How Snooping Helped Me Survive Divorce

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getting over a divorce
Reading his diary helped liberate me from our marriage—after he left.

But now he told me he loved Marion and wanted to be with her. He offered no other explanation for his dissatisfaction in our marriage: nothing I had done wrong or could possibly fix, nothing that was negotiable. As he walked out the door, he told me, "Don't write us off, we'll get help." Could Couples Therapy Really Save Us?

I don't know what help he had in mind because he refused to see a marriage counselor or any other kind of mediator. He said he'd be staying with mutual friends who lived near us. Instead, he moved in with Marion.

Getting married had been his idea. I'd just wanted to live together. If things didn't work out I wanted to be able to call a mover, not a lawyer. But he had insisted on it. We'd been living together for two years when he gave me an ultimatum.

"Marry me or I'm moving out," he'd said. "I don't believe in divorce. I'm there for the long haul."

My parents had divorced when I was less than two years old, so the idea of a family was both alien and seductive. My mother had died when I was ten, and my father remarried five years later. But his new wife hated me. I lived in a hotel in downtown Detroit, apart from my father, his wife and my brother from then on.

At the time, the promise of having a family of my own had been irresistible. And it proved to be everything I'd ever wanted. We had a great apartment and a beautiful baby girl. We both had good jobs. He was an executive with the bank; I was a successful advertising copywriter at a top New York agency. And in five years he never said a word to suggest that he wasn't happy with me.

Maybe that's why I was so amazed by his secret life as a virtual James Joyce.

The pain of reading his diary was oddly liberating. Once I got past my disgust, I couldn't lose what I didn't have. And if that was the man I was married to, I thought, I didn't lose much. In actuality, reading his diary may have been one of the best things that have happened to me. It made me see that he was never really there for me to begin with. I didn't have to worry about how I was going to make it alone. I'd been alone all that time and just didn't realize it.

I never said anything to him about his journal. One afternoon, several weeks later, he came over to pick up our daughter as part of his visitation. As I was dressing her in little Lacoste shorts and a matching t-shirt, he commented on her ears.

"She has such perfect ears, almost like little shells," he said.

"Yes," I replied. "But don't you think she has peasant hands?" That he didn’t answer came as no surprise.

Years later, I was in my daughter's room putting away some of her sweaters that had come back from the cleaners when I came across her diary. Some experts on adolescent behavior say parents should know everything their kids are up to, even if it means eavesdropping and poking around in their rooms. For me, reading her diary was out of the question. Not just because it would be invading her privacy, and not because it was a matter of character. I just didn't want to know anything about her that she didn't want to tell me.