After her husband’s repetitive affairs, several counselors, and many attempts at forgiveness, a mother of
three made the decision to end her marriage.
September 7, 2013
Man: Divorce is the end of a relationship, but it can also be the start of a lot of good. You might become a better parent, a better businessman, a better person. What’s your story?
Woman: We were married for, it would have been 14 years. We divorced a couple days before our 14th anniversary. We had just really hit it off in the beginning, and a lot of chemistry and all that. So we got married fairly quickly, and looking back now, that was probably not a good thing.
We never argued, never fought. I think our first argument was when we were planning the wedding. I think through counseling, I realize now that that wasn’t really a good thing. The counselor explained to me that it’s not good because when you do have a conflict, you don’t know how each other is going to relate to it, and how you’re going to react to the conflict.
That’s what happened later on when the marriage started having problems, was the inappropriate, a lot of yelling and screaming and name-calling, and stuff that I hadn’t witnessed while we were dating. I had just turned 21 when I met him. I thought he was my soulmate.
[Three kids]. Our first one was born when I was 23, so I have him, and then he’ll be 16 in September, and we have a daughter, she just turned 13 in June, and then we have another little one, she will turn six in September. We knew we wanted two for sure, the third one was a little bit of a surprise. We were not trying to prevent it, but not trying to get pregnant, and of course I did, but we were thrilled at that time. But she was born after he had had an affair in 2001, and we had worked through all that, and I actually thought my marriage was better, otherwise I would not have gotten pregnant with her.
It was extremely painful. We always struggled financially, and so I had taken a part-time job. I tried to be the stay-at-home mom for a long time, but we needed the income, so I went and got just a part-time job, and was working evenings. It was retail, so we worked a lot of evenings and weekends, and we had gotten a computer for Christmas, and it had a printer with it, and I came home and he was printing stuff, just practicing with the printer, checking out how it worked.
And I picked up something that he printed, and it was an email from a childhood friend, and in reading it I could tell that they had had an affair, and he swore it was a one night thing, and it was a horrible night. I cried all night, we talked all night. I woke my son up, I was ready to leave. We were going to head to my moms. I woke Trevor, the baby was still sleeping, had him in the car, and then my ex talked to me into staying.
We talked all night. And it was ironic because he was in a Christian quartet, he had a concert to go to that next day, and so I hung around long enough for that, and I did leave for a while, went and stayed with my mom for a couple of weeks, and then I really don’t know why I decided to stay. I think, you feel like as a spouse you have to be able to forgive each other, and I didn’t want my kids raised in a broken home, so that was a lot of good, was for the sake of the kids.
He acted like he was very sorry for what he did, he grabbed the phone book and was flipping through the Yellow Pages looking for a counselor, swore he’d go do that, he’d go to counseling, whatever it took to make the marriage work, and we did try some counseling. He didn’t care for the counselor.
We felt like every time we went in, we were just rehashing the last session. It never felt like we were really making progress, but I went by myself for a while after he had quit going. I actually ended up, she put me on, or sent me to a psychiatrist for a while. He thought I had bipolar disorder. My regular doctor, the nurse practitioner said that I have low thyroid and was depressed. The psychiatrist then said well, bipolar disorder can mimic symptoms of depression. I’ve taken those chosen just focus on getting the thyroid, and then I was on antidepressants for a while, and that helped much better. It was just a very painful time of life.
And so that helped for a while, so I was pretty miserable for quite some time, and then I finally realized that if I’m going to try to stay in this marriage, I should try to make it happy, make the best of it, and so that’s what we did, and we did recover from it, we went to a lot of, one of the churches here in Rockford put on a love and respect conference. We went to that, and that was the first time I felt like we had a Band-Aid. It kind of brought a lot of things to light, it showed us ways where we could communicate better.
Basically everything he did became an open book. I had access to his phone, his emails, all of that kind of stuff were out in the open, but you don’t ever really restore that. It never really comes back 100 percent. So the dynamic of the relationship is changed.
