Chapter 4: Please help me, God.

I was living from hour to hour. Every hour that passed, Mum congratulated me for getting through. Then we would set the goal of surviving the next hour. Then congratulate ourselves all over again.

Breathing was the only thing I could achieve for that whole day. Mum and Aly reassured me that that was OK.

Meltdowns added some variety to the afternoon.

MY HUSBAND HAS BEEN HAVING AN AFFAIR.

MY HUSBAND HAS BEEN ACTIVELY LYING TO ME.

MY HUSBAND DOESN’T WANT TO COME HOME.

MY HUSBAND WON’T ANSWER ANY OF MY QUESTIONS.

WHERE ON EARTH IS MY HUSBAND????????????????????

The pastor from church, and his wife, came over to see me. They hugged me. They talked with me. They prayed with me. They comforted me. It gave me a sense of peace amidst the madness. Their love and warmth was abounding.

And they told me that no matter what, God was in control.

HA! Now that’s a little hard to believe!!, I thought. And if he IS in control – and he let this happen to me – then he’s not such a loving god!!!

I come from a Christian family. They’re no particular denomination and my ancestors have pretty astounding histories involving their relationships with Jesus Christ. My great-grandfather was a minister in communist-ruled Belarus where he held Bible studies and church services underground. He ended up being murdered for his Christian beliefs, which he chose to stand by.

I attended an elite all-girls school. Originally founded by the Presbyterian Church, it is now only vaguely Christian. I think the majority of students would not identify with a faith. So I didn’t really have “Christian friends” at school growing up. I had an eclectic mix of peers.

I did, however, attend church with my family. At church, I was taught that “Christian” and “Science” were opposing. You had to choose; Team Christian or Team Science. So as a high-shooler, I weighed up the pros and cons of creation and evolution and decided on creation. I was never good at science at school, so that was the primary reason for my choice. The creation versus evolution debate is a never-ending one with people on both sides devoting their entire lives to proving their stance (Hello, Sheldon Cooper!). I mean, you just have to google both terms and you’ll find a plethora of websites proving and disproving these convincingly. But what I have since come to realise is that the two need not be on opposing sides. It is not – and should never have been – a case of one or the other. But it was in my small world.

I guess I’ve always just had a gut instinct that there must be more.

When I was 16, my parents and I started going to the church where I met Mr Ex. My parents never put any pressure on me to take on any kind of ‘religion’ for myself. But at 16-ish, I did take it on. It was at that church where I *found God* (or whatever you want to call it). You can read more about that later.

At 17, I started dating Mr Ex. Mr Ex was an active member of that church and he would regularly lead the singing and take part in prayer meetings. Our relationship blossomed. We were both quite sure that God had brought us together and was blessing our relationship. We met other young Christian couples and were in a world of pure and utter joy going from strength to strength. Life was blissful! We gave each other Irish Claddagh rings representing love, friendship and loyalty. During our Uni years, we chose to stay away from pub crawls and nightclubs and we chose to *wait*. And then after about two years, we got engaged and then married; all trying to do the right thing according to the Bible and ‘what God would want’. (FYI, I’m literally cringing as I type all that! LOL).

We were the epitome of the perfect couple! We were the stunningly beautiful UNSINKABLE Titanic, DAMMIT! So if we’ve done everything ‘right’, then why the hell is this nightmare unfolding?? Where did this fucking ice berg come from? Shitty-shitty-bang-bang, I’m turning into a swearing truckie now too!

That night, I walked upstairs to our bedroom. And everything came tumbling down.

I fell to my knees in a rather spectacular fashion.

Tears, screams, and trembling uncontrollably.

Crying to the point of dry-reaching.

In a state of total brokenness.

Complete darkness.

Hopeless.

And I started to pray.

Please help me, God. I can’t deal with this on my own. I’m scared shitless right now.

There were no bolts of lightning. No flashes of light nor clouds of smoke. But my awkward and feeble prayer was helping somehow.

For the first time in my life, I was entirely comfortable praying. I wasn’t thinking about what words to use or how to sound intelligent. I wasn’t crafting well-thought-out sentences or reciting commonly used prayer phrases. I was talking to God from my heart, not my head. I had no energy for the superficial. This was all real. Messy. Disjointed. Rambling. Questioning. Anger. Pain. But 100% authentic.

We pray our most authentic prayers when we are completely broken.

