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The Affair

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The entire house is dark except for the glow from the nightlight in the bathroom down the hall and the streetlight shining in my bedroom window.

I can hear the clock ticking on the nightstand, and the dull roar of the engine of every single car driving by on the road leading into our driveway. I strain to listen to each of those cars drive by, hoping and praying one will slow down to turn in. None do.

The ticking sound from the clock is irritating me. It taunts me second by second as I try to fall asleep, hoping I won’t wake up until some time when all of this is over, or until I have to get my son to preschool, whichever comes first. I know it will be the latter.

I look at the phone numbers written on a worn scrap of paper on my nightstand. I know all them by heart now.

The first is is the number of the woman who supposedly quit being my husband’s lover awhile ago. I’m not supposed to know she exists. I’m not supposed to know her name or number, but I do. I know things about her I wish I could un-know. I know better than to dial it at almost 3 a.m., but I think about doing it anyway. I’ve done it before. I pick up the phone and set it down at least half a dozen times. I don’t really want to know if he’s there. If he was they wouldn’t answer anyway.

I think about calling my best friend. I know better than that too. I’ve done that too many times at 2:45 in the morning.

She always answers. It’s always the same conversation. She wants me to leave him. I want to leave too, but I’m frozen here, in the dark and in my life.

I have a four-year-old sleeping down the hall. I don’t want to raise him alone. I don’t think that’s right. I don’t think I can.

I can’t hold food down. I’m about to lose my job. I don’t recognize myself when I look in the mirror, but I can’t imagine life without him. I’m not sure why. This isn’t a life I want.

I stare at the number for the crisis hotline. “Am I in crisis?”, I ask myself, tears burning my face as they roll out in the dark. I’ve called that number before too. They aren’t really equipped for my kind of crisis. They don’t know where my husband is either. Last time I called them they suggested I take a bath and call my mother. I can’t call my mother. I can’t tell her the reason I’m up at 2:45 in the morning. I’m too ashamed.

So, I do the thing I’ve done so many times before. I dial the non-emergency, after hours number for the State Patrol.

Officer Brown answers like she has too many times before. I tell her again, I think my husband may have been in a car accident. I give her his info and a description of his truck. She asks me to hold while she checks. I wonder if she even bothers to look it up anymore. I bite the inside of my lip until I can literally taste blood while I wait.

When she comes back to the phone she calls me by name, like she knows me. “Lisa, there have been no accidents involving a vehicle with that description or anyone fitting that description. There have been no accidents in your County at all since before midnight.” She tells me in her most reassuring voice he’s probably on his way home. She suggests I try to get some sleep. As she hangs up she doesn’t say she will talk to me again soon, but I’m guessing she knows she will.

The first time I called the State Patrol I prayed he was safe. I was panicked and terrified. Now when I call I hope I secretly hope he actually has been in an accident. The thought of him being in the hospital or even dead is more palatable than the thought of him being in bed with another woman – which is exactly where I know he is.

When your husband is having an affair, there are two times of day that are gut wrenching. The first is about 7 p.m. when you realize he’s not coming home from dinner. Maybe he calls and makes an excuse about working late. Maybe he doesn’t bother. Either way, he isn’t at the dinner table.

The second is when 2:30 a.m. rolls around and you have to admit to yourself there is no place open that late where he could be “hanging out with the guys”. Bars closed a half an hour ago, and he’s not lying in bed next to you, but he’s somewhere.

There is a special place in hell for people who don’t call and just don’t come home. My husband will find himself there one day and that thought gives me some comfort. There’s nothing like the silence, the waiting at home alone and knowing you’re imagination is probably telling the truth when you spouse isn’t.

After hanging up from hearing Officer Brown’s now familiar voice, I put on headphones and music so I can no longer hear the cars that aren’t turning onto our street. I roll into a ball and I pretend I don’t exist, and it feels better. I don’t want to die, but I also don’t want to be alive. I’m not angry. I’m exhausted.

That was more than two decades ago and I can still feel it in the pit of my stomach and taste it in my mouth, even though that part of my life has long been filed in the history books.

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As all the details of the Ashley Madison hack are leaked, one by one, then painstakingly indexed onto searchable databases on anonymous websites sites, it’s become a news story we’re all watching like the Superbowl of relationship reality TV.

The numbers on this hack are so staggeringly high, that chances are someone you know will be impacted by it, whether they tell you or not. For every Josh Duggar story, there are literally tens of thousands of other husbands and wives, who find themselves sitting in front of a computer, staring at a screen, unable to breathe. Ordinary people in an extraordinary moment.

And in that moment you think you won’t ever breathe again, but you do.

I could have never imagined I would say it, but I am profoundly grateful my ex-husband was unfaithful. His affairs were a symptom of the truth. It was a truth I was unwilling to face. We were never meant to be together. I believe in the sanctity of marriage. Being unhappy in and of itself would have never been enough for me to leave mine. However, he left our marriage long before we talked about divorce and because of that I was set free.

I don’t regret my marriage to him. I’m incredibly thankful for it, and not just because we had a child. It goes deeper than that.

I’m even more thankful it ended. In about one thousand ways, who I became was defined by those experiences. I love the woman I am now. I would have never become that woman who finds herself in a relationship with a man she’s deeply and profoundly happy with had I not been forced to grow up and thrive through and after divorce.

I’ve seen couples come back stronger than ever after an affair. That happens when both of them want it badly enough to do what’s really hard. In my case neither of us wanted it, and the affair was a way of untangling what we couldn’t untie otherwise.

An affair tells a story of a broken marriage. It sheds light on the kind of truth that’s unwrapped in the dark. It gives you a chance to be very intentional what you want to create for yourself and your family. It’s a painful way to be forced to move forward, one way or the other. Which way you move is entirely up to you and there are no intrinsically right or wrong answers to the hard questions.

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An affair is a lot of things, but what it’s not is the end of the world. An affair is a beginning, an opening. It’s a crack of possibility even when it feels like dying.

Death and rebirth is what we do. Resistance is futile. Rebirth is usually painful, but where it leaves you is always better than where you were before, eventually. How long that takes is up to you.

If you want it to be sooner than later, don’t let yourself hide in the dark. Look for the light and grow.

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Lisa Hayes, The Love Whisperer, is an LOA Relationship Coach. She helps clients leverage Law of Attraction to get the relationships they dream about and build the lives they want. Lisa is the author of the newly released hit book, Score Your Soulmate and How to Escape from Relationship Hell and The Passion Plan.

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