Welcome to our series, The Divorce Diaries: Today, we hear from an Auckland woman who opened up Messenger on her phone to discover a message that would forever change the course of her life: ‘My Husband’s Girlfriend Contacted Me’.
In our past instalments over the last year we’ve covered everything from when you’re most likely to divorce to whether they’re contagious to whether being on the contraceptive pill can effect your chances! and have now spoken to dozens of women – including one whose husband announced he was leaving her to have an open relationship with a 19-year-old, another who was quite literally ghosted by her own husband and one who discovered the real reason her husband divorced her was because he had a baby with her SISTER.
If you have a topic you’d like to discuss, share your thoughts, experience or advice about, drop a line to [email protected].
“First of all, I’m sorry for contacting you out of the blue, and I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.”
From the very first line of the message that had mysteriously appeared in Michelle’s inbox on Messenger, she knew she was in for trouble.
While a part of her reasoned that, maybe it was another scam message, her stomach tightened.
Then, as she quickly scrolled down the long message, a few key words popped out at her: ‘Michael’ (her husband’s name), ‘affair’, ‘devastated’… and then she saw a few photos were attached. One was a selfie of a woman and her husband, another was of the same woman standing next to her husband. He had his arm around her waist. It looked as though they were at a wedding.
“I remember not being able to get my eyes to focus,” says Michelle. “I was desperate to read every word of the message and understand exactly what was happening, but my heart was pounding and everything on the screen was bouncing around. It took a long time to be able to read it all through.”
The message was from a woman Michelle had never heard of, but she sure as hell knew her and her family. This woman, Kate, told how she had met her husband, Michael, two years previously. She said Michael told her that he was newly separated and had only just moved out of the marital home, although the relationship had been over for him – emotionally, mentally and physically – for at least a year. Apparently he told Kate all about his children and the horrible heartache he was going through, being apart from them. And although she was nervous that he was so recently out of a relationship, Kate and Michael began dating.
Kate’s message said that she and Michael dated for 18 months. He met her parents and siblings, her friends.
“She said she never suspected he had a wife who he was still living with, because they’d go out in public together,” says Michelle. “They went to movies! They went out to dinner. He even bloody accompanied her to her cousin’s wedding!”
But Kate said something was a little off, because their relationship seemed to move so slowly – he worked a lot and had the kids a lot and was never quite ready to introduce them. Kate started to have a gut feeling that something wasn’t quite right – things weren’t adding up and some of Michael’s behaviour seemed odd. Her breakthrough was when she found the house she thought he rented after his breakup, advertised on Airbnb. It was currently available to rent (apart from a few sporadic days booked out through the upcoming calendar).
The message explained that Kate had eventually broken up with Michael but she’d continued to snoop around and had discovered that yes, he was still married. And, in case Michelle didn’t know – although she said she felt terrible doing it – she felt she should tell her what was going on.
Michelle was floored.
“How do you process a message like that?” she says. “If it hadn’t of been for the photos, I would have refused to believe it. And the fact there were so many details. Honestly, probably too many details.”
Michelle and Michael had been married for 10 years and had three children together.
“To be honest, I was never sure if I wanted kids, but Michael wanted four,” she says. “Somehow, we compromised on three. That’s the kind of guy Michael is though – he could sell sand to the Sahara. He’s so convincing.”
Michelle says her three kids are the best thing that ever happened to her and she wouldn’t change them for the world, but it’s not how she’d envisaged her life going.
“Michael was the driver of having kids and each time he said he’d be a stay-at-home dad,” she says. “I gave up a career I loved, and lost that financial security that comes with being able to make your own money. I never worried about it for a second though, because Michael made me feel safe. He said he would always look after the kids and I.”
But now, here she was, sitting on their bed with a message outlaying his affair while their youngest (who was just two at the time) was down for a nap. She was due to pick up her daughter from school before swinging past the daycare to pick up their middle child.
“I had no idea what to do,” she says. “I couldn’t decide whether to call him and confront him, or take the kids and go to my parents – but that would be disruptive for them. Why should I leave the house? In the end I text him and said something like, ‘Your girlfriend has let me know what’s going on. I suggest you stay somewhere else tonight and we can discuss this when the kids are out tomorrow.’”
Of course, she says, Michael immediately called, leaving a long voicemail that sounded very calm, playing dumb and that he’d see her after work.
“I messaged him back and said there would be serious repercussions if he came home and that I would not talk to him in front of the kids, so he was to find somewhere else to stay,” she says. “He said I was being ridiculous, and what was I even talking about – a girlfriend?!? – but that he could stay at a hotel for the night if I really needed him to.”
So Michelle spent the afternoon and early evening pretending to be fine in front of their children, and then spent the next three hours messaging back and forth with Kate.
“I thought I wanted every single detail,” says Michelle. “But every detail ended up making it worse.”
She called one of her best friends at 11pm.
“I knew she’d be awake and have her phone on,” says Michelle. “I was going to text, but… how the hell do you text this? I probably should have because instead I called and immediately choked on tears – I could barely get any sounds out. Thank God she is a such a good friend. She asked, ‘Do I need to call 111?’ and when I managed to get ‘no’ out, she said she was grabbing the keys, leaving her husband with the sleeping kids, and coming over. She stayed up until 3am with me, talking about it and crying – she couldn’t believe Michael was capable of this either – and then put me to bed, before she went home to be there when her kids woke up.”
The next day her friend looked after their toddler while she and Michael spoke. He denied everything.
“He said it was a woman who was obsessed with him and had been stalking him,” says Michelle. “He said it’d been really hard to deal with, but he kept it to himself because it started when I was pregnant with our youngest. I was really ill so he didn’t want to worry me.”
Michelle says she almost believed Michael. “He’s that good,” she says. But, he couldn’t get himself out of all the lies. There were too many.
“I’d worked out that one of the times they’d gone away together for a weekend, was one where he told me he was away for work,” she says. “Kate had the proof – the pictures, the messages, the bookings. I had the messages from him, telling me about the hotel room he never even stayed in. Where he’d called me from was the same background as the hotel he stayed at with Kate. It had only been a couple of weeks earlier.”
It’s eight months on since Michelle found out the truth, and her estranged husband still claims he did nothing wrong and Kate has concocted one hell of a piece of fictional work.
“That’s one of the bits I find the hardest to stomach,” says Michelle. “He’s been caught out – I wish he’d just admit it.”
The pair are now separated – although are in touch often about the kids, and Michael is still asking for them to go to therapy together.
“I don’t see the point,” says Michelle. “He’s just going to keep lying to me. And will probably charm over the therapist and I just don’t have the energy!”
She says the last eight months have been by far the hardest of her life.
“I’ll never get over this,” she says. “But I know I’ll get through it, if that makes sense. My world as I knew it, has gone. It’s been pulled from under my feet. I honestly never, ever would have expected Michael to do something like this. And, sometimes I do start wondering if maybe he is right and it’s not true – because it seems so out of character, and how did he have the time? But, he’s obviously excellent at deception. Because I’ve seen all the receipts.”
Michelle says she does intend on going to therapy one day – “for the sake of my kids,” she says.
“The path ahead of me seems too unknown and frightening,” she says. “But some days in some moments, I feel glimmers of hope. Maybe I’ll return to work, maybe I can rebuild a new life. I certainly hope there’s a second act waiting for me out there.”