“You're gonna leave me.”
“You won't ever come back…”
The words fell out of his mouth in unison with the tears in his eyes. He sobbed at my feet while I screamed and cursed God. I was manic with rage. My chest flushed red and my heart raced uncontrollably.
How could you!
“I'm sorry! I'm so fucking sorry!”
You've ruined everything…
I clumsily opened drawers and emptied their contents, flinging tee shirts and underwear into the same suitcase we had once packed for our honeymoon. He begged me not to go through deep gasps of air. His eyes were swollen and red. His cheeks wet. I had never seen him like this. This was a weak man – a broken man. That was the day I left my husband.
The days following his confession of infidelity, I watched from afar as my he drowned his regret in a bottle of bourbon, while I was left faking normalcy for our children, in spite of overwhelming devastation and stings of betrayal. How were we this couple?
Processing this kind of heartache feels impossible. I want to be driving on a road in the middle of nowhere, getting lost in painful lyrics and feeling sorry for myself. Instead, I'm cutting crust off of turkey sandwiches and tying shoelaces before my children and I head to the park.
“Come home,” He texts me. I turn my phone off.
In college, I remember a conversation between a group of friends after one of our own had been cheated on. It went something like this: Can you believe it? What a dog! Well, that's the end of that relationship! Surely she won't stay with a man that cheated, right? After all, she doesn't want to look like a fool, does she?
Days pass and I'm surfacing from my rage. Grief has now taken over, along with an ache to rewind to last Friday when everything seemed perfect. I miss him. I recite my vows over and over again until I fall asleep in a puddle of saltwater on my pillow.
Distance won't fix this. Space isn't healing. I need to be there, with him, in the thick of it. Leaving was easy; staying won't be. I drive back to him as reluctantly as I drove away. When I pull up our driveway, there he is, standing in front of me with tears in his eyes. God, did he lose weight? His shirt hangs on him and his face is sunken in. He calls in sick the next few days and we crack each other wide open. We retrace 8 years of marriage and dig up past transgressions and discuss the hurt we caused each other. He has a voice. For the first time in years, I can hear him because I'm listening.
“Surely she won't stay with a man that cheated, right?” I silence the judgement inside of me. This is not about looking like a fool. It's not about standing by your man or retreating from that feminist tower that I put myself in years ago. This is not about my image or the stereotypical roles of infidelity. This is about two people. Our marriage. This about a choice.
I choose him. He was unfaithful, but I choose him. Good men can fumble and I refuse to let this mistake define our marriage. He is better than this. We are better than this. The betrayal still stings, but his commitment to restore what has been broken heals.
I choose him.