I Thought 22 Years And 9 Children Was Enough To Make Our Marriage Work — I Was Wrong

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I thought I had checked off all the affair proofing boxes when it came to my marriage — but I was wrong.

When my husband first told me he wanted a divorce, I struggled with disbelief. It consumed my every moment. How could I have let this happen? Wrapped in shame, I battled the humiliation in silence. I kept it hidden, pretending all was okay.

I wasn’t ready to let us go.

I never suspected he’d stray. After all, twenty-two years and nine children surely meant something? I’d somehow felt protected — like we had too many reasons to make it work.

Who throws in the towel with that kind of backstory?

Not even six months prior, he’d decided to purchase burial plots, so one day, we’d be laid to rest next to one another, here in the states.

It was a significant decision. We’d gone round and round this issue for years. He wanted his body brought back to his hometown in Mexico when he passed away. Multiple generations of his family were in their small town cemetery. It was their resting place. But we’d established our life here. And weren’t we his family?

And then, he dropped the bomb two days before Thanksgiving.

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The tension between us was high as he’d been distant and late coming home for weeks. Having a business, late hours were the norm, but not to this extreme. I was beyond frustrated with his lack of effort. Bundled head to toe in winter gear, I took our German Shepard, Chacho, for a walk around the lake. It was 8:30 pm, and my husband still wasn’t home.

We were having guests over in two days, and I needed him to pitch in. I love hosting dinners, but it’s not easy preparing for such a large crew — especially on the holidays.

Pulling off my gloves, I took the phone from my pocket. I pressed call.

“What’s up?” he asked.

“Where are you? Why are you so late? I need help. There’s so much left to do.”

“Here we go again. You’d drown in a bucket of water. Not even my own mother asks this many questions. You know what?”

I waited, but he said nothing. I heard music in the background. He hadn’t hung up.

“Hello?”

“Yea. You know what? I’ve decided we’re not going to be together anymore. We’re getting a divorce.”

I stopped.

Wide-eyed, my mouth fell open. He’d never said anything like that before.

My breath became shallow. Nausea came in a wave — my mouth started watering as my stomach churned. Chacho put his paw on my foot, nudging his body next to me. I folded my hands over my stomach, trying to grasp the situation.

I tried to steady my voice. “What do you mean?”

“We’ll talk later. Right now’s not the time.”

He hung up.

There was nowhere to sit, aside from the snowy ground. I leaned onto a big strong Oak, taking deep breaths to calm my body down. I knelt over and patted Chacho.

We started the long, cold walk home.

The house was full of kids’ laughter when I walked in. My husband sat on the sofa, arms stretched out wide — engrossed in a Mexican telenovela.

I removed Chacho’s leash, but he didn’t move. He wasn’t leaving my side.

The older kids were bantering back and forth about one thing or another. My husband stared at the screen, avoiding my eyes.

I didn’t want to cause a scene. “Can we talk upstairs?”

“Later, ” he answered, his eyes consuming the curvy Latina.

I walked over to the kitchen, not knowing what to do with myself. I tried doing the dishes but couldn’t keep my focus. So, I put on a smile and told the kids goodnight. My chin was quivering by the time I reached the stairs leading to our bedroom.

My husband once made me feel so safe like everything was somehow always going to be okay. He was my solid ground, my refuge, a dependable constant throughout any uncertainty.

My husband opened the bedroom door with a forced strength demanding my attention. He stood in the doorway, his shoulders held back.

His nose was wrinkled, and his lip curled, “What do you need?” he asked.

I sat up in bed. Chacho was on high alert next to me, watching.

“You really don’t want to be with me anymore?”

“Don’t make this a big deal — people get divorced all the time. There’s no reason to be sad. It’s a contract, that’s all. And to be honest, I don’t think I ever loved you. I should’ve left you right in the beginning,” he said.

I turned my head away from him, squeezing my eyes shut. My chest clenched in a strangled grip, bile burned the back of my throat. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. Words wouldn’t come — my body felt limp.

I lowered my head.

He started laughing. “The world isn’t ending. Just look outside at the moon. It’s a beautiful night. There are so many reasons to smile.”

I opened my mouth to say something but bit my lip instead. Chacho lifted his paw up onto the bed and nuzzled my hand.

My husband plopped down hard onto the far side of our bed and went on his phone.

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“Enough with the emotions, don’t be so weak. This is your fault. You should have done more to keep me,” he said.

He put on his headphones and opened the app for his daily Portuguese lesson. It was his latest obsession.

I laid back down and curled up in a fetal position. I hadn’t realized the tears had started until my pillow became wet.

