wrong. I started to go into ‘good spouse’ overdrive. I cleaned the whole house every day, made sure the laundry was done, made his breakfasts, packed him a lunch for work and even pulled out clothes for him. I made sure we always had the foods he loved and I did everything that was needed for the baby. I even started watching what I ate because I felt I needed to lose weight so he would find me attractive again. After all, he was working 40 hours a week and taking 18 credits at school, as well as holding a calling in our church and playing on his soccer team, surely I NEEDED to do more to relieve his stress because that MUST have been causing these feelings he was having.
Things didn’t get better and I started noticing in the smallest of ways. He didn’t call me when we drove anymore. He didn’t ever want to discuss how his day went. I mean, he didn’t really ever want to talk about much of anything. Life just felt strange, more quiet and uncomfortable. I asked my dad one day what he thought and he suggested that I do more digging. At the time I thought he was crazy but what I didn’t know is it would be the beginning of the end of my family.
And there it was in my phone bill. The proof that something was wrong. I found text messages to another number all hours of the day and night. There were over 200 pages showing text messages exchanged in the month of September of 2012. I asked who it was, he said it was a friend he worked with, a girl that he had mentioned in passing conversation but assured me it was nothing but a friendship.
Thinking about the three months which followed is something that I haven’t done in over 6 years. It’s something I’ve worked hard to block away, a pain I’ve never wanted to feel again. It seems like a lifetime ago, yet I when I take the time to dig, the pain feels fresh and I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember waking up in the middle of one specific night and he wasn’t in bed. I went downstairs thinking he was playing video games and when he wasn’t there I frantically ran to the front window praying that his car was in the driveway…and it wasn’t. From then on it never would be. He would always say he was just out for a drive. I remember obsessively waiting until he was asleep to check every outlet of communication I could find. His email, text messages, call log, Facebook messenger, work email….and I would always find something. A conversation, a charge to restaurants enough to feed two people or plans to have lunch together the next day.
He started going out with ‘friends’ and not coming home. He said he was spending the night at their house. I called to pay my power bill in his name and was asked which address I wanted to apply the payment to. And then I knew. He had two places he was living. Two separate lives. That’s when I finally decided to move in with my parents. The first day I lived there was the day that I would find out everything I had already known and wished wasn’t true, was real. I sat on the porch at my house alone, and it was the first time I created a plan to commit suicide. Looking back, it feels crazy but in that moment, the one where I saw my life falling apart, the man I loved with another woman and the idea of having to tell my son who was constantly walking around the house, opening doors and lifting up blankets calling for his daddy one more time that he was gone; in that moment it seemed like my only choice. Luckily my dad pulled into the driveway, picked me up and my parents checked me into a psychiatric facility.
The psychiatrist asked me my favorite music, I’d answer with whatever my husband was listening to. My favorite food? Whatever he wanted to eat. My favorite thing to do on the weekends? Watch him play soccer. My favorite thing to watch on TV? Whatever he was watching. Despite knowing the truth I just kept asking to call him. I felt pathetic but I needed him, I needed to talk to him. I needed him to tell me this was a nightmare and things were going to be okay but I wasn’t allowed. I was mad. I wouldn’t eat, I wouldn’t talk to anyone. I sat in silence as the doctor told me these words, ‘Honey, he doesn’t love you and he doesn’t deserve your love. You have lost yourself in him and you need to find you.’
Shortly after leaving the facility he came to our house one night to tell me he was done. This memory, this is the one that hurts the most because it’s the one where I felt the most pathetic. I laid in a ball on the floor at his feet and begged him, ‘Please don’t leave me.’ I told him, ‘You can have us both and I will just deal with it as long as you stay with me.’ He still walked out the door. There I was, the house was empty and I was not just crying but wailing, the kind where it’s scream after scream and you can barely catch your breath in between. The kind where you are in physical pain and you aren’t sure that it will ever go away. Yet, almost as suddenly as it started, I was calm. I stopped crying and fell asleep.
The road to recovery after infidelity is long and I was sure I would never marry again. After all, I would never again be stupid enough to trust someone, anyone, ever. I exercised a lot, probably too much. I couldn’t look at my 18-month-old son because all I saw was his dad and it hurt. I made some questionable decisions that I’m not proud of and I allowed myself to be used by many other men who would claim they loved me which is all I was looking for. I needed to feel loved. My life was on a downwards spiral, but one day it would change at a diner on the 24th of July on a prearranged breakfast date.
