How could I be with someone for 16 years and not realize he was leading a double life? I have asked myself that question more times than I want to admit. It dominated my thoughts for a long time; how could I be so blind? So foolish? So naive?
My marriage was a familiar road, a path well-traveled. I knew every curve, every bump, every blind drive. It wasn’t always that way. In the early years, I thoroughly invested each novel feature of the road. But, over time, I learned to trust in its characteristics. I never had reason not to. My husband had proven himself trustworthy time and time again. It took me several years, but I eventually placed my total and utter confidence in him.
We had a good marriage right up until the end. We were affectionate, intimate, spent time together, and talked about (what seemed like) everything. That never changed. He held me tenderly and kissed me passionately when he dropped me off at the airport to see family. He left while I was still on that trip. Hours before the text that ended the marriage, I received one that said, “Love you. Have a good night:).” Those words and acts were consistent with the man I knew. Or the man I thought I knew.
He never appeared to be hiding anything. He would leave his smart phone laying about and even encouraged me to use it. His computer was open access. He never got defensive if I asked him a question. He never withdrew. I had no reason to look for signs. No reason to doubt him. I know now that he was frantically covering any signs along our shared road with camouflage netting, ensuring they stay invisible. A task he was very skilled at.
There are some signs that are only visible in the rearview mirror. I can now look back and see how some pieces of the puzzle fit together. He had severe hypertension, to the point where he would lose consciousness, those last few months. I realize now that it must have been from the stress he was under. But, I certainly didn’t think then that he might be stressed from planning a wedding. He took the jacket he wore on our wedding day to the cleaners. How was I supposed to know it would have a starring role in another wedding within the week? Those signs meant nothing because there was no precedent for what was being concealed. I could not have even imagined what was going on under the cover of the brush alongside our marriage.
Ultimately, I will never know what happened. I could drive myself crazy analyzing every encounter, every word, looking for clues I could have spotted. Perhaps should have spotted. That seems pointless to me, however. I choose to live my life looking forward through the windshield rather than keeping an eye in the rearview mirror.