When I started The Friendship Breakup series, it was because I struggled to find anything to help me move on from a few broken friendships. What I learnt while writing the series, incredibly quickly, was that everyone had the same story – and the amount of women who wrote to me, heartbroken, telling me that they still didn’t understand why their best friend hadn’t spoken to them for twenty years, made me realise this wasn’t an uncommon problem.
At first, the comments here and there just reminded me that I wasn’t alone. However, I quickly realised that there was this problem where women were ghosting their friends and everyone was going through a ‘secret friendship heartbreak’ at some point in their lives.
And I realised that that’s the same thing with relationships.
In a way, it’s the same thing with my relationship. You know, hashtag relationship goals and all that.
Because I’m still married to my husband, and I want to keep it that way, I’m only going to highlight certain sections of our marriage to discuss, and I’m going to keep the timeline fairly non-specific. To cover it properly, I’m going to divide “The Affair” into several pieces.
For around eight months of our almost six-year relationship, my husband had an emotional affair.
It’s actually a fact that almost no one knows.
It’s weird, in a way, because a lot of the reasons why that group of people – that friendship group that abandoned me when I was sick – blamed me for a lot of things he was responsible for. It’s part of why I started thinking of this series, thinking about how frequently we blame women for the actions of men, and how everyone assumed that I was the problem because he couldn’t be.
The day I learnt about the emotional affair was one of the worst of my life. I felt trapped, lied to and betrayed.
Actually, those are just words.
What I felt went beyond that, into something indescribable.
I came across his emails to her by accident. An account he rarely used (it was to do with our house) required a password change, and I couldn’t reach him to know what his password had been. Knowing the connected email address and corresponding password, I just decided to hit reset and that I’d just wait for the email and fix the account myself.
And I saw a name. One I’d been familiar with.
And the subject heading?
Well, it was about him sneaking off away with her.
And, as I sat there looking at his email account, I realised that was the majority of emails – back and forth.
I started opening them, reading his words to her, feeling my entire world shift and break and change forever.
I was furious.
I learnt that, while with me, he was planning a life with another woman.
I learnt that, while with me, he was planning secret getaways.
I learnt that, while with me, he was cutting our dates short so that they could have long phone calls.
I learnt that, while trying to protect him, and my relationship, everyone saw him as the perfect guy.
In fact, I guarantee you everyone still does. I think only two people in my friendship circle knows that my husband, at some point in our relationship (not saying when), cheated on me for eight months, so here’s my secret for the century (or at least one of them).
I don’t have the perfect relationship, nor do I have the perfect marriage.
I never have, because no such thing exists, and if it does, then damn. Congratulations, I guess? I don’t know what to say without it potentially sounding cheap, but I genuinely think it’s amazing.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that cheating is the only thing (there’s a fuckton of shit that is not cheating that I could list), but relationships aren’t always sunny.
And it’s good that way, because sometimes you can’t appreciate the good without the bad.
And it was a really fucking bad time.
I’m not going to sugar coat it – when someone you love betrays you in such a way, it shakes your entire foundations. And the pain that comes with everyone always talking about how amazing and fantastic your partner seems, but once you open your mouth and tell everyone the truth, you know everyone’s going to want to have an opinion, and you can’t handle everyone’s opinions because you don’t even know what you’re thinking or if you’re even meant to be thinking.
If he cheated, she must have deserved it.
If he cheated, she should leave.
You know how it goes. I’m sure most of you reading this have had someone cheat on them before, and you understand what I mean, to some degree.
Once you start telling people, people tell you what they think you should do.
You should leave.
You should stay.
While I did need help, I also needed to make the decisions by myself. My husband and I both saw a therapist. Scott, who had (at this point), been in denial about the emotional affair and insisted that I was overreacting because he had ‘never, ever intended to act on it’ and it was ‘just words’, was forced to confront the fact that he had overwhelmingly betrayed me. That he had, in fact, had an emotional affair and that if our relationship had any hope of recovery, he needed to take responsibility for his actions.
In some ways, he did really well. He responded well to the therapist’s comments and critics, and tried to follow her instructions as best as possible within his work schedule (he’s FiFo).
For example, he wanted to tell his parents what he’d done. I can’t remember why, and I think it was his idea, but it could’ve been the therapist’s, or something the therapist implied or suggested. Who the fuck knows or cares?
