When I asked him if we could save our marriage, he didn’t say no and he didn’t say yes. He said that this is what he’d been hoping for over the last year, and that he was proud of me for getting medication and for finding a well-paying contract job. So in those first few days, we sort of very awkwardly co-existed, but not much more than that.
But within that first week, he started to reach out to me when he got home each evening. Kiss me hello before escaping to the bedroom to shake off the work day. That lasted for a few days, but about a week and a half into the month, I woke up to silence. He didn’t speak to me, didn’t look at me, and when I spoke, it was as if he was looking right through me – like he heard the sounds my voice made, but they weren’t registering.
Maybe it wouldn’t have been so noticeable except that it was my birthday, and while I didn’t expect much, I suppose I did expect some kind of acknowledgement – even a simple Happy Birthday would have been enough. And yet it was more obvious over the next few hours that he had forgotten, and that I was almost invisible to him.
So I left and went for a long drive. I was gone for much of the afternoon. I thought that perhaps they’d all realized what the day was, and that when I returned, we’d go out to dinner as is our custom. But no, that didn’t happen either.
They’d all forgotten – my husband and all three kids. It felt almost surreal to have him look at me so coldly and ask, as if my absence had been utterly inconsiderate and even irresponsible, what we were having for dinner. I didn’t know what to say or think; I told him that I didn’t know.
A friend rescued me that evening. I’d texted her that my family had all forgotten that it was my birthday; she suggested we meet for dinner, and I agreed. As I was walking out the door, my husband asked again about dinner, and I said, through tears I wished I could have hidden, that it was my birthday and that I was meeting a friend for dinner – and that I was sure he could figure something out for himself and the kids.
When I returned home four hours later, they’d bought a birthday cake and a pine-scented Christmas candle for a birthday gift. He’d also bought flowers. What I wouldn’t discover for another four months is that minutes before I’d returned home, he’d booked a flight to visit OW1 in December, and had told OW2 that he’d forgotten my birthday. Apparently she replies, “Why do you care?” Why, indeed.
The next three and a half months were filled with the weirdness of being married to someone whose loyalty has been transferred to someone outside the marriage. He was in, then out, then in, then out. Sorry, no pun intended, but yeah.
In late November, I found a bag to a national park in which there was one t-shirt but the receipt was for two shirts – one for a man, one for a woman.
In December, he was angry at the world and yelled at our then-13 year old daughter about something. She said, “Aw dad, please don’t be so angry. Be happy!” and he retorted, “I have nothing to be happy about!” and a few hours later, left the house without saying a word to anyone. Our daughter cried; his words had hurt her deeply.
In January, he started “dating” me again. But the distance came back toward the end of the month. At one point, he told me that he needed to visit his family again and go skiiing with them. He was referring to his cousins on his father’s side of the family whom he’d visited in October, but still – he clearly did not mean to include his own wife or children. Of course, that was only an attempt at a cover story to go see OW1 again anyway. And the only slope involved was the slippery slope from which he’d already lost his grip on integrity and self-respect.
There were many other red flags, but who ever questions that their spouse is being faithful until suddenly the possibility becomes so blatant that we must pay attention to the signs? If you have been betrayed by your spouse, were you able to look back and see signs you’d missed because you had trusted that your spouse? Because even more than love, you believed that he or she shared your values?