couples

'My husband had an affair. Now our marriage is better than ever.'

My husband had an affair, and our marriage is better than ever. Read that again. Hard to make sense of it, I know. I really know. And the fact that our marriage is thriving is a real shock to me. I’m off-script. This is not how it goes, and yet, here I am.

I learnt the story of love from the time my hair was long enough to be scraped into a perfectly parted side pony. I grew up in the '80s. Yes, I am now guilty of wearing skinny jeans and parting my hair to the side. I also overuse the cry-laugh emoji. 

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In the '80s on the big box of a TV screen in the lounge room, I had the Disney princess movies playing through the VCR on heavy rotation. There was always a girl. Usually with a tiara. And always a guy. Usually with a sword.  

She could never solve any of the distressing problems on her own. He always rescued her. They always fell in love and lived happily ever after. The end. 

As a teenager, I inhaled romantic comedies. Insert the same stereotype Disney plots but with a bit more sexual innuendo, and very attractive straight white people and the same perfectly happy ending. 

And then came more girl power. Women standing up for themselves. Having huge and very successful careers. Perms. And shoulder pads. And the power stance. Throwing up the middle finger to the expectation of being at home, chained to the sink, barefoot and pregnant. And with that flipping of the bird came the superpower of divorce. The perfect prescription for a stinking, slimy, dirty cheating husband was kick him to the curb and slam the door loudly as he landed on the concrete.

That’s the story I know, off by heart. So now here I am, 10 years a wife. And there has been infidelity in our marriage. When I found out about it, it was a relief. I had spent the months leading up to the discovery feeling like a bottle of milk that gets left in the car on a hot summer’s day. Curdled. 

I was losing sleep. Nervous. And oh the brain fog. And chest pain. I had even been to the doctor and had blood tests to try to get to the root cause. Which Google had led me to believe was either brain cancer or early-onset Alzheimer’s.  

So, when the lie was exposed, my shoulders dropped, I relaxed. That curdled milk feeling was not a medical condition, it was my intuition.

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And then again, I went off script. I did not scream. I did not shout. I did not even raise my voice. Or kick anyone to the curb. 

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There was a part of me in my gut that knew this man that I had married was genuinely a good person. That throwing away a decade of us, and a blended family, our home, and everything we had built over a mistake was not the best course of action. We talked. We had the kind of conversations that pulled our hearts out of our chests and into each other’s hands. And we had the kind of mind-blowing sex that people usually only have in the early throes of love or passion. 

There was therapy too. DISC profiles. Love Languages. And another wedding. A wedding celebrant and the two of us. On a beach in the middle of nowhere. Fittingly trying to renew our vows while escaping thunderstorms and heavy rain. A little reminder from nature that nothing is perfect.

The hardest part has not been the repairing of the marriage. Our marriage is miraculous. Wonderful. And yet I balance that with an overwhelming feeling of worthlessness.  

I have insecure thoughts rise up with the speed and veracity of a flash flood. And have the capability of leaving me in a shattered heap on the bathroom floor. But I am working through what my therapist has labelled as grief. I have yoga. And meditation. And writing. 

What I don’t have is the smug support of society. There is no invisible collective cheer when you share that there has been infidelity coupled with reconciliation. No divorce party with sashes and swearing and a wine tour and a reckless one-night stand with a stranger. This grief I carry, of losing my marriage, and starting fresh is one that is not acknowledged by society. It’s disenfranchised. It’s awkward.   

If my husband had died and there had been a body to put in the ground. There would have been a funeral. There would have been a casserole roster and sympathy cards. Flowers. But this is not that. There is no body.  

People want to know how you are, but they don’t want to be intrusive. So they don’t ask. And though I can happily say how beautiful it is, admitting the truth about the brutal brain space I occupy on the bathroom floor feels dangerous. There is no well-worn path to this. 

The stories I know about infidelity finish with a fist-pumping divorce. There is nothing out there about affair repair, as if the affairs themselves are contagious. There is nothing to say that yes, they can destroy marriages, but they can also make them. My marriage is better than ever, but I am not. And I blame Disney.

Tarrin Lenard is a Zimbabwean immigrant who loves gin but drinks tea, teaches yoga and writes words. And not that it should matter but who has also birthed four humans. And been married. Twice. You can find more from Tarrin at her Facebook and Instagram

Feature image: Supplied.