Monthly Archives: September 2011

Pull the Trigger

Deeply frustrated with my husband’s apathetic response to my (admittedly funny) experience at the gynecologist, I started to act out.  I was fueled entirely by my unstable emotions, insecurity and fear.

I went ballistic, I wrote.  The divorce papers came out, [he] revealed that he doesn’t quite love me enough.  [He’s hoping] feelings will follow because he’s doing the “right thing”. 

Painful, hurtful, hopeless, awful.

And then, another piece of the puzzle fit into place.

A few weeks earlier, while I waited for my husband to return from Portugal, my dear friend had “accidentally” been forwarded an email.  It was a conversation between my husband and his best friend.  This was the same person from whom I learned of the initial affair, via a candid Skype chat on my husband’s computer.  In addition, the two had traveled extensively together throughout the years, and shared the same ideas and beliefs.  The friend was divorced.  In this particular email, they casually discussed the “investment banker”. My husband called her a “half breed”, and they evaluated her age, background, and how “hot” she was.  My husband’s BFF asked if they had been “shacking up.”  He evaded the question.  BFF went on to detail plans of meeting his new, model girlfriend in London after she recovered from her breast enhancement surgery.

Then, my husband wondered when he should “pull the trigger” — end our marriage.

I was glad my friend summarized the content of the email for me.  It would have been too painful (not to mention familiar) to read the actual exchange.  I absorbed the shock, and then exploded.  I grabbed the big file folder, angrily labeled “DIVORCE”, and fled the house again.  Since my husband had no cell phone, he tried communicating with me via email.  It had oddly become a new form of texting between us.

He wrote and asked me where I had gone, most likely from his permanent spot on the couch.  His laptop was always glued to his knees.  I would go to work every day and he would sit and write. Oftentimes I would come home after a long day and he would not have moved.  His writing seemed to consume him: mentally, spiritually, emotionally and now even physically.

“To pull the trigger,” I emailed back.  “I am done.”

He asked why; why today, why now.

You are free…goodbye.

My heart can’t take any more.  I don’t think I’ll ever be patient enough to wait for you to come around.

I think you got what you wanted, anyway.  In five months, five years, you’ll be glad.
I’m tired of being dramatic, I know you are tired of it, too.  This is the most cinematic way to blow it all up.

He asked again where I was.

I’ll be back later to get my stuff.
Kathy will be in touch with you about signing the lease papers for the house.  You just have to sign, she’ll do all the rest of the work (finding a tenant, etc).
I’m thinking we can find someone to rent starting in January.  I don’t want to lease the house before I get back from tour because I want to go through, sort and pack it up.  I’ll re-post furniture, etc. on Craigslist.
I’ll pay the rent for November and December so you can stay in the house.  Unless you want to move out, that’s fine, do what you need to do.

He wanted me to come home. He understood my frustration, and if we were to end things, we should do it face-to-face.

Sorry.  Talking face to face doesn’t work.  Nothing works.

Fuck it.
I give up.

You got what you wanted.

He reiterated that, no! – this was not what he wanted.  He wanted to talk.

You don’t even know what you want. I don’t fit into your life.
You don’t talk.  You just sit there and listen.
I’m tired of talking.  Deep, deep down, you don’t want to be married to me.  I know it.  I feel it.


A simple line: Please.



Four days later I got tested for STD’s.

Since I had only ever slept with my husband, first on our wedding night (!!!), neither of us had to worry about sexually transmitted anything.  Upon my therapist’s recommendation, and slight suspicion that my husband had, indeed, slept with the “investment banker” (and who knows, to this day, whomever else during that time), I paid a visit to my gynecologist.

She is always unbelievably cheery, for a woman who has to deal with vaginas all day long.

“Hi, Doc,”  My eyes met hers.  I quickly looked away and forced a smile.

“What are we doing today?”  (Still cheery!)

I sat there, visibly sweating through the arm holes in my hospital gown.  I took a deep breath.
“Well, I’m here because my husband…”

She cut me off.
“OH, NOOOOOOOO!  What the hell?!  When are men going to learn to stick with just one vagina?!  What an idiot.  I’m so sorry, sweetie.”

I smiled, relaxed and shifted my heels in the seemingly extra-wide stirrups.
“Thanks,” I squeaked.

She adjusted her glasses.
“Well, I want to run a test for everything,” she offered, matter-of-factly.  “That includes HIV, HPV, PID…” Her voice became somewhat muffled, a la the ambiguous teacher in any Charlie Brown special on ABC.

“She was his student,” I suddenly blurted out.   “She didn’t speak English very well.  She’s twenty-four.”  My eyes shifted over to the plastic model of the uterus, complete with a miniature baby inside.  My heart hurt.

My doctor peered at me, and raised an eyebrow.  “What nationality is she?  Anything Asian?”

“Ukrainian,” I mumbled, still gazing at the miniature baby.  It was upside down.

“Oh, GAWWWWWWDDDDD,” she threw her head back, clicked her pen open and started furiously scribbling on my chart.

“Hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, F and G, as well as Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Trichomoniasis and definitely HIV,” she trailed, out loud.  She then looked up at me and shook her head.  “People die from this shit in that country. “


I couldn’t disappear, no matter how hard I tried.  I was sitting atop a medical table, naked yet thinly veiled in my sweat-soaked gown, legs spread wide open, ready to discover whatever disgusting, unattractive and deadly disease I had contracted from my cheating husband.

His familiar voice rang out in my head:  “It happened…just once”.

I took another deep breath, laid down on the table and scooted forward.  My doctor did her thing, quickly, as I tried to bravely breathe through it all.  Honestly, it hurt like hell.

Like HELL. 

Trying not to “catastrophize” (a big word I had just learned from my therapist), I prayed that everything would turn out OK.  At the same time, I had no control over any of it; I had to accept my fate.

After she had finished, I thanked my Doc and got dressed.  She gave me a huge hug on my way out.

“Good luck, sweetie.  You’ll find someone that deserves you.”

I swallowed hard.  I had never told her that I was trying to make my marriage work, STD’s and all.


I drove home, clenching my teeth.  I wrote in my prayer journal the next day.

