The guests were piling in at a mad rate as I scrambled to pull all the last-minute details together.
The caterers were asking me a thousand questions, the DJ was running late, the cupcake tower got set up on the wrong table, and people were asking me, “where’s the man of the hour?”
I smiled, answered all of their questions and directed traffic as best I could with a cheery smile. It was a big night, and after months of careful planning, I was excited that all my unique details had finally come together.
But where the heck was my hubby?
With nowhere else left to look, and a bit irritated, I headed out the front doors of the hall I’d rented for the big event. My husband and his brother turned towards me from where they stood in the shade of a tree.
Both had downtrodden looks on their faces and glanced at one another (lost for words) as I tried to hurry them inside to greet our guests. My stomach flipped, as neither answered me, and they hung their heads looking a bit too serious.
They continued to stare without explaining, so I assumed they’d gotten some bad news. “What’s happened? Is something wrong?” I asked hesitantly.
That’s when my husband took a step forward and exclaimed, “I cheated on you!”
The blow to my heart was undeniable; it choked the air from my lungs. My mouth hung open, but no words escaped. There were none, and I was utterly stunned by his bold announcement.
He took another step towards me, but I held up my open hand in defence and retreated two steps.
“You cheated after nearly 20 years of marriage, and you chose now to tell me, at your retirement party? There are over 100 people in there waiting to celebrate you; what the hell would you like me to do with this information right now?” I spat the words out (past the lump in my throat) and swore.
“Well,” he choked. “She’s been calling me all day threatening to come here tonight to tell you herself if I don’t, so I figured I better do it.”
“Well, how gallant of you,” I chirped sarcastically, “is it, someone, I know? Are you in love with her?”
“Forget it, don’t answer any of that!”
All the typical questions came flooding to mind, but I stopped short and pushed them aside. Family and friends walked out into the parking lot, looking for us, casually asking what we were doing outside.
“You need to show up to this party I spent months planning for you. Celebrate your 30-year career as a cop tonight, you deserve that much, we can talk about our future in private tomorrow.”
I spun around and left them both in my wake, my heart in my throat.
Not a tear fell. I sucked it up, stood my ground and made that party happen.
Strong or stupid, I’m not sure which it was at that moment. But I went with my gut. A lot of work, and even more detail, went into that party to be sure it would be a memorable time for him. A sense of closure on his demanding career, I hoped he’d always cherish.
But as it turned out, it’s me who’ll never forget that night, and he probably still wishes he could.
The rest of the evening was a blur, but judging from the mess we cleaned up, the photos and the feedback, it was a fabulous time for everyone.
Well, except me.
How I didn’t just jump in my car and vacate, I’ll never know.
I could feel his eyes glued to the door all night, but the girlfriend never showed her face. I sailed around the party and our guests keeping busy and assuring everyone was enjoying themselves.
The next day was a mix of a million explanations, buckets of tears and him begging me for forgiveness.
He wore me down eventually, and we agreed to some marriage counselling. He swore it was a one-time thing, he wasn’t in love with anyone but me, and he wanted desperately to continue our marriage.
It was an indiscretion, all his fault, and he was horrified that he’d hurt me so badly. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and another chance.
I could forgive his indiscretion if he were willing to work on our marriage, but I’d never forget it.
We followed through with our original retirement plans and moved to Canada to build our forever home.
But eventually, most of the pieces to the bizarre cheating puzzle came together. You see, I got a letter that contained some of the missing details.
It wasn’t from his girlfriend, and neither were the threats he got on the night of the party.
They were coming from his secret girlfriend’s — girlfriend!
She told me she was the one who caught them in the act. She was also a cop and my husband’s long time friend from the police academy.
She felt I had a right to know what was going on and why he was in such a rush to retire two years earlier than planned. Not only did he destroy our marriage, but he broke up a gay couple who were also both cops.
To make matters worse, his secret girlfriend was much younger, a subordinate at work, and lost her job because of the affair.
What an absolute mess he could have avoided had he kept his zipper zipped!
As time passed, more clues surfaced;
- I got an email from his best friend who felt ashamed for not telling me.
- I got more intel from others that helped me realize his cheating ways dated back at least four years.
- He continued to text other women after we’d moved, and I read a few.
- He refused to go to counselling, as promised.
Eighteen months after we moved, his demeanour and attitude could only be described as worse. He hadn’t kept his promises and acted as if I was a constant source of aggravation for him.
I can only assume his guilt was eating him from the inside out.
But even today, I have no idea the depth of his deceit. When I look back, all the classic signs of a cheater were present, but the couple of times I tried to address it, I was met with an aggressive anger that I hadn’t been privy to before.
So I let it go and assumed it was all in my head. Why else would he get so angry and defensive?
I guess I have my answers now, don’t I?
The old me would have continued and assumed I was the problem in the relationship. But the better version of me decided I’d had enough of the disrespect and asked him for a divorce.
The whole process was complicated. It was embarrassing, painful and set my already fragile self-esteem reeling backwards. The divorce itself ruined me financially for years, and I added a new layer of distrust for others to my resume.
Today, however, I find myself grateful for the whole experience.
That may sound nuts to you, but I truly am. I’ve forgiven him completely, for my good.
I could make a list here with all the reasons, but let’s sum it up with the fact that I can see clearly now, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been.
I’ve learned to trust my judgment and listen to my gut. I’ve had to get knocked over the head (a few times) to get that to sink in.
But I got it.
Unfortunately, this is a true story, and sharing it is a testament to my healing.
May it also help with yours.
It’s been quite a journey…here’s one I wrote about my early life with an abuser.
End Your Abuser’s Power — Advice from a Survivor
Take your power back before it’s too late.
I’m Liz, the self-empowered, red wine & coffee lovin’, personal growth fanatic behind this article. I’ve stopped shrinking into places I’ve outgrown and I’m a fan of straight talk and practical solutions. That’s why I’m here to Empower, Educate and Entertain.