Affairs are discovered in many ways. I’ve met people who “knew” for many months, or even years, before coming face-to-face with confirming a partner’s affair. I’ve heard stories of complete shock when a single piece of evidence breaks a truth free that’s been hidden. My discovery process was somewhere in-between.
The three of us sat down for dinner as I had just arrived home from the grocery store. I remember having the “Sunday blues” as my husband was set to leave the next morning for a routine 21-day offshore trip for work. His phone pinged an unfamiliar tune. When I inquired, he responded with an answer I knew wasn’t accurate. I asked to see his phone and pulled down the notification bar to read, “Catherine had just arrived home.” Warning bells sounded in my head. In seconds, I realized that the location-tracking services on my phone had been enabled. Moreover, without my knowledge.
I physically got hot. I felt confused. Inwardly, I felt alarm. I firmly asked why he lied, and he stated that it was important to him to know where my son and I were while he was away, and was sure we had discussed enabling this feature. I accepted the answer and chalked it up to “new mom brain.” But I remained shaken inside.
My new mom brain still raced the next day. I tried to push it back and out of the way. I felt angry and ashamed that I let wild thoughts cross my mind. But in the midst of those feelings, I couldn’t shake that small, seeming lie.
In the next few weeks, I danced on the edges of normalcy and craziness. That night's crack of skepticism was widening into something I couldn’t ignore. Awake in the middle of the night, it dawned on me that I had never really inquired about his social media use. I believed that he generally didn’t care to be on social media much. It couldn’t hurt to wander through his online profiles of various social media. I was stunned to see inappropriate profiles sprinkled between sports and news outlets. The accounts weren’t numerous, but they were obvious. That same hot, confused, alarmed feeling came back.
The next day, we addressed it. An answer was provided and tided me over yet again. They were old accounts from college and military days never deleted. It was plausible. I explained it all in my head as stress in a new marriage, a newborn, and an atypical travel schedule of which I was getting accustomed. Oddly, I switched gears and went into overdrive to network with other women whose husbands also worked away from home. I figured they could help me. Surely, I wasn’t the only one who felt these paranoid feelings with a spouse who worked far away. I “favorited” a quote from a beloved yoga studio that I thought fatefully came through my news feed and pasted it all over my house---“Do Not Dig up in Doubt what You Planted in Faith.”
Unfortunately, my reality was that I couldn’t stop digging. I followed that wrenching feeling in my gut and got my sharpest shovel. I relentlessly continued my late-night searches and eventually found a smoking gun and a missing link. Fast forward a few weeks until the true Discovery Day when it was confirmed.
I can still get that hot feeling just remembering those moments that crazy ran right through me. Remembering the extreme stress, fear, and anxiety that would make me vomit—and yet trying to hold it together at work in meetings and in my daily life activities for weeks on end. It felt like years. I couldn’t share what I was trying to do or trying to learn—because I didn’t want to seem insecure. I didn’t want to be paranoid. I didn’t want to fracture our marriage if it wasn't true—and most of all, I certainly didn’t want to let anyone too far in on what was possibly underneath.
I hopelessly tried to make the facts untrue. My painful lesson however, is that I had no control over the facts---only over my ability to find them. The endless hours playing detective was my only foothold in a situation spiraling out of control. I was hell-bent to get after the truth I had been deprived of knowing. My efforts expanded to scouring financial records, checking accounts, pay stubs, travel records, phone records, email archives, text message fragments, hidden chat apps etc.. I needed to know it all, of course in an effort to try and understand it all. Needless to say, this was not a moderated, therapeutic Disclosure process.
I remember a phone call from an older sibling—who wisely stated, “to get out of the hole, you have to stop digging.” I hung up the phone to realize not only was my shovel practically blunt, but I was exhausted, defeated, and dazed.
Without question, what was planted in faith was uprooted for good. My family made me realize that. I was never going to get out from those depths unless I stopped digging and made a different decision.
Sometimes digging in the midst of doubt is the only control you have. But there comes a point when realizing its no longer serving any purpose and is actually at the expense of your physical and mental health. As hard as it is, there is relief in stopping, looking upward, and starting the journey to climb up and out of that hole.