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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.


1 megan { 04.13.10 at 5:12 pm }

what an awful morning.
i’m so glad to hear all is well.

2 Caro { 04.13.10 at 5:17 pm }

Ugh, that’s horrible. I’m glad it worked out ok.

3 Nichole { 04.13.10 at 5:26 pm }

Oh wow…I am so sorry you had to feel that this morning. It is so true…we don’t know what we will do in any instance until we are there…in that instant.

I hope you are able to breathe easier tonight – thank you for sharing this very personal, yet eye opening post!

4 lis { 04.13.10 at 5:31 pm }

the words you chose to describe your husband became wholly unnecessary when i read this:

“He was dumbfounded and told me that he didn’t understand or know how they got there, but he was coming home.

his response speaks more to his character than the volumes that im sure you could write as his loving wife.

im so sorry you had a rough morning and that the scare is spilling into the rest of your day. i hope you can crawl back into your security blanket of married bliss soon…


5 staciet { 04.13.10 at 5:37 pm }

Aw, hon. I am all teary with you. Those moments had to have been heart breaking. While I am so glad that this was just a misunderstanding, I know they will leave a mark for a while at least. Sending you hugs and loads of love…

6 Flying Monkeys { 04.13.10 at 5:42 pm }

My heart sank reading that.
I’m glad that it wasn’t what you feared and I agree with Lis about his response. It stood out to me too.

7 JC { 04.13.10 at 5:48 pm }

Oh man, that sounds horrible!!! I’m sorry you had to go through that, even if it did turn out to be ok.

8 Kate { 04.13.10 at 5:56 pm }

“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.”

I agree 100% – we never know until we walk the actual path… I’m glad your’s wasn’t a real walk, an incredibly difficult one, but thankfully not the real one.

9 Lavender Luz { 04.13.10 at 6:01 pm }

I am so sorry to be the trigger.

And then again, I’m not. I mean, I’m truly sad that you felt sad all day. But I’m glad that this incident reinforces that your intuition about your marriage, about those closest to you and the things most important to you, can be believed.

You do have an amazing marriage. And you just took the knowing of that to a deeper level. I, too, am so happy that Josh was coming home to be with you.

And finally, your later revelations about the cockiness of saying “I would never” are very timely, as people discuss matters like the Russian-boy-sent-back.


10 Jen { 04.13.10 at 6:24 pm }

What a horrible dark morning. I know what you mean in that even though it wasn’t true, it was hard to shake the feeling. Marriage is incredibly fragile and can be undone much easier than it can be built. Oh, how true it is to say we’d do something when we never have faced it. It’s a whole different ball game then. I try to remember this when people make judgmental statements about IVF. They really don’t have the slightest clue. I think it takes tremendous strength to both walk away from a marriage and to also stay after a betrayal.

11 Heather { 04.13.10 at 6:45 pm }


it’s a tenuous line, this marriage life…

I send you big love…and hugs…

12 Kate (Bee In The Bonnet) { 04.13.10 at 6:52 pm }

Yes, marriage can be tenuous at times. The fact that Josh immediately rushed home is probably the true testament to his character, as someone who would never hurt you in that way. All the same though, with suspicious articles or actions, there’s always the sinking “what if?” feeling. I’ve always said that if that happened, that I would force H to leave ME. But deep down, I think I know that’s false, because I just cannot bear to be without him, even with major imperfections. Of course, additionally, knowing our pasts and my typical behavior, it would be ME who would do something totally stupid and mess up our relationship by cheating on him, though I certainly have no intention to do so ever, and will fight my thoughts that wander in that direction with every fiber of my being. I love him enough that I don’t ever want to be without him. And I imagine that, like you, if faced with the possibility of that horrible betrayal, I’d probably find myself in tears, too.

13 Vee { 04.13.10 at 7:03 pm }

Oh Gosh Mel, my heart was breaking for you as I read your post. I am so very glad it ended up the way it it did. Sorry you had to go through all those emotions sending you hugs.

