I feel bad for the medical offices I called on today, really anyone with whom I crossed paths. I was a killjoy.
This day is tainted. Were I still married, this day would have been our 11th anniversary, though that’s not what made me a bummer. It was what happened one year ago today.
It was on this day last year that, were I a camel, my back would have broke; September 24, 2012, gave me the last straw. It was an email, received at 9:57PM, subject line “So it’s like this…” It said:
I went to Minta's house. And Carrie was there. And we talked. And talked. And talked.
And my heart overpowered my over-analytical mind. And I'm choosing to make a life with her.
I know my apologies are meaningless, but I cannot help myself from tendering to your heart my most sincere regrets.
You are a catch and deserve to be chased.
I read that email, and immediately I was completely done. I was ready for the divorce my husband Mark had been hemming and hawing about. But that wasn’t at all how the day had started . . .
Somewhere in early August, my husband moved out. He’d been engaged in his affair with Her for months, I’d been in the loop since late June, and he finally decided move his desk, our bed, a love seat, and a couple computers into a tiny apartment pretty much exactly halfway between my house and the pad Carrie had moved into when Jim told her that if she wasn’t going to stop texting her boyfriend she’d have to leave.
It wasn’t the end of our relationship though. Really, it was just the kickoff party for my best begging. I used logic. I used mushy stuff. I used sex. I appealed to what shreds of morality he might have had left, trying to sell him on encouraging Carrie to go back to Jim to try to save their family, to spare their kids. Some days it looked like I was making headway. Other days—well, on other days I did things like forget to eat and accidentally spill a bottle of emerald nail polish on the tan carpet and not give a flying rat’s ass.
Both the Wasband and I had read Surviving an Affair, and I recommend it to anyone, not anyone who is working through infidelity or a rough patch in a marriage—Anyone. It’s short and, though not great writing, a terrific manual for strengthening a relationship. If you let it.
In The Book it gave steps for saving a marriage after an affair. Immediately and bluntly cut off all contact with the mistress. No fancy, lovey breakup letter. Just cut and run. And I really do mean run. The Book said that to save a marriage you may have to employ extreme measures like changing jobs or moving. My ex and I knew that he was too weak to remain in the same house—after all, we were in the same ward boundaries at church with Carrie—or even the same city, so saving our marriage meant uprooting entirely and moving fast.
Since the Wasband’s affair had cut off his income, I was the only provider. (Oh, did I not tell you that not only were Mark and Jim very close friends before Mark had an affair with Jim’s wife, but Jim also employed Mark? No, I am not kidding.) Thus I’d have to either quit my job, leaving us totally fundless, or finagle a transfer.
So in the days before our 10th anniversary, when he “decided” that remaining in our marriage was what he was going to do, I called my boss and made a formal request for a transfer to Las Vegas. I committed to leave a job I liked and a yoga community I’d come to rely on.
On Sunday, the 23rd, we slept in our house, in the same bed, for the first time in months. The next morning, our anniversary, after sex—also for the first time in months (well, for me, that is, since he had been sleeping with her all along)—we launched the breakup. He changed his cell number. We blocked her email address. And, as per The Book, I babysat him. People all entangled in an affair are by nature weak weak weak, and if they’re trying to break their pattern of weakness, they need someone hovering over them, reminding them of their decision to save a marriage. So that Monday became Take Your Wayward Spouse to Work Day.
Just as we were getting ready to leave the house, the doorbell rang. At the door was a small woman I’d never seen before. If you asked me now to describer her, all I could tell you is “troll.” That might not even be what she looked like, but I now know her as filthy and troll-like, so that’s all I’ve got in the way of physical description.
“Is Mark Romo here?” she asked.
“I’m sorry, he doesn’t live here.” I replied. No one had come to the house for him in months, yet here's this thing on my porch looking for my husband on the first day he is home.
“Well, I need him to fix my computer, and this is the only contact I have.” Our home address had never been connected to any of his business contact info. He only used a P.O. Box by way of address. “I tried to call him, but the number didn’t work.”
“I’m sorry. I can’t help you.”
“I really need to contact him.”
“I can't help. I'm sorry.”
And I shut the door.
A crazy-weird exchange there, Dear Reader. Nothing like that had ever happened before. That’s because my husband had never before tried to break up with his girlfriend and move home. See, the woman at my door was Carrie’s mother, Minta (as referenced in the email above).
Here’s how I know my own mom isn’t trash: She would never go to my boyfriend’s wife’s house to try to contact him for me. My mom would never help me break up my marriage and hurt my kids to run off with some tool who was also married.
And right there’s where everything fell apart.
I took the spouse to work with me. He waited in the car while I went in to see doctors. He cried while we drove. And when we got home, he told me that he had to go to Minta’s house. He had to go explain what he was doing in staying married.
I knew if he went to her house it would be the end. So I pled. I used reason. I tossed his own words back at him: “Remember? Remember how you said that you don’t want to be with Carrie because that’s no kind of life? You said that you don’t want to be with a woman whose kids will always hate you. You don’t want to live in a house you’ll never own. You told me these things.”
But he wanted to be understood.
“I’m sorry,” I told him, “but this isn’t the part where you get to be understood. This is the part where you sit on the couch and cry.”
I continued, “You can be strong and stick to your decision. We knew this would be hard. But it's the right thing. We can get through it.”
He stood up to leave.
“Here,” I said, “will it help if you tell me all the things you love about her?”
One of the harder things I’ve ever done in my life is listen to my husband tell me what he loves about the woman he’d been having an affair with. But I was desperate.
Apparently, so was he. So he put on his shoes. And he drove away.
From a puddle of my own tears on the floor, I somehow found my phone and called my sister. Lo came over. And for the next couple hours, she babysat me. She made me laugh. We did my expense report. We catalogued prints.
And then, at 9:57PM, my husband broke up with me via email.
And emotionally, one year ago today, I finally broke up with him.