Excerpted from You Can Be Right (Or You Can Be Married): Looking for Love in the Age of Divorce. Copyright © 2012 Dana Adam Shapiro. Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1972
CURRENT MARRIAGE STATUS: Divorced
DO YOU HAVE ANY CHILDREN? Two boys, 8-years-old and 5-years-old
WHERE YOU GREW UP: GA
TOWN WHERE YOU LIVE: NY
YEAR OF MARRIAGE: 2001
HOW LONG YOU DATED BEFORE YOU WERE MARRIED: Five years
YEAR OF DIVORCE: 2012
In high school, I liked my looks, but I didn't know that other people did. I was never the hot girl. I was told: "When you grow up, you'll be pretty." Boys liked me, but I thought it was because I was nicer than most girls. I don't know what was going on with me, but up until my marriage, I only liked the guys who weren't that into me. The good guys, I'd get bored so fast.
Chris and I met at a restaurant. He had just moved to New York, but he started working immediately as an actor. I'd been waiting tables for four and a half years so I was like, "Wow, he's on it!" I was surprised I started falling for him because he was so clean-cut and beautiful, and that was never attractive to me. But I could see that he was talented, and every time he came around, he was just so nice. He didn't have that New York, actor-y, pessimistic sense of humor where everybody's too cool, just going pfft, pfft. He liked all these cheesy, romantic songs that to me were like blech. I couldn't believe I was going gaga over a guy who was playing "The Dance" by Garth Brooks on guitar in front of me! But he was doing it, singing, and I was like, "Aww! What a sweet soul!" He just seemed so wholesome, so pure.
God, I'll never be that dumb again.
It was heartbreaking, the way I found out about everything. He was shooting a movie on location. For the first part of the shoot, he kept in contact but I could see him turning into a weirdo, being really distant, thinking they're doing this heavy shit that's gonna blow some minds, y'know? Like: "Oh, you wouldn't understand." Like they're making Apocalypse Now. It was creeping me out. I just wanted to go, "Dude, it's a movie. It's a bunch of hot people in make-up. Relax."
Our video chats got to the point where he was just: "Uh-huh. Uh-huh." So I thought, "Okay, I'll just leave him alone until he gets done with this character." But when he came home, something felt wrong. All of a sudden, he was really concerned with wearing "cool" clothes. He kept calling it Williamsburg. Like, now he's Mr. Grit, y'know? He was just acting like an asshole. Nothing felt true. And then I started getting that bad feeling. It was burning. One night we were in the kitchen and I just went, "Oh my God, Chris, are you having an affair?"
He slumped into the kitchen counter and said: "Really? You think after all this time being married we're not going to have feelings for someone else?"
I was pretty sure who it was, they'd worked together on the movie. So I asked him: "Did you kiss her?"
He said: "No, it was just this emotional connection..."
I started crying. "I'm so sorry you had to go to her to get your emotional needs met. I always told you that you could talk to me about anything." He was clearly annoyed that we were even having this conversation. But I said, "I think we need to call a therapist."
At this point, I didn't even think he had sex with her -- or anybody else. I didn't even think he'd kissed her. I was so insecure, I started thinking that, somehow, this was all my fault. I must have done something to make him so unhappy. I thought maybe I was hideous looking. Or that maybe I was walking around with a faulty vagina. So I went to my gynecologist and I said, "Look at it. Test it out. Is it in working order?" I thought maybe I needed to get one of those surgeries down there [laughs]. But he said it was fine. And then I went to my girlfriend, who is bisexual, and I was like, "Look at it." And she was like, "You're fine!" And then she dropped her pants and said, "Look, they're all different." And hers did a weird thing, but it was fine, too [laughs].
So Chris and I went to the therapist. And the whole time he was acting like: "This is ridiculous." We went back home and he had to leave the next day for a photo shoot in LA. And that's when I started thinking: "I'm gonna do something so crazy when he's gone."
I never knew his [email] password; I wouldn't even think to ask. So after he left for the shoot, I called him, all frantic, like: "Oh, shit! School just called and I need to print out some pictures for something -- can I have your password?"
And he was like, "Uh, but..."
"Just give it real quick."
"Well, you could use..."
"No, no -- this is faster."
I did a good job. Real savvy. And that's how I saw all the emails between him and her. I just typed in the first letter of her name and there they were. He was telling her about how he'd been feeling dead and lifeless the last decade, and how now, finally, he knows what true passion is. He said he felt like he'd been strapped onto a rocket and launched into space. It was awful. My body went into shock. My hands closed up, and my feet. I couldn't hear. It was like I'd just watched someone get killed right in front of me.
I called my friend Lynne and said, "Buy a pack of cigarettes." (I had quit smoking two years before.) So she came over, I got onto Chris' other computer and that's where I found all these photos of them in bed together. What I just hated -- and what stuck with me for so long -- were the pictures he took of her looking like a tortured, beautiful soul. That whole bit, like, Oh, don't look at me. There was one of her sitting outside the hotel room with their dirty sheets in a ball, like, oopsy daisy! It felt like they were laughing at me.
So I called him: "I found the emails and I saw the pictures."
He said, "Ann, stop reading them."
I said, "Okay. I'm sorry."
But I didn't stop reading them. I forwarded them to myself and to my friend. Because I knew he'd erase them and I didn't want to be able to talk myself out of what I'd seen.
Everything fully came out around New Years. We were driving, and I said, "Have you ever been with anyone before this? Or is this the only time?"
He said, "Four or five others."
I couldn't even react anymore. I said, "There's got to be more. How can I try to fix something if I don't know the whole truth? Give me the whole truth so I can know if I can deal with it."
So on New Years day, he gave me the list -- about 40 names. One girl got pregnant; he had to pay for an abortion. Another one was one of my best friends. I was her maid of honor. She was at our wedding. I remember them singing, "You're the One that I Want" together, and I was just thinking, 'Oh, there's crazy Lexi humping my husband! What a funny gal!'
At that point, nothing would have shocked me, so I had to ask him, for real: "Have you ever killed anybody? Accidentally or anything? Have you ever raped anyone? Have you had sex with a man? Are you a pedophile? Did you ever sleep with my sister or my cousin? Just tell me the truth."
I was destroyed, and I was mad, but then I started thinking: 'This must be hard for him, too. He's got to have so much guilt. Let him process it, give him a chance to do the work he needs to do. Maybe this is a chance for us.' I was so willing. But he couldn't do it. And I got tired.
I made plans to go to Palm Springs. Before I left, I said, "I'm afraid I'm going to have to let you go. I don't want to let you go, but I will if I have to."
He said, "Do whatever you have to do to be happy."
And that's what it took. I went to Palm Springs, did a ceremony for myself, let him go, came back, and said, "I want a divorce." And it felt so good. I agonized over that for the longest time. But then I really came alive.
You know when you're a kid, like eight-years-old, and nothing's gone wrong yet, everything's pure, and you feel like, 'Oh God, I can do anything'? That's how I feel again. I'm through being a "cool" girl. From now on, I'm only gonna love full-on, huge, and no games. I want to be completely transparent, through and through. Even when I think: 'Oh no, this is not a good side of me, this is an embarrassing side, this could be icky' -- I'm not going to act like it's not there.
I know now that you have to put everything on the table. If you don't, that's not fair to the other person because you have to at least give them the chance to love all those 'off' things about you. And if you can fall in love being completely who you are, that sounds like the best thing ever. If I end up being alone, so be it. But I don't want to fake anything ever, ever, ever again.
You Can Be Right (Or You Can Be Married): Looking for Love in the Age of Divorce hits shelves September 4.