When my husband left for Afghanistan he was a loving and caring father to our 2 adult boys and a devoted husband for 25 years. We had been a military family our entire marriage and we’re used to separations and trials and knew not to take each other for granted. As we all know, no relationship is perfect but we were a very strong and happy couple. In the year that he was gone I worked as a pediatric nurse, I buried my father , went through chest biopsies when a lump was found, took my son to court when he got a DWI, tied yellow ribbons on all of our trees and did all the things any other military wife does during a deployment.
Our emails are things of love stories, it was a great way to remember our younger days when we were so in love, we shared everything, all the pain of my fathers death, being alone , the fears and heartaches of war…everything. At the end of his deployment we couldn’t wait for the day he would be home, we planned a trip to the ocean when he got back. The day finally came for me to pick him up from the airport and we could not have been happier.
After the first few days of being home I could feel some distance but knew to expect some adjustment time after a deployment like that. He continued to tell me how much he loved me and needed me and I was happy to give him some time to reconnect and leave the war behind. During this time over next few months his father was killed and the distance grew. He wasn’t sleeping well, often spending time alone in the garage and seemed to spend endless hours on his phone and computer. I would ask who he was talking to or what he was looking at, he always would have an answer, one of his brothers, or just browsing facebook.
I ignored a lot of red flags for almost a year. One night I went to his computer to contact my son because mine was locked up. That night changed my world…. I found the emails he left on the screen talking to the woman he had been having an affair with since he had been home. They began communicating on FB when he got to Afghanistan on an old high-school web site. They had dated when they were teenagers and thought it funny to talk again. Somewhere, somehow, that turned into the greatest betrayal I have ever known. I felt like something in me died (and I guess it did). I couldn’t breathe, I was sure I was going to vomit.
I confronted him and he admitted to everything, the affair was already over but he was now talking to her so called friend and they were trying to begin a relationship. Both of these women were married. This kind of Jerry Springer world was completely foreign and disgusting to me . I thought after everything we had been to each other he would beg me to forgive him and he did but still wasn’t sure he wanted to try and stay together. He was just turning 50, had retired from the military and was a textbook picture of midlife crisis. My mind could get around this but I was dying inside. I tried to stay in the home, we went to counseling , he continued to apologize and express his love for me. Even though our boys were adults I knew if we split it would affect them and their relationships forever. And then there was the fact that I still loved him, he had been a wonderful life mate for 25 years, I had to know that if we split I had done everything in my power to try. Don’t get me wrong, it was not out of weakness or fear that I wanted it to work, it would have been much easier to walk away or better yet crawl in a hole but we had a life worth fighting for.
Of course the time came when I could no longer live with his insecurities and indecision and I asked him to leave. He was gone at his brothers for 3 days and begged to come home. It is 4 years later now and we are again a very happy and strong couple. He could not be more loving, continues to apologize and do everything in his power to make sure every day that I am loved and respected.
The pain will always be there, maybe in a name or a song, or just that gut wrenching feeling and you don’t know why. My husband made some horrible selfish decisions but is still a good man who will forever have to look in the mirror and see a cheater. I hate that for him but it was a choice he made, the only person he hurt worse than me was himself. I will forever morn the loss of my innocence but I can look in a mirror and see myself, not perfect but honest and stronger than before. There can be life beyond the pain. It takes both people willing to do the very hard work of forgiving and rebuilding but it can happen and it is worth it. We will celebrate our 30th anniversary this year and I’m thankful for that.