Anyway, after he tried to tell his parents what he’d done, they – with all the kindness, compassion, understanding and empathy they’ve consistently displayed towards me – told him that he hadn’t done anything wrong and that I was being a bitch.
Unfortunately, in a desperate attempt to overcompensate and atone, Scott then started targeting certain people in my life that hadn’t been the best of friends. (An example of this was one night I was talking to Scott that I was disappointed that so few of my friends had taken an interest in my writing. I remember talking about the fact that it had made me sad that, after creating the Carla Louise page, it felt like I had to encourage my friends to like my page to support my writing. This was devastating for several reasons because I almost always like friends’ pages in a show of support, so I naturally assumed the favour would be returned (although that’s just kind of stupid on my part). But mostly, it was devastating because I’d watch other people create make up pages to sell MLM products and those friends would receive hundreds of likes, whereas my friends knew that I’d been trying to work towards a writing career my entire life and didn’t seem to care enough to take a second to like a page I had invited them to.)
Even after inviting certain friends – one being a once incredibly close friend – some of them wouldn’t take notice. Instead of just a blog, I became a freelance writer. I started working on my novel, You Know You Want It. I was sharing my publishing pieces, incredibly proud of the achievements I’d made. And you can judge me all you want, but the realisation that your close friends and family can’t even take a second out of their day to like a page you’ve created to help set up to help your career (trust me, it’s somewhat necessary in the writing world nowadays), it makes you wonder if you should even be writing.
I’m not kidding. You can scoff and say, “Don’t be melodramatic”, but hear me out.
If your own friends and family don’t care enough to like your Facebook page in a show of support – because we all know you don’t have to follow someone’s page – you can’t help but wonder if you’re good enough.
And I told this all to Scott. To atone, he went and confronted a couple of those friends.
I wasn’t there and I can honestly say I don’t know much about what really happened, or what really was said. I know that Scott said he’d had dinner or gone out for drinks or some shit with them, and then he’d told them about how I was feeling in regards to the Facebook page. I was shocked and surprised, because Scott had rarely spoken out in my defence before (more on this in a future story) in any regard, so I hadn’t felt the need to censor any emotions or feelings at the time. (To be fair, I can’t remember exactly what I felt, or what I said. I just remember feeling worthless, and I remember questioning if there was any point in me continuing my writing path. I don’t think I was particularly angry with anyone, just disappointed, but I want to make it damn clear that I don’t shirk my responsibilities or not accept blame.)
Regardless, when Scott told me, he said that he’d explained it and that they had no idea and that they were sorry and they immediately liked the page. It really seemed like (to me, from what Scott had said) that the conversation had been relayed the way I’d spoken about it, and that my partner had done a really nice, and really unexpected, thing for me.
A few months later, I’d hear from one of them that Scott had been incredibly angry with them and they believed I’d sent him there. They told me that I had an addiction to social media, and that it was ‘unfair’ to make them like anything. I genuinely tried to explain, as best as I could, without mentioning Scott’s affair. That if something had been miscommunicated, that it had been something he’d been working on with our therapist, that I didn’t understand and I needed the situation explained so I could try and understand the context (remember, this was months later, and a proper discussion wouldn’t come about what Scott said until well after a year, so I really did need some kind of context.
Of course, I wasn’t believed. It was just another sign to these people that I was the bad guy. After all, Scott had never been angry with them before – it had to have come from me. And when I asked for an explanation, of course I was lying. After all, what other logical reason could there be?
What I was doing was protecting my partner. By that time, I’d started losing faith in my friendship with these people, and I didn’t believe the truth would help me. I didn’t think I’d be offered sympathy, kindness or compassion. They hadn’t before (which I will get to, in a separate post), and I had no reason to suspect they would now. I was sure that telling them that Scott had cheated on me for eight months and I was broken would be used against me – basic human compassion was something I had long learnt not to accept from some of these people.
If I’m honest, it was an incredibly brutal and lonely time for me. One of the hardest parts was knowing I was being blamed for my husband’s actions and that I felt like no one would hear me even if I did speak.
Plus, when you have a large group of people telling you that you don’t deserve your husband because he’s better than you after he’s just cheated on you for eight months, you’re not usually in a great place emotionally (just saying).
So why did I stay?
Keep following the series to find out.