I’ve had a lot of practice telling my story, and it usually goes something like this:
My eight-year marriage was humming along nicely when all of a sudden my husband didn’t come home until 3:30AM. He said he had too much to drink at happy hour and fell asleep in his car while he was waiting to sober up. One week later he came home at 12:30AM. He told me he wasn’t happy with our marriage, but couldn’t articulate why. We agreed to go to couples therapy. Three days later, the night before our first appointment, I hacked into his email and discovered secrets that were shocking enough to make me leave in the middle of the night with our 3 year old and 11-month old. Within 24 hours I was on the road to my mother’s house in Florida for a mutually agreed upon period of two to four weeks. When I got to Florida I hired a private investigator to better help me determine the truth, but my husband was nowhere to be found because he was in Atlanta with another woman. Days later I served him divorce papers and never turned back. Oh yeah, and the other woman? He married her on what would have been our 10-year anniversary just months after our divorce was finalized.
Wow, that felt good. And at least at first, that’s how your story needs to be told. But it’s been two years for me now, and I’ve learned a little along the way. So for the first time, I’m going to try to tell a different version of my story.
It was the summer of 2014, just after my eight-year wedding anniversary, when I started feeling a little lonely and overworked. We had just purchased a beach condo on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, which took the edge off my feelings quite nicely. I’d stay there during the week with my two young children and work while they napped. My husband would join us on weekends after working at his job in the DC area. Once the summer ended and our schedules returned to normal back in the city, I realized I needed to talk to someone about my growing discontent. I couldn’t keep up with my job and my boys’ needs. And I felt angry about my husband’s increasing absence during family vacations and daily life.
Then one night my husband didn’t come home. It was very much out of the ordinary, and around 11PM I shifted into panic mode. I spent the next 4 hours sobbing while I called local hospitals, filed a missing persons report, and moved half of our savings into my own checking account in the off chance that he was cheating on me. At 3:30AM, I got my life back. My husband came home. He was safe, and every grievance I had about him paled in comparison to the thought of life without him.
A week later, it happened again. I lived in limbo land for about three days. Was my marriage in trouble? Was this even for real? We had two houses, two beautiful boys, and almost 10 years of shared memories. How could either of us want that to end?
Tuesday night, I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed answers. I hacked into gmail at midnight by correctly answering the security questions. There in the sent email folder, I found what I was looking for: evidence of activity that gave me a concrete reason to grab my babies and go. Now that I knew the truth, I couldn’t just lay down in bed like nothing was wrong. I bawled on the back porch, called my mom, and then called the police to help me exit peacefully to a nearby girlfriend’s house.
That’s really where it ended. Not once after that night did I consider staying married to my husband. I didn’t tell him that, but I knew it deep down. We went through a few more weeks of drama as the rest of the truth unfolded. The thing that hurt the worst was discovering the other woman. For at least two years, and maybe even now, I stayed stuck on trying to figure out exactly what happened, for how long, and why. How did I not know my marriage was in trouble? How did I not know I was being deceived?
This second version of my story spends less words on the details of his behavior and way more space on my feelings and my choices—and that’s really important. Notice how focusing on myself instead of him doesn’t necessarily mean letting him off the hook or excusing his behavior.
So here’s the takeaway: You are a part of whatever is happening or has happened to you. It doesn’t mean it’s your fault. It doesn’t mean it’s okay. But it means you have a choice. You have control over you. Nobody can tell you how to tell your story. You might not be ready to focus on you. But today or someday when you’re ready, try it on.
This is where I’m at right now. I’m not 100% healed. I’m not basking in a newfound understanding of why it all had to happen for some higher reason. But I’m stronger and I know that the only way forward is on my own two feet, focused on traveling my path and breaking my patterns.
P.S.—This was a hard post to share. Please bear with me as I find my balance between divulging the drama of my past and writing about life as it is now. A lot of healing has happened in 2 years and I’m thankful to have my ex husband and his wife involved in our children’s lives. That doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of processing and letting go, and we need to talk about that.