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I'm Divorced, But the Shame Hasn't Left

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AGI SMITH

Dear Agi,

I have always felt my story was unique to me alone until I discovered that my husband's secret life is one that is happening daily in homes around the globe.

I married my second husband after having dated him for three years and we were friends for five years prior to that. I had two children from my first marriage and he had a young daughter from his previous marriage. We lived a charmed life, we valued our blended family and had mutual respect as partners in our commitment. We both had thriving careers and by all appearances we were the perfect couple.

Twelve years into our marriage we were looking forward to the day when we would both retire as we headed into our late 50's. It was at this time I noticed a difference in his attitude, he was less attentive, withdrawn from me, short tempered and preoccupied with his computer. This went on for about a year when I awoke early one morning to find him in the office on his computer. The door to the office was nearly closed and I decided to poke my head in to say good morning.

What I saw has changed who I was and my life forever...

With his back to me I could see the computer screen and on it was my husband engaged in a sexual act with another man. I can't remember much after that except primal screams coming out of my body. In the months to come I had discovered my husband had been acting out with other men during our entire 12 year marriage. Most of these other men were professionals who were married too, they found each other on Craigslist--men seeking men. He said he felt being with a man somehow didn't connote cheating. He had hosted many of the encounters in our home while I was at work or at random locations around town. I even discovered he would hook up with men when we were on vacation. I thought he was just going out to look at real estate while I sat by the pool.

Agi, I had no clue, our sex life was normal and regular, I am left shell shocked. The only positive is that I am HIV negative but I can tell you waiting for the test results was a frightening time for me.

I feel lost and I don't know how to move forward. How did I not see this coming? Why did he marry me? I don't trust anyone anymore and I carry a tremendous amount of shame. I haven't been able to tell anyone except for a few family members, as I am too embarrassed. The betrayal continues to haunt me leaving me debilitated for days at a time. It has been three years since I found out and our divorce has recently been finalized. How do I move forward and find happiness again?

Sincerely,
Betrayed in Southern California

Dear Betrayed,

Divorce can be difficult enough without adding all the various types of betrayal into the mix. Your story sadly is not that unique and you are correct there is an epidemic of married men hooking up with other men. Just look at author Terry McMillan's life; after years of marriage her husband revealed he was gay. I believe they call it 'on the down low,' or more plainly, same sex infidelity. Like most female partners of men on the down low the fear is the possibility of having been exposed to HIV/AIDS. The first piece of advice I can give to anyone who is going through this is to get tested immediately just like you did.

You certainly can't punish yourself for not seeing the signs. Most infidelity goes undetected, straight or not. According to statistics, 2/3 of women being cheated on have no idea their man is having an affair and sadly 50-70 percent of married men cheat. The signs of an affair are so subtle it would be hard to notice. For example, he begins to buy you little gifts for no reason or he starts to gussy himself up more than before and then the more obvious; he takes phone calls outside or in another room and speaks in a whisper. There are several books out there that can help you look for all the signs. The most comprehensive one being, "Is He Cheating On You? 829 Telltale Signs" by Ruth Houston.

If you suspect your spouse is cheating on you, until you can prove otherwise, practice safe sex. We are literally talking about your life. Nobody has the right to place your life at risk, so be bold and exert your right to protect yourself. If he is not cheating he will be compassionate and work with you to dispel your fears. If he is guilty my guess is he will become irate at your accusation. Either way do your research even if that includes checking his email, voice mail and phone records. Self protection first.

I recognize you feel a tremendous amount of shame, guilt and embarrassment. I wish I could tell you to just stop and you would magically be able to do so. However, I realize we are not wired this way. The best advice I can give you is to seek out others who are going through the same experience. You should not be alone and I promise you there are many other women out there in your same predicament. I found some terrific support groups you can go to for help; www.straightspouse.org - www.straightspouseconnection.com and www.sanon.org - All of these organizations offer good resources and a community where you will find comfort and help on how to cope with your pain.

My hope for you is to find joy in your life again and that it may happen soon. We are sapient beings by nature and it is our spiritual birthright to be happy. Don't give that away to someone else. I often offer this technique for someone who needs to move on from a former love; close your eyes and visualize your ex-husband standing before you. Tell him the two of you are now finished and you will no longer be in each other's life or in your energetic sphere. Let him know what once was between the two of you is now over. What will be for him is now between he and his maker. Do this over a period of weeks until you feel the weight of him removed from your life. Offering him to his maker frees you of the shame he tried to place on you. It's not for you to carry. You are free to live and love your life.

I commend you for your bravery to contact me and tell us your story. You are clearly a powerful woman. I see this moment as an opportunity for your greatness to shine through. I wish you all the best my friend.

If you have a story to share or a question you would like addressed regarding your divorce please email us at: agismith@comcast.net