Five years ago today I cheated on my husband. I didn’t expect to sleep with another man, and at the time it seemed as though the whole situation just kind of snuck up on me. Looking back, it very obviously didn’t; there were six very long years leading up to a single decision that changed everything.
Typically, we were young. And religious. And naive, thinking that getting married and creating our own family would patch over the wounds of our biological families. So stupid. Two broken people do not a whole unit make. In the beginning there were so many fights and accusations; blame was thrown around like a live grenade and we both hoped it would explode in the other’s hands. He had addiction problems, I had reality problems. Throw a fundamentalist church into the mix and Presto! it’s a disaster.
Of course, God hates divorce. God would rather a person spend their entire life in misery, waking each day just trying to breathe and desperately stuff the loathing down so deep that maybe it will disappear. It’s a time for prayer, a time to strengthen your character, a time to rely on God because he is your only hope. And besides, once you’ve said those eternal vows, it’s his perfect will. Don’t fuck it up.
Note: in this instance God and the church are entirely interchangeable.
The trick to surviving a bad marriage: compartmentalize. Work was fun, I loved my friends and when I was around them life was laughter and shenanigans. He didn’t exist in that world. He didn’t really exist in the church world either, he just sometimes came around when he felt God telling him to evangelize street people. Sex was non-existent and we had separate bedrooms, so theoretically I could live about 85 percent of my life without him. It helped.
For some reason, turning 28 seemed like a big deal, like I was a legitimate adult or something. The need for some sort of change was nagging me, so I trained for a half marathon and I ran it. It felt great, I was strong and healthy, but there was still a barely acknowledged twinge in the back of my soul that something was not right. I had become so used to ignoring and surviving, so dead to my own needs and desires, that I couldn’t even identify what the little niggling was.
And then I got drunk at a friend’s dinner and the answer to it all hit me between my eyeballs. Or rather, more accurately, between my legs.
I met him while training for the half marathon; he was a friend of friends, recently separated and I didn’t think of him beyond that. I was married remember? He decided that a trip would be good to clear his head after his break up, so he ended up joining our little group that was traveling to the coast for the run.
My one continuous thought that whole weekend: I should have married this man. He was everything I didn’t even know I wanted in a husband. Masculine, sexy, smart, successful, Yukon-ish, kind. He would be a great father. And there it was. I would never be so irresponsible as to have children with my husband. With that, my heart started working something to the surface that I had ignored for so long. I was desperately unhappy.
On some level my husband must have known that we had gone too far down the road of dead marriages. Upon returning, he immediately accused me of unfaithfulness. I hated him for that. I was so grateful that I was able to look him in the eye and tell him that I had done nothing wrong, and that he was the asshole for not even asking about my run. He brushed it off, and went out to get high before his dad came into town for a Promise Keepers convention. They were going together. You can’t make this shit up.
That one second that I allowed myself to feel hatred for him spawned a seething rage. The proverbial scales fell from my eyes and I actually saw my life and my marriage for what they were. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my days toiling away, praying for my husband, ending up withered and alone like some of the older ladies in my church who lived for prayer meetings and renouncing the devil.
That was a Tuesday, and Friday, October the 13th was when the universe shifted and everything changed.
The evening started out as a simple dinner with friends, a sort of celebration of our recent running accomplishments. Truthfully, I don’t remember much from that night; a lot of wine was consumed. I do remember the feeling of kissing someone completely different, and that was more intoxicating than any wine. I remember having an orgasm with a man for the first time in years. Awaking the next morning was an experience of alternating between elation and panic. The hangover seemed minor by comparison, and as the day progressed the reality of my choices set in. I became terrified. Terrified of the church, of what my husband would say, of how I would be shunned by friends, but above all, I was terrified of my willingness to throw everything away. What I know now, that I didn’t know then, was that I did it on purpose. It was my grand escape, my chance for something better.
I went home on Saturday the 14th, he wasn’t there. Promise Keepers conferences last all weekend. On Sunday he walked into the house and I told him. I told him that I cheated on him and I begged for his forgiveness. With a righteous air he took off his ring and told me to get my shit and get out of the house. There were tears and slammed doors; it was ugly, but it was done.
An even uglier break-up had yet to take place. This one involved special prayer and whispered words and an unbelievable amount of condemnation. Words like satan, adultery, sin, evil and influence (as in we can’t spend time with you because of your sinful influence) were said. To be renounced by one person you don’t love anymore can be hard, but to be renounced by an entire group of people who once loved you is almost devastating.
Through the chaos of both break-ups, the man I slept with waited patiently. He gave me the space I needed to deal with my life, and when I realized that for the first time in many, many years I could breathe again, I called him. Whatever I lost five years ago - the church, friends, family, a husband, I have gained a thousand times more. Axel is IT. I felt it, however subconsciously, before I even really knew him, and five years later that feeling has only grown stronger and more sure. Not everyone is so lucky to fall completely in love with their one night stand, but it happened to me. Two children, a man who is completely amazing and a life that blows my mind almost everyday is what happened. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Five years ago today I cheated on my husband and it was the best fucking decision of my life.