real life

'I forgave my husband for cheating once. Years later, I found 14 dating apps on his phone.'

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.

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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. 


I persevered. I fell pregnant. My reconciliation baby made me want to forgive him and move on - a mulligan, my golfing buddy told me, a second chance. 

Ten years passed. Over the years I would see the odd message, the inappropriate exchange with colleagues or clients. The names of girls: Sandy, Claudia, Kim, Penny, pop up on his phone or his email. I could have gone looking, but I had two toddlers and a world of self-hatred for doing the one thing I swore I never would. I had stayed. So I kept trying. And my head tried. My heart tried. But my body knew better.

A decade of unexplained illnesses landed me in and out of the hospital. A series of marriage counselling, always ending with me on the couch alone – fixing my problems. My lack of intimacy, my inability to show affection, my coldness, my constant sickness. The gaslighting lies my husband made me believe. The affair. The one affair and my inability to move past it was my fault – it was in my head. There was something wrong with me. He loved me and why couldn't I see that? Why couldn't I trust him?

Listen to Mamamia's podcast The Split on separation and divorce. This episode is all about how to start over. 

Ten years later he finally gave up. He wanted to leave me he said. I was not enough for him anymore and he wasn't happy. But of course, that wasn't the whole story. Detective mode activated I went down the rabbit hole again. 

This time I discovered much more. His hunting ground had gone online. I checked the app downloads – 14 dating apps. The mind boggles when I can hardly keep up with Instagram and Facebook. He had hooked up with a woman online in every state he travelled to for work on every separate work trip for years. Old school Skype calls and naked pictures, messages to hook up, to watch girls with other men, with other women. Imploring women to join Chatterbate. Hours of porn. And I had no idea. Or maybe I did and just chose not to confront it, to ignore my inner voice, not to go looking because I didn't want to face the ugly truth again.

Because the last time I was hospitalised was the day before I found out about Tammy. The one he had been searching for 20 years of marriage, the one he was leaving me for. I blamed myself, I still do in so many ways. And I wasted 10 years of my own life trying to make him happy. Not knowing that I was competing with so many and I would never make him happy. I am not sure anyone will.

Tammy is no longer, and he is with someone new, someone he met online while he was living with Tammy. And I am alone. No more wondering if he is happy, no more hoping I am enough, no more frantically trying to be everything. 

When I see him now as we exchange our kids for visits and he checks his phone, my gut still drops – a little PTSD reminder of the stress I had ignored for so long. Things are quiet inside me now. That may be the scariest part of facing life alone now. When you feel safe. When the other shoe has finally dropped.

How do I get comfortable in the silence of peace?

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

Feature Image: Getty.