One of the things I did in the immediate aftermath of my husband’s affair was to play detective while I was in emotional agony. I think we all do it, to some extent. It’s maddening to realize that the person you love and have been faithful to could really be someone who sneaked around and hid his lurid, dirty reality. You think you know someone.
For me, it was phone records. He kept saying, “We’re just friends,” until I plunked down 18 months’ worth of phone records, with the calls and texts highlighted, and an accompanying summary sheet for each month. The day I picked up his phone by mistake and realized that my wonderful, perennial “good guy” husband was unfaithful, he and she had exchanged 101 texts in two hours.
What in the hell were you talking about, I asked. He couldn’t meet my eyes as he said, “Oh … just work, our day, the kids. You know.”
… Right …
After a while, my attention turned to the other woman. I found many of her social media identities and read them all back to when the accounts started. On Facebook, I not only read her information, I also copied down the names of every person on her friends list, both friends and family. I soon knew the names of people close to her, where her children went to school, who her best friends were, where she worked, her office phone number, her supervisor’s name and phone number, her home address, and more. By the time I finished, I knew her favorite TV shows, musicians, memes and other trivia.
The only thing I couldn’t find was her husband. Poof. He was a phantom on social media. I guess that was pretty damned convenient for her, to carry on an affair with my husband, using Facebook Messenger as a tool, and to be confident that her husband, J., was such a social media Luddite that he wouldn’t find out.
And then I found her father-in-law. I found him by looking for her husband, and by reading the captions under some of her family photos on Facebook. (When she blocked me, I just created another identity and kept surfing her page. She didn’t lock down her entire Facebook page. Dummy.) I not only found his address, I also found his phone number.
I never could catch him by phone, so maybe he’s one of those people who doesn’t answer the phone if he doesn’t recognize the caller. So I left a message. It was intended to be a gentle one, not a shocker. I said something like this (all of which is actually true): “Hi, this is Effie Stillhertz. My husband, H., used to work with your son and daughter-in-law, J. and S. We’re trying to get in contact with J. but it’s been a long time and we don’t have his current number. Is there any way you could share his phone number with me, or give him mine and ask him to call me? Thanks so much!”
He never called me back. At the time, I thought he must have just been disinterested or skeptical, so he discarded it. Or maybe he passed it along to J., who discarded it himself, because he knew from past experience that my husband would poach on another man’s woman.
My husband was relieved, because he was horrified when I first started trying to get in touch with J., and he said repeatedly, “But Effie, he will KILL me. Literally.” As if that was going to stop me. He stopped bleating out his worries when I snapped at him, “Then I’ll mourn your ass.”
It was not until yesterday — FOUR YEARS LATER — that I realized what must have really happened. My husband must have called S., who intercepted the message on her father-in-law’s machine. There’s no other way the father-in-law could have gotten word not to call me back.
This is only a suspicion. But it’s a super-strong one. It doesn’t really change anything, but it’s another reason to see my husband as some kind of weird alien only masquerading as a decent human being.
My husband asked me yesterday what was wrong with me, because (now that he’s actually paying attention) he can see almost immediately when I’m feeling sad. The second or third time he asked, I told him, “I’m sad. And I don’t think I can safely talk to you about it.”
I just didn’t want to be lied to again.