I am out of control; I am a total failure.  I am NOT handing any of this very well, Lord…it just sucks.  I got so angry with [my husband], and last night just raged and ranted.  So ugly.  I’m sorry.  Forgive me.

Father, I am going to shut up today.  I am not doing well by doing it “my way”.   Grant me patience, Father, help me through this.  I am tired of myself.

An agonizing two months later, I received my test results.  I was totally, completely, free and clean, and have been, ever since.

God is so good.

P.T.L., indeed.

10 Years

He came home on a Tuesday, three days before our 10th wedding anniversary.

I refused to pick him up from the airport.  I was extremely weary, and wary of his intentions.  My behavior was anything but stellar.  We met for dinner at our favorite local pub the night he returned.  Halfway through, we started arguing, which evolved into a huge fight, which escalated to me screaming expletives (surprise!) in his face.  I quickly left. He followed after me, and I responded by kicking him in the shins.

Things got a bit better the next day, when we returned to marriage counseling.  Through another two-hour session, my husband expressed his desire to be in the marriage, and said he was back to “do this” with everything in him.  Clinging to Hope, Part Three, I had faith that God could, and would, renew my marriage and resurrect our relationship.

Still, I had trust issues.

It is the eve of my 10th wedding anniversary, I wrote.  I want so much to pretend it’s just another day, but it’s not.  Is this my final year of being married?  How many more months or years will I endure [his] apathy?

Oh, God, I mourn the loss of [him].  I miss him so much. I miss my loving husband who didn’t care what anyone thought. I suppose I deserve it.

I just have to treat tomorrow like any other day.  God, I know you love me even if [he] can’t.  He may never again – I can’t bear his apathy.


Suffering from jet lag, my husband went to bed early that night.  While he slept, I found a note that he had written to himself.  It was neatly printed on a small, lined piece of paper.  I don’t quite remember if I was snooping through his belongings, or if he had strategically placed the note so that I would find it.  His words made me gasp for air.  I have since burned this particular writing, but I recall reading that he did not love me anymore.  At the same time, he still loved me.  He dubbed himself a liar, and wondered why he had ceased caring — even about his family.  In the end, he concluded that there were more exciting things going on in his life than his marriage.

I felt like such a fool.  I immediately fled the house, note in hand.  I had no idea where I was going, but I needed shelter.  I “followed the windshield” and ended up at my in-laws’ house, just two miles away.

My mother-in-law didn’t react to the note.  She didn’t see anything wrong with it.  I was confused.  Still, I asked to stay over that night.  I couldn’t go back home.

He has no energy to make the marriage work because there are more exciting things, I wrote, sitting cross-legged on my husband’s childhood bed.

LORD, I want so much for him to be brokenBut he is not there.  I give him to You.  I set him free.  I will set him free.  God, I don’t know what to do otherwise.  He doesn’t love me, he doesn’t see anything about marriage beyond a history and that he once loved me.  He fell out of love with me.

Lord, I know that You will never fall out of love with me.   God, I don’t want to be divorced but I cannot endure this treatment any longer.  I don’t know what else to do.  [He] is paralyzed, incapable of making a decision.  But he doesn’t WANT to make a decision.

I don’t want someone who is apathetic.  I don’t want a husband who just sticks with me because we had a history.  I don’t want a liar and a cheater for a husband, and certainly not one who is incapable of action, especially forgiveness.

The next morning I lay in bed and stared the large, intricate collage of family pictures hanging just above me.  Depicted as nothing other than the happiest of couples, my husband and I adorned the wall.

Ten years earlier, I had woken up with such hope, excitement and anticipation for the future.  Vivid memories of our wedding day flooded my mind.  I remembered goofing off with my bridesmaids just before the church doors opened and the organ blasted; I remembered how much my face hurt from grinning as I floated down the aisle.  I remembered how my husband and I enthusiastically recited our vows to one another, and then became overwhelmed with joy and amazement just after we had been pronounced “Husband and Wife.”  I recalled the faces of our wedding guests, even what some of them wore.  I chuckled at how our wedding cake toppled over in the unseasonal heat of that late October day, and genuinely laughed at the memory of my husband shoving his hand down the front of my dress as we drove away, bound for our honeymoon suite.

We were so innocent.

I dragged myself out of bed, still fully clothed, and drove home.   I slowly climbed the stairs and quietly slipped in through the back door.  I didn’t think my husband would be awake, much less notice that I had been gone. Yet there he stood.  He greeted me eagerly and presented me with a dozen red roses.  A note accompanied the large bouquet.

This note was vastly different from the last one I had read.

He called me his wife.  He knew he had failed me, but I still loved him, and that was beyond anything he felt he deserved.  He wanted to do me justice.  He wanted me to soar.  Most poignant to me was that he said he loved me.

So, in that moment – that day – things were better.  We had made it to Tin / ten years.Our “celebration” was not spectacular.  It fact, it felt just like any other day.  Yet it was refreshing to behave as a couple again.  We went out to breakfast with my mother-in-law (yes, weird), strolled with our dog, Wimbley, around the Rose Bowl, shopped for socks and T-shirts, scarfed an early dinner at happy hour, and patronized the indie theatre to catch Nick Hornby’s An Education.  It would be the second time I had seen the film.

t was a fine anniversary, I recounted. We…made love, which is still hard for me but I want to trust [him].  I don’t know the correct formula for healing sexually after an affair (but) I don’t want to hold it over both of our heads for years and years.There have been small steps and some progress.  I don’t want to give up…I so very much want him to become a godly man.I want to be married to a godly man.

Restore us, O God Almighty,
make Your face shine upon us,
that we may be saved.
~Psalm 80:7


Destroy the Monster

A few days before the picture was splashed over the internet, I had asked my husband to return home in time for our 10th wedding anniversary.  I was mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted from trying to hold on and save our marriage all by myself.  It also seemed to me that he was just wasting time; playing around in Europe.  Paychecks that were promised hadn’t arrived.  I had to sell my beloved piano — a wedding gift —  to pay the mortgage.

