In My Daughter’s Eyes
by Maria Ashworth
Hurricane Katrina surged through our city. But this hurricane seemed insignificant to the storm that tore apart our home. Life as I knew it changed forever. That night the man I married became a stranger in our home. One phone call from her took him away from me forever.
In the beginning our life was simple, almost written like a fairy tale. A young girl meets her prince; they fall in love, have children and believe in the dream they’ll live happily ever after.
I left my teaching career to stay at home with the children. My prince was driven and excelled in business, forcing us to move twelve times throughout our eighteen year marriage. He worked in the trash industry, not the military as people thought. Each move improved our lives financially. His last job offer guaranteed that the money would be significant after five years—bringing him early retirement. So we made the move, leaving friends and family behind.
By the end of our fifth year with the company, our cars were fancier, our houses valued in the seven digits and everyone wanted to be our friend. We filled our life with all the luxuries people dreamed of. The houses people fantasized about. The marriage everyone envied.
That night during the hurricane, he told me a female employee was in trouble and he had to help her. I thought it was unprofessional and inappropriate for a CEO. I begged him to stay. He was adamant that he had to leave. I told him if he left he could never come back.
My intuition peaked and told me there was something more to this story. I asked about their relationship, and pressured him until he broke. He had told me of their five month affair. The world around me crumbled. I thought I’d never recover. I asked if he loved her. He said, “Yes, but not the way I love you.” Our perfect life was over in minutes.
I questioned him like a child, wanting the intimate details. It was my poor attempt to keep him from leaving me. Hours passed and he never went to her, but placed a call to make sure she was safe. It made me ill how he cared for her. For days, I lay in the bed, my body curled in the same position, staring. The children didn’t know what was wrong with their mother.
I lived this nightmare before when I was twelve. I cleaned my father’s car out against his wishes. I found a few dried up crusty towels and gave them to my mother. That night there were screams and cries from their bedroom. I knew what I found was bad. My father left. He had a lengthy affair with someone from work. My mother was dead inside. I remembered spoon feeding her, trying to keep her from a nervous breakdown. I wanted to piece back their marriage by asking my father to work on getting her back. He said he didn’t know how. I wasn’t sure he even wanted to. I wondered what my mother would do and where we’d go. She wasn’t educated beyond tenth grade and hadn’t worked a day in her life. She didn’t know how she’d survive without him financially. With no real options, my mother stayed with him until he died, surviving an unhealthy forty-six years of marriage. I hated that she wasn’t strong enough to stand on her own. I swore I’d never be like her if it happened to me. And at one point of my life, I was her.
After days of knowing of my husband’s affair, my insides burned in anger. I called her while he stood there listening. It was the only way he’d let me speak to her. She boldly told me they loved each other and had history together. He didn’t refute it. I wondered how five months added up to history.
I gave him an ultimatum. By some miracle he chose me. I won, I thought. I got my husband back. But did I really? I lived thereafter telling no one: not my parents, siblings, or friends. I wondered what to do next.
One day while watching a Dr. Phil episode, I heard him speak about contemplating divorce. No stone should be unturned, and you should try everything possible to save your marriage. If that all fails than you can move on. Those words gave me the push to fix us, even though I knew he somehow loved this other woman.
We saw a marriage counselor twice a week. I was unsure it was working since he left clues of his infidelity, daily. At Christmas he bought me perfume. I asked for the receipt. He shoved it in his mouth. The wet receipt showed another perfume which I never received. We went grocery shopping and he forbid me to put the groceries in the trunk. Later, I opened the trunk to find my Mother’s Day card mixed with hers. I accessed his cell phone to find their relationship went every day with hundreds of text messages and phone calls. I found an elite credit card from our bank that I didn’t have. Twenty-five thousand dollars had been placed into the account. He bought a 3-carat diamond bracelet, Louis Vuitton purses and loads of Victoria Secret lingerie, all of which I didn’t own. She went on his business trips as the Mrs., and used our credit cards for bars, restaurants and shopping. My holidays, my sex life, my husband were all shared with her. He lived a double life for a year. He never let her go.
As time went on, things got worse. He said words no woman should ever hear out of a man’s mouth. At the time, my six-year-old daughter asked, “Why does Daddy talk to you like that?” It hurt my heart. I didn’t want her to see me like I saw my mother, weak and dependent.
I could’ve stayed for the extravagant lifestyle, but it wasn’t what I loved about our life. I didn’t care about the money, and would’ve given it up if he’d love me. He didn’t.
A year later, they were still together. I sought out a lawyer and asked her to hold the filing until I spoke with him. I prayed for a miracle. I told him I knew they were together. I asked him if he loved her. I looked for a glimmer of hope. I longed for a reason to shred the divorce papers. His answer. . . he loved her, but wouldn’t leave me for her. I should’ve felt lucky. But I would never share him for the rest of my life. I hoped to be loved again, and if not I’ll survive. I told him I filed. He was shocked, but never begged me to stay. I knew had made the right decision.
Before the divorce finalized, I shopped for a house. He assumed he’d have to co-sign, because he had the income. I wondered if I’d get approved since I hadn’t worked for over ten years.
The day the bank approved the loan, with only my name, was one of the most empowering moments of my life. I knew right then I’d be okay–that in my daughter’s eyes she’d see her mother as a strong independent woman, someone she can look up to. She’d know if she needed to, she too would be okay.