And so, after convincing me of his renewed commitment to our marriage, we moved on. After a few months, Jeff's company offered him a two-year expatriate assignment in Stockholm, Sweden. I understood why he wanted to go; the move represented a quantum leap forward in his career. But I had serious reservations—the winters were cold and dark, I'd have to put my own career on hold and, deep down, I suspected that our marriage couldn't survive the stress of living in a foreign country. Eventually, I was seduced into agreement when he told me that "Sweden would be the perfect place to reinvent our marriage."
Jeff's "commitment" to our healing disappeared almost as soon as we touched down in Scandinavia. Bucking Sweden's family-friendly trend toward shorter working hours, he went into the office each morning at 6 a.m. and didn't come home until 9 p.m. During family meals together, he would barely speak or look me in the eye. He grew a messy beard and lost about 20 pounds. He was the one who cheated; why did he seem depressed?
Once again, I had a vague sense of dread, but no proof of infidelity. Then one day he left his laptop open while he took a shower. I found another e-mail to Molly, this time implying that he would be free of our marriage as soon as we returned to the States.
"Have you been planning to leave me this whole time?" I gasped, the truth starting to catch up to me.
"Why did you have to look at my e-mail?" he accused.
"What difference would it have made if I hadn't?" I asked.
He told me it would have made a "huge difference." I suppose that meant he would have carried on with his two separate lives a while longer. I guess I forced his hand.
The next day, I told him I decided I could get past his affair.
"I don't want forgiveness," he said.
"Why not?" I said.
"Because you'd be better off without me. I've never been faithful to you. Not ever." And then, for the first time, Jeff told the truth.
He said he had been living two entirely separate lives for years. He called it his "sad, sad story." There was an array of infidelities: When he did a favor for Daisy, the older woman whose driveway we'd rented when we owned a co-op, she'd perform fellatio on him as a "thank you." He'd had an affair with Kristen, a secretary from work who was known for her drunken office party flirtations with married men. Another secretary named Marin "stood between his legs" at a bar while I was away on a business trip and, since "no one had ever done that before," he had sex with her...on four separate occasions.
He described how his addiction had evolved. He had been an athlete, an avid reader, an involved father. But eventually, he spent all his free time in Internet chat rooms, at massage parlors with "happy endings," on call girls, prostitutes and, one time, a dominatrix.
He would masturbate in his car where a woman might briefly catch a glimpse of him. He had fantasies of violent and demeaning sex with former girlfriends. He tried to watch neighbors getting dressed through their windows. When he came home late from a business meeting, he was really having sex. When he went for an early morning run, he was having sex. When he went out for coffee during my C-section recovery in the hospital, he was having sex.