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Part 1: A Husband’s Betrayal

BellaNaija.com

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By Clare Campbell

What do you do when you discover your husband of ten years is having an affair? Throw him out and call a divorce lawyer? Try to forgive him for the sake of your children’s future?

Like countless others, that’s the agonising choice 37-year-old Stephanie is facing after she discovered her wealthy husband is having an affair with a female colleague.

She’s been married to her husband, Ian, a 40-year-old hedge fund manager, for a decade and they have two sons, Jake, seven, and Isaac, four, and live in a large, fivebedroom house in South-West London. They also have a country cottage in Devon.

Here, Stephanie describes how she discovered her husband’s infidelity, and how she has spent months wrestling with the question: should she stay or should she go?

Crumbling marriage: Should Stephanie stay or should she go?

Crumbling marriage: Should Stephanie stay or should she go?

Try as I may, I cannot banish from my mind the words I discovered on Ian’s phone four months ago: ‘Miss you, X.’

Only three words, but he had sent them to someone other than me, and they were enough to shatter my contentment, my peace of mind, and the illusion that mine is a happy marriage.

I knew instantly – call it woman’s intuition if you like, but from that moment I knew my husband of ten years was having an affair.

The sense of betrayal and shock was like a blow to my stomach. It was only by chance that I’d seen the message. Ian had left his mobile face up on the table showing the last text he’d sent.

I’d only come down to the kitchen to collect a pair of tights I’d left there after returning from shopping. I often consider what would have happened if I hadn’t forgotten them. I might never have found out. I almost wish I hadn’t.

That was the evening of Monday, March 31, this year, and we haven’t made love since.

How can I feel close to my husband with the memory of that night still replaying in my head? After I’d read the text, I remember hearing Ian up in the bathroom with our two sons splashing and laughing and sounding so happy. I realised the perfect family I thought I had was simply a sham.

Until that moment, I trusted Ian implicitly, never even looking at his mobile, or his e-mail. In 17 years I’d rarely even seen him flirt with another woman. Only once, just after our youngest son was born, do I ever remember feeling jealous, but that was only because he came home drunk after having been to a stag party at a lap-dancing club with a photo of himself posing with some girl.

But I was sure it hadn’t meant anything, and we’d even laughed about it afterwards.

Deep down I’d always been convinced of Ian’s love, just as I knew how much I loved him. Like all parents, our relationship had changed after having children, but that was only as a result of being tired and having less time to spend with one another.

Betrayal

If anything, I’d believed that having the boys had strengthened rather than weakened the bond between us. We’d always had a healthy sex life – making love about twice a week – and that hadn’t changed.

But all that had evaporated the moment I saw the message on Ian’s phone in March. Suddenly, I felt incredibly naive. The recipient’s initials, ‘MK’, stood out among a list of familiar names and numbers (Ian later admitted her name is Kate, and that he’d reversed the order of her initials).

After a relationship as long as ours, I knew Ian’s life inside out and all his friends and contacts. I’d never heard of ‘MK’. And why the initials rather than a name?

My mind raced with questions: was I going to lose him? How long had it been going on? Worst of all was the agonising pain of being betrayed. I felt sick and breathless, barely able to function from shock.

I confronted Ian immediately, screaming ‘Who is she?’ like some woman from a TV drama, while our sons cowered, weeping in their Spider-Man pyjamas. He looked at the phone in my hand and the look on his face was just like one of our sons when they have been naughty – guilty, scared and trying to wriggle out of it.

He actually had the nerve to say: ‘You’ve been checking my phone.’

Then he walked out and stayed out for several hours. Recalling how Ian always reacted whenever I accused him of anything, even leaving the bathroom untidy, I knew instantly that his defensiveness was due to guilt and that he’d left to avoid a confrontation.

I guessed, too, that not having been prepared for being found out, he hadn’t yet worked out what to say.

I assume he went straight to her that night – although he’s never admitted it. I hoped desperately that he was just giving himself time to think, rather than that he’d really left me for good.

After settling the boys, I lay awake waiting for him to come back. By the time he came home at around two in the morning, I was so totally exhausted by the shock, as well as the anger, of what had happened that I couldn’t bring myself to speak to him.

Instead I just lay there rigidly staring at the ceiling, smelling the wine on his breath, and wondering if this was the end of my marriage.

Deception

What little sleep I’d had was full of nightmares about Ian’s betrayal, constantly re-living the moment at which I’d realised he’d been unfaithful. I know people say that the wife’s always the last to know. But I really didn’t think that this could happen to us. We’ve been together since we met at Oxford University 17 years ago. There’s never been anyone else – for me. I even gave up my career as a banker to care for him and our children. Now I don’t even know if this is the first time Ian’s cheated on me.

