'I realised I'd been packing my husband's suitcase as he holidayed with his mistress'

Seven years ago, Sarah accidentally found out that her husband was having an affair. She stumbled upon information that pointed to her husband of five years cheating on her. In a brutally honest interview, she spoke to Amanda Cassidy about her initial reaction. 

 

"It was an email from a woman thanking him for sending flowers and discussing holiday plans. It was sent to our joint email account by accident. My first reaction was denial and shock. I tried to rationalise it and convince myself that I must be mistaken. It must be a work trip and he must have been the one to arrange flowers from everyone in the office. I was devastated. Looking back, it is unusual how absent he was from family life. I had put it down to him focusing on his career and I was in the thick of it with two small children and simply trying to survive the sleepless nights."

"His betrayal came out of the blue and hit me like a punch in the stomach. I realised I'd been packing and unpacking his suitcase as he holidayed with his mistress abroad. I was emotionally destroyed."

Related: Everything I learnt in the first year of my relationship

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Numb, Sarah kept her discovery to herself for a few days before finally confronting her husband.  The affair was denied. In fact, Sarah said that he tried some classic gaslighting tactics.

"I figured every marriage goes through rocky patches and this was ours.

"He told me I should get help. That I was making no sense and that I must be under a lot of stress. But I had done some digging  - something I felt I could justify because of his betrayal -  and I had some concrete facts that I put to him. He eventually admitted the affair but never gave me a reason and acted nonchalant, like it wasn't even a big deal. To be honest, I never even considered not trying to fix the situation. I wanted to save my marriage and I was prepared to understand that everyone is human and sometimes make mistakes. I was committed to giving him another chance for the sake of our little family."

"I figured every marriage goes through rocky patches and this was ours. My love hadn't changed. I had never stopped loving my husband because, in my book, we had been a very normal, loving and intimate couple. There were no warning signs whatsoever."

The aftermath

It became apparent that although Sarah's husband wanted to save the marriage, he wasn't prepared to distance himself from his girlfriend.

The children slept in my bed every night during that time

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"Even though he was verbally saying he wanted to fix our marriage, physically he continued to see her. I found there was enough trust broken in having the affair, but the fact that he was still seeing her and lying about it was too hard to take so we split up. For the children, our routine stayed the same. My husband had been so absent in the months leading up to the discovery of his affair that we just continued with our day-to-day routine. They were so little that they didn't really know any different and weren't used to having him around. He broke up with that girl just a few short months later but the damage was done and we divorced.

It is funny how you cope with such a thing, sitting in the toddler classes or feeding the ducks in the park and you are just so grateful to have these little ones to love, and who love you. The children slept in my bed every night during that time. It made me feel really sorry for those men who, through no fault of their own, have to leave behind their children in a marriage breakup. I had the kids to give me a lot of the love that I really needed at the time. It is no exaggeration to say that they saved me."

I told myself, nobody might ever love me again, but do you know what? Maybe they will.

So how do you get over something like that? Sarah said that although she will never fully get over it, she slowly learnt not to take it as a personal rejection. She says she went to counselling, read books and began realising that often affairs are about the unfaithful person and their identity crisis.

"I learnt to pull my socks up and remember that I had a backbone and self-esteem. I am not perfect but I'm a pretty decent person. I told myself, nobody might ever love me again, but do you know what? Maybe they will."

Moving on

Sarah has found new love and says her ex-husband's betrayal has made her a stronger person. "Sometimes when bad things happen to you, they make you stronger and allow you to get to know yourself better. I have had to learn coping tools that I would never have otherwise discovered and tools that can help me to face anything that comes my way in the future. I have no resentment towards my ex-husband at all. In fact, I hope he lives a happy and fulfilling life. I also hope he finds love at the right time for him. Sometimes love and marriage can be more about timing and I just don't think he was ready to commit to family life and all that entails at that time.

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My advice to others is to try and accept that the only constant in life is change - good or bad - and if you accept that, you will be able to cope with anything. The end of a relationship is not the end of the world.  I try to remember that the individual is so much more than the marriage, the husband, the family. We are all so capable of such great things. I'm just happy that I have retained the capacity to love and have discovered that, in spite of everything, I am still worth loving."

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