Those are right around probably 2002 and the year after. Still stayed pretty unstable, because again we still had the financial issues, so he worked a lot, I only worked part-time, finally did go back to work full-time, definitely stress, and he would work, well he tried to do his own landscaping business, which was very difficult because a lot of times people didn’t pay when they were supposed to pay, so we would end up eating that cost out-of-pocket until they paid up.
We just didn’t have the financial base to support a business like that. But that’s what he was doing, and then on top of that he would, he led the contemporary worship service at our church. That was a paid position, and then he would do odd jobs on the side.
He was never home. I was really upset with the way it was handled, because he is on staff there, has been, his families went to the church forever, so he grew up in it, and I just felt like I didn’t get the support that I needed, like it was just kind of, I felt like it was brushed under the rug.
I would have a like somebody to sit down with the two of us and say look, what you’re doing is wrong. From a Christian standpoint, I guess just somebody to call him on it, except the lady that I worked with, my boss, she knew my ex growing up, so she’s been around him since he was knee-high. She has a very strong Christian background, and she was the only one that confronted a him said what are you doing. He does not talk to her to this day.
We were having issues, and I came home one day and I was looking for something, and again, found a letter like he had wrote to her, and basically he was professing his love to her and how. It was just an envelope in his truck. I was looking for the baby stroller actually. It was printed like he had typed it and printed it out.
It was in an envelope but it wasn’t addressed yet, and of course I read, and it was basically he was saying how he’s always loved her and the only reason they weren’t together was because of logistics. I just couldn’t understand how come I had never heard of this person and our entire marriage I’ve never heard him talk about her, but all of a sudden she was the long-lost love of his life, so just really odd but I packed my stuff up that night and was leaving. I told him he was busted, I knew what was up, and I had been kind of suspicious of it, but I didn’t have any hard proof.
Just because of the way he was acting. He would come home and he would go for long walks at night and not come home, and he’d tell me well, I was sitting at the park sitting at a picnic table. He just wasn’t around much, or he’d get a call and he’d leave the room to talk on the phone. She then ended up moving here and moved in with him two months after we moved out.
A lot of stuff happen very quickly, and actually both situations, he had just had some job loss. I think in 2001 he was actually working, he was doing his landscaping, but he was also working for a place in Freeport, had gotten laid off the there. This time he was working for a park district and just lost his job. So both times it was a similar pattern that had developed. After he lost his job, I just saw that downward spiral where he kind of just disconnected, and I was afraid the that was what was going to happen, and it did.
He didn’t deny it, but he didn’t admit it either, and I told him I was getting all my stuff, I called my dad, my dad was on his way down the truck, and we were packing stuff, and is he was telling me that I couldn’t take certain things. He threatened to call the cops because he didn’t want me taken all the stuff, the furniture and stuff. Most of it was mine anyway. I’m not sure if you call his dad or what, but his dad came out, and was standing there, letting me take whatever, but I think he was making sure that my ex didn’t come home and have a problem. It was a bad, bad deal.
But it was tough in the beginning, because of course I was upset. There was actually a point where I still wanted to make my marriage work, and my ex was one that was like no, I’m done with this, and they had that all planned out for her to move there that quickly, so my kids have went through a huge ordeal. I mean they were dealing with the breakup of their parents, now we’re living with their grandparents, they’re going to have to switch schools, new friends, the whole deal. So it was really tough, and they knew, they were old enough to know what was going on, and when she moved here, he introduced them to her very quickly, shortly after she was here, and of course he told him that she was a friend and they didn’t buy it.
And what usually happened was when they would go visit him on his weekends, he would take them to his parents, they have a farm, and he would stay there with them, or he would leave the kids there with them and then he would go back to our house in MountMorris which she moved into.
Eventually the kids put two and two together, because they had stopped at the house in Mount Morris where we used to live, and came home and said mom, dad says they’re not living together, but when we stopped at the house in Mount Morris, I saw his pillow on his bed, and his clothes in the closet, and his laptop was on the counter, so they felt very lied to, and definitely there was a loss of respect for their dad, because I think they had been asking questions, especially my middle daughter.