I kept hoping my husband would “wake up”.  I pored over a book, entitled Sacred Marriage.  The author posed the question: “What if God designed marriage to make us holy rather than happy?”   I had completely forgotten what it was like to be happy, so holiness sounded pretty good.  I read the book from cover to cover in almost one sitting. To this day, I highly recommend the reading.

As before, I continued to attend marital and personal therapy.  I was desperate for answers.  At the same time, I was desperate for someone – anyone – to give me the green light to get out.

But so few people knew what was going on, and those who did know, weren’t going to tell me what to do.

Just get me out of this, Lord, I wrote in my prayer journal.  I want to be whole and I want to live.

After a few days’ silence, I finally wrote to my husband.  Our anniversary was a week away, yet he still had no firm plans to return home.  He tried to assure me – again – that the picture was “dumb”, it had meant nothing.  His readers had been clamoring for more of his travel companion.  He had to deliver.  Sex — an “the element of the story” — clearly sells.

Thirty-seven emails immediately shot back and forth.  He knew he had “fucked up badly”, and said he felt worse than he ever had in his entire life.  I was tired of hearing the same thing over and over again.  Where were the actions to back up these remorseful and heartfelt words?  He told me I deserved better, and that he’d spend the rest of his life regretting what he had done.

[Then] GET on a FUCKInG PLANE AND END IT WELL yOu FUCkING COWARD, I spat, angrily.  I didn’t even try to go back and fix my capitalization errors, much less censor my foul language.

Tried to end it well with [the affair], how about showing some respect and ending it well with your WIFE?????

I know deep down you are done. Just be a man and say you don’t want to be with me anymore. I have tried everything. I am exhausted. I know you don’t want me and that’s OK now. Just let me go. Stop hurting me.

He said would be home before our anniversary.  He then offered that he didn’t blame me for going to New York.  He blamed himself for letting me go, or, at the very least, not going with me.  Then he said he should have known that he couldn’t live without me.  He still couldn’t live without me.

These were words for which I had longed, yet I seethed.

Well clearly I am not any reason to live now. And there’s such a thing as grace, forgiveness and mercy, and COUNSELING (the Holy Spirit is called Counselor!!!!!) but you are too cool for any of it.

You hate me so much.
Where do I even begin?

I believe in marriage, and this affair is bullshit. Your investment banker is bullshit. But please call it and say you want it – them, whomever, you can have it. But do NOT put this on me. You have NO idea what I have done in the last few weeks for you.

He knew I had done everything.  And he didn’t hate me. He hated himself.

I continued.
Fucking investment banker, fucking Ukrainian keychain that I found in your drawer today and hammered with a vengeance.

I am ready to live.

He told me he would come home soon.

Did you fuck that ugly investment banker?

“No!” — Simple answer. Over email.

Whatever. I don’t believe you. It’s always later, soon, blah,blah, blah. Just leave me be. Go live the life you always wanted: untethered, “cinematic”, travel without baggage or obligations.  Give me the house. I have invested so much since you have been gone. You won’t even recognize it.

I am dead. I am dead. I need to learn to live and love again.

Even through my anger, I wanted him to see me.  To TRY.  Something.  Anything!  He couldn’t even break up with me properly.

It’s soooooo not cinematic to break up over a dumb affair. Let’s be the couple that loved each before the lameness and makes history afterward.

He said he kept asking himself why all of this had happened, but resolved that the only thing that mattered was the future; what happened next.

What happens next is your choice. You can sit in Portugal with the rain, your ego, your fantasies and your investment banker (next affair). I don’t know. I’m so bored by you and your image and your so-called career I actually cry myself to sleep every night. And then I wonder, why I am wasting my time?  

He was hurt by my description of his “so-called” career.

My tirade dragged on.
If you insist that this is your career — writing jerk-off fantasies for 14-year old wanna-be’s– then by all means, go for it. But you will pay a huge price…

What’s so wrong with being married?

Just file. Get rid of me. I know you want to. You have every reason to dump me. I didn’t love you enough, I’m not “hot” enough, I’m not exotic, I’m not anything that is print-worthy.

JUST FILE.  End your confusion and end my pain. Give a real reason to not wear your wedding ring. Give a real reason for not caring about our wedding anniversary. Give a real reason for not allowing me back into your life.

And then I realized something.

Oh my god I am such a fool.
You are so so done.
You just want me to do it all.
You want me to file, don’t you?
Wow. wow, wow wow.
What an idiot I am.

I received his response a little while later.  His words were wrought with sadness, confusion and pain.

He couldn’t get his heart to open towards me — not even a crack.  He was waiting for it, and wanted it to open; he wanted to love me like I needed, but he couldn’t.  He couldn’t pretend, but he also wanted to make everything “right”.

My husband didn’t want me to be in pain anymore.  In fact, he felt like he deserved all the pain.  I deserved to be blissfully happy.

He recalled how he used to love me, and when that love went away, so did his life.  At the same time, he still loved me.  Obviously he was confused.  He hated who he was, what he had become, but it didn’t change or fix anything.  He said that he needed to start over, and destroy the monster that he had become.

And, almost in that moment, it seemed like he had an epiphany.  He said he would come home, and we would choose how we would color the rest of our lives.

Tagged ,

Portugal and the Picture

My attempt to woo my husband through my love letter(s) was met with tepid response.  He wrote back, first reiterating that the Investment Banker and French Cigarette Girl (WHO WAS SHE!?!?!?!?) were just “elements of the story” that he was weaving through Europe.  He wanted to make his journey sound “Aristocratic” and “Bohemian”.  He admitted to being consumed with his writing, and hoped that it would become lucrative so that there wouldn’t be such a financial mess back home.

His next few paragraphs softened.

He said that my email about our past, and what we had together, bent his heart.  He wanted for us to be OK, but he didn’t know how to make that happen.  He felt so far away.  He felt horrible.  He felt pressure.  He felt fear.  He felt alone, and very much on his own.

And then he said he loved me.  I should know that.

did know that he loved me.  And I suppose it was enough to keep me going.  Yet what was this talk of his “bent” heart?  My heart was broken, daily.

