Chapter 11: Death, heaped with a pile of shit

I fluctuated from moments of strength…: Throw me to the wolves and I’ll come back leading the pack!

…To moments of defeat: This is never, ever going to stop hurting.

The emotional roller-coaster was enough to make anyone projectile vomit.

Interestingly, about ten months prior to this messy January 2013, I had had conversations with two different friends on two different occasions. Both times, I’d ended up in tears saying that my biggest fear was my beloved Mr Ex dying. I was frightened of Mr Ex dying and me ending up on my own. Becoming a widow was the worst possible scenario for my life. The absolute worst. Nothing could be worse than that, I thought. And it was actually a very real fear. I was scared of being alone. I knew I couldn’t face life without my other half, Mr Ex.

So, it is rather ironic how ten months later, my ‘worst possible scenario’ was kind of coming true… but actually in a far, far, far worse way than I even imagined.

Yes, the death of a loved one is horrid. Unbelievably horrid. I don’t want to take away from any of the grief and trauma that accompanies the death of a spouse.

But my GP explained that the ‘advantage’ (for want of a better word) of death is that we have [that rather equivocal word] closure. With death, we [usually] know for certain what happened, we can grieve appropriately, and then we can heal. It’s by no means easy, but it is assisted by the absence of your spouse’s active rejection and betrayal of you.

The process of comprehending a cheating spouse is firstly grieving the ‘death’ of your spouse (i.e. coming to terms with the loss of the person you love) PLUS a whole lot of toxic waste dumped on top: rejection, betrayal, uncertainty, disbelief, loss of self identity, trust issues, self doubt, legal dramas, and definitely, unequivocally, no closure.

It’s death, heaped with a pile of shit.

On my roller-coaster of abandoned wife emotions, my brain would recall our happiest memories and I’d see flashbacks in my mind’s eye of our wonderful holidays, special milestones, and highlights of the last seven years, convincing me over and over again that our love was worth fighting for. Date nights watching episodes of Friends on TV, munching on spaghetti carbonara, snuggled on the sofa. It was all so real in my mind.  And my brain would actually see us in the future as grey-haired nomads touring the country in a caravan once the children had left home and hosting Christmas lunch at our place with our grandkids unwrapping presents under the tree.

Am I going insane?!

“No,” my GP assured me. “After years of you projecting and planning your lives together – and expecting beyond any doubt that you’d grow old together – the brain has so many fixed scenarios and plans. It will take you years, maybe even longer, to get over that.”

Great.

We live in a world where technology makes magic happen around us every day. We can chat in real time to our friends on the other side of the globe through a computer, we have maps that direct us step-by-step to our destination, we can jump on a plane and be on the other side of the world within hours, and billions of text messages are sent daily across the globe arriving at their destination within seconds.

But according to my lovely GP, we haven’t figured out a way to instantly heal from pain, rejection and betrayal, other than the elapsing of years…?

“Isn’t there a hemisphere in my brain that you can just surgically remove? To make me forget all about him and move on?” I asked.

She hesitated.

I was obviously joking, but not really.

My GP, as truly amazing as she is, couldn’t give me any definite promises that I would be OK anytime soon. She could give me strategies for being optimistic, she could refer me to a psychologist, she could pass on tips for ‘building resiliency’, but she couldn’t actually say, “YES, ESS, YOU WILL BE OK!”

I went to the psychologist a few times. But that was about as successful as growing an apricot tree in the North Pole. The psychologist sat behind her desk with a clipboard making notes. She asked me sterile questions to get inside my head. She wanted to pinpoint motives for Mr Ex’s affair by asking delving questions about his childhood and comparisons of his hippy, yoga-loving, anti-Christianity mother and his fundamentalist-Christian, anti-schooling, anti-TV-watching father. And yes, that’s a very interesting topic and there is a lot that can be speculated. With one staunchly religious parent and one freedom-fighting parent, there is so much that one could say. But really, how much of that is helpful at this point? We could talk for hours about possible motives, but it wasn’t going to change reality. And Mr Ex is a complex human, just like the rest of us, so trying to get inside his head (let alone his parents’) seemed impossible as well as useless.

I asked the psychologist about me. Me moving on. Me healing. Me making sense of this mess. And she recommended a book. It was called You Can Heal Your Life. Surprise, surprise; It’s a best seller.

Hmm.

That title didn’t actually fill me with much anticipation.

Here I am, feeling broken. Useless. Rejected. Hopeless.

Do I really want to put my hope of healing in myself and my own abilities?

The book suggests that “by choosing loving, joyous thoughts, you can create a loving, joyous world.”