But she is very intuitive. She notices things that most kids don’t, and even when I got her into counseling, they would tell me that the counselor she said, sometimes I forget I’m not talking to an adult. She’s just a very mature for age, so you don’t get away with stuff like that with her. It’s better to be upfront with her than it is to try to sugarcoat stuff.
Put a damper on their relationship because she felt like she was being lied to. So that’s still even three, four years later, that’s all still just now kind of starting to repair itself with their dad. And then you throw in his girlfriend, they’re obviously still living together, she has a daughter. She lives with her dad most of the year, but she’s here in the summertime to stay with her mom so then you throw in step kids into the mix, which causes a whole nother array of issues. They’ll come to me with questions and sometimes I can explain and sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I have to say I don’t know why your dad did that, you need to talk to him.
I try to spin it in a positive light, like I said there’s a lot of times where I can’t explain things. I don’t know why he does what he does, and I’ve tried to be honest with them about that. But I always try to reiterate that he loves them. I never tell them if they want to go spend time with their dad, even though we have the divorce agreement, he gets them every other week, but if they ever want to go during the week or any other time, I’m very flexible with that because I encourage that. In the beginning, especially, they didn’t want to go. Now they’re okay with it.
We actually a very good about getting on the same page where the kids are concerned, and I think that’s really important. Even when I don’t always agree, for example when the kids were in a lot of counseling and the counselor would encourage her, you need to tell your dad how you feel about that. Well Molly would do that and then my ex would say she was being disrespectful, so he took away her phone.
So we had a lot of issues with that, especially with the phone thing, I didn’t agree, I don’t punish my kids for telling me how they feel. I just don’t think that that’s right. But I still backed up his discipline, and I told them I said well I don’t think it’s fair what you’re doing, Molly was just expressing herself, but I’ll back him up, because there’s going to be times down the road where I’m going to need him to back me up, and maybe he doesn’t think it’s fair. And the kids will, they’ll pick up on that, they’ll play you, so yeah, when we really have to be on the same page where the kids are concerned. We’ve always been pretty good about that.
The growth has been unbelievable, and I actually like who I am now much better than I did then. I’m much more independent, more confident, I’ve achieved a lot more in my life at this point. I don’t think I would even want to go back to that time in my twenties.
Out of that marriage came with three really great kids. We had good times as well as the bad, and I look back on it and I see things that I could’ve done different, so you learn from your mistakes brush yourself off and move on.
Communication is a big thing, and in my relationship, I wound up codependent. By codependent I mean that my life revolves around his, so I sacrificed a lot to keep him happy, and then wound up bitter for doing so. We always lived where he wanted to live because it was close to his job, but yet I had to drive 45 minutes to Rockford every day.
We went to his church because he was more active in it then I was in mine. I’m Catholic and he was Lutheran, and then we got married Lutheran and after a while I switched over and joined the LutheranChurch because their kids are being raised that way.
And we were actually very active at church, a lot of it was because of his family and stuff, and then he was in the Christian Quartet so we would follow him around wherever he would go to sing, we were there, we kind of grew up with that my kids have a very strong spiritual background, so, and I don’t regret that either, because I think that’s what’s gotten me through my situation, and I think the kids, they’re going to have hardships in life, and I think that will get them through theirs, too.
They tolerate her, but that’s about the extent. Probably the last six months it’s gotten a little bit better. Molly will finally at least talk to her, but I heard a lot of complaints from my ex that if the girlfriend would walk into the room, Molly would walk out. She didn’t want anything to do with her. Trevor felt the same, but he didn’t express’s himself as much he kind of keeps it bottled up.
I just tell them she’s not going anywhere, so make the best of it. That’s about all I can tell them. I’ve actually had to talk to her a couple different times, which in the beginning I never would have, but as you grow through the whole divorce process, you start to realize your kids have to be the priority. And so if it means talking to somebody that you don’t consider a friend, you still have to do it for the sake of your kids
So we had my youngest, I believe, yeah, she had a real bad bladder infection, and I knew that she was staying at her dad’s, and I had some instructions from the doctor. So I actually had to talk to her to explain to her what we needed to do while they were there, and actually she was really good about it. She did everything I asked her to do, so that kind of built a little bit of a rapport.