14 Manapan { 04.13.10 at 7:08 pm }

Oh, hon, I’m sorry you had such an awful morning! I’m glad the actual incident was quickly resolved, but I can’t imagine the scare you must have had. (((hugs)))

15 tash { 04.13.10 at 7:13 pm }

Jeebus, this would be hilarious if it weren’t so horrible. I was about to post sooner than later about my third-tri vulnerability dreams that have my husband running off with various people a la 8th grade. I always wake up so mad at him, poor guy.

I also just posted over on GITW about a new study regarding divorce and miscarriage, and divorce and stillbirth. It’s not pretty.

16 loribeth { 04.13.10 at 7:24 pm }

I’m sorry. That would be tough.

I’ve had moments where something has happened or turned up totally out of place and I can’t quite believe what I’m seeing — you eventually realize that there’s a perfectly logical explanation for it after all, but while you’re in the middle of it, you can’t quite believe your eyes.

17 Jenni { 04.13.10 at 7:45 pm }

I want to write that I love this post, except that you sound so frightened I couldn’t possibly write that. So I’ll just say thank you. I have had moments like this. And yes, surprise, my reaction in totally the opposite of what I expected. And no, the world doesn’t click right back into balance after “clarifications”. It is scary, so scary, to feel how much we build on our entire lives on trust – of ourselves and of one other person, and both being so terribly flawed, and words and actions and desires not always meeting in the right the place… It’s a mystery that it works at all.

18 Terry Elisabeth { 04.13.10 at 8:07 pm }

Oh damn.
I hope you feel better soon. I live moments like this and it’s so painful. I have learned to think about other meanings than what comes immediately to my mind but when these feelings arise…like you, I think I have taken things for granted, I made a mistake, etc.

19 Rebecca { 04.13.10 at 8:12 pm }

What an awful morning, so sorry this happened to you, what an terribly unnerving experience. I couldn’t agree more with you that we really don’t know how we’d respond to many situations in life until we’re actually forced into them. So glad that things turned out to be okay with you & Josh!

20 JustMe_C { 04.13.10 at 8:15 pm }

I’m so sorry that you had to ensure something so unpleasant. I can understand how your world is still rocked from the horror of it all. I’m elated that it really was something easily explained and innocent. I’m hopeful that each of us appreciates our partners even more tonight and the trust that we have. A little perspective never hurt anyone.

21 Calliope { 04.13.10 at 8:15 pm }

I literally wept as I read this post because the relationship you have with Josh is totally what I hope to find for myself some day. When his response was to come home to you I heard violins swell in my head and suddenly I knew it was going to be ok. He came home. To you. And together you solved the mystery of the panties.

I hate that you had such a shitty and emotionally eviscerating moment. I hate that such a tragic “what if” scene played out in your head. (((hugs)))

p.s. clearly Lori needs to simply go commando next time she visits

22 mrs spock { 04.13.10 at 8:19 pm }

Holy poop! It’s very easy to say to the Elin Woods of the world “I’d leave!”, but, being a mother- I know I couldn’t, not unless there was abuse.

How scary for you!

23 Meghan { 04.13.10 at 8:19 pm }

Oh wow, what an earth shattering morning. I’m so glad it all turned out ok. But I’m sorry your faith got temporarily shaken

24 suburbancaroline { 04.13.10 at 8:23 pm }

ooh, I once accidentally caused a very similar scenario. My washing machine was out, and I did my laundry at a friend’s house. You guessed it, a pair of underwear accidentally got left behind, and my friend found them later and didn’t recall that I’d done my wash there recently. Fortunately, she did remember it not too much after the confrontation and tears, and confirmed it with me.

It sounds like you both handled it as well as you could, and I’m glad your situation also turned out to be a mistaken case.