At the same time, I somehow understood the difficult personal journey that he was on – how could I beat him while he was down?  I had, after all, offered him forgiveness.  I wanted to extend grace.  He was expressing love for me, and even appeared to begin dealing with himself.  He confirmed over and over that his affair was done, and even offered his email password as proof.

I never used it.

The positive emails continued to flow.  It seemed as if my husband was slowly turning back into the sweet, humble, loving man I had married.  At the same time, however, he was spinning a different tale to his readership.  I read every one of his daily stories, and the Investment Banker with the BMW was becoming more of a central figure.   Still, I chose to believe that my husband was writing fiction; portraying himself as a harmless character.

He wrote again to tell me that one of the magazines had asked him to stay on and cover the next leg of the tournament, which would be held in Portugal.  We were out of touch for 40 hours.

And then, a picture of him and his Investment Banker surfaced.

It was a candid shot.  The two of them sat in a golf cart, comfortably close together.  The woman appeared to be in her early 20s.  She relaxed into him, her left arm draped lovingly over his right shoulder.  She was dressed casually, in jeans and an off-the shoulder T-shirt that displayed a busy, silkscreened image of James Dean.  I immediately noticed her thin frame, and how tragically small her breasts appeared to be. Her long, dark hair was pulled loosely back in a ponytail. A few stray pieces covered her small, heavily lined eyes.  Her fiery red fingernails gripped at the Blackberry in her free hand.  She concentrated on the screen, frosted lips slightly parted.

My husband leaned forward, his arms resting over the steering wheel.  His head was turned in her direction and his lips mirrored hers.  He had gotten a haircut and new sunglasses.  The colorful, grassy green background contrasted the heavy, dark ink on his biceps.

I peered closer.

His left hand was completely naked.

Love Letter

I wanted to get out as fast as I could.  I continued to clean and pack the house, but I couldn’t do it alone. My mother drove 280 miles south to help me organize and sort through what remained of my (our?) life.  In one weekend, we scrubbed the entire kitchen and took a large load of unwanted dishes, glasses, pots and pans to the Goodwill.  I touched up paint in all the rooms as my mom washed floors and windows.  I took down every single picture in the house and packed them away in bubble-wrapped boxes.  I duct-taped those boxes shut.  Together, we tightened fixtures and fixed loose doorknobs.  The house started looking and feeling less like a “divorce house”, and more like a happy home.

I didn’t want to move out anymore.

One of the tasks I ordered myself was to start going through the mountain of boxes in the garage.  I was focused, and determined to get it done.  As I opened each individually labeled box —  “JUNK”, “LES”, “KEEPSAKES”, “PICS” — the anger within my icy cold heart started to melt.  Before me lay tangible evidence of a joyful, fun, committed fourteen-year relationship.  Our love had been real.  I didn’t care if we were fetuses when we got married.  What we had was special.  All the old memories started flooding back, washing over the pain of the present situation.

I poured out my heart in a long email.

I’m going to bed in a few minutes but I just wanted to write…

I went through boxes and boxes of keepsakes today.  It was unbelievably beautiful and painful at the same time.  To see our correspondence through the years, and to see old pictures and silly remnants of times past. 

I read through some journals you wrote to me before we got engaged, and I read a letter I wrote to you the night before you left for Germany; I read a ridiculously large card that I wrote to you on your 23rd birthday — just two months before we got married.

Our letters have always been filled with such love and hope; such encouragement and support of each other.  And such a desire to live together, always, in the Lord.  I must have done something that made you sad right before your 23rd birthday and I wrote about it…apologized for being selfish, and it made me cry.  Here I am, ten years later, apologizing for being selfish. 

It didn’t take long before I couldn’t go through any more boxes.  I am not sharing this to make you feel bad (I’m not even sure what you actually feel), but I haven’t wept like this, ever.  I guess the point in sharing all of this with you is that I realized just how beautiful our marriage is.  We have withstood a lot together.  We have weathered separation, deserts, bombs, kidnappings, overwhelming financial messes, sickness, selfishness on both our parts, roommates, “nihhsty” hot chocolate, parental over-involvement, the divorces of our friends, Showtunes, the list goes on and on.  I wept at the thought of it all being over. 

“And like that,” Verbal Kent says, “Poof! (It’s) gone.”

I went to church this evening with my sister.  It was, first, such an answer to many years of prayer for her, and it also was really good to go to church.  Afterward, we trekked across the street to the coffee house.  You can imagine how old and retarded I felt — here I am, baggy-eyed 32-year old Les hanging out with three 20-year olds in a Christian coffee house.  I looked at Carolyn, and then I looked at her friend, and I realized that they are the exact age that I was when you and I got engaged.  I started observing their innocence and the hope in their eyes…then I noticed the excitement around me…just a bunch of nerdy Christians getting coffee, but there was something so wonderfully familiar about it all.  It felt like I was back at Biola, in Common Grounds…something you would have loathed, but it brought back good, wonderful memories.  Coupled with the letters and pictures, birthday cards and old plane tickets I sorted through today, it brought back a flood of memories and emotions about you and me.  We have such a long-standing history, but what is more, we have such a beautiful foundation upon which our marriage stands.  And maybe it looks dorky from a 32-year old perspective, but it snapped me back into a place from which we haven’t been that far.  It certainly made me miss you and grieve your loss all the more, especially if I had to pick from the intolerable “prospects” in the room.

There simply is no other for me but you.

I’m not writing any of this to invoke a response, please don’t feel like you have to say more than you want to or are even capable of at this point.  I’d probably start censoring myself and hope that I didn’t say anything to turn you off or annoy you.  I’m simply going back to the best way I think I communicate, which is through words on paper/computer screen.

You may argue with me on this next part, but I have to say that I know you…I know you better than anyone knows you (except God).  I would even say I know things about you that you don’t know.  And I care.  I care so, so much.  I may do a horrible job at showing it, but I do. 

I am your wife, and I love being your wife. 

Every word that I wrote to you ten years ago is still true.  I love everything about you: your mind, your wit, your humor, your touch, your taste, your smell, your skin…I still love that inside part of your arm.  I love you deeply and I love you for who you are, even if you are able to go back and pick apart all the ways I failed at showing that to you.  You cannot take away from me the love I have for you, no matter how hard you try.  Yes, you successfully damaged all trust in our relationship, and when you continue to pursue a relationship with UKR you are incapable of seeing the beauty that is still our marriage, but even that won’t stop me from loving you.