In 2009, I had decided to go back to college, so I was going to [Sauk]. I wanted to go to the radiology program, but I had just gen ed. classes that I had to get out of the way before I could apply for the program, so that’s what I was doing.
School also affected the marriage. I don’t think my ex realized how time-consuming that was going to be, and it put more before burden on him because he was trying to work all these jobs, and now he had to help out with the kids, so I heard a lot of complaining about how much time was spent in school.
And actually when we were having a lot of problems and he lost his job, he wanted me to quit school and go back to work, and I said that I wouldn’t do that, because this was the one thing that was really important to me. I really felt strongly that I needed to get a career. Nothing else was going to help us financially unless I went back to school and got a real career, because a lot of jobs without a degree I was making 10 bucks an hour. It’s not that much help.
That’s when he really felt like I wasn’t a team player, because he had just lost his job and we were struggling financially and I wasn’t willing to quit school and go back to work. So, in looking back now, I can understand how he felt that way, but from my perspective, I felt like he wasn’t supporting my goals. It definitely was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back.
What happened was because I had to move back to Belvedere, there was no way I was driving to Sauk. I believe Sauk and [Kishwaukee] College are the only colleges around here that offer the rad. tech program, and there’s no way I was going to be driving to either of those from Belvedere. I had a lot of people tell me you should be a nurse, you should go to nursing school, and I always blew it off, no I don’t want to be a nurse. Well after this, and with people continuing to tell me that, I finally started to think okay, maybe there’s something to this, maybe I need to look into going into nursing.
So I finished my associates at RockValley, the CNA program and I got my CNA license. I got a job at an assisted living facility. That was full-time. So once I got that full-time job, I was able to move into my own place with my kids. It wasn’t too far from my parents, so that was a huge help. It was really close to where I was working.
So we did that for a year, and then I applied to Saint Anthony College of Nursing and was actually accepted there, which was really cool to get in first time I applied, and that was my school of choice. So once that happened, I knew I couldn’t go to school and work full time, so I had to put my two weeks notice in, I quit December of 2010, moved back in with mom and dad, and went through school. Such just living off the child support and moving in with my parents.
Yeah, none of that stuff would’ve happened had I not got divorced. So there was a lot of positive that came out of it, and I think that I was really angry in the beginning. I didn’t understand how God could let that happen. God hates divorce. Why would he do this to me? I prayed about my marriage forever. Why is this happening? I finally, and it took a long time and a lot of counseling, but I finally realized that God didn’t do this, my ex did this, and I contributed to the problems in the marriage. We’re human, we make mistakes.
I think in the beginning, I probably did the blame the affair and him. It took me a while to realize, you are at least my situation I came to the conclusion that they’re kind of, even though the intertwined, they’re are two separate issues. He obviously had a pattern of behavior when things got stressful that’s when he would have the affair. Almost like maybe it’s low self-esteem, I’m not sure. But he would turn elsewhere for whatever he needed to build his self-esteem back up, or his ego, whatever.
So that’s his issue, that’s not something that I can really help him with. The fact that our marriage was in trouble prior to that happening, there were definitely things that I contributed that I could have done better. Like I said, the communication. He didn’t feel like I was supporting him while he lost his job.
I didn’t know how to support him when he lost his job, I didn’t know what he needed, so those for all areas where I knew I needed to get help myself so that I don’t make those same mistakes again in future relationships, because it will carry over. If you don’t figure out what went wrong, you can’t fix it. And I can’t fix his issues or anything pertaining to him. I can only focus on me and that’s what I tried to do.
My goals have pretty much stayed the same, except now rather than relying on somebody else to help me get those goals, I’m doing them by myself, and that is a huge accomplishment.