Close, but no cigar.

Yes, the secular, non-threatening sentiments might validate you and send you swooning into happiness and self-empowerment as she constructs a world where you can fashion your own reality based on wishful thinking and optimism. But I question how deep that can ever really be.

Looking at myself in this moment… THIS SITUATION IS SHIT. I think it would be darn-right ridiculous to be spouting loving, joyous thoughts. My reality is horrible right now. And no amount of loving, joyous thoughts is going to change that.

To me, it’s silly to say that we are capable of transforming our own lives. Not because I’m a negative person who doubts my own strength. Not because I’m pessimistic. Not because I’m cynical.

But because I know there are some days when I am a mess. There are some days when I am grouchy, impatient, insecure and overtired. And there are times when I just don’t give a crap! And in those moments, I can guarantee that I don’t want to be solely reliant on my own strength and abilities.

The world is broken. Just turn on the TV news to hear what’s happening in our world today. It’s a sad, sad place. There are unimaginable atrocities and ridiculous injustices. There are wars raging, tsunamis creating devastation, people killing, hatred galore, children and animals being abused… it’s endless really.  And closer to home, go for a walk around the local city and we are confronted with homeless people, broken marriages, feuding neighbours and friendship breakdowns.   Even on a smaller scale, Management Teams at work places can’t agree with each other on how to do ‘XYZ’ and the coaches of a sporting club can’t work together to agree on a plan for the season and we have unions, reconciliation tribunals and police stations because, well, get any group of humans together and there will be problems, fractures and divisions.

Fact: Disharmony is everywhere.

Optimism just seems stupid.

I want to put my hope into something that goes beyond that.

Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:31).

It’s ironic. I do love irony. And I find that irony pops up a lot.

The Bible is often viewed as a ‘rules and regulations’ book of oppression and judgment which holds no relevance in today’s society. By the way, I can totally see why someone might think that. Patriarchal societies and all that.

But, for me, I was finding that the Bible was just as relevant to today’s world. The Bible gives me accounts by people I can relate to; damaged, unspecial and ordinary. And how God loved them no matter what.

Maybe that’s the real miracle. God’s ability to do incredible stuff through damaged, ordinary humans. It boils down to just that.

And, more irony! As I was slowly realising and accepting my own mortality, my own sinful heart of stone, and my inability to fix things on my own, I was actually finding a new depth of freedom!

I was realising the true value of accepting my brokenness.

And I was starting to appreciate my own limitations.

Because in my weakness, God is strong. He is a source of wholeness for my brokenness.

With Jesus, I don’t need to cover up my mistakes or my messes. He already knows. Instead, I can come to the cross as a broken, grouchy and impatient asshole who is feeling empty and rejected. And Jesus will take me as I am. And He will make me new. Over and over again.

In John 11:25, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”

That is an impressive statement.

Resurrection. Defeating death. New life. Adding more to the story.

While I was looking at this current situation as my husband’s ‘death’, it was perhaps more poignantly, my death. Never mind about Mr Ex. I was the one who was in the process of dying. Dying to myself. Dying to my own constructs of perfection. Dying to my own wants and hopes. Dying to my own plans for my life. Dying to my vengeance-seeking heart.

Death is painful.

And I’m not even vaguely exaggerating when I say that it felt like death. Yes, a cheating spouse and betrayal by your most beloved IS that painful.

But the beauty of Jesus’s promises is that death and resurrection is his specialty.

He gives us a new life. He adds more to the story.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Three days after Jesus’ death, a couple of Jesus’s friends were walking along a road (Luke 24). Their best friend, Jesus, who claimed to be God in human form, had just been successfully killed. I can only imagine how they were feeling. Gloomy, to say the very least.

Then, a man (I hate to ruin a good story, but it’s actually Jesus) comes along, asking “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” The Bible describes Jesus’s friends’ faces as downcast, as they reply “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard what’s happened… The things that happened to Jesus… He was a man of God… dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had hoped that he was the One…”

What a depressing picture.

Jesus’s friends continue, “And it is now the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn’t find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn’t see Jesus.”

I love what happens next.

Jesus lovingly and cheekily says to them, “So thick-headed!” and reveals to them that it is indeed Him. He has risen from the dead.

The next account of Jesus appearing to his other friends (I guess they didn’t have Facebook to share the good news in seconds) who are out fishing. Jesus just casually strolls up to them and asks, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They naturally freak out, thinking that they are seeing a ghost. Jesus calmly tells them, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” The Bible then says that they were in shock and amazement, but they give Jesus a piece of fish which He took and ate.

I just love that too.