And that night, I actually got some sleep.

Chapter 3: This was calculated.

The next morning, I sat on the sofa in my dressing gown. Empty. Lifeless. Comatose.

I watched the clock in my lounge room tick. For hours and hours. I just sat on the sofa and watched those clock hands move. How did this happen?! My brain worked in overdrive dissecting every aspect of our marriage. I mentally trawled through the past few years trying to detect the slightest hint of trouble.

But I actually struggled to find anything that could be remotely responsible for THIS to be unfolding!!

Our marriage was the Titanic. A stunningly beautiful vision. Impressive. Inspiring. UNSINKABLE.

And we’d just had our ice berg moment.

A massive tear in the hull of our marriage.

This was me assessing the damage. Is this fixable? Can we patch it up and keep going? Is water pouring in? Are we going under?

I looked through photos from our recent road trip in November 2012. That was only three months prior to this. Happy times. And I have the happy snaps to prove it. We took Rommy with us. It was my very first camping trip. I thought it went beautifully.

We’d also just bought a second house in November 2012 which we planned would be our family home one day. We had already arranged to rent it out in the meantime. Talk about entrepreneurial, successful DINKs!

My assessment? Life was sweet!

But, there was one small ‘negative’ that I could pinpoint. And it was all I could find to offer some kind of explanation for this nightmare….

We were trying to have a baby. And it wasn’t happening for us. Coming up to a year and a half.

And we were one week off starting IVF.

On the morning of that ‘Disaster Friday’, I got my period. And I’d told Mr Ex that. It was the ‘green light’ – so to speak – that I, once again, was not pregnant and we would therefore go full-steam ahead for IVF the following week. Injections and more tablets were all lined up. This is our time!

We had an amazing fertility doctor and her team were super supportive. Good to chat to. Easy going. Light-hearted. And that’s exactly what you want in a fertility team, considering they’re required to insert probes to suss out the thickness of your uterus lining, ask awkward questions about your sex life and examine your sperm under a microscope.

It wasn’t doom and gloom though.

We had been told that we had unusually excellent chances with IVF due to our young age and the tip-top condition of my insides. We would be good for their statistics.

So, that all seemed really positive. To me, at least.

I was actually excited!!

Mr Ex and I often chatted about baby names. I liked the name Amelia. He wanted Neave. He said he liked Irish names (remember that; it’ll be a useful piece of the puzzle down the track!). Mr Ex was a complete natural with children. Like, even better than me and I work with kids! That was one of the many things that drew me to Mr Ex, actually. I knew he’d be a brilliant dad.

So anyway, the only reasoning that I could find for ‘problems’ in our marriage was the fertility journey. Maybe it has affected Mr Ex harder than me? I wondered.

I then looked through my 2012 diary trying to determine dates and times when Mr Ex may have had an opportunity to be having an affair (when was he ‘working late’ or perhaps when he may have been acting strangely?). I couldn’t find much of a window for an affair though. We spent SO. MUCH. time together! Admittedly, yes, I acknowledged he had been a little stressed in the previous weeks, but he was in the running for a significant promotion at work – soon to be earning over $120,000/year at work – and a little bit of stress is only natural in the circumstances… right?

So, to me, it just didn’t make sense.

He has a high-income lawyer job. Two houses. Excellent IVF chances. Holidays. Church. Great couple friends also having babies. Life’s predictable and sensible and safe and, well, once that baby comes along, it’ll be 110% perfect!

(Yes, I’m hoping you are starting to see cracks, even though grieving Ess was completely oblivious!).

Again, how did this happen?!

This ship is unsinkable!! Everyone said so!! So, how is this even possible?

I always thought that when a relationship was in trouble, both people would realise. Surely both people could sense if there was an issue. Both would know that something was not right. But I never saw this coming. I AM HEAD OVER HEELS IN LOVE WITH HIM , I thought.

The ice berg was completely unforeseen.

Mum and Aly were at my house. There was nothing anyone could say to change the situation. They couldn’t give me any answers. They just listened to me ramble on and on whilst going around in circles trying to find answers. And they sat in comforting silence with me when I couldn’t speak.

At 2pm, Mr Ex made contact.

He texted me.

He said that he wasn’t coming home any time soon.

But I remembered that he was going sailing that weekend. He must be texting me just before he sets sail, I thought. OK, that’s not too bad. He just needs some thinking time. Sailing will clear away the cobwebs. The fresh sea air will do him a world of good.