I hate his mistress, of course, although as far as I know I have never met her. At first, I tortured myself that she might have been one of our friends, or even a parent from Jake’s school.

That first night I just sat crying for hours, trying to think of all the attractive women we knew. Everyone was a suspect. It wasn’t until he came home from work the following day – having done his best to avoid me the next morning in the rush to get the boys to school – that Ian finally admitted that, yes, he was having an affair.

Staring at me with a strange kind of defiance, he told me that she was a work colleague. It had been going on for eight months. She was 34 and Ian had been a shoulder to cry on when she broke up with a boyfriend.

I wanted to know every detail, and each one brought a new level of betrayal.

He had set up a private e-mail account so he could e-mail her. How could he do that? It’s one thing for your partner to get caught up by passion – but another to realise he set out deliberately to deceive you.

Was it my fault?

All I could think about after that was all the things we’d done together as a family during that time he’d been seeing her: going to stay with my parents in Dorset, days out at the beach with the boys, while all the time he’d been sleeping with another woman. And yes, sleeping with me, too.

Several of our friends’ marriages have fallen apart over the years. But I’d never appreciated before how absolutely devastating it feels to see everything you’ve worked at for so long crumbling around your ears, and all because of someone else’s selfishness.

I wondered how it was possible that the man I loved and trusted so much could have been lying to me for so long, and whether he was thinking of her each time he made love to me.

I tried to imagine his mistress, automatically assuming she looked something like Sienna Miller, without a trace of stretch marks, or post-baby flab. And then I’d start to cry all over again, realising I couldn’t possibly compete. At moments like this, I hated Ian, too.

In my darkest moments I wondered if it was my fault, had I let myself go? Should I have been the one to instigate sex more?

Then I would remember all those happy years we had together, our wedding day, and the birth of our sons. I didn’t want to end up a single mother, my boys being ferried between warring parents.

Chilly existence

When I asked him if he wanted to leave me he would only say: ‘It’s complicated.’ How pathetic was that? By the end of the evening, I was too exhausted to row any more and just crawled up to bed.

After that horrible night of confessions, it took Ian four weeks of coming and going between our home – where he slept in the spare room – and Kate’s flat in London before he finally told me she didn’t want him.

I know most women wouldn’t have put up with being treated like that – and it was torture – but I remembered when friends of ours split up a few years before, and how Ian had said: ‘If only she had let him alone, he would have come back.’

So I tried to give him space, and I tried not to strangle him every time I set eyes on him. I wanted him to stay because he loved me. But in the end he stayed because she’d rejected him.

He did at least admit to me that she had ended their affair – but then I simply didn’t know whether to believe him or not.

By now it was May, and we settled into what I can only describe as a chilly existence.

The atmosphere was always strained, and I found myself crying at the slightest thing that went wrong. But as the weeks passed, we were at least able to go out for meals occasionally, both with the boys and on our own, and were able to talk fitfully about the affair.

Were they still seeing each other?

But just when I thought we might see a way through and keep our marriage together, I have become convinced she’s contacted him again.

As we were going to bed last Wednesday, I heard Ian’s mobile go off. I was in the bathroom taking off my make-up. Ian was already in bed. He took the call. I couldn’t make out what he was saying. But his voice was low – and it didn’t sound businesslike.

I rushed in, Clarins cleansing gel all over my face and feeling really unattractive. I asked him who had called, but he just said it was work. He knew I was trying to catch him out and rolled over and turned his back to me.

I feel terrified, and simultaneously furious, all my insecurities flooding back. This was my worst fear, ever since he told me that the affair was over. I’d wanted him to be the one to make the decision to end it. But it was her, Kate, his mistress and work colleague, who decided she ‘couldn’t be responsible for taking a father away from his sons’. Now she seems to have changed her mind.

I feel helpless, paralysed by my emotions.

Nothing has got any better between us. Ian and I still haven’t made love because all I can think about is my husband in bed with someone else. I am obsessed with knowing what Kate looks like – whether she’s dark, or blonde, thinner or prettier.

But he won’t tell me, and gets irritable when I mention her name – which makes me angrier still. He doesn’t seem to understand how the thought of him making love to another woman eats away at me inside, how it haunts me wherever I am, even walking on the local common with the boys and their friends, or wandering round the aisles of the supermarket

Can I forgive and forget?

