When my son was 18 months old, my husband and I were watching a movie on his laptop when he decided to go to bed.
I managed to sit through to the end, bleary-eyed. When I closed the movie window, I spotted a document called 'Skype' sitting on his desktop. It was the only thing there and so I opened it. I have no idea why I did. I wasn't a jealous person and had never checked up on my husband in the 10 years we had been married.
But something – curiosity or gut instinct? – made me open that document. And there it was: 74 pages of hardcore sex chat between my husband and a woman named Camilla.
I had no idea who she was.
I was dumbfounded, scared, nauseous and slightly bemused. Because the movie I had been watching was The Ugly Truth. Indeed, the universe sure has a sense of humour.
Watch: Mia Freedman explains the term gaslighting and how to know if it's happening to you. Post continues after video.
Sweating and shaking, I immediately wanted to confront him. I needed him to tell me I was wrong; I was seeing things, that it was nothing more than this – just chat, just flirting out of control. But I took a deep breath and delved deeper.
Over the next few days, I cannot describe the rolling gut punches I dealt with as I discovered just how deep his infidelity ran.
This was the days before dating apps so it was anonymous Hotmail accounts, Skype transcripts and good old-fashioned phone records of thousands of messages to one number. The cross-referencing of the night he went out with old friends, the night he went for a drive to clear his head, the day of golf, the days I was out of town on business. The reading of the messages of Camilla discussing me, using my nickname, as if we were friends, good mates, when I knew absolutely nothing about her.
Facebook stalking showed up a young, impossibly beautiful brunette. Such a cliché. But he swore it was just chatter, nothing happened. And I believed him – I had to. I had to find a way to work this out.
My marriage would come out stronger on the other side. Now that the ugly truth was out, we could look at it and get counselling and discuss where we went wrong and how we could get back on track.
I threw everything into trying to move past it all. Counselling helped – it did – it helped him finally confess that he had slept with her. The first time on a bright morning day after dropping our son off at daycare, fetching him afterwards. No alcohol, no drugs impairing his senses. Just plain choice. To cheat. Finding a receipt in his papers for two coffees on that morning. I never want to wish that pain on anybody.