Ten weeks ago I found out that my husband of 9 years (together 14, 3 kids aged 6, 4 and 1) has been having an affair for over a year.
The affair partner (now girlfriend?! Vomit) is a mutual friend who knows me and my kids. It started when I was 6 months pregnant with number 3 and I knew immediately something was wrong, so I spent months desperately trying to get him to talk to me — I thought he was clinically depressed and was comforting him when he was crying.
He was completely distant and unloving towards me, even when I was pregnant and then had a newborn as well as the other two to look after. He starting to go “to the pub” every week, starting when our baby was 2 weeks old (turns out that’s when he started sleeping with her, although it all started with a drunken snog at a wedding a few months earlier).
After months of begging him to tell me what was wrong and turning myself inside out to make him happy and support him, I pushed him for an answer as to why he was driving us into a wall and he said he thought it best if he left so we could just be friends — he couldn’t tell me why, and changed his mind when I shouted at him, told him he was an idiot and threw my phone across the room (but still didn’t tell me about the affair).
He agreed to marriage counselling, but turns out he carried on seeing her the whole time. He told me everything I’d done wrong in our marriage (I worked too hard, didn’t get on with his mum, made him feel guilty for going out, am too independent, am not strict enough with the kids etc etc) and watched me kill myself trying to change and fix things, but he didn’t move an inch. He told me I made him feel bad for going to Glastonbury festival for 5 days (which we used to go to together, got engaged there, ended our honeymoon there – but since having kids he just went with his friends while I stayed at home with the kids), then went there in the middle of all this, leaving me at home with 3 tiny kids (I later found out he had sex with her while he was there).
There were 4 more months after the “I think I should leave” revelation, with him saying he didn’t know if he wanted to save our marriage or not, while I had panic attacks, lost loads of weight, couldn’t eat or sleep — and he did nothing, just carried on seeing her it turns out. He finally told me about the affair in a marriage counseling session by reading out a confession he’d written on his phone — he’d always had feelings for her, this had happened because there were problems in our marriage (problems he didn’t tell me about until he’d be shagging her for nearly a year), maybe something had always been missing between us and he’s found it with her… then he said he still didn’t know what he wanted!
The next day he decided to leave but only because I made him tell me everything, I realised there was no coming back from this and forced him to say what he’d been too much of a coward to say all along. I suspect he was hoping I’d make the decision for him so he wouldn’t have to be the bad guy — ha, too late dickhead! He walked out 3 weeks after our daughter started school, 3 weeks before our baby son’s first birthday, and a month before my maternity leave ended.
The kids are coping okay — my oldest’s first thought was that it would be tough for me (he’s 6), my daughter’s been sad but is getting extra support at school. I’ve been ignoring him since we told the kids he was leaving, and only communicating via email.
I filed for divorce 3 weeks after he left (2 days before my baby’s first birthday) and sent him a proposal as to how I could buy him out of the house (which of course he had ignored). I arranged individual counseling, reached out to friends for support and started to feel strong and like I was moving forwards for a while.
But in the last week I feel like I’ve gone backwards, and my head is just full of all these horrible questions the whole time.
Are the kids going to be ok? How am I going to cope with the kids on my own all the time, am I enough? How am I going to cope when the kids stay with him, when I’ve hardly ever been away from them (I’ve not even had one night away from my baby)? Should I even let him have the baby overnight when he’s still so little? How am I supposed to organise Christmas and access visits when it all makes me feel so sad and I just don’t want any of this to be happening? Why does he get to destroy our family then say he’d like something approaching 50/50 time with the kids (he didn’t see them that much when he lived here) — is it just a case of swapping me out for his girlfriend and carrying on as usual as far as he’s concerned?
The excuses he gave — he always had feelings for her, something was missing with us, there were problems in our marriage — was our whole marriage a lie? Did he just settle for me, have kids and build a life with me because that’s what I wanted, but as soon as she was interested he was gone? Why wasn’t I enough, even when I was pregnant? Why weren’t the kids enough to make him even try to work things out? How could he leave me at home with a 5 year old, a 3 year old and a 2 week old to go and start shagging someone else? Why did he agree to marriage counseling if he was going to keep on seeing her? What the hell is she on, she knows me and my kids but was happy to facilitate the destruction of our family? Is she going to be my kids’ freaking stepmum?!