I mean, Jesus is actually deity, so you’d think He would be born in a palace and make His guest appearances and re-appearances in the holiest of holy temples. But no, Jesus was born in an overcrowded stable, surrounded by barn animals, and He meets His mates when they’re out fishing, not asking them to bow down to Him, but actually asking them if they have anything to eat.

And yes, Jesus has conquered death. He shed His blood on that cross with real nails that went through his human hands and feet, crucified by the very people He came to love and save, so that we (little unworthy scumbags) could have everlasting life.

And voila! An act of evil – and Jesus’s immense suffering – was turned into something good.

Sana gave me a Psalm. It was Psalm 27. As I read it, my Bible pretty much illuminated with flashing fairy lights.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?   The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?” -Psalm 27:1.

How do I know it will all be OK? How can I be certain in a situation bleeding with uncertainty?

In those moments when I’m lying on the floor unable to pick myself up, I can tell you quite confidently that I do NOT want my hope placed solely in myself.

In those moments when I feel completely consumed by vengeance and bitterness, I can NOT flick a switch in my own strength and spout sugar-coated thought bubbles.

In those moments of sheer terror of the future or the utter grief of losing Mr Ex the best friend I’d had, I do NOT want to be putting my hope in myself or any other mere mortals.

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
that I would see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.” -Psalm 27:13.

“…the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”  That’s just a fancy way for saying goodness in this world. In other words, I will see goodness in this life. I clung to that. I read Psalm 27 over and over. First thing in the morning. Last thing at night.

All the GPs, self-help books and psychological therapies in the world can’t make that promise.

Screw wishful thinking. Screw optimism.

God gives us a guarantee. An assurance. That I WILL BE OK.

I WILL BE OK. I WILL SEE GOD’S GOODNESS IN THIS LIFE.

“Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He will strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!” -Psalm 27:14.

Chapter 9: Crazy Lady Alert

I saw my GP on Tuesday morning and relayed the past four days to her.

“He came yesterday and he looked so broken, just like a zombie,” I explained sympathetically. “He is completely lost. He needs someone to look after him.”

She didn’t look too impressed though. She was undoubtedly thinking he DOES have someone to look after him, hence he’s not at home with you.

“You need to take care of YOU,” she told me.

Going to see a friend for coffee on Tuesday at our favourite coffee shop (trying to keep things as normal as possible), I went to put on my favourite bracelet. I can’t do it with one hand. I put the bracelet over my wrist and tried to balance it on my knee to hold it in place as I struggled to clasp it together with my other hand. Mr Ex had always clasped this bracelet for me. It wasn’t working. I swapped wrists. Still wasn’t working. And that triggered another meltdown.

I JUST WANT TO WEAR MY FAVOURITE BRACELET!!!!!!!!!! WAHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

I was determined though. It took me nearly an hour of crying, trying again, crying, trying again… but I got it. I put that son of a bitch bracelet on.

Mr Ex made contact again on the Wednesday night. At 10:20pm to be exact. How considerate of him. Was he thinking, “I’ll call Essie just as she’s going to bed, so that I can get her all nice and upset and unable to sleep?!” It pointed to more zombie-like, irrational decision-making by Mr Ex.

My heart stopped when the phone rang and I saw his mobile number on caller ID. I sat on the bed. I braced myself that my dreams might be about to come true and maybe he was calling to say that he wanted to come home.

Alas, no.

He was ringing to tell me that he had decided once and for all that he didn’t want a “salvaged relationship” with me. That was the phrase he used. I was crushed. Absolutely crushed. Yet again. As if that’s even possible.

And I still don’t even know where he is!!

The next day, I went through his Facebook friends with a fine tooth comb. I also trawled through his work’s website looking for female employees. In my head, I had decided on the image of ‘her’; a drop dead gorgeous Victoria’s Secret supermodel wearing a figure-hugging mini skirt and sky-high heels. I just needed to find a woman matching that description.

I found one. Stunning. Bright red lipstick. By her Facebook profile, I saw she was newly married. Her name was Isobelle. Gorgeous name. Gorgeous face. Gorgeous body. It must be her. She had a distinctive and unusual surname, plus the initial ‘I’ isn’t the most common of initials, so I looked her up in the phone book. Sure enough, I found her! She lived with her new husband in the same suburb as my parents! Oh, the adrenaline!

That’s where Mr Ex must be staying!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Should I go there? Should I call her? Mr Ex might answer!! I should drive past? Maybe his car will be out the front!

Crazy Lady Alert.

I’m ashamed to admit that I did call her. She answered. But I [luckily] hung up straight away. Totes cray-cray, I know. I was 100% certain it was her and began plotting my plan of attack.

