“I’ll be the jailer and you be the naughty prisoner.”
When I read those words, a chat conversation between my then-husband and another man, it felt for just a moment like all the oxygen had been sucked from the room. I remember putting my hand on my chest, gasping for air, as the world I thought I knew shattered around me.
He was surprisingly conciliatory and accommodating in the divorce negotiations. In the Deep South state we lived in at the time, within 30 days it was final. Our eight-year marriage was over before the indentation from my wedding ring had even faded from my finger.
Because I couldn’t bear the thought of enduring other people’s pity — or ridicule — and because I had two very small children to raise, I made the decision to pack up and move two states away. We’d get a brand-new start, my children and me, away from anyone who knew that we’d once been a different, complete family.
While unpacking my desk in our new home, I came across the transcript of the chat that had brought down my marriage. As I quickly scanned the now-familiar words, something new jumped out at me. The “jailer” made reference to my ex-husband’s website. Website? I googled his screen name.
Bingo. Within a few clicks, I was staring at photographs of my ex-husband’s dick. Though he never showed his face, it wasn’t necessary. The images were taken in our former home, sitting on my furniture. He had been maintaining a blog for years about his sexual exploits, writing of his cleverness at maintaining the façade of dedicated husband and father while prowling for men on the side. There were many, many posts spanning nearly our entire marriage, dating back to early in my pregnancy with our first child.
Everything I thought my life had been was false. I noticed that one of his posts corresponded with a page I’d written in my pregnancy journal on the same date. My entry was full of sunshine and roses about our baby-to-be, our wonderful life, my loving husband. His post talked of getting blown by a contractor in the server room at work.
For so many years, he’d lied to me while I naively believed his stories of late nights and required weekends at the office. He wrote of meeting strangers in motels, convenient hookups just around the corner from the preschool (don’t want to be late for afternoon pickup!), encounters in parking lots. One of the most recent posts even described a threesome at our house the night the kids and I moved out.
I now understood why the divorce negotiations had proceeded so rapidly. He was terrified he’d be exposed as the calculating bastard he is — not simply a closeted gay man caught after a careless indiscretion. In one blog entry, he’d even boasted about his refusal to use condoms. (Thankfully, I was fortunate enough to escape the many dangers that could have caused.)
Before this, I’d actually felt pity for this man, believing he’d tried to honor his marriage vows. But at that moment, all of the memories I held of our life together were stripped away. How could I trust any memory, when it had all been built on a lie?
I was utterly disgusted, humiliated and completely and utterly alone — hours away from any friends and family who could have supported me. I wanted to crawl in bed and die. But I was the mommy. I was solely responsible for two scared, disoriented little people who needed me to fill sippy cups and change diapers, find Dora the Explorer on TV and sing “Bushel and a Peck” as I tucked them in at night.
While I wish I could say I picked myself up and immediately rose to the challenge, it is not the truth. I stumbled —badly — before the children and I found our new normal. But eventually we did. And today we have a life so much better than anything I could have imagined back then.
He is still part of his children’s lives, and therefore, by proxy, part of mine as well. And he’s still a manipulative asshole. But beyond knowing he is gay, the children know nothing of the rest of the story. I hope they never will.
The website is still out there. After I confronted my ex, he deleted all the content from his blog posts, though the site’s framework is still in place. We’ve been divorced now for longer than we were married, but I still google him on occasion, just to see if he’s started any new Web ventures.
I only hope our children never do the same.
Have a story about a shocking Google discovery for “Searched and Destroyed”? Send your completed essay to Sarah Hepola, firstname.lastname@example.org