25 Shelli { 04.13.10 at 8:27 pm }

My heart fell to the bottom of my feet reading this post. I imagine despite the reality of the situation, you had to have had the longest day of your life…

26 Heather { 04.13.10 at 8:46 pm }

How true. Shoes don’t always fit the way we imagine them to.

I’m glad that he came home and the panties found their rightful owner.

27 queenie { 04.13.10 at 8:50 pm }

I’m sorry you had those moments, but I’m hoping tonight finds you laughing about finding a pair of Lori’s dirty underwear on top of your fridge.

28 Amy { 04.13.10 at 9:06 pm }

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.

I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I’ve never claimed to know what I would do in ANY situation, including that one. I simply don’t know. I pray I never have to find out. I’m so sorry that for even ten minutes, you thought you had that decision to make.

29 Delenn { 04.13.10 at 9:07 pm }

Wow. If Lori visits my house, I will make sure we give her the small Dr. Seuss back pack.

30 ErnieGirl { 04.13.10 at 9:09 pm }

That is a lesson I have had to learn over and over again. I think I know what I’ll do in a certain situation until it happens. I’m so glad that everything is okay. What a terrible way to start the day.

31 edenland { 04.13.10 at 9:21 pm }

Oh sweetheart ….. wow. My goodness that was an awesome post. It’s why I love blogging, and reading blogs. The discoveries, every day. Some amazing, some terrible. Eye-opening, boring, wondrous – I think it’s called “life.” And I love it.

Thank you for writing this.

Oddly, I knew it was ok from when I first started reading.

And I did laugh, at the end. Because Lozza left her undies at your house and that shit is just funeeeeee.


32 Sheri { 04.13.10 at 9:53 pm }

Wow! That was a powerful story…and I’m SO glad it turned out the way it did.

I’ve had this happen twice to two of my close female friends…and I knew about it because either the woman whose spouse cheated or the female temptress (or both) told me about the indiscretion. Talk about being in the middle!

I’m happy to say that both couples are still happily married to their respective spouses, although there were some tough times in between. One happened over fifteen years and two kids ago, and the other happened just three years ago. But both couples have used this as a way to tighten the bonds in their marriages.

No wonder I’m leery when a friend calls and says, “Can I tell you a secret?”

33 Dora { 04.13.10 at 10:35 pm }

Oh, Mel! What an excruciating morning. So relieved Josh reacted as he did and that you remembered Lori borrowing the bag.

What a remarkable post, though. So true. Thank you for sharing such a vulnerable moment with us all. xoxo

34 Cibele { 04.13.10 at 10:42 pm }

I am glad that it turned out to be a misunderstanding… I really am. I know this feeling all to well and for me my worst fears DID come true. The man I loved , respected and fought so hard to have a child with broke my heart in a tiny million pieces when my baby was only 8 months old. I was in shock that he took all that we had and threw out of the window and I was left to pick up the pieces all alone and a baby. I has been almost 2 years, and my heart is still broken in a way that only a person that went though this (even for minutes like you did) can understand. Life is indeed so fragile and uncertain. I never thought that I would be a single mother, I never thought that I could go from infertility to infidelity, but I did and I am so so GLAD that you don’t have to. These tears that you are crying to day my friend, I’ve been crying for almost 2 years. In the beginning I thought that I would not survive all the disappointment, betrayal, but I did and I am proud of myself for that. This post brought back sour memories, but also helped me to see how far I’ve come. That confusion and despair of the early days are over and little by little I am building a new life for myself and my precious girl. Thanks for sharing with us something so intimate

35 N { 04.13.10 at 10:51 pm }

♥ ♥ ♥

36 Journeywoman { 04.13.10 at 11:00 pm }

Holy wow.

I’m so glad it wasn’t what you thought. I’m so glad the two of you are okay. What a horrid morning.


37 Carrie { 04.13.10 at 11:09 pm }

I have been the shoulder, the thinker, the listener, the everything to someone right now as they realize their marriage isn’t as it seems. This person has asked me repeatedly what to do – and each time I tell her that only she can decide, because quite honestly, I don’t think anyone knows what they would do in many life altering situations until they are facing them head on.

