You might roll your eyes when you hear people who have been cheated on say “I had no idea!”, but after discovering that my husband had been cheating on me for more than ten years, I understand how the signs can be misread, especially when you really want to misread them. Even when my husband (we’ll call him “Rocco”) started practically leaving breadcrumbs for me to follow, it still took a long time to put it all together and realize where they were leading.
Thinking back, the first clues were at Rocco’s workplace. I used to know and like everyone there, but suddenly he wasn’t planning things that got us all together anymore. (1) I felt a new and unsettling coldness when I was around his coworkers and one woman in particular was actively avoiding me. I’d reasoned that “The Succubus,” as I’ve since nicknamed her, was just a weirdo, but now it’s clear that he was having an affair with her and all of his work friends knew about it.
Rocco had always had women friends and I’d been okay with that, but all of the sudden I realized that (2) most of his friends were women — young, pretty women, and that he wasn’t including me when they did things together anymore. Moreover, some of those women started being kind of bitchy to me. I just figured it was because they were bitches, but now I realize it was because Rocco was giving them the impression that I wasn’t important, and maybe even an annoying, bad person who wasn’t right for him.
It sounds like a cliché, but (3) it was a huge clue when Rocco started taking extraordinary care with his appearance. Rocco went from Gap and Fruit of the Looms to Armani overnight. All of the sudden he was whitening his teeth, correcting skin imperfections, and working out compulsively.
Related: 5 Bad Reasons To Move In Together
(4) His cell phone was the thing that made me stop, slap myself in the face, and look at what was happening right in front of me. Rocco had no idea that I could track who he was texting and calling and when. Fortunately for those being cheated on, it gets increasingly difficult for the cheaters to be discreet because their narcissism usually takes over and they start thinking they’re invincible.
It seemed overnight that Rocco was never without his cell phone (passed out drunk it was still tucked into his Armani underwear) or he had it hidden somewhere. For a long time I couldn’t figure out where he was charging it because I never saw it around.
(5) He’d changed his passwords, too, for his phone and for his Verizon account, but since he’s not very creative I figured out the new passwords and got in to see what was going on. It wasn’t pretty.
(6) I saw dozens of texts and calls to women that I knew, but didn’t know that he ever talked to. He was in touch with “The Succubus” a few times every day and yet he never talked about her to me. I saw numbers that I didn’t recognize but simple Internet searches revealed that they belonged to a graduate student that worked at the gym, his dental hygienist, and a shampoo girl at his salon. All were beautiful and all were (7) programmed into his phone under fake guys’ names — I found this out by searching his laptop for the numbers I found on the Verizon bill. When his phone rang or a text came through from the gym girl, he’d made it look like they were coming from a guy named Frank Webber. Why he bothered with this I don’t know since he acted like his phone held state secrets and never let me touch it.
If you’re in this same situation, check every number. On Rocco’s phone bill there were a lot of calls from a gym in a nearby town and after a little investigating I found out that “The Succubus” was a member there. She’s married, so she was calling him from there for privacy.
It got overwhelming and exhausting catching him in so many crazy lies, stuff he didn’t even need to lie about. He was completely out of control. He’d say he was just talking to his friend Dan, when he’d been talking to a woman from work instead. I’d ask about a woman that I knew he’d been texting a lot and he’d say that he hadn’t talked to her in a long time. (8) He’d say he left the office at 8 but he’d really left at 5.
If I did something wrong, how he would react was always a crapshoot. Sometimes (9) he would immediately forgive me in the showiest and most enthusiastic way possible (“Don’t worry honey, we all make mistakes!”), and I’d assume he had just done something wrong and felt guilty (and I was usually right). Or, he’d (10) storm out and tell me he wanted a divorce. I felt that those situations were always tied to his resentment toward me for not allowing him to be this hot single man sleeping with all his girlfriends. As we aged, I started holding him back.
There were (11) weird new things in bed, (12) a sudden fascination with porn, and (13) a general disinterest in anything that was important to me. He never asked about my job or my family, and didn’t care at all when I wanted to go out with girlfriends. (I, I would like to point out, didn’t have any boyfriends. Not even one.)
Now it seems obvious that Rocco was cheating, but when I was in the middle of it, things seemed overwhelming and impossible to navigate. I have a clear understanding now, and I’ve learned this: the cheater will try to convince you that the truth is none of your business — but it’s your right to know, and it’s your right to make a decision about your life that is based on it.