During those few weeks leading up to this particular Thursday, things had been strained between us, because of the discovery of flirtatious Facebook messages between Jeff and a younger co-worker and then finding all the phone records documenting Jeff’s admitted “emotional affair” with another co-worker.
During those few weeks after that had been discovered, he went off on a church men’s retreat and then he took me to see the War Room movie. I told him I was done. I was done settling for less than what I deserved. That I wanted to save our marriage too, but it was going to require big changes. No more porn. No more close friendships or messages with other women. No more “harmless” flirting. And a stronger commitment and effort to make our marriage work.
He took me on special dates and doted on me, basically, promising to be different and to focus on making our marriage work. And I think he wanted to mean it. He said he knew he had been wrong, and that he knew he had taken me for granted and that he had not been as committed to our marriage as he should have been. He said he wanted to be a better husband and for us to have a better relationship.
And I think the intent was there. I don’t think he was completely faking all that. I think there was a big part of him that really wanted all of those things, but he had not fully broken free.
During those few weeks he was being sweeter and more attentive, but he was also always nervous and anxiety ridden. I constantly questioned him. Looking for signs that he was withholding things, not telling me the truth about his betrayals. I knew in my heart there was more. I felt it in my bones that he wasn’t telling me the whole truth. That there was more to their relationship than just an inappropriately close friendship. But he was very convincing when he said he wanted to commit to our marriage and start fresh. He swore to me. He swore to God. It was just a friendship that had gotten too close. But he had not crossed the line. There had been no physical contact. There were no real emotional ties. And the Facebook girl, that was just nothing. He had just been flattered by it, and let it go too far. He was terrified to tell me the truth. He thought it was bad enough in my eyes that he was having an emotional affair, and believed that if I knew the whole truth, He would lose me forever. He saw how hurt I was and told himself he was being kind by sparing me from knowing the whole truth.
We had been married for 23 years. I needed to believe he was telling the truth. I wanted to believe we could really have a better marriage and that he would finally be 100% committed to having a good relationship and making it a priority. I wanted to believe that getting so close to screwing things up had finally been a wake up call for him. I wanted to believe he had not actually crossed the line.
So here we were on a Thursday evening. I had just come home from work. We always went out to eat on Thursdays. It was sort of a family tradition I guess.
I noticed immediately upon seeing him that something wasn’t quite right. He was acting strange, distant. There was something so off about his demeanor and I felt it instantly. My spirit knew something was so very wrong.
He said he wasn’t going to dinner, that he was going to his cousin’s house to watch a football game. It wasn’t like him to bail on family dinner night at the last minute. I asked him what was wrong, that I was getting a weird vibe and something didn’t feel right. He said he was fine, that he had just told them he would come hang out with them and that he felt bad not going.
When he went to get in the shower, something told me to look at his phone. So I did, and saw that he had been in a game app. When I opened the game app, it was on the message page, and what I read there, changed everything.
There were messages sent earlier that day. To her.
He was still talking to her. He had sworn there was no more contact.
One of them said, “I’m here at the park, in our special spot, thinking about you.”
Another message asked her if he really meant anything to her or if he was just one of her many boyfriends.(she had had other affairs).
I read them all again. I read the words over and over.
“I’m at the park”
“Our special spot”
“Thinking of you”
“special to you”
“Just one of your boyfriends”
OUR SPECIAL SPOT. THINKING OF YOU. BOYFRIEND. BOYFRIEND??? OUR SPECIAL SPOT!??
The words jumped off of that screen like daggers to my soul.
I think I died a little that day.
I know I did.
It was confirmation of everything I had suspected in my heart , but oh my goodness how I wanted to believe it wasn’t so. I know God had been preparing me for the possibility of it, deep down I already knew it, but I don’t think you can ever really be prepared for the reality.
I’m not sure how to describe what that felt like.
The all at once knowing.
It’s as if a speeding train has suddenly appeared out of nowhere and hits you full force. All at once excruciating, searing, unbearable pain that reaches every tiny crevice of your being but at the same time a numbness, a complete nothingness.
It’s as if your body splits into two and somehow you feel everything and nothing all at once.
The images in your head. Repulsive awful images. The monsoon of questions. So many questions. You start to question every moment of the past , wait, how long? You don’t even know how long so basically every memory is suddenly on a side by side screen, one the image of the life you thought you had, and the moment you thought you experienced, and the other screen full of the ugly awful deceit of this other life, the one you didn’t know about. Which of these is real? Your memories are now neither what you remember or the awful image on the other screen, but somehow both all at once, yet the two realities can not be reconciled and nothing, absolutely nothing makes sense. It’s as if your life ceases to exist because you don’t even know what it was. It was all an illusion. And suddenly you understand what insanity is. It is this. The inability to tell the difference between what parts are real and what parts are the illusion.
My heart is racing. Or maybe it stopped?
I can’t tell.
I read it again.
I can’t move. Yet I can’t stand still.
I need to sit down. Or maybe I just need to run?
I feel trapped.
Like those times when you wake up but you’re not fully awake and you can’t move or talk and you are just stuck there. Immobilized and terrified.