I have even thought about ringing his office, and asking for a woman called Kate, with a surname starting with M. Once I even got as far as lifting the receiver, and dialling the number. But then I realised how humiliating this was, and put it down again.

I’ve been trying to pay the boys special attention, to make up to them for the atmosphere in the house. But they are always either fighting or crying, picking up on the tension around them. I feel very depressed.

All the plans I’d made for our wonderful family house, putting in a skylight on the top floor, digging out the basement and turning it into a playroom for the boys, seem meaningless now. Everything about our life together now seems a sham. I also find it impossible, not surprisingly, to believe a word my husband says.

I want to make our relationship work again, but I’m not sure I can. When Ian came home stressed from work last week, made worse by news about the economy, I made sure I sat down and really tried to listen to him.

But then I found myself staring at the bookshelf behind his head, thinking: ‘If he gets sacked, it’ll be more difficult for us to split up.’ So the subtext of separation is there all the time, whether I want it or not. I wonder if it’s possible ever to forget a husband’s infidelity, or whether it’s too late for us already.

And now, in the past few days there has been this call which seems to confirm of all my suspicions. I can’t spend the rest of my life worrying about where my husband is every time he’s a few minutes late home from the office.

Part of me wants a reconciliation for the sake of the boys, while the other thinks perhaps it’s time to see a divorce lawyer. My sister keeps telling me I should have done that already, even offered to give me the telephone number for one.

She and my parents were the first ones to know (I told my sister the day after it happened). My mother and father are trying not to take sides, hoping that we’ll make it up and stay together.

But that will only work if Ian’s not seeing Kate any more. I’ve got to know one way or the other. If Ian won’t tell me, I’ll have to find out for myself. I’ve made up my mind now I’m going to have to watch Ian constantly, check his phone, and request itemised billing on our next account.

I hate being forced to play private eye, but that’s what his adultery has done to me.

We’re going away to our country house in Devon next weekend. Part of me is glad – if he is away with me, he can’t be with her. But deep down I will be miserable, because I can never escape the suspicion, anger and hurt.

I want to make my marriage work for the sake of our children – it’s not their fault their father is so weak – but I keep asking myself what sort of life of misery I would be signing up for.

Besides, if she has decided she still wants him, it might not be me making that final decision.

Names have been changed

So what should I do?

11 Comments

  1. B

    January 13, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    It is a really sad case to be honest. A couple of years ago, I would have said, leave him, get a divorce. But now having been with my bf for a very long time, if I were in her shoes….Regardless of how painful…I will book a romantic break away, find out how he got tempted, what his mistress did well that she doesnt do now and WORK on the marriage again.

    The KIDS REALLY need MUM & DAD not MUM only or DAD only. Both parents are needed for a reason so please please try and take ur husband away, put on a sexyyy lingerie, be his mistress for a night or two…

    I think he must have loved u once upon a time. It just needs to be rekindled. Do your bit as a wife, turn him on but also make him beg….

    I wish her well.

  2. E

    January 14, 2009 at 6:40 am

    This is such a sad story; I feel so bad for the wife and her boys. It sounds to me that her husband would leave her and the boys for his mistress. Basically, he is only with her for now until his mistress decides to take him back. I’d advise her to get a lawyer and proceed with the divorce. Do not stay in an unhealthy marriage simply for the sake for your kids…..he will not change. You deserve better. All the best!

  3. jo

    January 14, 2009 at 6:55 am

    Get down on ur knees and pray ……fight for ur husband ..u cannot let 17yrs go. 8mths affair has nothing on ur 17yrs of marriage – u’ll only lose if you let him go …you have to take charge as the woman/mother of the home , weather the storm – u 2will either survive it or perish – it is ur choice. Stop blaming urself , the other woman wasn’t prettier or sexier than you ..she just gave ur husband more attn n excitement –

    After 17yrs of marriage its harder to keep the excitement going strong. It’s hard but not impossible …its takes EFFORT …in the day time pray n fast like a warrior then at nite service ur man in the bedroom, start praying 2gether as a family – and if u let urself go then you gotta fix that ASAP. DO all you can and ur best to get ur husband back emotionally -give it ur 100% before u think of throwing in the towel …don’t dwell on the past..u’ll hurt more ….remember ur vows …for better for worse …..u can’t run now – accept that he is human and humans lie and cheat – but open ur heart and forgive him…AGAIN GET ON UR KNEES WOMAN!

  4. cassandra

    January 14, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Be strong.Get on your knees and pray hard.I feel you.It happened to me.I eventually lost out but i still strongly believe that marraige is worth strongly fighting for.Good luck.Will be praying for you

  5. B

    January 14, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    After reading part 3, I just have to say that the guy is a twart and he’ll definitely get what he’s served.