I love you, I love you dearly and I don’t know what else to say.  It’s so late for me, I don’t know why I can’t go to bed, but I just have to express to you how I feel.  I want you to know my heart, and how much I want to be with you. 

Someday I hope you can read what I am writing to you and it will strike a chord…it will make some sense…maybe it will remind you of the foundation upon which our love is (and has been) built.  I have said to you before, nothing is irreparable.  You are worth it to me.  You are my beautiful, wonderful, amazing husband, whom I love, support, admire and desire.  If ever you read anything more from me, know that; know how much you mean to me…our past, our present, our future together. 

I don’t mind being the “old familiar” because “new exotic” will eventually become “old familiar”, anyway. 

I want to help you write the next chapter of your life, and the next, and the next, and the next.

I love you.

UPS Man, Investment Banker and a Condom

With my husband in Spain, I immediately felt more productive.

I met my friend, Curt, for lunch one afternoon at Spitz in Eagle Rock.  He and his beautiful wife, Kathy, were one of five couples in our Bible study group.  We all had formed the group in 2004 and dubbed it “Jequila”.  Jesus and Tequila.  Yes, please.

Curt sat and listened to me recount highlights of the past month’s struggles and asked why I wasn’t taking the time to heal, myself.

“I believe God wants to redeem my marriage,” I explained.

“Leslie, God wants to redeem YOU,” Curt offered, matter-of-factly.

Oh.  I actually hadn’t really thought of that.

He suggested allowing Kathy to list the house for lease (conveniently, she is a realtor). He then offered me a room in their gorgeous home in Pasadena.  I left lunch that day, inspired.  I could rent out our home for six months and not have to worry about a mortgage payment.  Maybe even separating from my husband for a while would be the best idea.  Anything was better than the situation that I was in at the moment.

Trouble was, even after all we had been through, I still loved my husband and wanted our marriage to work.

Yet the thought of starting over was exciting.  I was at least doing something, moving forward.  I was so tired of waiting around for something to happen.   Kathy came over, breezed through the house and gave me suggestions on how to prepare it for a tenant.  Repairs were badly needed.  I hired her handyman to do the work. I blindly started packing, and prayed for a good tenant.

I also continued to attend marriage counseling, until my counselor suggested a different therapist.  Not much you can do in marital therapy when your spouse is out of the country, I suppose.  I started seeing my current therapist, who initially encouraged me to write down my negative thoughts.  (I think I’m still writing them down, just in a different, more public fashion).

In the midst of my focused frenzy, my friend Andrea was moving into a new loft downtown.  I was helping her unpack one afternoon, when there was a loud knock at the door.  I answered it.  It was the UPS man, delivering a package for the neighbor.  He needed someone – anyone – to sign for it.

I stood there, in old jeans and a bulky T-shirt, messy hair and no makeup.  As I signed my name on the chunky electronic device, he suddenly said, “You’re really cute.  Are you married?”

I looked up at him. “I don’t know, “ I blurted.  Honest answer.

He grinned.  “Can I give you my phone number?”

I hesitated, but then offered,  “Sure.”

I took it.  As he backed down the hallway, the UPS man told me he’d take me to lunch, or to the movies, or on a hike or a bike ride or even a motorcycle ride – whatever I wanted.  I was flattered, and immediately wished that my husband could be that enthusiastic about me.

I never called the UPS man, but it felt really good to be noticed.  Especially when I wasn’t trying.  Hmmm.

I continued to do hard work around the house, preparing it for potential lease.  One of the harder things I had to do was to find a new home for our 14-year old cat.  We had rescued her from an organization five years earlier.  I never really wanted an indoor cat, but my husband liked her because she “looked like a pirate”.  She was a sweet animal, and I felt terrible that I was tossing her aside.  I drove her back to the organization from where she came and sobbed like a mother who had just lost her child.  The cat people tried to calm me down but I was inconsolable. It felt horrible to leave her there, in a cage.  She was terrified, and I abandoned her.  She didn’t do anything wrong; she didn’t do anything to deserve that kind of treatment.

I prayed for my cat.
Oh, Lord, I hope she will be OK.  I know she’s just a cat but she was part of our family, and now our family is so broken.

What was left of our family was me, a part-time dog, an outdoor cat, and two chickens.

And so, the days passed.  I hadn’t heard from my husband at all, until I received a text one evening.


Seriously?  That was the best he could do?

The next morning I received an email from him, saying that his phone had been stolen.   He asked me if I would call AT&T and sort it out.   I complied.  Sure enough, hundreds of dollars in international phone calls had been charged to the account in a matter of a few hours.  I suspended his phone line.  Problem solved, except that I now had no way of getting in touch with him.

So I emailed.

So odd that your phone got stolen.What are your days like? Ahhh, beautiful Spain — wish I could go.
I read your story… It was really good.
I will admit your use of the present tense in the sentence “my own cheating heart” made me sad.
I love you.  I would say I hope you are having a good time but I am sure you are.

He replied, almost instantly.  He told me he loved me, and that the line I worried about was just a song lyric.  And then he told me to not worry about the investment banker.

My heart almost stopped.  I immediately scoured the internet for his latest writing.  Sure enough, my husband detailed this “investment banker” as his travel companion.  She was a lovely, young woman who drove a BMW.


And then, the phone rang.  It was a guy in his 20s trying to purchase one of the items that I had listed on Craigslist: my husband’s 1968 Honda Café Racer.  The motorcycle was cool, but it didn’t run.  It just sat in the garage and took up space.  We were desperate for money (still), and this kid wanted to buy it.  He was coming by to look at it in a few minutes.  The only problem was that I couldn’t find the key to the dang thing.  I swallowed the immediate pain of the investment banker and emailed my husband back, asking him where the keys to the motorcycle were.  He said to check the glove box in his truck.

I scurried down the cement stairs to the 1997 Nissan pickup truck that was parked on the street.  I dumped the entire contents of the glove box onto the bench seat, and started sorting.

