MY LIFE was a pretty ordinary one. I woke up, prepared packed lunches, dropped kids to school and spent the rest of the day restoring the chaos left behind from the day before. By and large, one day drifted into the next. I had a husband who adored me and two beautiful children. I lived in a nice house, took regular holidays and enjoyed an active social life. I was told that I am attractive and look great for my age, which is 35. From the outside, we were the perfect family. Yes, of course, we had our problems but generally speaking, I would have said that my life was no more or less different from anybody else's.
It's rather strange therefore for me to write these words now. It does not yet feel like I am writing about my life. In fact, I feel like I am writing about something I have read in a Jackie Collins novel about love and betrayal.
You see, a year ago, I found out that my husband was leading a double life. The random discovery of a secret phone led me into a world with which I was not familiar.A world so different to the one of which I was a part. I think that when we are confronted with new information that has the potential to negatively affect our life, we are all drawn to make one of two decisions. Either to ignore it or to discover as much as we can about this new information. Naturally curious, I chose the latter option. Apparently, or so I am told, many women choose to ignore such information and continue living the life they have become accustomed to, possibly afraid of the new life that they will be forced to live.
It's amazing what one can accomplish with determination and skill. Within half an hour of finding the phone, I had managed to break the code. It was simple really as he had purchased a pay-as-you-go phone, which was unregistered, naturally. Getting the pin was easy as a result. I would have thought him cleverer than this but that just goes to show how unbelievably confident he was that he wasn't going to be found out. The thing about deception is that eventually the lies will surface and usually when you least expect them to. He later told me that he had always kept the phone in the safe in his office but that lately he had become a little blase and that he would sometimes keep it in his car, which is where I had found it, while randomly searching for something else.
Reading through more than 300 text messages written over the timespan of a year, I realised that my love, the father of my babies, the man that I was going to grow old with, had a totally different perception of life than I did. People have since said to
me that surely I must have had an inclination, and that there surely were signals that all was not right. All I can honestly say is that at no time did I suspect a thing. At no time did I feel he was acting in any way out of the ordinary. At no time did I feel like he was having sex with people other than me.
The text messages portrayed a man who was living a very dangerous life, visiting prostitutes regularly, putting not only himself but also his family at emotional and physical risk. My first panic attack happened in my car, outside the maternity hospital where I gave birth to our babies. I drive past it daily and on this day, having left the house, with this unfamiliar phone in my hand, I parked outside the hospital to catch my breath. Only that it could not be caught. My body was shaking. I couldn't hear or see clearly. In fact if I hadn't had stopped the car, I would have crashed it. Sitting outside the place where I had experienced the most happiness I had ever experienced in my life, I felt overcome with shock at what I was uncovering.
The first thing I did was call one of the numbers that was stored on the phone. Using the excuse that I had found the phone in a restaurant, the woman on the other end confirmed that it did, in fact, belong to my husband. My heart sank, even if I already knew that it was his phone, it was hard to hear his name from a girl I knew he had slept with. The mobile phone held the numbers of over 20 women whom I later would learn were prostitutes. Most of the text messages contained graphic information about the acts that they had obviously just performed with each other. God, I never knew he could even text! Certainly, I had never received a text from him, he used to say he didn't know how to text on his phone. Oddly, he managed to figure out how to do it on his 'other' phone.
Later that same day, away from our home, I confronted him with my newfound knowledge. At first, not believing I had actually managed to break into the phone, he set about playing down what he had done. He said there had been a "couple" of flings and that it didn't mean anything. The anger and hurt I felt was overwhelming. He didn't blink an eye when I started reading out the shocking text messages. I think that this surprised me most of all. The level at which he could lie.
I later often reflected on this disturbing fact. That he, the man who I had known and loved for 10 years was capable of such deception, of such arrogance. I have since learned from a therapist that for a person to lead a double life successfully, it takes a committed level of constant energy and thought. I guess for me, this is the hardest part to swallow. I consider myself an intelligent person. How could I have been deceived for such a long time, without even the slightest hint of what was going on within my family?