Later that day though, I was hit by a metaphorical bolt of lightning. Even though I’d firmly settled on Isobelle being ‘the other woman’, my subconscious brain must have been working in overdrive for days and finally came to a shocking and very unexpected realisation. One of those brainwaves where you go, Where the HELL did that come from?!?!?

For the past few months, Mr Ex had talked a little about a lady at work. Her name was Cosette. I’d never met her. She was married. No kids. She was 40-ish from memory. A marathon runner. She sometimes went for runs in her lunch break, apparently. Mr Ex told me that she only ate tuna and lettuce for lunch every day. He admired that. He told me once or twice that I should take a leaf from her book. He said that Cosette was older than me (by a fair bit, actually), but she was fit and toned.

For the Christmas just gone, Mr Ex gave me weights as my Christmas present. You know, those colourful girl weights for toning arms or something. No, I’m not kidding.

When he was talking about Cosette from his workplace, I had joked, “Do I need to be worried?” and he laughed. We both laughed actually, because we both knew Mr Ex had an unfailing loyalty to his loved ones. The notion of him cheating was ludicrous. We’re the unsinkable Titanic, remember! Mr Ex stuck by people through thick and thin. Even when people in his life didn’t deserve his loyalty, he stuck by them. He even defended his [what I would’ve called, idiot fundamentalist dickhead] father when his father was making threats to boycott our wedding. So if anyone was not going to have an affair – or if anyone was going to seriously struggle to lie and cheat – it would be Mr Ex.

But Mr Ex had told me in passing that he hoped we could have Cosette and her husband over for dinner one day.

Mr Ex had also recently taken up jogging. Jogging! A new hobby. Why not? I thought. He had invested in new Nike runners, socks, gym shorts, t-shirts and that strange arm-band device that lets you carry your iPod on your arm whilst running. We had a dog, so it would’ve made good sense to take the dog running with him, right? But no, Mr Ex didn’t want to run with our dog. He wanted to run solo. This was a solo thing.

SHIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It must be HER?!

WHAT THE FUCK?!?

I Facebook stalked her. Sure enough, Cosette was married to a man with a lovely smile. They looked happy. Really happy, actually! In fact, they looked perfect together. His name is Andrew.

I scrolled through their wedding photos. Hey, it’s not my fault she had it all open for the world to see! Her photo albums were all open to public access. Too easy! I saved a few pictures to show family and friends.

I was expecting a stunning fitness model. The ones in the gym adverts on TV who go running with full make-up, crisp clean sneakers that never get dirty, and they never, ever sweat.

To my surprise, Cosette is… well, just a normal person. Just an average, everyday brunette that you’d never look twice at. Yes, she did look older than Mr Ex. And there were photos of her with shaggy hair, no make-up, running in marathons. (Let’s just say that no one looks good when running a marathon and Cosette is no exception.) Cosette could not be found in a Lululemon Athletica catalogue. She did sweat. She did look red in the face. And her arms were not perfectly toned. Definite flab there.

But OK, yes, I’m getting petty now.

Moving swiftly on.

Right on cue, two amazing new people walked into my life. Two very special girls who went on to become two of my best friends. Sana and Bree. They’d heard about my situation from the pastor and his wife. Sana arrived at my front door with a bouquet of flowers and melting moment biscuits. I’d never met the girl before and she’s rocking up at my house with flowers and my favourite biscuits. What’s more, they both lived nearby. Most of my friends were over the other side of town but suddenly I had two new friends who lived only five minutes away showing me love and humanity.

Sana and I talked like we’d known each other for decades. We could talk about deep stuff. We could smoothly transition from a sentence about growing vegetables to a sentence about why God allows bad things to happen. The beautiful thing about these kinds of situations? Authenticity. No one has any effort for artificial conversations. It’s straight to the honest-to-God conversations.

And the best thing? I could see Jesus in them.

I was learning to see Jesus all around. When Rommy the dog would playfully drop a toy at my feet as I was sitting on the sofa in floods of tears, it made me feel warm and fuzzy inside to throw the toy for him and watch him madly scamper to retrieve it. He never tires of playing fetch. And Rommy’s cartwheels, hurdling and acrobatics that ensue never fail to put a smile on my dial. Thank you, Jesus.

My house was covered in wedding photos. Literally. Everywhere. Images of two gorgeous young people. Beaming smiles. A vision of innocence and hope.

“Maybe I should take them down,” I asked Bree. “Is my marriage over or do I keep fighting?”

“You’ll know when it’s time,” she replied.