There, I saw it:  a single, neatly packaged condom.  It was at the very bottom of the sandy glove box.  I jumped back in horror, and squeezed my eyes shut.  When I pried one of them back open, that cheap condom still lay there.  I could almost hear it laughing at me.

My husband’s voice echoed in my head:  “It happened just ONCE.”

All of those horrible feelings of betrayal, on top of the new information about this “investment banker” that was “part of the story” flooded back.  I felt incapacitated, discovering more lies, deceit, and actual evidence of it all.

I ran back upstairs, fingers flying on the keyboard:

Where are the keys to the motorcycle?  All I found was your condom stash in the glove box of your truck.

He denied it and stopped emailing for the rest of the day.

I had to keep it together.  I had to keep packing.  I had to get out.

Sex & Spain

Two days later, we had sex.

It was carnal, short, traumatic, unsatisfying (for me) and completely emotional.  I quietly sobbed the entire time.  All I could imagine was her, despite his calm reassurance that he was thinking of me.  I really felt the loss of connection between us.  That is something that you can never, ever, EVER undo.  The trust and – dare I say  – innocence of our sexual connection had been obliterated.  It HURT, deeper than any other pain I had experienced in my life.  I was needy, though, so I threw myself at him. I was grateful that he finally took the bait.  It was an oddly comforting place to be, considering the fact that my previous attempts to seduce him were met with disgust, or comments such as, “It wouldn’t be fair to you.”

I figured I could keep him interested in me if I offered my body to him.  And he finally responded.  He wanted me.  PTL (Praise the Lord)!

Yet, for the first time, I experienced “meaningless sex”.  I felt used.  I was so insecure about the way I performed, or what he (now) liked.  He had new “tricks”, and he seemed more interested in doing kinkier things with me.  For the most part, we had always had good, inventive, crazy, fun (and sometimes dirty) sex.   Sex was safe.  I never had to worry about STD’s or emotional baggage in my marriage.  It was fun to explore.  Ironically, I never worried about another woman in my bed: emotionally, physically or even mentally.

This “new” sex disgusted and saddened me, and made me feel like absolute, complete, utter shit.   It wasn’t love.  It wasn’t safe.  It was “just sex”.

As if that weren’t enough, after our physical reconciliation that October afternoon, my husband announced that he was going to Spain.

Pardon the expression, but WHAT THE FUCK??!?!?!?

Throughout the duration of our marriage, my husband traveled extensively — to Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Lebanon, Somalia, Australia, Japan, France and Hawaii, to name a few.  He pursued danger, and wrote about it.  He was also pursuing a career in writing, and had increasing opportunity to publish articles about his adventures.

I edited most of those articles.

It was a slow fade, but his stories started getting darker.  Rather than being centered on the particular subject, person or tournament he was covering, his writing became more about himself, fashion and image.  Then it shifted to parties, women in his industry, and sex.  (I would later find pages upon pages of explicitly written encounters entitled, Leave Them Wanting Less.  I burned them.)

It was almost as if my attractive, fun, sweet and loving husband had morphed into your typical 20-something, amoral, douchebag bachelor.  At least that’s how he portrayed himself in his writing, and his readers lapped it up.  He was able to charmingly convince those of us who were concerned that the questionable content was just “an element of the story”.   After all, he was a married man who loved Jesus and his wife.  He could just “flirt” with danger but not ultimately be affected by it.


Back to Spain: this particular job opportunity required him to travel on his own dime to cover a sporting event.  He would then sell his stories to a couple of different magazines.  Unbeknownst to me (except in that post-coital moment), his parents had purchased his plane ticket and encouraged him to go.  They hoped that his new efforts in his writing career would bring stability and finances to our broken home.

He was leaving in two days, and would be gone for two weeks.

What choice did I have?  We had no money.  I was working every possible odd job I could find.  I attempted to sell our clothing, furniture and vehicles on Craigslist to get some extra cash. I canceled cable.  We even met with two different realtors to discuss the potential of leasing out our house.  So, how could I say “no” to a promising job opportunity?  I was constantly reminded of how I had just spent six months in New York, pursuing my dream.  I had to let him pursue his.

I asked him what he would be doing, where he would be staying, who he would be seeing.  He mentioned that he was going to be picked up from the airport by a young woman that drove a BMW.  Apparently she was a promoter of the event, and a fan of his writing.

“NOPE,” I felt my fists tighten, and a surge of endorphins pulsed through my veins.

He calmly explained to me that he had a wife and the woman had a boyfriend.  He didn’t know how else he’d get from the airport to the hotel, but I really didn’t have anything to worry about.  He promised he’d check in with me every day, and blah, blah, blah.   He wasn’t going to cheat again.

I held my ground.

“NO.  Don’t even go there.  Don’t even tempt yourself.  There are a million different options for transportation and lodging.  I’m sure you can figure something else out.”  I couldn’t even believe we were having this conversation.

He finally agreed to avoid the BMW woman, saying he understood how it “might look bad”.

I felt uneasy.

He is packing, I wrote to myself, the night before his plane took off.  Freshly shaven.  Leaving.  I feel sick…who knows if he’ll come back.  I hope he gets in touch with his “wrecked” heart while he is in the beauty of Spain.  Ugh.

He says he’s sad, doesn’t want to leave, but cannot tear himself away from the computer.  I just don’t believe him.  I don’t trust him.  He is incapable of feeling anything.  He leaves tomorrow and will go with his parents’ money and the potential of $1,000.00, but that is to cover his expenses there.  The “potential” of making more money, but not immediately. 

Running.  Running from me, his responsibility, his lover.  Or to his lover, who knows.  He leaves me no assurance, nothing.

That’s fine.  Go.  Go, run, hide, find something (or someone) better.  I’ll stupidly hold down the fort, and you can come back at me with something to the effect of having had to do it for the last six months.  You had to work and pay the bills and support me.  But I was gone so you found someone to meet your needs.  And you “fell in love”.  And don’t love me anymore.  You feel “bad” for me.  That’s not love.  I don’t want pity.  I want a husband.  What’s more, I want a MAN in my life, not a child.