“You’re better than this,” I texted, trying to encourage him. “Come back to me. Come back to reality. Come back to God. We will get through this and be stronger for it. I love you no matter what.”

No reply though.

“Are you sure he’s actually gone sailing?” Mum asked me.

Of course I am sure! This is a man with integrity and honesty.  I know my husband.  I mean, he obviously couldn’t live a lie long-term so that’s why he fessed up and told me the truth. He couldn’t live with the guilt so he came clean. That’s a good sign, right?

We had been a couple since I was 17 and he was 19. I had spent seven years defending him, backing him up, and standing by him. That instinct and reflex to defend your spouse is not easy to override.

But my ever-thinking mum rang the sailing club.

There were no boat races that weekend.

My body went into a cold sweat as the realisation sank in. He is not sailing. When he told me weeks ago about the race, it was all a lie. And he is still lying. He is not crossing the gulf. He has been plotting, scheming, LYING for weeks, maybe months!!!!!!

Was it all a big lie to spend the weekend with her?

Things had suddenly changed.

This is not a spur of the moment thing.

This was calculated.

And yes, just like the Titanic, that was that gut-wrenching, earth-shattering, heart-stopping moment where I realise that there aren’t enough lifeboats on-board.

Everyone knew that this incredible ocean liner – aka our marriage – was a beacon of perfection. Seemingly faultless, impeccable and magnificent. So, surely, it doesn’t require lifeboats for everyone on board. Because IT IS UNSINKABLE!! But, here we are. Icy water is pouring in. Rapidly.

Suddenly, the world’s most perfect ship has obvious fatal flaws. And there’s nothing anyone can do.

I had moments of disbelief:  Who needs lifeboats if a ship is unsinkable?! There is absolutely, irrevocably and undoubtedly NO chance of this going under!

And, I had moments of reality: We’re taking on water and this ship will be on the bottom of the ocean in a matter of hours, unless there is some kind of miracle.

Chapter 2: Is It Me or Her?!

What the fuck do I do? A million, zillion thoughts flooding my head.

AND I’ve just uttered my very, very first expletive!? Fuck, I don’t ever swear! Oh, shit! What’s happening to me?! Oh, shit! and again!! CRAP!

My husband has just come home, dropped the bombshell that he is having an affair, and then walked out the door.

Should I call someone? Should I make dinner and carry on as normal?

I started washing dishes in my kitchen sink. Loyal Rommy sat at my feet. He understood.

I wiped each mug meticulously and carefully placed it in its correct spot. Then I started dashing around the living room, correcting anything that was out of its place – magazines, coasters, dog toys, slippers – and putting it where it belonged. Some kind of bizarre control thing? Perhaps.

I went through a mental list of my friends. Who could I call in an emergency?

Maybe there’s no sense making this public knowledge, I told myself. I expected Mr Ex to walk back through the door at any minute. And I didn’t want to cause him embarrassment by telling others about his ‘little mistake’.

Where has he gone? Who is she? Is he coming back? Am I going crazy? Did they have sex? Should I call my parents? Do I phone a friend? Do I go to bed? Should I call him? Yes, I should call him. No, I better not call him! He’ll be back; don’t stress. Should I just make a cup of tea? Yes, I am calm. I am in control. I am fine. I am good. I am OK. NO, I’M BLOODY NOT OK!!!!! I know; I will call Aly.

Aly answered my ‘000 call’. I went into a hysterical monologue.

I can’t even remember what I said to Aly, but it was a constant stream of terror.

Aly was the first person I met at university. At our first lecture, we sat next to each other in a lecture theatre filled with around 300 other people. Aly and I instantly bonded over our mutual love of the colour pink, cupcakes and 7th Heaven. We had also both joined the Christian club at university. Match made in heaven, you might say! It wasn’t long before we were double-dating with our boyfriends. A couple of years passed by, Aly got engaged a short time before me, and suddenly, we were planning our weddings together. I was a bridesmaid in Aly’s wedding and she was a bridesmaid in mine. We were always on par with each other; we were always at the same stage of life. Last time we talked, it was probably about having babies, fertility cycles and decorating nurseries. Aly and her husband had just had a baby and Mr Ex and I had been trying.

