“It seems like Jack has a girl in every port,” snapped Pam, 40, the mother of a 22-year-old daughter and 14-year-old twin boys. “He travels constantly for business, often three or four days a week. Over the past couple of years he’s been more and more remote. Anyone else would have put the pieces together, but I guess I’m dense.
“Two weeks ago I was in the den when his cell phone rang. Normally I wouldn’t pick it up, but for some reason I did — and the person hung up. I waited a few minutes and called back. A woman answered. I hung up, then checked the list of dialed calls and saw there were several to that number. Jack claimed it was a business call, but I could tell he was hiding something. I mentioned the calls several times that weekend, and finally he blurted out that he cheats on me when he travels. He insisted that he loves me and wants to stay married. But how can he love me and behave like that?
“The only positive part of the whole sordid mess is that they’re one-night stands that apparently don’t mean anything. So at least he’s not leaving me for someone he’s fallen in love with. I went through that with my dad. Our home life was very chaotic. We were well off — Dad was a successful attorney — but my parents fought all the time. When I was in high school my dad left my mother for another woman, and my world collapsed. Mom, who was a recovering alcoholic, started drinking again, and I had to take care of my younger sisters.
“I began hanging out with a guy who’d graduated from my high school two years earlier. A week after I turned 17 I discovered I was pregnant. My mom wanted me to put the baby up for adoption. My dad said I should have an abortion. I did neither. I dropped out of school, married the boy, and had Zoe. Needless to say, the marriage was a disaster. He was angry and verbally abusive, and after six months Zoe and I moved back in with my mother. I got my GED, then enrolled in college at night while Mom, who was back in AA by then, watched Zoe.
“I met Jack in class. I wasn’t looking for a romantic relationship but soon fell madly in love. He was charming, thoughtful, and so much fun! He’d take Zoe and me on spontaneous outings — hiking in the mountains, picking berries, or eating lunch at a beachside shrimp shack. After dating for two years we got married and Jack adopted Zoe. He was a rising star at an international consulting firm, where he still works, and his hours were already getting crazy. When our twins, Sam and Max, were born five years later, I threw myself into being a mom. And Jack threw himself even deeper into work.
“I resent having to be both Mommy and Daddy. Jack takes care of the big things. He made sure we have life insurance and a nice home, for instance. But I’m the one who helps with their homework, goes to parent-teacher conferences, reads bedtime stories. On weekends I’ll plead with Jack to come to church with us, or even for a bike ride, but he begs off, insisting he needs to catch up on paperwork. He’s become more and more peripheral to our family. He’ll promise something and never get it done, whether it’s planning a family trip or fixing a leaky faucet. I’ll make lists of stuff for him to do, but he’ll be off on another business trip before a single item gets crossed off.
“Now I wonder if I should have paid more attention to him and focused less on the kids. Why else would he see women on the sly? I still love him, but I’m not sure I’ll ever trust him again.”