Family & Relationships Family & Relationships

Her Boyfriend is My Husband

I found myself uttering these words to a complete stranger just days ago at the gym.
I had just finished running-I kid you not-immediately adjacent to my husband's mistress in complete silence.
During these 30 minutes, a litany of sarcastic comments and curious questions ran through my head, and I wrestled with the desire to remain composed and graceful against the desire to make cutting remarks.
"Does your son realize that you're dating a married man?" "Is your mother proud of you?" "How do you live with yourself?" These questions, among others, rattled around in my head as I ran in silence.
She and I used to be friends.
We met years ago at the local children's museum, where her son and my daughters took a weekly science class together.
In the back of the room, our friendship blossomed through whispers and jokes, and we feared that we'd be the ones kicked out of the class.
Together, we went on field trips, researched grants for the museum, and discussed work.
I helped her launch a new career in my former field, even going as far as helping her secure a part time job working for my husband in said field.
She worked in my home 3 days a week.
I had no reason to mistrust her or my husband.
Boy, was I dumb.
I found out about the affair eight months ago.
He moved out six months ago.
The last time I had walked into the gym, she and my husband were running side-by-side.
I looked my husband in the eye and said "Good morning.
" I attempted to look her in the eye, but her shame revealed itself as she immediately looked down.
I said good morning anyway, and she mumbled an illegible response.
Within 5 minutes, they left.
She evidently mistook my cordial public greeting as acceptance, since later that day I received an email from her extending an olive branch in hopes that we could one day rekindle our friendship.
She called the situation "sensitive and awkward.
" Some choice words swelled inside of me, but rather than respond in haste, I felt I should counter my knee-jerk reactions with the perspectives of a few trusted family members and friends.
I was comforted when every one of them was incredulous of her nerve, yet none of us were sure if she was propelled by tenacity or stupidity.
I took 24 hours to contemplate and craft a response in which I told her, in a very measured way, that she could take back her olive branch because we would never again be friends.
I explained that what she called "awkward" was in truth "devastating" for my children and me.
I closed by inviting her to call me if she wanted to continue the conversation.
She hasn't called.
You may be wondering how I feel about my husband about now.
It's simple.
I still love him.
Does that mean I'm not hurt, angry, or sad? Of course not.
But I also know that I am not perfect, and I have made my own mistakes in our marriage.
And I know that deep in my core, I have the capacity to forgive.
You're thinking, "He's scum; move on.
" Here's the problem; I know him and you don't.
My observation is that he is more miserable than ever.
A new apartment and a new relationship haven't brought him the happiness he was seeking.
He was hurting before the affair, and he is hurting now.
In fact, his unhappiness is now compounded by guilt, shame, and doubt.
He thought his pain was because of me, but something else was, and still is, going on.
I don't know what it is, but I do know that he is in pain.
And when someone you love is in pain, you don't just leave.
Besides, he's still my husband.
I chose to marry him for life, and he is the father of my children.
I would like nothing more than to reunite my family under one roof, wrapped tightly under a blanket of good emotional health.
I know the man I married--the kind, sensitive, loving one--is still there, even if he is shrouded like a mummy with his emotions.
I believe that he doesn't like the life he is living, and I still believe that, yes, he loves me, even if he is currently with her.
Perhaps I am wrong.
Perhaps I am a fool.
Only time will tell.
In the meantime, I am pursuing new opportunities that bring me joy.
I have become a part time fitness instructor.
I am writing.
I am making changes to my home.
I am standing on my own two feet.
And I am a rock for my children during this turbulent time.
Regardless of how my marriage turns out, I am proud of these things.
So back to this week's gym encounter.
I got off my treadmill first, and on my way back from grabbing a towel to wipe down my machine, I could no longer restrain myself.
The impulse to speak to her overwhelmed me.
So I spoke.
Over the sound of her headphones she didn't immediately catch what I said because she leaned forward, eyebrows raised with inquisition, until my words sank in.
"Where's your boyfriend this morning?" Then the dots connected and she retreated, looking away and saying nothing.
An innocent bystander stood nearby.
I turned to her and said, "Her boyfriend is my husband.
" Then head held high, I walked out of the gym, leaving both of them to contemplate my remark.

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