After a short while of chaos on the phone, Aly calmed me down. She reassured me and told me that it would be OK. We agreed that Mr Ex would come to his senses.

This will all blow over. Mr Ex and I have a solid, water-tight relationship based on mutual love and respect. It’s all good. We were SURE of that.

Soon after saying goodbye to Aly, my phone rang.

The words “Mr Ex, my husband calling…” appeared on the mini phone screen of my Nokia 7230 with the usual photo of Mr Ex and Rommy which was assigned to his caller ID. I frantically scrambled to slide the bar across to answer it.

“Hello?!” Damn, too much desperation in my voice.

“Oh good,” he replied, emotionless. “Essie, I’m only calling to check if you’re still alive.”

What’s that supposed to mean?! There was a pause.

“Where are you?!” I hastily asked Mr Ex. And within milliseconds, thousands of images flashed through my mind. He’s coming home now! Is he calling to apologise for walking out? Surely he wants to come home. SURELY.

Oh, I was SO sure it was all about to blow over. I whole-heartedly believed he was calling to say he was on his way home. And to remorsefully apologise. But far from it.

He wouldn’t answer my questions. And he made it clear that he was not coming home, nor apologetic.

I asked another pressing question, “Mr Ex, is it me or her?”

Another pause.

“I don’t know, Essie; I don’t know,” he replied, slowly. “But I’m not coming home…”

The dreaded reply.

Cue the Titanic music.

After a very long pause (or, actually, maybe it was immediate; I had little concept of time that evening), Mr Ex told me that he was just about to hang up. In desperation, I started to frantically talk. If I keep talking, he can’t hang up! I’m not entirely sure of what I was saying, although I do remember pleading for him to come home and telling him that we could get through anything.

But just as I could feel that he was about to put down the phone, I managed to slip in a final line:  “I’m going to pray for you”.

And that was actually a very interesting comment on my part.

No, I wasn’t being kind. Deep down, it was me having a dig at him. It was a clutching-at-straws reminder of our religiosity, hoping that it might jolt him back into reality. A reminder that we are CHRISTIANS, we go to CHURCH, and we DON’T do this sort of thing!!! A reminder of the Christians in our lives who would see this as abominable behaviour, especially Mr Ex’s fundamentalist Christian father. And a guilt-trip that GOD WOULD NOT APPROVE**

**I clearly still had a lot to learn about Jesus and what it actually means to be a Christian.

Agh! That’s SO hard to think back to. But it’s oh-so true. I did it, so I know it’s true. Christians use “God” as a way to convince or guilt others into doing or saying or believing what they believe. As if convincing or guilting someone is ever sustainable long-term.

A little background… Mr Ex and I had attended a church over the course of our marriage. We even met in church. A very conservative church. Minimalist worship style. Only men are allowed up the front. Women don’t pray aloud in prayer meetings and certainly don’t go anywhere near the front of the church. Just a piano. No guitars and definitely no drums. No altar or anything remotely Catholic-ish. Plain, plain, plain. Strictly King James Version of the Bible. The men always wore ties and the women skirts. Men talked about fishing and building things. Women talked about cooking. Many times, I’d walk away joking to Mr Ex, “Well, I must be a man because I’d much prefer to talk about fishing, rather than cooking!”  Mr Ex, on the other hand, loved cooking. Funny how churches often say things like, “Can the women please bring a plate of food to share?” 😉 That always pissed me off a bit.

Anyway, in a nutshell, we were good at the Christian thing. We’d go to church, stand up for the singing, sit down for the notices, stand up for the Bible reading, sit down for the sermon, stand up for more singing, sit down for the prayers. Admittedly, in recent years, we would then leave immediately to avoid making conversation or getting stuck at church for too long, but at least we are AT church! Right??…

Anyway, Mr Ex scoffed and muttered “yeah…” in reply to my prayer comment.

Then he hung up.

No surprises there. I did try to call him back but he had turned his phone off. My parents came over and Mum stayed with me overnight. I didn’t get any sleep that night.

Chapter 1: Disaster Friday

Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.

So here goes…

Nearly two years ago, my husband came home from work and told me that he was having an affair. We had been married for nearly four years. Four very happy years filled with life’s abundant blessings.

I was 24 and he was 26.