  6. oyenike Alliyu

    June 4, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    pray hard and i know God will intervene,u are a very good woman for putting ur sons first then u really want a happy home and i know God will touch his heart,he is urs and he’s going no where.

  7. KK

    June 9, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    it’s hard to let it all go.but it takes 2 to make it work,if he is not willingly then walk away.put yourself 2gda and make sth of ur life lest u will spend the rest of ur days in depression and the man will be happy.sexy lingerie doesnt work.

  8. Billie

    February 19, 2010 at 2:25 am

    I have going through something similiar the last four years. He wants the marriage to work. I can’t get past the betrayal. I want a divorce. We now sleep in separate rooms . It is a living hell. I stay involved with family and friends.. I understand your pain and I hate your husband for his lack to seeing his entire future put at risk because of girlfriend with boy problems. Doesnt he see he was just there and she would go it to him also… My heart goes out to you…

  9. Marie

    March 10, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    you have no idea how much I sympathize with you. A month and a half ago my husband confessed to me something similar – only he had 3 affairs in our 6 year relationship but his were “one night stands” not actual relationships – and SO MANY of the things you say and the way you feel are almost exactly how I feel now. My husband showed a great deal of remorse, shame and eagerness to make up for things and repair our marriage – he swore he’d NEVER do it again, and he even tattooed his name in huge characters on him. I stayed with him bc I love him, way too much, I couldn’t leave.But still, the thought of what he did eats me out inside and so many times I find myself hating him!! I am still struggling with this and don’t know what to do. I keep playing the images of these imaginary women and of his encounter with them over and over in my mind and its torture. To my huge surprise, he told me they were NOT particularly attractive, that he thought I was WAY more good looking than any of them. So my question is WHY? He can’t seem to answer that… it seems like I’m destined to never really know. I really feel like I want reverge, that I want to do the same. This is the most difficult and painful test I have ever been served in my whole like probably.

  10. tamiz

    July 8, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Its really sad what some men do…. Checking the phone bill will not help this situation
    For all you know he might have another number which you are not aware of….
    Her name might not even be kate….
    Pray to God to give u peace of mind cos with all this going on and all the worry
    you will start to age even quicker which will make it even easier for him to cheat….
    Check your heart… do you still love him or are u just sticking on cos he is the father of your children?
    Are u scared of kicking him out cos you do not have a job and feel insecure….
    Believe me no no man is worth crying or killing yourself over….
    If you can walk him out…. It will hurt for a while but its better than living in pain trust me….

    Its well with you dear… This too shall pass…..

  11. Angela Jarvis

    November 7, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    Hello..my husband of 11 years( and before together for 12 years)-,met at high school first and only lovers..3 children under 10…took his things and left overnight…having affair with a “friend” of mine who i confided in that it was hard for us with 3 small children and him running his own business. So what does she do….goes to him and says if its hard it is better to leave!!..which he promptly did and jumped into bed with her. The pain and double betrayal has literally ripped out my heart and soul..children so upset and I CRY every single day. He was my soulmate and not the sort…family man,kind and gentle,loyal and looked down at men who left their families. Then he lost his dad to cancer,turned 40 and felt life passing him by. I filed for divorce as he sad he couldnt decide if he wanted to come back even when i offered him a year to think…but i will never stop loving him. His behaviour disgusts me and i KNOW there is nothing left to trust…he ruined what we had for selfish needs without a thought for me and his children. So now he is with the ugly bow legged man -like,uneducaed older skanky desperate..but adoring mistress(shes known him 2 bloody minutes)..and yes he said he feels understood !!…and no doubt she has more energy for sex than a knackered wife caring for his 3 children.What a total utter fool. I will move on and one day on his death bed he may realise he lost the devoted love of a wife ,and respect of his children TOO. They are fools looking for attention when we are busy caring for the home and family and doing the best we can. I wonder if the stupid woman he is with now thinks he cant and wont one day get his head turned again. I know we deserve better than him now….hes a weak pathetic cheater and he will for now justify it all in his own head..must be all my fault then. jog on kitty…got the house and great barrister and custody of my darling children..he sees them on my terms. Hope it was all worth it to him….he threw something so precious and wonderful away for a roll in the hay with a thick tart. The love i have is for the memories we made and no-one can take them away but i do not love this cold callous selfish creature he has become…..and just cannot ever forgive him he has hurt my childrens hearts and broken us up for what.??!! ANG

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