I can’t stop reading it.
Maybe if I keep reading it, it will change.
These can’t be his words.
How are these his words?
What is happening?
This isn’t happening. It’s not real.
It’s not real.
Wake up wake up wake up.
I can’t breathe.
Read it again.
No no no no no no.
No. God, please.
He’s sleeping with her. He is sleeping with her. I was right all along. I didn’t want to believe it.
How long? Oh God! How long has this been going on?
I had searched back at least 4 months of the phone records before I had stopped looking. So it was at least that long. How far back did this start? How long have I been living a complete lie?
He met her 10 years ago.
Has it been 4 months? 10 months? Could it even be years?
Oh my God.
He’s having an affair.
They are having a full blown, all out affair.
No, not just an affair. Not just sex. Not just friendship. This is a RELATIONSHIP.
The realization is like a searing hot knife cutting through me. Dicing me painfully bit by bit into a million tiny pieces.
What do I do?
I still can’t breathe.
He gets out of the shower.
I’m sitting on the edge of the bed. Still staring at the phone. Willing what I’m seeing to disappear.
He takes one look at me and he knows.
He knows I know.
“You slept with her”
“Amy, just listen, please listen”
Oh my God. Oh my God.
“Answer the question. ANSWER THE QUESTION!!!”
Looking down, the shame keeping his voice barely above a whisper…”yes.”
“And you love her! Do you love her?”
He hangs his head again. “Please, I know it looks bad, just let me talk to you.”
No. No. No. No.
Don’t come near me.
“How long? How long has this been going on?
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH HER?”
“I don’t know… Since the beginning of this year….Like 8 months. 9 months maybe…”
I need to get out of here. The walls are closing in. I’m sucked into this vortex and there’s no air in here and I CAN’T BREATHE.
My heart and mind just couldn’t process that this was really happening. How is this real? This is not us. This can’t be us.
I think I’m in shock.
I run out of the house. He’s yelling after me to please stop, please don’t go. I’m not sure what he’s saying really. The rushing noise I’m hearing in my ears is drowning everything else out.
I pull out of the driveway. I’m not sure what I’m doing. What do I do?
Melanie. My sister, Melanie lives closest. I can make it to Melanie’s house. It’s just up the street.
I pull in the driveway.
She’s not there.
Where is she?
I’ll call her. She will get here.
Voicemail. I dial again. She always answers.
Now I’m hyperventilating.
Where are you? You’re always here. You always answer the phone.
What do I do? I don’t know what to do.
I suddenly realize I’m saying these things out loud.
I think I’m losing it a little.
I start driving again. Towards town. The tears are streaming. The sobs catching in my throat. I realize that I shouldn’t be driving. And where am I going? I should turn around. Marla’s house? No, Marla’s house is too far. And I can’t see. I can’t see where I’m going.
Mama. I need to go there. I need my Mama. It’s not far and she will be home.
I have a key so I don’t even knock. I just walk in.
Adam’s kids are there. Sweet babies. They are always happy to see me. They are all smiles. “Amy’s here!”
I just stand there. I can’t cry in front of the babies. I don’t want to scare them. So I’m a statue.
She immediately says, “what’s wrong?”
All I can do is shake my head. I can’t talk. I can’t move. She knows. Just like that she knows. Without me having to say a word. Because Mama’s have that gift. She asks the kids to go downstairs. And then I lose it. I cry. She cries. She tells me to stay. Just stay here for a bit. But I have to go.
Oh God I have to go back. My girls!
My youngest was in her room when I left. She was getting ready for us to go out to dinner. I know she heard me leave. Jeff was upset when I left, Oh God I left her there. I left her there to find him falling apart. What would he tell her? How would he explain what was happening? She must be terrified. And my oldest is coming home. She’s going to walk into this. I have to get it together and go take care of my kids.
How do I take care of my kids?
Why did they have to be there for this? Why couldn’t they at least have been spared these moments?
She’s texting me now.
“Mama, daddy’s crying. Please come home. Where are you Mama?”
What does she know? What did he tell her?
My mind is spinning. My sweet babies. I don’t know how to do this.
I walk in. I see her face. My sweet precious girl’s face. Tear streaked and terrified.
My oldest had just arrived and was putting her stuff in her room. She walks to her door as I meet her there and says,
“What is wrong? What happened?”
She thought someone had died. That’s what she expected me to say.
In reality, I felt like I was dying. Minute by excruciating minute. Everything I’d ever known or believed about myself and my life was being crushed into dust.
“I don’t know how to tell you this. It’s your dad, he’s been having an affair.”
A sudden look of confusion flashes across her face.
This, she was not expecting. Those were not the words she thought were coming.
Then her confusion turns to anger, then a gentleness that shows the sweet, amazing spirit and the maturity of the young woman she had grown into. She says, “oh Mom. I’m so sorry Mama.” And she reaches up and kisses my forehead and wraps her arms around me.
I’m supposed to be taking care of her, but instead, my beautiful sweet girl is taking care of me.
We go into the living room and sit on the couch. She looks at him, the anger welling in her eyes. “What the hell, Dad?!!”