It was the Friday night of the January 2013 long weekend as well as the last day of Summer school holidays. I was on cloud 9 because, as a co-ordinator at a popular Vacation Care service for children, the end of school holidays meant the end of our busiest season. Woohoo! So I came home that evening feeling totally exhausted after six weeks of school holidays filled with taking sixty chaotic children, aged between four and twelve, to the zoo, co-ordinating games of Stuck in the Mud, making fruit skewers and fashioning crocodiles out of cereal boxes and egg cartons (ahh, the memories of multiple burns on my fingers from the hot glue gun!).

My husband – for privacy’s sake, let’s call him Mr Ex – had texted me earlier in the day saying, “I love you, Ess. I’ll pick up ciders on my way home to celebrate you surviving [Vacation Care]!”

After getting home and changing into an oversized t-shirt and comfy leggings, I was sitting on the floor in the lounge room watching TV. Nothing in particular; just blankly watching TV to fill in the time before my beloved husband returned home from work.

Rommy, our fur baby, heard his papa’s car pulling up and started barking excitedly.

Next came the sound of his keys in the door.

“I survived!!” I cried out with a smile from ear to ear, thinking of the busyness at work over the past six weeks.

No reply came.

That’s odd.

Mr Ex is a lawyer. He walked into the room, putting his briefcase onto a kitchen chair and my celebratory ciders on the bench, and came over to stand in between me – still sitting on the floor – and the TV.

“Essie, I have something to tell you and it is going to hurt you,” he began.

I braced myself and hit the mute button on the TV remote control.

“I have been seeing someone else.”

My instant reaction was to laugh. I didn’t. But his statement was 100% far-fetched, impossible, out of the question, ridiculous, laughable, etc. etc. I mean, that was my best friend standing in front of me. My soul mate. My other half. The only other person in this world who really ‘got’ me. A person who could never lie or cheat or do the wrong thing by me. A person with a heart of gold and compassion to match. So his statement was ludicrous in every possible and impossible way.

It must be a joke. That’s the only explanation.

Within milliseconds, I realised this was not a joke.

I started crying and shrivelled into a little ball, expecting him to come down to my level, hug me, and tell me how much he regretted it and that I was the only girl for him.

He didn’t.

He continued standing over me with a horrifying look of vacuity.

Who is this person?!

I got up and wiped away the tears, realising that sobbing on the floor was futile.

“Who is she?”, “How long has this been going on for?” …all the questions that you hear jilted wives asking on soapies. Mr Ex didn’t say much though. Instead, he walked back to the kitchen bench, buried his head in his hands, and said that he wanted some space away from me.

WHAT?! He hasn’t “needed space” away from me in the past seven years!!

Occasionally, he was a crew member on a sailing boat that competed in races. The races were always during the daytime, but he’d told me for the past couple of weeks that he was doing his first overnight race that long weekend, leaving Saturday morning and returning Sunday afternoon. I had made a note of that in my diary with a sad face. I’d absolutely hated the thought of being home alone overnight. In fact, I’d absolutely hated the thought of being without him for any period of time.

“I’m going to stay with a friend tonight and then I’m still going sailing tomorrow,” he quietly told me, still with his head in his hands. I tried to pull his hands away from his face. I wanted to talk. I wanted answers. I wanted to know details. But he muttered, “We might both get lucky and I’ll fall overboard and drown.”

“Don’t say that!” I snapped.

In exasperation, I stamped my foot. I begged him to stay. I begged him to talk.

But it didn’t work.

He slowly removed his face from his hands and looked deeply at me.

“Can I call someone for you to talk to?” he asked. He seemed strangely calm.

“I only want to talk to you!” I slapped his forearm in desperation. A pitiful little girl slap. He looked at me with a face of sympathy and sorrow, then he grabbed some sailing things and walked out the front door.

With Rommy sticking close-by to me, I walked to the glass sliding door and looked out into the backyard. All I could see in the darkness was my reflection.

How to describe this moment?

Utter devastation. Disorientation. Confusion. Trauma.

I started uncontrollably bellowing.

How in all the WORLD did this HAPPEN to us?! He’s my EVERYTHING!! I’m NOTHING without him! We’ve been INSEPARABLE for the past SEVEN YEARS!! We met in CHURCH! We are CHRISTIANS!! We have friends who are Christians!! If there REALLY is a loving God out there, he would NOT let this happen!! What went WRONG???

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Scroll below to find a link to “Next: Chapter 2 – Is it me or her?!” or go back to the “Chapters in order” tab above.