The story of how it began…

I remember at the time the complete shock I was in.  I was such a smug married, with my 2.4 children.  I couldn’t believe it was happening to me. I kept thinking I’d wake up and it would all be a dream.  The person who had been my closest friend, was now behaving like someone I didn’t recognise. The person I wanted to talk to most about the pain, was the person who had caused it.  I didn’t see it coming, in fact looking back (once he finally admitted he was having an affair) all his erratic behaviour and mood swings of the previous 9 months did all make sense but at the time I wouldn’t for a moment have thought he was having an affair.  I thought it was the pressure of his job, having 2 young children and a wife who was exhausted from the endless night feeds with a new born.

We had moved for his job in October 2008 to a town where I knew nobody and I was spending long periods of time on my own; heavily pregnant and with a toddler.  My son was then born in the January and my marriage seemed to collapse under the strain of a colicky newborn, a 17 month old and a husband who was struggling in his job.  He began to be out for longer and longer periods of time, the reasons he gave for where he had been, or going, became more inventive as the months wore on. At the time I believed every word. Not for a moment did I consider he would be lying or that he could be having an affair.  When I finally caught him out in the lie, I couldn’t believe it.

He had told me he was going away on a Christian Retreat in Wales for a week. He said he really needed to go. He even showed me the website but he said he wouldn’t be contactable whilst away, as the phone reception would be bad.

Half way through the week, I decided to call and leave a message on the answerphone, I’m not entirely sure why looking back, but there was something I wanted to talk to him about. I dialled the number and I heard an international ring tone. With a sinking feeling I realised he was lying to me about being in Wales. He hung up as fast as he could and sent me to his answer phone, but it was too late. He then sent me a number of text messages explaining why I had heard an international ring tone. I felt the only way to be certain he was telling me the truth, was to ring the retreat, as even though he only showed me the website very quickly before going away. I remembered the name, so I looked up the number. I was fortunate enough that despite data protection, the lady at the other end, after checking with her manager, agreed to tell me that my husband had not stayed there at all. When I heard this, I felt ill.

I rang my father in law after this, as I was in shock. I asked him where my husband had told him he was going. He said the same place as me and I remember bursting into tears and saying he’s not there, over and over. Bizarrely enough his dad came to see me straight away and offered to let me come and stay with him. It was a very strange course of events at the time but it was the best thing for me.  Staying with my father in law for a month, gave me time to slowly process things, whilst the children had a stable and loving male father figure around, to help them cope with the initial upset from the change in circumstances. Then I moved back into the old flat, back in my original home town alone with the children and returned to the church we had been a part of, before relocation.

At the time I wasn’t so upset for me, but more for my children.  My daughter had been in tears when I dropped him off for the holiday and crying “daddy gone, daddy lost” and I’d said to her “it’s ok, he’ll be back in a week, he’s just going away somewhere to help him relax”. So he not only duped me but his beautiful 2 year old daughter, I felt at the time. She had already been struggling since my son was born with the change in circumstances but also with daddy coming and going for days every week and her just not understanding why and feeling unsettled and then of course when he was there, the tension and sometimes open conflict between her parents, as I was struggling so much with being left on my own all the time. It was a dreadful time. It took me a long time to get over the guilt for that period in my children’s lives.

One of the things that was hardest about this period, was that my husband wouldn’t be honest about where he had been on holiday, instead of the retreat. He also didn’t confess that the affair had never ended and he couldn’t choose between us, until 5 months after separation. So I couldn’t move on with my life.  I was living in limbo, hoping he would come to his senses and come back to me and the children. In the meantime my mind was like a washing machine, with everything going through it, over and over again, whilst trying to look after my children and be a good Mother.

I have 4 brothers all who are married happily. My parents have been married for over 40 years and are still happy. I have a lovely big family, I love my children and I wanted them to grow up in a stable loving home with both parents. I desperately wanted to work things out. It was a very painful time, realising that we wouldn’t and also watching my daughter in particular, try and cope with the aftermath. You think at the time that things will never get any better. It was like wading through treacle everyday.

I was young when I married, he was 21 and I was 26 years old, we were both committed Christians and believed marriage was for life.  I knew marriage wouldn’t be perfect but I believed we’d always work through things together and with God.  I never ever thought we would get divorced. I felt like I had become a statistic.  But it only takes one to break the marriage vows.  I tried to get marriage counselling but he wouldn’t agree to it. When one person walks away from the marriage, there is nothing you can do about it. You feel helpless.

I also felt so ashamed as a Christian that I was getting divorced. It would get to the stage that when I said I was getting divorced, I would immediately follow this statement with a “he left me for another woman”. Almost to justify to them why. I was so afraid of being judged and some people’s thoughtless comments at the time were incredibly painful. Or even worse, they would see me at church on a Sunday at coffee time, look at me and then cross the room to avoid me.  Perhaps they didn’t know what to say to me? But I was desperate to be treated normally, for acceptance, love and support.

I kept thinking he would come back to me in those early days. It kept me going  to believe that.  I used to struggle not to loose my patience with my children with all the stress I was going through and if I did get cross I used to feel so horribly guilty.  I did a lot of crying but my faith was probably what helped me the most.  I would talk to God as I tidied up the toys at night and did the washing up about my day, about the children, about my fears and concerns and this helped me a lot.

Going on the Restored Lives course also helped me to process the anger, guilt, shame and loneliness. I learnt tools to help me let go and move on and I realised my relationship may have failed but I wasn’t a failure, that there was hope and I had a bright future, but perhaps the best part of the course for me was that I made some lifelong friends.

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