So, the Titanic wasn’t quite under. It was still in that stage where it’s kind of vertical. Bits have broken off and fallen to the bottom of the ocean. But there are still passengers clinging to the railings above water.

I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I absolutely hate that phrase, but I do believe in what it means. I believe in marriage. I love marriage. I love love. I did NOT want to be separated and I definitely did NOT want the d-word.

But surveying the situation, it wasn’t looking good. I didn’t have any choice at all. There can come a point where you look around and realise that the other person has put down their tennis racquet and walked off the court. Literally vanished. And it’s just you left.

And you can’t play tennis solo.

Right. That’s it! I had decided. I needed to take up Penny’s help. The totes cray-cray lady needs the truth.

Chapter 8: A God Who Stoops

Coming to terms with an AWOL husband, trying to assess the state of my marriage, grasping onto life but rapidly losing my grip AND now the possibility of a private investigator trailing my husband…?!

That’s just crazy talk!

Going through my holiday snaps for the purpose of finding different face and body angles of my husband so the private investigator could form a holistic picture of him; Now there’s a task that I never thought I’d be doing!!

Everything I knew was solid was now brought into question.

I knew Mr Ex loved me. I knew Mr Ex would fight for me. I knew Mr Ex would protect me for the rest of my life. I knew nothing could ever separate me from Mr Ex.

But now?

What the fuck do I know?

I poured myself another glass of wine and started dissecting my beliefs

Aged 17, sitting in church with Mr Ex, I remember hearing that God has expectations. Standards, if you like. He is also omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent; He sees everything, He knows everything, and He is everywhere! So if you sin, you better watch out! ‘Cos God’ll know! And He’ll be angry! Even, disappointed (that’s worse than angry, right?). That was drilled into everyone.

I was taught that humans are sinful. But that Jesus died to save us from our sins. So, God has these two baskets, labelled ‘saved’ and ‘unsaved’. In his primary role as the judging overseer of all the world, God is busy sorting us into these baskets. Either you are in the ‘saved’ basket (i.e. those who believe in God, let Jesus into their heart, do all the right things, make no mistakes, live pure, clean, expletive-free lives, etc. etc.) or the ‘unsaved’ basket (i.e. living in sin, making bad choices, doomed.). …Although, that second basket isn’t so much a basket; it’s a destination involving a lot more heat.

I would be sitting in church with a hat on my head dutifully taking sermon notes in my ‘God’s Girl’ notebook, sitting next to my shirt-and-tie-wearing boyfriend, while I had friends who were out watching movies, enjoying Sunday morning breakfasts by the beach, or sleeping off a hangover. So I was pretty sure that I was in the ‘saved’ basket. I mean, I wasn’t entirely clear on why I required saving in the first place and why this stained-glass window figure called Jesus needed to be tortured and executed for me. What on earth have I done that warranted that kind of punishment? But whatever.

Fast-forward to me trying to assess the state of my marriage, grasping onto life but rapidly losing my grip and now the possibility of a private investigator trailing my husband…

Thinking about this God stuff in light of my new ‘un-accepting reality’ mindset, something just wasn’t adding up for me anymore.

I am a caring and loyal friend, I do my bit to recycle, I give to charities and I am kind to animals. Not to mention, I did NOT cheat on my spouse, unlike SOMEONE ELSE I could name.

I’m a Christian. So, I am a good person, right?

Hmmm….

It dawned on me.

As much as I’d never have admitted it, my flaws, they were suddenly glaringly obvious to me. Let’s cast our minds back to my relationship with my father-in-law.

Oh dear.

Yes, I’m broken.

I’m a crappy, selfish, broken little so-and-so.

As much as I hate to admit it, I can be unwaveringly judgmental, I hold onto grudges like a biting lizard in a jaw-lock, and I don’t like admitting when I am wrong.

And admitting that to myself – authentically – was kind of liberating…

Because I had this warm, fuzzy feeling that a God who loved me was still wrapping His loving arms around me. I had this niggling feeling that God wasn’t the judgmental bastard I’d been told he was.

John (in Chapter 8) gives this wonderful account of Jesus.

Here is this woman. An adulterer. She has been literally caught in the act of cheating: imagine smudged lipstick, flimsy clothing, a fully-fledged and undeniable cheater. The religious leaders have literally dragged her through the streets like a feral animal to where Jesus is.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” (John 8:2-5).

And indeed, they are correct. You don’t need to be a biblical scholar to know that ‘thou shalt not commit adultery’ is one of the laws in the Old Testament of the Bible. Along with six-hundred-and-something other laws given by God to Moses, the religious people of Jesus’s time had quite literally a full-time job keeping up with all the laws, ticking boxes of doing good works, avoiding food deemed to be unclean, circumcising males, sacrificing animals, and inflicting the death penalty for witchcraft, homosexuality, adultery, blasphemy, and, well, the list just goes on.