Early the next morning, he was gone.  I found a note on the kitchen table.

It was from my husband.  He told me he was sick at leaving, would be praying every day, and thanked me for my love and understanding.

He also said that he didn’t deserve anything.

But the part of the note that gave me hope — that helped me to hang on — was that he said he was sorry for everything that had happened.

He said he loved me.  Deeply.  And when he returned, he hoped he could love me how I needed to be loved, every minute of the day.


I Trust You

I wouldn’t end it, just yet.

My husband returned home two days later, late in the evening.  I was sitting on the couch, reading my Bible and praying my guts out, desperate for answers.  If ever I were a lazy Christian or missed some Bible time over the duration of my life, I was certainly making up for it now, in a few days’ time.  God was all I had.  I felt I couldn’t count on anyone else, and I needed direction and answers, fast.

I scrawled out verses in my now-worn prayer journal:

What strength do I have, that I should still hope?  What prospects, that I should be patient?  ~Job 6:11

My tears have been my food day and night…why are you downcast, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?  Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, my help and my God. ~Psalm 42:3

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. ~Psalm 51:12

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me into the way everlasting. ~Psalm 139:23

In addition, I screamed, “SPARE ME, LORD!  RELEASE ME! HELP! HELP! HELP!”  In due time those prayers would be answered.  But all I believed at that time was that God wanted me to stay in my marriage.  Marriage was good.  Marriage was holy.  God could, and would, redeem my marriage.  God would change my husband. He’d see the light, the “scales” would fall off his eyes and he’d realize how great I was, repent of his stupidity and love me again.


As I sat on our custom-made blonde leather couch, finally feeling somewhat peaceful in my prayer time, I heard a noise at the back door.  My heart started pounding as I entertained thoughts of someone breaking into my house and violently assaulting, then murdering me.  Excited and terrified, I jumped up and ran straight to the back door to face the situation (and culprit) head-on.  If I were going to die this way, I’d do it with dignity.  I did not want my body to be found in the back bedroom, the most obvious hiding place.  Cowards ran and hid.  I was a badass.  I also didn’t really care if I lived or died at that point.  Maybe, just maybe, if something bad happened to me, my husband would finally notice me.

With purpose and determination, I opened the door.  To my surprise/shock/disappointment/horror, my husband stood there, fumbling with the keys in his hand.

“I couldn’t see without the light on,” he murmured.  “Can I come in?”

I glared at him, turned on my heels and marched back to the living room.  He followed me. I re-assumed my position on the couch, crossed my legs up underneath one another, Indian-style, and folded my arms.

He carefully sat down on the black leather loveseat across from me.  Our 14-year old cat eagerly greeted him.  He dutifully patted her and then pushed her away.  This moment felt all too familiar.  Just weeks prior we were seated in this exact same position, as I listened to his guilt-free admission of a physical relationship with his 24-year old student.  I swallowed hard and tried to ignore that fresh, painful memory.  The sickening feeling of rejection welled up inside of me.  It tasted like bile.

We stared at each other for a few moments until he finally asked, “Do you want me back?”

I couldn’t find the words.  I honestly didn’t know.  I gawked at the blue leather cover on my Bible.  Engraved on the bottom right corner was my maiden name, Leslie Spencer.  I shifted my cold feet further underneath my body as I searched my heart for an answer.  I was hoping God would open up the heavens and angels would sing.

But the only thing that felt eternal was the silence.  I finally looked up and said, “Yes.”

Without blinking, my husband immediately started to make demands on how the relationship was going to be, moving forward.  I was not allowed to bring up the affair.  He promised he would end it the very next day, and that would be that.  It would remain as if it had never happened.  I told him that someday we would have to address it, but I would let it alone for the time being.

I then asked him if he’d continue to accompany me to marriage counseling.  I had nagged and dragged him to one session thus far.  Our marriage counselor was, in fact, one of the two ministers who had married us, just one month short of ten years earlier.  The session had lasted two hours, wherein my husband declared that the 24-year old “held the manual to his happiness”, and he didn’t believe that his affair was a fantasy, as our counselor had gently described.  Exhausted, we all agreed to give him a week to figure out what he wanted  — marriage or affair?

He chose both.

Yet, there he was, sitting before me, saying all the right things.  He truly wanted to end the affair and be my husband.  I started to hope again. Part Two.

I took a deep breath.

“Do you want to have children?”

He was no stranger to this question.  In the wake of the crushing news, I had repeatedly asked him this one in particular.  I had explained that I was 32 years old, looking to start my life over again, and I definitely wanted to have kids.  His answers had run the gamut of, “Not with you!”  to, “Yes, of course,”  to, “Maybe just one…”

That night he stated, “I don’t know.  You poisoned that ‘well’ a long time ago.”

How on earth was I supposed to respond to that?  Furthermore, what was happening here?  Nothing felt much different than before.  Wasn’t the infidel supposed to express some sort of dramatic gesture of remorse?  I actually did expect my husband to grovel at my feet, to have experienced a “come to Jesus moment” and see how amazing I was.  I wanted him to realize that he couldn’t – and didn’t want to –  live without me.  I wanted him to choose a life with me, no matter what it looked like.

He was choosing me in that moment, and that was enough.

We continued to talk until we both grew tired.  Almost on a handshake, we agreed to move forward in our lives together.  After all, we loved each other, and we had a long history together.  We both made mistakes.  It wasn’t worth throwing everything away.  I was willing to give my husband some more space to end his adulterous relationship once and for all, and he was willing to heal our heartbreak through counseling.  It felt like a good place to start.

Yet, that night, I couldn’t sleep.  I lay next to him, on the farthest edge of our California King bed.  My husband slept noisily as I stared at the shadows on the ceiling, wondering what was going to become of my future.  How long would it take to heal?  When would I “feel” loved again?  How would I forget this ever happened?  I picked up my pillow and quietly slipped out of the bedroom, down the hall, and crawled into the tiny twin bed in the guest room.  I curled up into a tight, little ball underneath the covers.  My tears flowed freely.

I am so broken but I know You are here, Lord, I prayed.  You are with me, every step of the way. I have to give it over to You.   I trust You.