I met my ‘now husband’ on a blind date through a dating app. When he asked me out I told him I had to bring my 2-year-old son. He agreed, but I later learned that it was pretty reluctantly. If you ask any of his friends they’ll tell you his plan was to take me out so he wouldn’t look like the jerk who ditched a single mom and then he would never talk to me again. His plan took a detour, and in March of 2014 we were married. I didn’t think people like him existed and I kept waiting for things to fall apart. In my mind, every argument lead to divorce. I promised myself that I would never hold him accountable for the choices of my ex-husband. I would never check his phone, email or otherwise out of mistrust, but we also don’t have private passwords or logins.
He is very respectful of my past and the feelings it brings up in certain situations. He’s turned down one-on-one study sessions with female partners at school, he doesn’t hang out with female friends one-on-one and he always makes sure he tells me how much he loves me. I thought my marriage was good before, but I think it was only good because it wasn’t bad, if that makes any sense. My husband now tells me how beautiful I am at least five times a day. He knows my love language and he acts on it. He takes me shopping for my birthday instead of just giving me money because he knows I want the quality time. He always says he wants to go to Cafe Rio for dinner because it’s his favorite place, even though he actually hates it, he just knows it’s mine. He’s different and the happiness I feel with him isn’t just ‘this is good’ happiness, it’s ‘this is what I’ve waited my whole life for’ happiness.
I’ve seen a therapist since we’ve been married, not because he’s done anything wrong but because I was diagnosed with post infidelity stress disorder. While I am very respectful of my husband’s space, if I can’t get ahold of him, even though he may just be caught up at work, my panic tells me that he’s with someone else. When he’s been in commercials or fitness photoshoots and other woman are even AROUND, I feel myself starting to lose my breath, my chest gets heavy and it shouldn’t. I take medication for anxiety and sometimes I hate it because I never did until HE did this to me. It’s embarrassing to admit but sometimes I tie my need for medication to him still having a hold on me because he made me need it. Deep down I know it’s not true and I’m a better mom and wife with help from my medication and there is no shame in that.
There is so much beauty in struggle and in pain. There is so much strength that comes from rising from the ashes of the fire. I never thought that I would recover, let alone have the life I’ve been blessed with now. People ask me if I would do it again and I tell them that if I had to do it all over again, every Wednesday for the rest of my life I would, just to make sure that I have my husband and children. I think it’s easy in hindsight to look back and be thankful that you made it out alive but I don’t feel that you’re ever meant to look back and say, ‘it wasn’t really that bad.’ I genuinely believe you are meant to look back on your trials and say, ‘that was the hardest thing I have ever been through but I’m still standing.’ Trials aren’t meant to last for a short time, they are meant to have a lasting impact on the rest of your life. They change how you live, how you treat people, the choices that you make and who you become.
Every day I look at my husband and my children and I think, ‘Thank you God for knowing what I didn’t.’ I re-examine myself frequently, not because I deserved what happened in my last marriage but because there were things I could have done better and I want to give my best self to my husband now. I’ve learned that never arguing or fighting with your spouse isn’t a sign of a perfect marriage but rather a sign of fear of communicating. My husband and I don’t fight often but we still do and I now understand it’s how we grow. I look back at my nights in the psychiatric facility I stayed in and my NEED for my ex-husband and I compare it to my marriage now. I don’t NEED my husband, I WANT him. Needing someone means that I may not be happy or self sufficient on my own. It suggests that even if I was unhappy I may stay because I NEED him. CHOOSING someone every day is so much more important than leaning on someone that may not always be there to hold you up.
I have never openly shared why my marriage ended, for many reasons. Some things just aren’t always meant to be shared. I didn’t want my son to know because he’s happy and if he never knew what happened I would be happy. In some way I felt like I was playing dirty by ‘throwing my ex husband under the bus.’ I guess in some ways it felt like retaliation and I didn’t see it as necessary. Over time however, I’ve found there is strength in honesty. My best friend told me the other day that these kinds of things don’t have power when you bring them into the light. Writing the things that I’ve forced myself to forget has made me physically ill but I believe that there is a community of people out there that need to hear from someone who knows that it’s going to be okay.
You’re going to grow from this. You are worth loving and you will find love again. What lies ahead is worth the pain you feel now and I know you can’t see it but you’re gonna have to trust me on this one and keep moving forward. You WILL trust again and when you do you’re going to feel so free. BUT, you don’t NEED a person to fulfill you or make you happy. Find joy today in YOU and who you now have the opportunity to become. There is so much waiting for you just around the corner, so enjoy today.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Chelsie Dort of Utah. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more inspiring stories about overcoming the pain of infidelity here:
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