We know that the Bible is full of dos and don’ts.

But, I wonder how many people are familiar with what happened next in John’s recount.

John says that Jesus “stooped down and wrote in the dust” (John 8:6).

Umm… What now?

The accusers grew impatient with the silent, stooping Jesus. “They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up” (John 8:7).

Then Jesus starts talking.

“‘All right, stone her!'” Jesus says. “‘But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!’ Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust” (John 8:7-8).

“When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman” (John 8:9).

John doesn’t tell us what Jesus wrote in the dust. But I am wondering if it was something like this:

JUST LOVE EACH OTHER.

Far from being a rule-enforcing, hell-inflicting punisher, God is love (1 John 4:8). And God, himself, says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love!” (Jeremiah 31:3).

Have I been lied to? .

This is not a god who created a set of six-hundred-and-something unattainable standards and legalistic laws for us to live by and then takes delight in punishing us when we fail dismally. This is not a god who inflicts on us a to-do list of morals and life expectations, expecting us to meet them or punishing us with inflicted torment when we don’t.

This is a God who loves us so much that He actually stooped to our level.

“No one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for anyone who believes, no matter who we are” (Romans 3:20,22).

Far from being a punishing, cruel, keeping-a-record-of-our-sins kind of god, our God actually loves us enough to show us undeserved, unmerited, unearned favour. Grace. A direct product of love. What I’d showing Mr Ex, even though he was actively running in the opposite direction.

Our world is just one big melting pot of bad choices and shit storms. A whole heap of humans with revenge-seeking, self-seeking, darkness-loving hearts.

And I’m definitely a part of that melting pot.

But in Jesus, we have a God who recognised the brokenness of the world and stooped to our level to lovingly rescue us from the graves we dig ourselves.

“I loved you at your darkest!” -God. (Romans 5:8)

Like when Jesus stooped into the dirt when defending the cheating woman, Jesus is still constantly stooping down into the broken, painful world to love us back to life.

And I had already gleaned a small glimpse into that window through my own half-dead-kangaroo love for Mr Ex. No matter what Mr Ex was saying to me; even when Mr Ex was running in the opposite direction away from me, I just couldn’t stop loving him.

It is kind of ironic that Christianity has become a synonym in this world for judgment, dullness, boring and being out of touch with reality.

Because in Jesus, I see a God who loves the unlovable, frees the unworthy, and gives favour to the undeserving.

So maybe the foundation for God’s two-basket sorting system actually stems from our own judgmental and despicably mean spirit, rather than Jesus or even the Bible.

Jesus has never once said to me, “Ess, I died for you so you better follow me, you sinful human, you!”

Far from it, Jesus actually says, “Ess, I see your flaws and nothing you could ever do will separate you from my love.”

I still remember the realisation that nothing – absolutely nothing – can separate me from God’s love; Not my judgmental crap, not my doubting, not my fears or failures, not my f-bombs and not even a cheating husband and the crumbling of my whole life as I knew it. And, de ja vu! I had read pretty much that many times before, but this time I was reading with new eyes…

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38 – 39).

By Grace alone, through Faith alone, in Christ alone. As simple as that.

And one of the biggest things I started to learn…

OMG! It’s really not hard to have a relationship with Jesus when you uncover his humble humanity, his awesome personality, and his unfailing love!

I remembered my Christian Studies teacher at school telling us that she hated Christmas cards that depicted the Nativity with a smiling, holy baby in an immaculate white cloth. Why? Baby Jesus was a human baby! So he might’ve been grizzling in his hay-filled manger possibly needing a nappy change in that stinky old stable surrounded by cattle (but definitely no lobsters, despite what my all-time favourite movie Love Actually may suggest! 🙂 ).

My Christian Studies teacher was onto something.

What about the images that we so often see of adult Jesus with a crisp white robe and beautiful blue eyes looking serene and holy? That figure in church stained-glass windows. I started to realise, THAT IS NOT JESUS! Yes, Jesus is divine. Yes, Jesus is God in human form. But, note the word human.

During His time on earth, Jesus felt pain, loneliness, anguish, betrayal, anger and turmoil.  This was a rather exciting revelation.  Jesus walked on earth and experienced real emotions. He was overcome with sadness when His dear friend died (John 11), He was turning over tables in the temple out of anger (John 2), on countless occasions He approached the outcasts and misfits of society and even enjoyed meals with them (a single man seen with a promiscuous woman? Jesus had guts!), He was healing on the sabbath (a big no-no at the time), and He was even accused of drinking too much! (Matt. 11).

