The Fragility of Marriage
This morning, the ChickieNob had numerous items that had to be brought to school so I grabbed down an extra bag by the front door, one which we use for grocery shopping or bringing things to work, and opened it to stuff inside the mermaid Barbie and hand-me-down American Girl doll. Balled up, at the bottom of the bag, was another woman’s panties.
I unrolled them and placed them on the steps, silky fabric, brief-cut. Made for a body entirely unlike mine. Josh had left five minutes before the discovery.
I could hear the kids talking through breakfast in the kitchen, and I walked into the living room, not even capable of making it up the stairs to confront him. I dialed his cell phone. I thought about what my parent’s faces would look like when I showed up at their door with the kids in tow and my own suitcase. I thought about changing the locks before he could get home tonight.
And I thought that I was such a fool. This woman who thought she had an amazing marriage and it could all be undone with a pair of panties. When I talk about Josh and tell you how wonderful he is–how lucky I am to have found him–I still pause to reflect on my own words so I don’t take them for granted. He wakes up with the twins at night, allowing me to sleep. He has given me the life I wanted, never making me feel guilty for not contributing financially to the family in my desire to stay home with the twins. He is funny and charming and outgoing to counterbalance my introversion. He is a wonderful father, he makes me feel safe, he pushes me to be a better me.
And all things I believed about our marriage were false because on the floor in front of me was evidence to the contrary. That this person didn’t love and respect me at all.
When he called back, I croaked, “why are there a pair of another woman’s panties at the bottom of your work bag?”
He was dumbfounded and told me that he didn’t understand or know how they got there, but he was coming home. I stood in the kitchen, watching the front window for his car, tuning out the kids who were now going to be late for school, but I didn’t have the energy to goad them along.
And my thought in that moment is different than anything I had ever said when jokingly telling Josh what would happen if I caught him cheating. I told him the marriage would be over. That there would be no second chances, no do-overs. That we’d work out visitation arrangements with the kids, but he wouldn’t be part of my family anymore. And I meant that when I said it.
But standing at the table, my eyes looking out the window, all I could think was how we would need to find a counselor. That we’d need to work to fix this. To build trust again. That forgiveness would have to happen.
When push came to shove, I made the opposite decision of what I thought I would make from the comfort of my little glass house. It is the second time in my life that this has happened and you’d think that first case would have taught me not to be so sure of myself.
He came home and we walked upstairs to talk away from the kids. He promised me that he didn’t know how they got there, whose they were. He promised me that he wasn’t cheating on me, that my whole life was not a lie. That what I saw was what I got. And I believe him.
He asked me if I had lent the bag to my cousin, and as I tried to remember if she had borrowed a bag during her stay, I suddenly remembered a night when Lori went over to Lindsay’s and took with her a change of clothes, leaving the rest of her luggage behind at our house.
A quick call to Lori confirmed this, much to her embarrassment, that she would be receiving a pair of her dirty panties via the mail at the end of the week. But even after the crisis was solved, that the world was set right, that my worst fears didn’t come true, I couldn’t stop crying. In fact, I can’t stop crying as I write this to get it out of my head.
Because for ten minutes this morning, life felt so fragile that two beings could be cleaved apart by a bad choice. That there are no absolutes in determining what one should do; we are left feeling our way through the dark. My heart broke all over again for every friend and family member who has experienced divorce because even feeling the heat from the figurative flame burned so badly and deeply that it was excruciating. I cannot imagine how it feels to actually stick your whole hand into the fire.
And it’s terrible to see what you hold as the truth from the comfort of your living room be put to the test and come out scathed and changed. No one should ever be able to cockily say, “what I would do” and be taken seriously. Because we never know what we’re going to do until we’re in the moment.