Within moments, I was fast asleep.


I Want Out

The ensuing days in the aftermath were a complete roller coaster.  I had this fantasy that everything would return to normal; that my expression of forgiveness plus delusions that my husband wanted to save the marriage would “all work out”.  I assumed he’d end the relationship with the 24-year old and we’d pick up the pieces.   I chose to believe his “one time” story and tried to move forward in the marriage.  I ordered self-help books on the internet: books on how to survive an affair, books on “Sacred Marriage” and “Love Languages”.  I read the books from cover to cover.  I highlighted paragraphs, wrote notes in the margins and studied like I was taking the Bar Exam.  Later, every single one of these books would find a new home: the garbage can.

My emotions ran wild.  I had no control over my anxiety or my thoughts.  I felt ugly, unloved, stupid, foolish, naïve and lame.  I also felt completely and utterly rejected.  I wanted to trust him but he gave me no reason.  He told me he would end it with her but didn’t want me to ask him about it.  I suspected his every move.  Every phone call, every text — was it her?  What was he saying?  Did he miss her?  Did he still love her?  He certainly couldn’t stand the sight of me.  He wouldn’t even touch me.  I practically threw myself at him.

There’s nothing more unattractive than a desperate, needy woman.

I was standing right in front of him, loving him, giving him a second chance.  I wanted to take him back in my arms even after he had betrayed me and desecrated our union.  I don’t know many people who would have done that, but I didn’t care.  I believed we were special.  Our love meant something.  How do you throw away ten years of marriage in an instant?!  I wanted to do everything I could to save it.  I was prepared to give up my dreams, hunker down and figure this whole thing out.  I had clarity, or so I thought.  I blamed myself for placing my career above my marriage, regardless of the fact that we had prayed about and made the decision for me to go to New York as a couple.  I also glossed over the fact that my husband had, for years, traveled extensively and sought out dangerous excursions in the Middle East with his buddies.  He left me for weeks at a time without contact or financial support.

Regardless, I wanted to reverse the damage.  Plus, I still loved the guy.  I couldn’t shut off my heart.  At the same time, I couldn’t understand how it had been so easy for him to cease loving me.

To be fair, my husband was willing to try.  I couldn’t walk away when there was a sliver of hope.  I wanted to see what God was going to do.  The potential of “beauty from ashes” kept me going.

To compound the relationship problem, neither one of us had jobs.  Our separate bank accounts were empty.  We both started looking for work.  Our loyal next-door neighbors came over one day and generously wrote us a check for $1,200.00.  The memo line simply read, Heal.  We were able to pay our mortgage that month.

And then, two weeks after the “big reveal”, I discovered that my husband had not ended his affair.

The shit storm continues, I scribbled in my worn, green leather journal.
Not only has he texted her, he’s been doing it for the past four days.  I can’t take much more.  He’s trying to “end it well” with her.  What a CROCK OF CRAP.  Why am I enduring this bullshit?  God, I am LOST.  I CAN’T DO THIS.  PLEASE SPARE ME!  RELEASE ME!
I want OUT.

He just couldn’t stop.  I freaked out.  I got in my car, drove to AT&T and canceled his phone service.  I had to take control of this idiot situation.  I got a new phone line for myself.  I loudly proclaimed to the employee processing my transaction that, “MY HUSBAND IS HAVING AN AFFAIR AND JUST CAN’T QUIT.  APPARENTLY 24-YEAR OLDS ARE ALL THE RAGE THESE DAYS! “

He kept his head down and mumbled, “Okay, ma’am.”

I drove back to the house, stormed up the cement stairs, pushed past my poor, sweet (remaining) dog, flung open the door and started gathering my husband’s belongings. In a rage, I scattered them out the front bay window, onto the deck.  The F word was my new favorite, so it accompanied each heave of clothing, book, paper and toy.  I am positive the entire block could hear my expletives.  Talk about cathartic.  Violence came naturally to me, and it felt good.

My diplomatic, generous neighbor came over to try and calm me down.  My husband accompanied her.  He had gone to her for help.  Her response to him was, “Well, what did you expect?!”

Still, he stared at me with a blank, confused expression as I continued to scream like a banshee throughout the house.  My exposition of craziness extended to now throwing things AT him.

Finally, somehow, my neighbor was able to get me to sit down.  I think the three of us were relieved that I hadn’t quite made it to the kitchen, where sharp objects were within easy reach.

After taking a few deep breaths, I asked my husband to leave.  He slowly selected a few pair of underpants, socks and T-shirts from the mess on the deck and went to stay with his parents.  I needed to get away. I had friends in Orange County with a boat.  They also had Jack Daniels.

When I returned after the weekend, my dog had wisely taken up residence at my neighbors’ house.  I was surprised to find my husband in the front yard, weeding.  He wore nothing but his favorite pair of dirty shorts and old flip-flops. His toes sunk into the dirt as he flatly spoke to me.  Occasionally he scratched at his new, fresh tattoo.

He wanted to know where I had been, who I was with and what I had for dinner, I wrote on September 28th.

At the same time, he wouldn’t tell me who he had been texting all day (HER), and then got defensive.  He said he didn’t understand why I had to be so “black and white” about things.


He is unable and unwilling to cease his relationship with his adulteress, therefore causing the blindness and confusion about me, HIS WIFE.

I want so much for him to wake up but he has not.  After I said it was so sad that he was making this choice to end our marriage, he replied, “I ended it three months ago.”

I told him I was shocked and humiliated that he wore his wedding ring while daily committing adultery.  So, he took it off and gave it to me.  I asked him to leave.  He did.

God, I am filing for divorce.  I still believe You can intervene, but I am open to your will.  He has a lot of growth to do before I can even agree to speak to him, so I pray that You would protect me and comfort me and help me move forward in life.  Oh, Father.  I want a loving husband and a family so very much. Why did I take _____ for granted?  And why did it take this horrible tragedy for me to wake up?  Forgive me, God.  Forgive my years of cruel selfishness.  I am so humbled and ashamed.

I went to sleep in my marriage bed alone that night, with determination.  My marriage was over, and I would take the first step to end it.