Throughout the last four excruciating weeks of my life (and in my many moments of suspicion two years ago), I have fantasized about confronting you. I have dreamed about marching up to your front door, exposing your lies, pulling your life apart and watching your marriage burn to the ground as revenge for forcing me to extinguish the last glowing embers of my dedication to the man you made me leave. If I came upon you in the mall, in the grocery store, on the paths I’ve walked with him a hundred times, swinging my son into the air between us, would you know me at all? Would you figure out who I am? Would you see the narrowing of my eyes, the sadness in my face, the tightening of my jaw, the light that can’t quite reach my eyes when I try to smile and feel responsible for the part you played in my loss of the only sense of family I have ever known? Would you recognize my pain? Would I make you feel the guilt you should be wracked with? Would I tell you all of the things he ever told me he hated about you, all of the times he promised me you meant nothing to him, or would I simply walk off in silence, wordlessly continuing to protect him, and you, and ultimately myself?
He suffers in losing me. I suffer in losing him. Yet in my desire to take the high road, you go unpunished. You are allowed to continue to destroy two men, one woman, and an innocent child without facing a single consequence apart from whatever karmic justice you will eventually receive. I know you are not the only one to blame, nor the main one. I know that is him. But you are the only one who does not know the depth of the despair that your selfishness has caused. You carry on with the best of both worlds while I lay in bed until 10 p.m. every night, holding my sobbing five-year-old who cannot understand why we had to leave the home of the only man that’s ever been a father to him. A man whose tears I wiped away as words of truth caught in his throat on New Year’s Eve. A man whose heart broke when he told me about you and broke mine. When the clock struck midnight and fireworks exploded around us, we looked into each other’s eyes and began the first day of the year with the knowledge that after five years, we would be losing each other at the very beginning of this one.
You weren’t there that night when he held me as we tossed and turned in bed, heads pounding from all of our tears. You weren’t there that morning when he slept with me after I begged him to make me feel something—anything else. You weren’t there the next morning when he held me against his chest as I cried the same way I did when my mother died eight months earlier or my father nine years before that—the kind of cry that comes straight from your soul when it mourns something it may never get back. My fingers clutched the folds of his shirt, fists wishing they had the strength to hit him but feeling his heartbeat beneath them instead. Knowing it could be the last time I felt it under my hands, I let the memory burn itself into my mind forever. You will never know that twice more before I left him, our clothes fell to the floor and we joined together again. Maybe we were trying to salvage what little was left. Maybe I was trying to prove he doesn’t really love you. Maybe, more likely than these other explanations, I was just stupid. But there was no going back, and you were there between us in every moment I tried to find a reason to stay. A reason to tell him I was leaving, to let him fight for me. No amount of discussion, affection, apology, or closure could erase what the two of you did during my first holiday season spent in a state I abandoned my old life to come to. Don’t ever let him make you believe he didn’t know I had finally allowed myself to trust him again. To hope for him. To come here for him, for stability. For security. For safety. For the love I thought he was finally ready to give after waiting almost half a decade. For the love you’re getting instead.
You may not know any of this. You may not know what came from your choice to reach out to this man whose heart you already had the privilege of holding then breaking once. You may not know that his decision to let you back in created waves of collateral damage that spread far beyond the four of us who are directly affected. For the first time in his life, my son learned how to express sadness. For the first time since I’ve met her, I have heard the woman he calls Grandma cry. I have seen my best friends cry for me, for my son, for his confusion. I have seen my sister, my coworkers, and even acquaintances wipe tears from their eyes because everyone who knew us or me thought we were the real thing. Despite it all, so did I. And underneath it all, despite it all, so does he.
You also may not know that I made the choice you wouldn’t, weeks before your first affair began. I chose him. I rearranged my own life to prove to him that he was one of the most important things in it, but I had no idea it was already too late. I had no idea you had already planted the seeds of doubt in his mind that blossomed into the misplaced and misguided feelings he created for you to protect himself from real love. Love that terrified him, that challenged everything negative he ever believed about himself and his worth. Love that could actually last forever. Love that pushed him to move over a hundred miles away to nothing but disappointment and empty promises, because that was all life had ever shown him he could feel safe with. It was more comfortable to settle for less than to take the risk of jumping headfirst into something that could utterly devastate him if he lost it. Unknowingly, like an idiot, I assisted him in that move. Researched countless apartments, helped to update and send out countless resumes, celebrated his successes, even found the furniture you’d eventually lay on next to him while I laid alone two states away, wondering what I’d done wrong. Feeling abandoned again, and all because of you. Letting him lean on me when eventually he was hurting again, all because of you. Years spent in the dark, never knowing the reasons why, blaming myself, all because of you. And now, all alone, writing a letter you’ll probably never read because I’ll probably never send it. Doing my best to explain to a child who thrives on routine why the person he loves most in the world is someone he can no longer go home to. Doing my best to explain to myself why I can’t text him back and tell him I miss him, too, why I can’t tell him I never wanted to leave him, either. Doing my best to dry my tears and keep my head up emotionally, spiritually, financially, and physically, all because of you. The two of you and the contrived love you’ve convinced yourselves you feel so you can replace the dread that comes from knowing you’re destroying everyone you truly love and, ultimately, each other.
One day, when he is finally ready, when he has had his fill of running from love, when he has finally picked himself up from the pieces I left him in by departing and you’ll have left him in the second time you’ll refuse to put him first, I will have to decide between continuing to walk away in the direction I’ve gone or to let him meet all of my needs—to forgive and allow my heart to find its way back to him. That choice will be mine and mine alone. The choice that belongs to you, however, is the choice to see things exactly as they are. To see yourselves for exactly what you are to one another: a distraction. An escape. A fantasy. When the weight of losing the only woman who ever truly loved and protected him finally settles into his bones, you will know. When he seems off, when he seems distant, when it feels like he’s somewhere else entirely, even when he’s right in front of you, when he’s inside of you, you will feel my presence. Even though I am gone, you will feel me there between you. You will feel the bond that this distance is not breaking, as much as I am trying to let it fray. You will know, at last, that this man was never meant to be yours to take. And as much as I would love to say that I hope you regret it, I cannot. I hope you look down at that ring on your finger and simply gather yourself up, gather your things up, disappear, and never look back.
He has done so much wrong. He has done me so much wrong. He has flaws that cannot be denied, struggles that beg to be overcome, and a lifetime of healing to complete. But in spite of the terrible choices he has made, in spite of the pain he has caused me, in spite of how much better I deserved, he still deserves better than you.