Steffanie Rivers

*He found out she was sleeping with her ex-husband. They had been dating for more than three years and living together for two. Shacking up was her idea.

They met at work in one city and a year later she asked him to move with her to a new city, a new state in fact. So he packed everythng he had into a moving van, hitched his car to the back and drove from the east coast halfway across the United States.

They moved into an apartment close to their new jobs. The company they worked for had branch offices across the country making it easy to transfer from place to place. And when their plans to share expenses fifty-fifty fell through because her court ordered child support payments were increased, he agreed to pick up the slack to show support for her situation.

From day one he knew about her ex-husband and children. His first mind told him to keep it platonic and not attempt to cultivate a relationship with her. But her intentions seemed sincere.

And he especially admired the way she kept in constant contact with her children, eventhough they lived miles away in another state. And as any parent should, she seemed to have a good relationship with her ex-husband for the sake of the children. At least that’s how she explained it to him. He had no children, but he had an ex. They didn’t speak because he believed in letting sleeping dogs lie.

Two years went by and all seemed to be going well. They traveled, laughed and loved together. Although neither of them wanted to rush it, if a relationship isn’t nutured and growing, it’s probably neglected and dieing.

The first sign of trouble started with a simple conversation. She told him her ex was dating a woman that was a negative influence on her children and that worried her. After three years of exclusive dating he had yet to meet her children because, as she explained it, her ex could be jealous and vindictive and if he found out that she was involved with someone else he would keep her from seeing the children that she birthed, loved and supported with court-ordered child care payments. Why didn’t she exercise her rights? Tell her children’s father the truth. Apparently she hadn’t explained to her ex that she had been dating the same person three years. He thought it strange, but she reassured him of her love. After all, he had met her entire family, even traveled with them. He had her mother’s number locked in his cell phone. Everyone at work knew they were a couple, but her children and her ex were ghosts to him.

She traveled so frequently to see them that he questioned how she could expect career advancement – something she said she wanted – if she constantly was away. Not to mention their quality time together. Her response: her children had this activity and that event scheduled. She needed to be there, she told him. So he tried to be more understanding. He had grown up in a single-parent household and understood the importance of having both parents in a child’s life. And where was she sleeping when she was away? She told him she slept in her children’s room to save on expenses and travel time. How inconvenient that must be for her ex to explain to his prospective dates.

He also noticed other inconsistencies. She spent more time on the computer late nights; she would leave the room to talk on the phone and she liked to go out with her girlfriends a lot while he stayed at home. But with each conversation about his concerns she reassured him that all was well. He trusted, but he didn’t verify.

They had just returned home from dinner when he sat down at the computer they shared. He wanted to check his Facebook page. But when he clicked on FB he didn’t recognize any of the people or their blogs. That’s when he realized that it was her FB page, not his. And she had messages waiting to be read. So he clicked on them.

The first one was from her ex-husband: Something about making plans to go on a real date the next time she came to visit. Another message was from a co-worker who said he dreamed about being intimate with her and how he couldn’t wait to see her again. And still other messages were from men giving compliments to her about her physique. And if that wasn’t unsettling enough for him, her previous responses to those FB emailers shook the foundation of their relationship.

He confronted her immediately. She told him there was nothing intimate between her and her ex or those other women. It was just meaningless FB banter. Her ex always had pursued her. But she hadn’t acknowledged him in that way.

Maybe, he told her, the ex-husband needed to hear it from the man in her life. So he started to type a response from her FB page to her ex and the other men who had left implicit messages letting them know that she was unavailable for any of it. And if they had any questions they should call him. He left his phone number, because one way or another he was going to get to the bottom of this. Between his typing and their arguing she started packing. But before she could leave his cell phone rang. It was her ex-husband. She didn’t stick around for the conversation, because she already knew it was not going to end well for her.

The conversation took all of fifteen minutes, but it seemed to be one of the longest conversations of his life. He learned that for more than a year the woman he loved and thought to be in a monogomous relationship with was sleeping with her ex-husband in an effort to patch up their relationship. She wasn’t sleeping in her children’s room afterall.

The exchange was as civil as could be expected under the circumstances. They ended their call and he started a series of other calls. One was to her cell phone letting her know that she should pick up the rest of her things the next day. He called her closest girlfriend to let her know she probably would be getting a roommate. And he called her mother to let her know why they were breaking up.

The betrayal was more than he could stand or understand. Although it took some time to heal they are working through it and forging ahead together. That’s not the last chapter of their story but it altered their future for sure. He learned that it’s better to trust his instincts and verify everything; he learned that exchaning passwords is a must; he learned that – just like he realized a long time ago – actions speak louder than words; he learned that nobody’s perfect and everybody deserves another chance; he learned that he should forgive, but never forget because if you forget the past it is destined to be repeated. Most of all he learned that sometimes love is not enough.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Send questions, comments or requests for speaking engagements to Steffanie at [email protected]. And see the video version of her journal at youtube.com/steffanierivers.