The next few months felt surreal. The emotional distance now made sense. He was adamant there wasn’t another woman. He simply didn’t love me.

He wasn’t interested in working it out. All he wanted was to print out divorce papers from some legal website and have me sign on the dotted line. It was of his opinion I didn’t need alimony or any reimbursement from the business we built together because that was his. He just wanted out.

A few months passed, and I still wasn’t willing to sign. I wanted an attorney to protect the kids — and myself.

He said he’d take care of his children, but I was perfectly capable of working. He didn’t owe me anything.

The disrespect, anger, and indifference towards me made me question everything. Did we ever have a solid marriage, or was that my imagination?

His new look was telling — designer jeans, slicked-back hair, shirt buttons left intentionally undone — accentuating the grey chest hairs.

My devoted husband and family man had never cared about appearances before.

Next came the gym, weight loss, excessive spending sprees — and of course, the little red sports car. His once treasured old-time Mexican singers were set aside for club music — along with a newfound love of dancing. Latin hip-hop music blasted from his speakerphone every waking moment.

How had my forty-something grounded husband of twenty-some years become this teenage hopeful? A macho man caught in a time warp? Could there be something medically wrong? Or was it simply a midlife crisis?

But, somehow, the truth always finds a way to reveal itself, whether for better or worse.

Grenade fragments kept exploding, searing open wounds in unforeseen ways.

My nagging suspicion of another woman kept resurfacing. I scoured everything, looking for signs of cheating. I wanted proof — I felt his betrayal deep within — though not knowing left a sliver of hope to cling to at night.

He swore on my life there was nobody else. I wanted to believe him. I wanted to trust him. His word used to mean something, but now it rang hollow.

It wasn’t long before my suspicions were confirmed. One clue led to the next, opening the gateway for more. His lies and deceptions kept oozing in, destroying my hope of fixing our marriage.

I was out.

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He’d found a younger woman offering it all — at least for the here and now. Glistening like a gold-plated trinket, she was his second chance in life. At least that’s what he said.

She’s from Brazil, which explained the well-kept secret. And the Portuguese.

They met while she was here on a visa. It had started shortly before his declaration of wanting the divorce.

Soon came revelations of lavish international trips they took together — at our expense, of course.

I guess to his credit, he tried to hide it. What the eyes don’t see, the heart doesn’t feel. At least that’s what he told me.

But I saw it.

His affair had blindsided me — no one would’ve ever predicted this from him. So, after twenty-two years of marriage, I was facing the proverbial fork in the road.

I had a decision.

Was this devastation going to break me, or would I rise — and dare I say, prosper?

Somewhere between being a wife and mother, my identity had subsided. I’d set aside my aspirations, living life through my husband’s wins and losses. I’d stayed home raising our babies for more than sixteen years. I’d left my career to raise our children and help him build the business.

The present situation required a dedicated focus on finding my center once again.

So, I plunged into the unknown in the name of reinventing my life. I pursued certifications and reconnected with things I’d let go of in life. Each new footstep, though seemingly small, was a step towards my envisioned future.

I started to realize I was capable. In fact, I’d always been.

Our divorce was still not final, but he no longer lived in our home, though his destruction remained and still continued to unfold.

One day I came home to a credit card statement in the mail. Skimming it, I saw transactions from Brazil. Taking a deep breath, I sat down.

I reread the letter, slower this time. His credit card was in the other woman’s hands, who was back in Brazil. This was startling — money had become his everything.

I sat with it, realizations gushing through, opening wounds again.

Attempting the wisdom of yogis, I tried letting it go by offering forgiveness and wishing them the best. But despite my best intentions, it was too soon.

I would get there, but I still couldn’t grasp the reality of his deception.

I couldn’t understand why I was so surprised the shards were still active, relentless in finding a place to land, and why it still hurt.

I needed to process this without question. But for now, I had to let it go.

I made the decision this would not define me.

I have no control over his choices — only mine. I realized I was and am enough, regardless of his opinion. It was time to let us go.

How could I have let this happen? No. After 22 years and nine children, I did not let my marriage go. I was no longer willing to carry the blame.

I have tenacity. When I put my mind to doing something, I do it. If there was ever a time for courage, it was now. My kids needed me to carry and convey strength.

I reminded myself most defeats are blessings, especially when we’re willing to view them as such.

Which led to — what if this divorce wasn’t a failure but precisely what needed to happen?

Julie Gaeta is a holistic heath coach, yoga instructor, and wellness enthusiast. She writes on food, enhancing nutrition, relationships, and pursuing growth.  

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.