He just sits across the room on the other sofa, not able to look any of us in the eye, and cries.
And I hate him. I hate him so much. He destroyed our family. I can’t stop thinking, ” How could you do this to me? To them?!!”
And we sit. We sit there for what seems like eternity. No one knows what to do. It’s as if we are trapped here in this never ending moment of pure hell.
The silence is painful.
I thought when I saw those messages, I thought that was the moment. I thought that was the worst moment of my life. But this. This is so much worse. Seeing my girls so devastated, so confused. Knowing there is NOTHING I can do to protect them from this moment. It is this moment that is the worst.
The room is heavy. The air is literally so heavy I still haven’t figured out when I’m breathing and when I stop.
Everything is soul crushing, heart breaking pain.
And I can’t even think. I need to do something. We can’t just sit here. But I can’t think straight. Nothing feels right. Talking, not talking, staying, leaving.
Nothing feels right.
I don’t know what’s real.
Surely this isn’t real. My kids have to live with this moment engrained in their minds forever? And I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t protect them. It’s not fair. None of this is fair. None of this is right. Everything is just wrong. So, so wrong.
I suddenly realize we never ate. The thought of food makes me nauseous. I don’t care if I never eat again, but the girls, the girls should eat. That’s something Mom’s do to take care of their kids. I can do that. That’s one thing I can do. Feed the kids. I’ll do that.
This is the only way my mind could process things in those early days. Grab one thought, focus, do this one little thing. One little thing at a time. It’s all I could handle.
The pizza comes. They get pizza and I think they eat it. Maybe they ate it. I can’t remember.
They go to bed. Jeff and I are alone now. I tell him I need him to get his stuff and go. He’s devastated.
When I see him sitting there, I don’t even recognize him. This shell of a man on my sofa was not the man I knew. Or at least not the man I thought I knew. He literally doesn’t even look like my Jeff. He looks old. Weak. The heaviness of all the lies and all the deception and all of the sins of his past were like a visible shroud hanging over him. They had consumed the man that I thought I knew and made him into someone else. I don’t know this person sitting on my couch, and I’ve never been more confused. My whole life was a sham. And for how long? Nothing makes sense anymore.
It’s late. I tell him he can stay that night, For the girls sake, because they had been through enough trauma for one night. They didn’t need to have to watch him leave too.
And I’m just so tired. I’ve never been so tired. I can’t handle any more big things. Not tonight.
I don’t know what happens next. I don’t know how to do this. But I know I can’t look at you right now. Tomorrow, tomorrow you have to go.
So I go to our bedroom. Alone.
I lie there. And I look around and I realize I’m alone. Alone. For almost 24 years he’s laid in that spot beside me. But not tonight. And not tomorrow. Not ever again.
Our marriage is over.
I can’t breathe. I have to keep reminding myself to breathe.
I feel sick.
This isn’t real. It can’t be real.
Sleep did not find me that night, and the next morning, he tearfully packed his bags and walked out the door.
That is the story of that day. Just like that, our life was forever changed. And there was no way back.
That was one year ago today.
Thankfully, that wasn’t the end of our story. As sure as I was in that moment, it was not the end of our marriage.
It was the beginning.
Today I am thankful there was no way back to what we were before that day.
I still hate that Thursday and all the pain it brought us. But the thing is, when you can’t go back, you can only go forward.
And we did. Step by painful step we moved forward. We didn’t get our life back. We weren’t restored to what we once had. And I couldn’t be more grateful.
That day was full of pain, the result of the decay of our marriage, the result of Jeff’s addiction, the result of a lifetime of bad choices and lack of real commitment and a result of not knowing who we really were and who God was in us. And we don’t want to go back.
Today though, today is not just the anniversary of the worst day of our lives.
I’ve called it D-day, because that is what people call it in infidelity victim’s circles, this club I didn’t want to be a member of.
D-day is the common word used to label the day the truth is revealed. But I’m not going to call it that anymore.
I’ve decided it’s kind of our birthday.
It’s the day that everything that once was, ceased to exist, and made room for something new to come.
Birth is a painful process. But it also brings new life. Something completely new and full of possibilities. A new lease on life. A chance to begin again. An opportunity to get it right.
So today we have reason to celebrate. We celebrate all our victories. We celebrate Jeff’s one year sobriety from his pornography addiction. We celebrate the new life we have built. We celebrate this new marriage, this new commitment we have to each other. Today we will remember the pain and the significance of the brokenness of that day, but only because it is in remembering that brokenness, that we can see how truly miraculous the new life we have now is. We endured so much darkness, but we faced it and we not only survived, but came out as better people, and with a better marriage than we’ve ever had before.
2 Corinthians 5:17 The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
So today we will celebrate all these things. We celebrate all the goodness we have found since that terrible day, and all the goodness that lies ahead of us.
Psalm 23:6. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.
Today we are thankful, for the goodness and the love and the blessings upon blessings that God has bestowed on us. And for all of you, near and far, that have walked with us through this past year.
Today is not a day of sorrow.
Today is a day of joy. 🎂 Today, is our first birthday.
Amy Thurston Gordy