On November 14th, 2018, my husband of nearly 6 years came home from an overnight work trip and seemed off. He didn’t even acknowledge me when he came in. Something was definitely wrong. As he was unpacking his bag, the text tone of his phone went off. Up until this point, we had had a completely trusting marriage. But something felt different this time. I asked who the text was from, and he immediately tensed up.
That night, I learned of several female “friendships” he was having unbeknownst to me. When I checked the phone records the next day, I found hundreds of hours of phone calls to a female coworker 17 years his junior. After reaching out to her, she admitted that “feelings grew” between the two of them. I was hurt and suspicious, but I wanted to believe the best of him. And for the next three months, my husband denied the affair, saying it was nothing more than a friendship.
Then, in February of 2019, I found saved voice and text messages with content that made it clear this was an affair. That day, I found myself calling into work, sobbing on my couch while a good friend held me, and prayed over me. I felt like my safety and security had been ripped from right underneath me. Everything I knew to be true was gone.
Over the next year, my husband used the “trickle truth method” to disclose his actions. He protected himself by only giving me bits and pieces of information, whenever he felt like it. He would share another detail and then swear nothing else had happened. At first, I thought there was one female. One became two. Two became three. After that, I simply lost count.
We began seeing a marriage counselor to try to work through the aftermath of infidelity. My husband controlled the narrative. He made it clear it was his story to tell and he would tell it on his terms, even though full disclosure was what our therapist recommended. Day after day, month after month, my husband watched me cry in bed. I was unable to be a mother, to cook, to clean. Sometimes I couldn’t even shower. My whole world was crumbling. I felt afraid, betrayed, and so broken.
He allowed me to suffer, knowing there was more to the story, but he chose, still, to continue to deceive me. When confronted about the infidelity, he would get mad and berate me. He would yell that it was all we ever talked about. That we couldn’t go longer than a few hours without talking about it. He would make comments about me crying all the time and spending hours and hours in bed. I couldn’t do anything right.
We would go to the garage to talk so the kids wouldn’t hear, and he would be so angry, he’d throw his tools around. If I became emotional about it in the car, he became so upset, that he would start speeding until I’d beg for him to slow down. If I initiated a conversation he was uncomfortable with, he would leave and intentionally go where the kids were. I would follow, and then he would yell at me for talking to him in front of the kids. If I so much as allowed a tear to drop in front of the kids, I was scolded. Very quickly, I felt like I was walking on eggshells.
I watched my husband of 6 years laugh in my face when I was crying. Smirk when I told him I was hurting. His response to my questions was classic gaslighting.* He blasted me with mind games until I felt I was crazy. Then, he started shifting the blame. Pretty soon, it was my fault for not getting over it sooner. It was my fault he lied because he was afraid of how I’d react. The manipulation was so severe. I left conversations feeling as if everything was my fault. Like I had completely misunderstood everything that happened. And I was guilty for making such a big deal out of things. My mind was in a constant state of panic. I was operating from my amygdala** at all times: fight or flight. Everything was a threat. Everything was a trigger.
My life was a nightmare for the next year. I can’t even remember all the terrible things he did and said to hurt me. He lied, cheated, and twisted the whole situation out to be my fault. I’ve since escaped his manipulation and control, but let me tell you- it wasn’t easy. If you are stuck with a partner who cheats and manipulates like my ex-husband did, you’re not alone. You might feel like you can’t talk about it, like no one would understand. But I’m here to tell you that’s not true. There are people like me who have endured terrible emotional abuse and survived. There are people like me who understand. And there are people like me who can help.
It’s okay to be broken and devastated by infidelity. It’s not okay for your partner to use that as a weapon over you. It is NOT your fault. You are not crazy, and you shouldn’t just “get over it.” You don’t have to keep putting up with abuse, because that’s what a “good” husband or wife does. You have options. Talk to an advocate today by calling 1.800.382.5603 or text “IOWAHELP” to 20121.
* Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group secretly targets an individual, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment, often causing them to experience internal conflict and low self-esteem.
**The amygdala is a part of the brain that plays an important role in emotion and behavior. It helps us process fear and sends signals to areas of the brain like the hypothalamus to trigger a fight, flight, or freeze response to traumatic or stressful stimuli.