Chapter 7, loren

We’ve all heard that the first year of marriage is the hardest.  in my opinion, For couples on their second marriage, this is even more true.  

The second round of marriage, for myself, gave that statement a whole new meaning.  The beginning of my marriage felt much like an ending. I began my post nuptial life in a state of regret and fight or flight.  It felt like I was going through the motions every day.  I was married to a man who I felt was more distant with me than he had been when stationed halfway around the world while deployed to a combat zone. 

 “Were we even in love?” I asked myself that question every single day.

Yet, every single night we would crack open a bottle of Jack Daniels and drink until some sort of passion or tolerance was ignited.  Doesn’t sound like much of a marriage to me, what do you think? If you had been around us during this time, or had seen us out with friends, you would have never even known we were married.  We were strangers, simply playing house in an unfamiliar world. I could go on and on about the tearful and lonely nights of that year, but I’ll cut to the chase…the pivotal moment, if you will. 

Nearly 10 months into my marriage, my husband declared for the final time that he wanted a divorce.  I did what most women would do, and I begged and pleaded with him to understand where it was coming from.  I knew deep down exactly where it was coming from, and I knew why: He didn’t love me.  If I had only been honest with myself, I would have known I didn’t love him either.  It was more than that though, my intuition was telling me there had to be something else. The words that came out of his mouth that day, and the truth he spoke, changed my life and my trust in people forever.  You expect someone to be who they say they are.  You think you know someone in and out, good and bad.  At least, that was the naive mindset I had at 23 years old.  Oh, the lessons I was about to learn. 

I received a text with the words, "I do not love you anymore. I never have." 

My stomach went from north to south in a matter of two seconds.  My fingers could not type fast enough as I begged to know where this was coming from.  "What do you mean you don't love me?" Again, I was in complete denial that this was true, while also stunned with the sting of rejection. Then I get the words that will shatter any woman's world into a billion pieces…"I cheated on you." 

When I say time stopped - I mean I could not breathe, I could not maintain a single thought, I could not move.  Within seconds the nausea set in, and I rushed to the bathroom. The sickness I felt in that moment, I will never forget; mostly because, I knew there was going to be more. I could not function.  All the pieces, the signs, were starting to come together.  Suddenly, everything made sense. This explained his distant behavior, his locked cellphone, avoidance of questions, and abrasiveness towards me for months. 

Shortly after that text was sent I braced myself for him to come home that day. We had some unfinished business to attend to, and I was on a mission of FBI level investigation. I went outside and sat on the porch waiting for him to arrive.  I tried everything in my power to calm myself down, but all I wanted was answers.  I wanted them all! He came home and met me on the front porch, faced with fury and tears all over my face. He started to pace back and forth, until finally sitting down.  As soon as he sat, I stood up and began to pace and cling to any ounce of “calm” I had left in my body. Time stood still that day.  The first question, "When did this happen?" flew out of mouth without even considering if I even really wanted to know the truth.  His response, "While I was deployed. I met her a couple months after I got over there, and we had a relationship until the day I left."  Ok Loren, deep breaths.  This is fixable, I think.  So, I asked him if this is who he had been talking to over the last few months.  He said, "I have kept in contact with her here and there for nearly a year now. Because…. you’re going to want to sit down for this."  I remember his exact words, because a moment like this one, is not easily forgotten.  I sat down.  

He looked at me and said, "She has a baby. The baby is mine. I have a daughter."

There is absolutely no guide on fixing your marriage after a bomb like that one lands in your lap. Trust me, I have looked.  Hell, we both did.  We did everything we could think of.  We separated, I moved away, I came back, we went to marriage counseling, we saw therapists individually, we went to church, we prayed, I screamed, we cried.  I began a journey down the road of bitterness, wanting to make him pay for every debt I felt like he now owed me.  If he now suddenly wanted me as his wife, then he was going to pay the price. 

To my audience, this is exactly what not to do.  While yes, my husband was immensely in the wrong, and while I made the choice to stay in my marriage, I never truly forgave him.  I held on to the anger, distrust, and resentment for the remainder of our years. The dark secret we now shared was always looming with every waking day. 

This other woman did, in fact, reach out to me.  I cannot even put into words how difficult it was to hear about the double, at times triple, life he had been leading for nearly 2 years.  This is where I began to open my mind to the fact that not everyone loves the way I love.  Not everyone thinks the way I think. and not everyone leads the life you think they do. Starting over with our marriage was now an uphill battle that seemed to have no leadership whatsoever. Picture this:  two people who already barely know each other, a side mistress with a baby, all the while this secret was unraveling for everyone to see and make their own opinions about. Sound familiar? I told you so -Karma. 

Our separation was short lived, and true reality hit us hard... there were those 2 pink lines again. 

In the midst of what seemed like the absolute worst time in my life, on a night of being off duty from making him pay for his mistakes, led us to creating yet another human.  So, while I was not pleased with this outcome by any means, I felt like it gave me an excuse, if you will, to prove that I could make this marriage work.  Against all odds, and no matter what.  So that’s just what we did. We tolerated one another’s existence and forged a friendship if you will.  I guess I thought we might as well make the best of things since we’re essentially stuck together for 18 years.  Great mindset, right? I seemed to think so. In an all too interesting turn of events, we did make things work in our own weird way.  We grew to like each other, a little bit.  We took on new challenges and braved new areas of our pathetic, loveless marriage.  It seemed to be going miserably well for several more years. So well in fact, that we decided to have a third baby. Yes, baby number three was finally a planned human.  Third time’s the charm, right?

The moral of this extremely messy story - as a wife, whether I was enthused about the wedded vows or not, I made the choice to stay in my marriage, and that meant that I made the choice to work past this hurdle.  At times, I admit that I failed horribly.  I was cold, cruel, and never trusted him to the fullest ever again.  I never moved past the hurt and never forgave him. 

It wasn’t until several years later, long after our divorce, that I finally let go.  I woke up one day and forgave him. 

I forgave myself for every action I did to fight my true emotions and deny myself the healing I needed.  The day I let go, was the day I was set free.  I saw everything through a new lens, the lens of truth, instinct, and understanding. 

This topic is not easy to talk about.   Not because of the pain it caused me, but because the person affected most by this whole scenario was an innocent child, a child who did not ask for any of this. For obvious reasons, I will not be going into any detail about where this situation stands today.  That is John’s cross to bear, and as his former spouse and now friend, I will always support him.  He made a choice, as we all make our own choices in life, and with those choices come sacrifice and consequence.  I have faith that the day will come where John will be able to share his story and family with his daughter.

The Husband I Never Knew