So, I’m curious — how did you discover you’d been cheated on? Did you wake up in bed with another woman’s thong stuck to you? Did you get a call? Did you suspect and catch your cheater? Or was it that old stand by — cell phone records?
As clever as cheaters think they are, they do get sloppy. And of course, as chumps, we are trusting. It never occurred to me to look at his cell phone, or ask myself why it was always on silent. I took every working late excuse at face value — he was working late, right?
In retrospect, I was exceptionally chumptacular. The canceled dates, the weird defensiveness, the arrogance. I could sniff it out now, I think, but at the time it was so far from my imagining that someone could do those things — sleep with someone and come home and sleep with me. Say they love me and lie to my face. Allow me to make life-altering decisions that benefited them and then cheat on me.
I found out when the long-term OW called to inform me that she existed. And that she’d been the OW in his last marriage. (And the one before that too, as it turned out.) She wasn’t the only OW, just the one with the longest service record. He was a serial cheater.
I was on a deadline, about to send a large job to the printer and she called the land line phone. We hadn’t lived in town long, no one called the land line phone, but I answered. She asked my name, but not like a telemarker and then hissed, “I bet you’re wondering where your husband is on the weekends. Well, he’s with ME. I should’ve known he was cheating. I was the other woman in his last marriage.”
I tried to take this in. He was driving to Virginia on the weekends he said, to get his house ready to sale. One weekend the realtor demanded he paint the shutters. (Odd realtor I thought. Who can understand the mysteries of realtors.) So that’s where he was.
Then a more terrifying thought. The first thing I said on the phone was “Oh shit. I hope I’m not pregnant.”
That threw her off balance. (Why do affair partners imagine cheaters don’t have sex with their spouses?) And then she asked how long I’d been married. I said since May. And then she started crying.
And then I weirdly thanked her for letting me know. And I hung up.
Confronted him later, he admitted to cheating. (Not how long, or with how many. Just that… yes, he had a mistress and that was her.) And that began the whole next couple years of psychodrama.
It’s 8 years later and I’m happily meh. Infidelity feels like a nightmare that happened to someone else a ages ago. But — to this day, I can perfectly recall how it felt when I found out. That expression “my heart stopped” — was exactly it. I had a huge pain in my chest. It literally knocked the wind out of my sails. And then… numbness.
For days I felt like I was having an out of body experience. I was remarkably calm when I confronted him. I just remember the need to talk afterwards — to anyone that wasn’t him. I called my old shrink in DC, who was a dear and put the cheater on the phone.
“Why’d you cheat?”
“I don’t know,” he said.
“Well, if you don’t know, then you can’t promise you won’t do it again, can you?”
That night I talked to one of those hotlines to keep me sane. I didn’t sleep. He, however, did sleep — like a baby. That just totally amazed me.
He was one of those Hot Pocket cheaters, as I’ve described elsewhere. The kind that looks at your crumpled, sobbing body, steps over it, and goes and makes himself a Hot Pocket. The sort that sleeps fine after D-Day. In short, a sociopath.
There was of course sobbing and vomiting. I don’t recall all the particulars, except I lost an impressive amount of weight suddenly. I remember going out one day and ordering a sticky bun (Lancaster County, Pa. makes the most delicious sticky buns) — and just staring at it. Sort of like I forgot what food is for, or why anyone takes an interest in it.
And the other part of the story of my first D-Day was that between the time I got the phone call, and before he came home from work and I confronted him — we were having a furnace installed — that I paid for. And as I wrote an $8000 check to the contractor I burst into tears and apologized that I just learned my husband was cheating on me. He looked terribly startled, but being a good LanCo guy he told me he was very sorry to hear that and he was “going to hold me up to Jesus in prayer.”
(A few years later, he installed the new furnace in my new cheater-free house and I told him his prayers worked. That seemed to please him.)
What a long, strange trip it’s been since then. I remember praying for that marriage to survive. Well, thank God for unanswered prayers. The marriage didn’t survive — I survived. And what a better life I got eventually, as hard won as it was. What a weird catalyst infidelity is. When I look back, that’s how it feels now — like all that misery was just a springboard to a different life. A hard blessing of freedom.