“I got another woman pregnant.” Those were the words uttered by my then husband to me that fractured my seemingly perfect world on July 3, 2004.
Not long after he said those words I was looking for an apartment and filing my own divorce. To say I was devastated was an understatement. Every day for weeks, perhaps even months, I woke up wishing that the moment I had heard those words was just an extremely bad dream, that I could rewind the hands of time and that those words would not, in fact, be my new reality.
My reality was that I was a brand new mom, at the time my son was a mere 7 months old, still being breastfed. I had just started my law practice, which meant I had no money and my entire world revolved around my then husband. I had been living in the United States less than 3 years and I hadn’t yet gotten my permanent green card. I was still, according to the United States Government, “a temporary resident”, and my entire life was falling apart.
I think I cried every day for about 2 weeks straight. I remember crying in the ladies’ room of the Courthouse just minutes before I was scheduled to go on the record to make oral arguments on behalf of a client. To this day I still can’t believe the remarkable outcome I got in that particular case; it was nothing short of a miracle.
It’s been 14 years since those devastating words and in retrospect, I realize that I learned a hell of a lot about myself, relationships and marriage, in general, as I went through the absolute worst phase of my life.
1. Lessons in Finance
Try looking for an apartment in New York City without a few thousand dollars stashed away somewhere. I wasn’t making a lot of money, to begin with. I had recently started my practice on May 1st of that same year and I only had a handful of clients.
However, whatever I did earn, no matter how small, some of it could have been put away for a rainy day; but in my world, at the time there was simply no need to do that since I had a husband. It’s not that I wanted or expected him to take care of me, Lord knows that was not the case, it’s just that I felt comfortable. Nowhere in my head did I ever think of opening a savings account solely in my own name and putting away even a small percentage of any retainer I had earned.
I am almost embarrassed now thinking of how financially naive I was. My broken heart and wounded pride made me want to take my newborn and get the hell out of Dodge. I wanted to leave but I had no money to leave. Talk about being stuck!
2. Lessons in Victimhood
I quickly learned that I don’t do very well with sympathy. Word of my Ex-husband’s infidelity spread very quickly among people we knew, and after word got around, I would typically be greeted with one of either two looks – either one of sympathy or the ‘Thank God I am not in her position’ look. Oh, how I hated those looks. I was always a proud, confident woman, so having people feel sorry for me was the absolute worst. Those looks served as motivation though, for me to be strong, or at the very least, try.
I remember having dinner with a friend, less than a month after my Ex’s revelation, and she was amazed that I was doing so well. The reality was that I wasn’t doing well at all. I was dying inside! Really freaking dying inside, but every day that I made myself get out of bed and get dressed for work I thought about my baby boy Blake and how much he needed me. It sounds cliché, but I felt like I needed to be strong for him. He needed a strong mother, who was about to become a single parent, to raise him, guide him and teach him life lessons, and I would be damned if I was going to let him down.
So every morning I got up, got dressed, adjusted my crown, remembered who I am, put my high heels on, kissed my baby boy goodbye and stepped out into the world with my broken heart because I was determined to fake it until I could make it.
3. Lessons in Co-parenting
To this day I am very proud of the way I left my Ex. The day had finally come when I had enough money saved to make my exit. It was a regular Tuesday morning when he left for work and as soon as he was out the door I started packing. I had organized a group of friends to help me and I had all of my and Blake’s belongings out of his apartment before he came home from work that afternoon.
I would have paid good money to see his face when he opened the front door to his condo that evening only to find that we were gone. He blew up my phone for several days after that, and I refused to answer when finally he left a voicemail message threatening to call the police on me for kidnapping his son.
Oh really?! How about you bring the National Guard too while you’re at it!
I am not ashamed to say that I was not above being petty in refusing to tell him where we had gone and not allowing him access to Blake. Yeah, it was my way of trying to hurt him; but after 8 straight days of just me and Blake I answered one of his phone calls and agreed for him to come and pick up our son. The truth is I was tired and needed a break from the baby. However, It was at that moment that I realized that I couldn’t do it alone. The reality was that Blake also needed his father, as strong a woman as I am I had the wherewithal to realize that there were things that my ex-husband could teach Blake that I couldn’t. A woman can’t teach a boy how to be a man. He needed his father for that. I had to learn to co-parent with him despite how I felt about him. The truth is that even though my Ex had been a terrible husband he was a great father to our son. I couldn’t allow my desire to be petty to jeopardize his relationship with Blake. It wasn’t worth it; because in the long run, it would only end up hurting Blake too.
4. Lessons in Letting Stuff Go!
When your entire world comes crashing down around you it is extremely difficult to convince yourself that the best way to move on is to let go of the desire to punish the person who caused your pain. It’s human nature to want to hurt the person that hurt you, its human nature to want to see them suffer but the truth is that only cripples you; at least I know it crippled me. Trust me when I tell you that there is no moving forward when you hold on to the hurt.
I had to make a concerted effort to just let the shit go. It was much easier said than done though, but I had to make myself do it. I had to tell myself that I had a choice. I could choose to feel sorry for myself, talk about the heartbreak all day everyday to anyone who would listen and spend my time plotting and planning some kind of stupid revenge on my Ex, or, I could find something to do that would occupy my time and perhaps make me a tad less emotional over the entire ordeal, if that were possible. My saving grace was my budding law practice, I buried myself in my work and my cases. I also joined the gym and found a new love for a new dance exercise that was emerging at the time called Zumba.
5. Lessons in Forgiveness
It took months, maybe even a year, for me to be able to communicate with my Ex in a decent manner, you know the one where you actually talk in a civilized tone instead of saying everything with contempt and derision. The first year following our split was an extremely tough one in which I could never have seen myself forgiving his infidelity; but as time passed and I let go off of the hurt, I was able to move on and it became easier to move towards forgiveness.
It has now been 14 years since my Ex uttered those words to me, words that I thought were completely unforgiving; but life has a way of throwing things at us that we had no idea we were built for.
My Ex’s infidelity, despite being something I could forgive years later, will never ever be something I can forget. I will never forget the way I felt at that moment when I heard those words. I will never forget the time; the date; what he was wearing (a white T-shirt and plaid boxers); what I was wearing, where we were, and even what the room smelled like at that moment. I will never forget how his actions, changed the course of my life; but I have forgiven him and that ability to forgive has allowed me to let go, move on, and set me on the path to what, in retrospect, has allowed me to live my best life and allowed me to be the very best Racquel.