Jesus is awesome!

Jesus is gutsy!

Heck, Jesus is radical!

And Jesus is God!

Reading the Bible became a new experience for me. I was quickly uncovering Jesus’s charismatic and loving personality. This was the start of something new.

Years of dutifully attending church with Mr Ex, I’d never encountered Jesus in this way. Years of clean living and clean language, I’d never encountered Jesus in this way. Years of good choices, I’d never encountered Jesus in this way.

The real Ess was hatching out. F-bombs, red wine and questioning everything…

It felt like Jesus and I were both breaking our stereotypes.

And I felt like we were onto something.

Fill my life, Jesus. Let me see the real you. Let me become more like you.

With hindsight, I think I started to pray less “comfort me” prayers (i.e. God, take away this pain) and I prayed more “conform me” prayers (i.e. God, use this pain for a purpose and make me more like Jesus.).

It’s a gradual thing.

But one thing’s for sure…

My God has stooped to my level and I am quite sure He loves me.

When you hold that belief – having experienced it to be true – it radically changes your life.

Sometimes God doesn’t change your reality. He doesn’t wave a magic wand to instantly eradicate the pain. Instead though, He stoops to our level, He gives us His presence, and He loves us.

He knows suffering. He knows rejection. He knows betrayal. And He is experiencing everything that I am experiencing.

The more I read, the more I prayed, the more I refused to merely accept reality…

“I will never leave you or forsake you…” -God. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

And I listened to Owl City’s In Christ Alone over and over again…

Chapter 5: Love and The Half-dead Kangaroo

Sunday morning. I had survived two nights following my husband’s revelation of an affair and his decision to walk out.

I started googling inspirational quotes. There’s a lot of wishy-washy rubbish out there, but this one spoke to me…

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Viktor Frankl (1905-1997)

And that quote has continued to speak to me ever since. It is a perfect reminder that we always, always, always, always, always, ALWAYS have the ability to choose. No, we cannot choose our circumstances; but yes, we CAN choose how we respond. I was on my way to understanding this, albeit with ‘L’ plates on.

I received an email from Mr Ex that afternoon.

I stared at the new email in my inbox before clicking to open it. I braced myself for a surplus of reasons why I am a bad wife. Maybe he would be slinging mud or off-loading anger.

Instead, I got a bewilderingly kind email apologising!

It started with, “Hi Essie, So this is a really weird and screwed up situation. I know it doesn’t mean anything at this stage – but you should know that I regret causing you this heartache and pain, and I am ashamed and sorry.”

That threw me. Oh, the relief! The tin man has a heart!

Mr Ex continued, “I’m not a Christian – no real surprise right. I don’t know what to do with that reality, whether I want to pursue it further, or even whether I believe any of it anymore. It doesn’t feel real and hasn’t for a long time. I’m so sorry about everything. Please protect yourself and make sure you blame me and people understand this is my screw up. You have every right to be angry.”

This didn’t make me angry though. It actually further empowered me to stand by him even more. My husband just sounded lost, confused and sad.

I sent him a long email beautifully articulating my love for him and logically explaining why he should come back to me.

I also sent him articles that I found on the internet about divorce:

“Divorce: Trading One Set Of Problems For Another

“After the Locusts: Why Divorce Is Never The Answer”

“The Unthinkable Consequences of Divorce And Why Divorce Is Never An Option”

I also sent him testimonies of couples who had been in this same crisis, ended up divorcing, but, with hindsight 30 years on, wish they’d stayed married and worked it out.

All the statistics say that couples who form a relationship based on one, or both of them, cheating on their spouse have a 25% chance of their relationship lasting. I would’ve liked this statistic to be lower, so I actually don’t think I specified the exact percentage. Or maybe I lowered it a little.

He wrote back, “Essie, I can’t control how you feel – and I know this has come as a surprise, and you are struggling to think of reasons or see whats happened. But I wish you would stop sending this stuff through. Let go.”

Did I let go? No.

Maybe I should have.

But I was sitting around at home with my thoughts. No husband. Marriage status: critical. I had nothing to lose. And I missed him. I really, really, really missed him.

So, I wrote, “You’re my husband. I choose to fight for our marriage. We are one. Trying to forget someone you love is like trying to remember someone you’ve never seen before. You’ve been EVERYTHING to me for ALL of my adult life!!!!!!!!” (granted, I was only 24!)