What on earth are they telling people — oh yeah, I left my wife and 3 kids, including a baby, so we could be together — we’re so happy and in love?! He’s got what he wanted — new flat, girlfriend, pretense that he’s father of the year (when none of this is the behaviour of someone who gives a shit about their kids) — but come on, HOW CAN THEY BE HAPPY WHEN THEY’VE DONE THIS?!
I guess there are no answers to any of this, so maybe the question is just how do I make it stop?
Cake Time Is Over, Dickhead
I know it doesn’t feel like it now. It feels like crushing rejection and abject terror. But look at how freaking strong you are! In the face of betrayal and abandonment — you navigated your way OUT, with self-respect and dignity. You’re a field marshal! And if you can do THIS — at the worst time of your life — you can tackle whatever comes next. And those battles will be easier really because you won’t have the dickhead dragging you down.
You invested deeply and made three children with him. I get it. But you were a mismatch — you’re a person of substance and strength, a titanium steel alloy — and he’s a dickhead. If character were pasta, he’d be a flaccid egg noodle. He was never your equal.
I’ll answer your existential FW questions.
Are the kids going to be ok?
Yes. Because they have one sane parent — you. Some kids don’t even get one sane parent. You only control your side of the parenting equation, so focus on being their rock and setting a good example.
You’re already doing GREAT. You’re modeling resiliency and strength. You’re not modeling chumpdom and catering to fuckwit entitlement. Parenting is a very, very long game. And there are going to be a lot of stretches that don’t feel very rewarding. (Vomiting illnesses.) But the single most important thing about parenting is showing up.
You know who’s showed up for your three kids and isn’t at a fuckfest in Glastonbury? YOU. You win.
How am I going to cope with the kids on my own all the time, am I enough?
Logistically, no one is all enough. Build a support network. Do this in your real life and online. Real life, because you need friends and family to tag team with on childcare. And online, because you need a safe place to vent and compare notes.
Love-wise? You’re absolutely enough. You’re more than enough, because you’re genuine and you show up.
How am I going to cope when the kids stay with him, when I’ve hardly ever been away from them (I’ve not even had one night away from my baby)?
It sucks at first, but you’ll get used to it. Unless he’s endangering the kids, you’ll have to accept his less-than-optimal parenting. (My mantra during those years for my child was, “Just come back alive.”) And when you’re off the clock, practice self-care. Go build a new life. Or flop on the sofa with a book and get some well-deserved rest.
Frankly, my prediction is that a guy who walks out on a wife and three children will NOT be the most invested parent and time alone is probably a theoretical problem you won’t often face. Dipshits like him are quite happy to leave the unglamorous parenting to you and show up for the occasional victory lap, like sports banquets and graduations, where they can play Involved Adoring Parent to a crowd of strangers.
Anyway, document, document, document. Child-share software is your friend. In matters of support and custody, always be clear on what you’re investing and paying for.
Should I even let him have the baby overnight when he’s still so little?
Talk to your lawyer. I’d say no, but I don’t know the law where you live. (And a reminder, I’m not a legal professional, I’m a chump with a blog.) CN can weigh in here.
How am I supposed to organise Christmas and access visits when it all makes me feel so sad and I just don’t want any of this to be happening?
Don’t organize his Christmas or access visits. If you don’t have a custody order yet to abide by, fuck him very much. You do what YOU want for xmas! He doesn’t like it? Oh that’s right, you don’t appreciate being abandoned with three children.
When you have a court order that spells out holidays, you must follow it. You’re still in the grey zone of divorcing a fuckwit, however, so make your holiday bright — ignore him.
Never EVER organize their time. That’s THEIR job. He doesn’t show? Doesn’t care? That’s on HIM. You’re the sane parent. Sane parents don’t take responsibility for the insane parents. We’re SANE, not co-dependent.
Why does he get to destroy our family then say he’d like something approaching 50/50 time with the kids (he didn’t see them that much when he lived here) — is it just a case of swapping me out for his girlfriend and carrying on as usual as far as he’s concerned?
Because he doesn’t want to pay child support. That’s the usual 50/50 fuckwit ploy.
