This story is part of a series called Craigslist Confessional. Writer Helena Bala has been meeting people via Craigslist and documenting their stories for nearly two years. Each story is written as it was told to her. Bala says that by listening to their stories, she hopes to bear witness to her subjects’ lives, providing them with an outlet, a judgment-free ear, and a sense of catharsis. By sharing them, she hopes to facilitate acceptance and understanding of issues that are seldom publicly discussed, at the risk of fear, stigma, and ostracism. Read more here. Names and locations have been changed to protect her subjects’ anonymity.
One night, she came home smelling unlike herself. She acted casual, but the truth was written all over her face.
She thinks that I found out because of a text that she forgot to erase. But I’d actually known for quite some time. I left work early one day, and I watched them. Part of me wanted to confront them, but another, smaller part of me liked seeing her happy again. I don’t know the guy. But I have a morbid obsession with him.
I was always totally in love with my wife. I thought that she was so bright and talented, and that she had been a victim of her circumstances. I hate that we are struggling financially and that we have to work all the time to survive; I hate that we don’t even have time to be a couple. But I love our kids. Our family is the most important part of me.
I thought that she would end it, to be honest. But about a month in, nothing seemed to be changing. She was wearing lipstick and doing her nails. She was putting on perfume. She had built a whole different life with this guy and I was just on hold.
We were out to a family event when I asked to use her phone so I could text my cousin. I told her my phone had died. She tentatively handed it over and she seemed so jittery, so antsy. She kept watching me—probably hoping she’d remembered to erase all traces of him. She stood there, trying to hide this affair, and she needn’t have bothered. It was so obvious.
So I figured it was as good a time as any to have it out. I found what I was looking for immediately, a solitary text to “J” with the history likely erased: “I’m free on Saturday…” I confronted her about it, and she paced around the room for a while like a trapped animal, without saying anything. I felt heartbroken and triumphant. Anger bubbled inside my chest and threatened to escape through my skin, my eyes.
“Did you have sex with him?” I don’t know why I asked, because I knew the answer.
She said no, and the blatant lie infuriated me even more. I left the house and went for a walk. During that one-hour absence, I think she called me 63 times. When I finally came back, she told me the truth.
“How many times?” I already had an idea. She said two, and I believed her. I believed her about all the things that I had confirmed myself: they went out to dinner and to the movies. He took out her chair and made her feel valued. They watched TV together and snuggled on the couch. I believed that because I had seen it.
“Are you in love with him?” She said no, and this time, I didn’t know what to believe. I wanted—needed—to think that she was still in love with me if our family was going to survive. But I had also seen the way that she looked at him, and I remembered that look in her eyes because I had once been that guy.
I asked her about the lurid details and I felt sick to my stomach when she told me the truth. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I had this need to just know everything. I asked too many questions and got too much information, and it has all turned into triggers now.
I never had any intention of leaving; I love our children too much. I loathed my father because he wasn’t there for my mom and us kids. I’m not going to turn into him. But the kids are a little too cynical for their age. I wonder if we’re doing them more harm than good by staying together. Our son asked her once why I was angry, and she said it was because she’d taken something from me that she can’t give back. And in a weird way, I think he understood.
I don’t trust her at all anymore. I look at her bank records and her timesheet at work. I check her emails and her messages almost every day. I have the passwords to all of her social media accounts. I saw an email that she had sent to her best friend and then forgotten to permanently delete from her “Trash” folder. She admitted in that email that she had loved him.
I know everything I’ve ever wanted to know about my wife, and then some. It’s really easy to lie to yourself about what is happening right under your nose, but when someone confirms it, you have to be a special kind of masochist to keep ignoring the reality. I guess it’s possible that they’re still seeing each other. But then, anything is possible with her now. When you find these things out about someone you’ve trusted your whole life, it breaks you.
She wrote me a letter once, shortly after my mother had passed away. In the letter, she’d said something along the lines of: “The hard times are here now, and I’ll stand by you, no matter what.” I kept that letter with me every day. It was my drug—my pick-me-up, my beer at the end of a bad day. It was the only thing that kept me going. I look at that letter now and the only thing I can think of is that she was already having an affair when she wrote it.