Just to establish my career, and have my own house, and be able to pay the bills on time, and have a cushion to provide for my kids. When I was growing up, my dad was able to provide for us. We weren’t rich by any means, but we didn’t have to struggle, and my mom was a stay at home mom. She was able to do that.
I want my kids to have that kind of security to be able to go to the grocery store and if they want a candy bar, not say I can’t give you that candy bar today. We’re on a budget. I did vet tech work almost my whole life. Love the animals, but it doesn’t pay as well as what you can do on the human side, and it was very rewarding.
I was probably at my happiest when I was working at the assisted living facility, and I learned that those people gave much more back to me then I was giving to them. It was very rewarding. And I really enjoyed the relationships that I built with those people their families.
I think when I was married, my identity was being his wife, and now I’m not his wife, I’m me. It’s me and my kids, and being able to accomplish stuff and be successful at it. Getting through that first year of school, the ups and downs of nursing school, there’s a lot of failure and success along the way.
But I think the most important thing was being able to teach my kids about perseverance and that even when you fail, you can keep going, you start over, you brush yourself off, and you just keep going, and I think it’s going to be fun to show them the difference in lifestyle from how it was before to now.
My first semester I had a class that I was taking, my clinical class, an eight credit class, probably the most expensive class that we have to pay for. Their grade point level is higher than a lot of other colleges. You come from RockValley where 70% is a C, that’s failing at nursing school, so it was a tough program.
And everybody kind of was down to the wire by the end of the semester. A lot of people were relying on the final to be high enough to pass the class. I ended up four points short, so I ended up having to retake that class, and that was probably one of the worst moments of my entire life. I cried, I wasn’t the only one. It was a big wake-up call, and there was a part of me that wanted to quit, and in the past I would’ve quit.
I cried for two days, and then I told myself you need to just keep going. I wasn’t going to let my kids see me quit, and I decided that there must be a reason for it, maybe retaking the class will make me better nurse. As much as I wanted to blame the teachers and blame other people, the reality came down to I was short four points. I retook the class, and I passed it just fine, and I actually did well, and because of the knowledge that I’ve had from already taking it, I was helping the other students, so my instructors noticed.
I think because of the way the divorce half and how quickly, my kids and I really bonded because we were in it together. They were feeling as much hurt from it as I was. It was kind of hard, especially with my middle daughter, she was eight or nine at the time. She was the type of child that wanted to make you feel better, so when I would start crying, she was the one that would come in and put her arm around me and tell me everything’s going to be okay.
She kind of was, she was almost like trying to be the adult in the family, so I had to kind of get a grip on that because I didn’t want her to feel like she was going to be the one to fix things. If I cried, I didn’t let her see it. I didn’t want her around that and tried to be more positive.
I think it helped her just not seeing mom sad all the time, and I think that that contributes to how they felt about their dad as well, because they knew mom was crying because dad made mom cry or whatever. So I think it helped her. As I healed, they healed.
They’re just always you’re going to do great on your test, mom, and they’ll encourage me all the time. You’re going to be fine, and I’ll be stressing and sometimes my middle daughter especially, she’ll be like mom, your stressed, you need to go hang out with your friends.
She’ll tell me when I’m getting too on edge. She’ll actually tell me to leave. But yeah, they’re really supportive and very excited, because I think they’re on the same page with me as far as setting goals about when I’m done with school, we can do this, or we can do that, so they’re always really included in the whole process. Even when I failed that class, you can do it. It’s been kind of fun, actually.
I would say latch on to everything you can that’s positive. Go to the divorce workshops, join some singles groups, and get around other single people is probably the biggest thing because you feel so alone when you’re going through it, but you’re not.
Try to keep the negativity away from the kids as much as possible. Don’t talk bad about the other spouse. Reiterate that you’re their parents and the other parent’s their parent, and that they’re loved no matter what, and just because mom and dad aren’t together doesn’t mean that the parents love the kids any less.
They need to have that security, and they need to be okay knowing that it’s okay for them to love each parent, and I think sometimes when you have that negativity, it makes the kids feel guilty.
Man: Thanks for listening to divorce redemption. Tune in next week. What’s your story?