And – you’re going to think I’m nuts – I sent him more articles:

“10 ways to a stronger marriage…”

“19 steps to reviving your marriage after an affair…”

“12 reasons why your marriage is worth fighting for…”

Then, things got rather final.

“Essie, you obviously think I’m making the wrong decision, I don’t agree. Neither of us is going to convince the other. I have strong feelings for someone else. I might have regrets to my dying day but I am sticking with my choice.”

I day-dreamed a lot. I day-dreamed of him knocking on the front door, me opening the door, and us lovingly falling into each others arms with him apologising profusely.

I recalled scenes from Reese Witherspoon’s movie Sweet Home Alabama: “You were the first boy I kissed and I want you to be the last,” she declares as she embraces her ex-husband.

Less than two weeks before this nightmare unfolded, Mr Ex and I had attended a friend’s church wedding. The minister’s sermon was heavily based on the Bible verse, “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8).

Oh, shit! Day dreaming one day, I remember being hit by a metaphorical bus. Mr Ex was fidgeting the WHOLE time through that sermon. He was trying to play games on his iPad ALL through the ceremony. And when I put my arm around him, he didn’t respond or ANYTHING! He didn’t even want to hold my hand!!!

Oh, double shit!! After the ceremony, he said he was feeling sick, he dropped me back home, and then he went to the walk-in doctor’s surgery. But he said the doctor had an unusually long waiting time, so he’d be “about three hours”. THREE HOURS IN A DOCTOR’S WAITING ROOM?!?!??!

…I continued to realise the full extent of the affair. There were calculated opportunities for an affair. I just didn’t think of it as suspicious because, well, I trusted him.

GAH! I had even spoken to Mr Ex on the phone as he was apparently in the doctor’s waiting room. I rang him with the loving intention of ‘keeping him company’ while he waited. But he couldn’t get off the phone fast enough.

There was no doctor’s visit. No waiting room queue.

This was the sailing trip all over again.

TTTTRRRIIIIIPPPPPPPPLLLLLEEEEE SSSSHHHHIIIITTTTT!!!!

But, you guessed it! I messaged Mr Ex yet again! Saying what? Reiterating that he is my beloved husband and that I had vowed to love and cherish him in sickness and in health til death parts us. And that I intended to stick by that.

Was I the only one taking that whole ring exchange and vows thing seriously?!

I fully intended to fight for him and fight for our marriage.

Gee, love is strong. And forgiving. And persevering. And full of hope. And overlooks tonnes of crap. And really quite amazing.

Hmm… deja vu! Where have I heard something along those lines before? 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 in the Bible was ironically read at our wedding; a pleasant, non-threatening, and [what I thought was a] fairly generic summary of love, but suddenly its validity and accuracy was glaringly obvious to me:

IMG_1963.PNGMy love for Mr Ex wasn’t diminishing any time soon, even though he was blatantly rejecting me. He was saying he didn’t want me. He was refusing to come home. And he was cheating on me!

Why didn’t I just ditch him? Turn my back on him? Say “good riddance to this scumbag”?!

Love.

Like a half-dead kangaroo lying on the side of the road after being hit by a truck, the kind thing to do at that point would’ve been for someone to shoot me. Just put the poor bugger out of her misery.

No such luck though.

When the person you love tells you that they don’t love you anymore and they don’t want to fight for your relationship, that should just kill you instantly. When the person you love has been actively, creatively and ruthlessly lying to you, you should just keel over and die. No one should have to live through the pain of rejection by the person they love. No one should have to live through rejection and betrayal by their most trusted, lifelong companion.

Or at the very least, there should be an emergency switch in our brains which allows us to immediately abort all feelings of love and compassion towards that person in situations like this. If someone rejects you, your brain should instantly self-destruct all memories of that person, all hope in that person, and all love for that person. Wouldn’t that just save a whole lot of heartache. And certainly that would save us from ending up like roadkill. But, alas, that is not how love works.

Love is the strongest of all emotions.

It is even stronger than grief.

Stronger than fear. Stronger than pain.

Our capacity to love and be loved transcends all pain and logic. That is truly astounding.

And the half-dead kangaroo which should be put out of its misery (aka me) epitomises the strength and power of love. Love hangs on. The fact that my love for Mr Ex could turn me into roadkill, yet I was still hanging onto that love for him, shows our innate aptitude to love and why true love – when returned – really is so special. A mighty force.

The irony is not lost on me.

I am learning more about love now that I am on my own, than through all those seven years of being in love with Mr Ex.

I am learning more about love through Mr Ex’s rejection, than I ever did through Mr Ex’s love.

And something else started to ‘click’ in my head. Another light bulb moment.

“For God so loved the world...” -John 3:16.

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.