Again, DOCUMENT and FIGHT this. See upthread. He doesn’t want childrearing responsibility. That’s what his behavior says.
The reality of three children 6 and under is chaos. Sticky, loud chaos. And potty accidents. It casts a pall on Schmoopie love. I seriously doubt he’s swapping you out for a New Family Life with Schmoopie. He appears to want zero responsibility.
The excuses he gave — he always had feelings for her, something was missing with us, there were problems in our marriage — was our whole marriage a lie?
They’re excuses. What’s he going to say? “I’m a human wart. I have no soul.”
He has no depth. No real attachment to anything or anyone. His “feelings” for the new shiny are about as deep as his feelings for a pint of beer or his newborn child. No one matters that much. The only thing that matters is HIM.
That’s what his BEHAVIOR says. He doesn’t bond. Who walks out on three small children and a wife? The guy is a monster of shallowness.
Did he just settle for me, have kids and build a life with me because that’s what I wanted, but as soon as she was interested he was gone?
You are a PRIZE. A titanium steel alloy of strength. A mother of three. If he — a WART — thinks he “settled” for you? Fuck him very much.
And who cares what he thinks? You don’t measure your self-worth by warts.
Why wasn’t I enough, even when I was pregnant?
No one is “enough” for someone who’s a bottomless pit of need. There isn’t enough kibble production in the world to feed that ego. Newsflash — Schmoopie isn’t enough for him either, whatever the impression management says to the contrary. (All those “happy” pictures on social media.) She’s the next idiot to pick me dance for him. Take yourself — and your kids — out of the equation.
Why weren’t the kids enough to make him even try to work things out?
Because he’s a horrible person. He was never going to work it out. He’s not capable. He’s a man who cheats on a pregnant wife. He’s a front bencher in hell.
How could he leave me at home with a 5 year old, a 3 year old and a 2 week old to go and start shagging someone else?
Because it’s probably not the first time he’s been shagging someone else while you’ve been raising kids. It’s the first you know about. (Sorry, I read a lot of these stories. And anyway, it doesn’t matter, because one Schmoopie is enough damage.)
He could leave you at home, because he’s NOT CONNECTED. He doesn’t BOND. And his conscience doesn’t operate because it’s nonexistent. Don’t project connection and shame where it doesn’t exist. That vapid man-child mirage you see before you? Yes, he’s just vapor. You just thought he was solid. You’ll still grieve the mirage.
Why did he agree to marriage counseling if he was going to keep on seeing her?
What the hell is she on, she knows me and my kids but was happy to facilitate the destruction of our family?
She’s high on I’M SPECIAL ego kibbles. And yes, her furtive orgasms mean more to her than you and your three kids.
Is she going to be my kids’ freaking stepmum?!
No idea. But this isn’t going to end well for her. Either she’ll have to supply an endless amount of shiny kibbles for Mr. Easily Distracted (impossible) or be a smorgasbord of pussy (impossible) or spend her life pick-me dancing (possible, but miserable). There are no good outcomes.
But this isn’t your problem. You get to focus on YOU and the kids. She really did not win a prize.
What on earth are they telling people — oh yeah, I left my wife and 3 kids, including a baby, so we could be together — we’re so happy and in love?!
Here’s a litmus test for who sucks — whoever thinks “I left my wife and three kids so we could be together” is a love story? Sucks. Adjust your social register accordingly.
He’s got what he wanted — new flat, girlfriend, pretense that he’s father of the year (when none of this is the behaviour of someone who gives a shit about their kids) — but come on, HOW CAN THEY BE HAPPY WHEN THEY’VE DONE THIS?!
Their “happiness” is about as deep as their unhappiness. THEY AREN’T DEEP. They traffic in kibbles — cheap flattery, adulation without accomplishment — not love and connection. Don’t mistake kibbles for happiness.
She’s supply. Blowing up his life is a nice distraction from his essential immutable fuckwittedness.
And a warning — you and the kids can be supply again. So SHIELDS UP. Don’t be his “friend” (aka auxiliary kibble source). Divorce him and look forward.
If he ever wonders some day why his life is meaningless and his kids hate him, go to the pub and raise a glass to your mightiness. Better yet, take the kids to the Glastonbury festival.
(This is an updated post.)