I have to laugh at Cali’s comment, though.

38 Jen { 04.13.10 at 11:09 pm }

That makes for a really rough morning!! I’m glad it all turned out to be ok, and that even if things hadn’t been as they’d seemed, you were still willing to work on it and get by it. Hugs!

39 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 04.13.10 at 11:12 pm }

Ask anyone who knows us and they’ll say that you can’t find a marriage more secure than mine. Even so, it doesn’t take much…

Once I was outraged and hurt to glance at my husband’s computer and see the name “Eva Longoria.” Was he looking at sexy pictures? Fantasizing about her? What does she have that I don’t?

Actually, he was reading about the baseball player, EVAN Longoria.

Luckily I reread the screen more carefully before I confronted him in tears.

40 Care { 04.13.10 at 11:37 pm }

What an emotional roller coaster – am very glad that the story has a happy ending. Your comment at the end brings to mind a question I asked on my blog a few months ago – about choosing between trust and love – (as in having a relationship with trust but not love, vs one with love but not trust). I was truly surprised at the number of people who chose trust over love. It was interesting and thought provoking for me – because I chose love. You truly never do know what you will do in any given situation until you are there.

41 Kristin { 04.13.10 at 11:43 pm }

Oh Mel, I’m so glad he responded exactly the way he did and that it turned out to be such an innocent mix up. I have another bloggy friend who is going through that scenario but in her case it really happened. I am so relieved and happy that is not happening to you.

42 luna { 04.14.10 at 1:56 am }

wow. I can’t believe this happened. what a raw post, too.
I’m so happy that he came home from work to talk with you in person, and of course that he IS the man you know him to be. that lori! she must have been so embarrassed!

43 Lisa { 04.14.10 at 2:17 am }

‘Tis fragile indeed.

44 S.I.F. { 04.14.10 at 2:52 am }

I just realized that you are probably one of the only bloggers I don’t ever skim. I always read every single word. You always pull me in.

I am so sorry you had such a rough morning, but I am so happy it turned out for the best – and that both you and Josh were grown up enough to be able to talk about it even in the heat of the moment.

I pray you never have a scare like that ever again.

45 Circus Princess { 04.14.10 at 3:03 am }

I’m currently in a situation I never thought I would be in with my husband. He has suddenly changed his mind about having children with me and is wanting to pull the plug on our fertility treatments. Not sure I would take this over infidelity. Feels like I’m stuck in a nightmare and waiting for somebody to pinch me. We have our first meeting with a counselor tomorrow.

I’m glad everything had a harmless explanation and the panties found their rightful owner.

46 WiseGuy { 04.14.10 at 3:32 am }

“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.”

You said it right!

While I was laughing on Lori’s story, it is on your side of the fence that I got the idea of how ‘dangerous’ the situation had become.

Am glad it is all innocuous, and that all comes out of it is a story for the rest of the days.

Be good.

47 WiseGuy { 04.14.10 at 3:34 am }

“…and that all that comes out of it is a story “

48 mash { 04.14.10 at 4:55 am }

It’s a stark reminder of the fact that there are no guarantees in life, that the carpet CAN be pulled from under our feet.

It’s a reminder that things can change in an instant, and aren’t in our control at all.

But mostly, it’s a reminder that a good marriage is something to be worked at, cherished and respected. Especially for us IF’s, this journey has the ability to tear marriages to shreds. There are days when I think I might have to choose between a chance at fertility and my marriage, and it’s not such a straight forward choice as it seems!

49 TeamWinks { 04.14.10 at 7:42 am }

I didn’t know I could hold my breath for that long. Whew. Well said. Well said.

50 Hope in Briarrose { 04.14.10 at 7:51 am }

So glad everything turned out okay. I would have assumed the same thing and my husband is wonderful as well.


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