I Was Married to a Stranger for 13 Years

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A little over three months ago, my husband of 13 years told me that he wasn’t happy anymore and wanted a divorce.

As anyone who loves their husband and is building a family with him would be, I was shattered. Heartbroken. Shocked. Blindsided.

But what transpired over the last 90 days has left me sadder and more shocked than the moment he first told me he fell out of love with me years ago — even though he never said anything other than maybe I should go to the gym. It’s left me sadder and more shocked than him admitting he’d been involved in emotional relationships with women at work for years. It’s left me sadder and more shocked than when he told me he couldn’t have sex with me without actively watching porn, because he had no sexual or emotional attraction to me left anymore.

What I’ve learned in the last 90 days is that the person I loved for 17 years was a stranger to me. And that’s the most crushing part of all of this.

I knew we had problems in our marriage — problems that I now know we should have addressed long ago. But what marriage doesn’t have its challenges? And yes, I knew I wasn’t getting everything I needed; but I didn’t know that he wasn’t getting what he needed, either.

I believed he was happy. I believed we were happy. I believed we had a good life.

What I didn’t believe is that the person I loved for nearly two decades could ever do the things I’ve seen him do in the last 90 days.

I’ve caught the person whom I trusted with every piece of advice I’ve needed these last 17 years in a web of lies. Lies that he then covered up with more lies.

I’ve seen the person who was my rock squirm cowardly out of shame and fear at the mere mention of the woman’s name I discovered him texting thousands of times.

I’ve caught the person who gave me my two children say things to them to make it look like I’m trying to keep them from him.

There are so many painful little details that add up to the main struggle I now face every day; which is that the man I loved — the man who until recently still made my heart swell, even if I’d forgotten how to show him and tell him — was not who I thought he was at all. I laid in bed next to a stranger every night; the ghost of a man I met 17 years ago. A person who I didn’t believe would ever be capable of kicking me while I was down. A person who I believed respected me and our family enough to come to me instead of stepping outside of our marriage.

Maybe I’m a ghost of the girl I was 17 years ago, too; a stranger to myself. 
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I find myself mourning so much more these days than just the relationship I thought we had three months ago. I’m mourning a past I loved. I’m mourning the future that I thought I’d have with my family. I’m mourning the idea that the person I thought I loved was really a stranger.

But maybe he wasn’t the only one.

Maybe I’m a ghost of the girl I was 17 years ago, too; a stranger to myself. And maybe that’s the saddest part.

Where had I gone that I could be that disconnected? Who had I become that I could allow this to happen to me, and to him, and to us?

While I don’t believe I’m to blame for all of this, I do accept responsibility for allowing it to happen. And I believe that first step in healing myself will be trying to go back in time to find the girl I was before the long fade into becoming the person who could allow this thing to happen.

I can accept that I’ll never know my husband again, but I won’t accept being a stranger to myself any longer. That much I know for sure.

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