Our relationship was far from perfect but certainly in the past year, we had both made a significant effort to
repair the damage of our past, to regain what we had lost. We had even discussed having a baby. A little brother for our two beautiful little girls. Now all of the hard work, the plans, our future had been taken away from me. Not just me but our entire family had been subjected to a loss so great that I couldn't bear to think about it.
Over the course of the next 14 days, I slept so little that I was prescribed pills. These, along with the anxiety tablets, helped with sleeping and eased the panic attacks that became so regular. My life had been torn apart and would never be the same again. My mother sat with me in a small, cold room in an STD clinic as multiple tests were carried out. I cried throughout the invasive examinations, with the kind doctor always reassuring me that it would soon be all over. It took two weeks for the results to come back, thankfully in my favour.
During this fortnight, I also set about gathering as much information as I possibly could about the life my husband kept secret from us. I contacted a number of the prostitutes he had been with and got lucky early on when I was invited into conversation by one of his scorned ex-lovers. I was shocked to discover that besides paying her an hourly fee of €500, he also regularly gave her large sums of cash to cover her childcare and shopping bills. They had formed a close relationship; well, as close a relationship as a prostitute and her client can form. She wasn't sure why he stopped calling but presumed he had found someone new.
What she did tell me was that there was an Irish website where they all advertised their services and on this site, 'punters' could leave reviews about their personal experiences. Apparently he had left many reviews.
His online codename was clever and reading back on the reviews, I was to learn what a great writer he is. Articulate and humorous in all the right places, I certainly had not been aware of his tremendous skill with words in all the years that I had known him. Most reviews were flattering, detailing areas such as level of ability, attractiveness, creativity and even the appearance of the apartment or hotel room. It was like he was describing a holiday on Tripadvisor, but then again, I guess he was. These were to him his own little holidays away from his ordinary life. Finding this website must have been like discovering a little piece of heaven, where he had a key to every island paradise.
I would like to think that I am knowledgeable with what is going on in the world. Prostitution is a part of every society and I was aware that it also existed in Ireland. Both street prostitution as well as what is called 'high class' prostitution, or 'escorts' as they are commonly referred to. However, I was shocked to discover the vast quantity and variety of 'escorts' available in Ireland, to cater to every want and need. Most of these
women are in their 20s, of every nationality. This website promised to provide the
creme de la creme of high-class escorts. It seems that the Celtic Tiger has produced luxury goods and services well beyond that of cars and plush houses in desirable locations. The demand it seems is high, as are the prices, anything from €300 to €750 per hour.
Another one of his 'favourite' prostitutes was a woman who worked by day in a business connected to my husband's business. By night, she, too, led a secret life. My husband was particularly generous to this woman. She had a baby and had worked in her day job for over 15 years. No one knew about what she did by night. She knew me and knew our family.
This angered me a lot. Somehow the others meant nothing to me. They were doing a job; it was my husband that had betrayed me. But this woman was different. Instead of seeking revenge, however, I gave her the 'you can be my friend or enemy' option. She, too, gave me much information. The holiday they were planning, the presents he had bought her: a laptop, perfume, flowers and underwear, the same as he had just bought for me.
In fact, I found her set of underwear before he had a chance to give it to her. I then drove to town and returned both sets to the luxury lingerie boutique where he had purchased them just days before. The owner of the shop was a bit taken aback, to say the least, when I handed her one box, saying that my husband had bought this for me, before handing her the second box, informing her that he had bought this for his girlfriend. Naturally both were promptly exchanged for a very expensive bathrobe.
At the end of the 14 days, I put an end to my research. I had learned as much I wanted to. My husband of 10 years had been regularly visiting prostitutes for over a year. He would see them during the day, between meetings. By night, he was always home.
The majority of liaisons took place in five-star hotel rooms in Dublin 4, a prestigious address for an illegal activity. The girls would take a room for a few days at a time and invite their clients to come visit them. Sure, no one would look oddly at a business man entering a plush hotel that regularly caters for conferences and business lunches.
All the information that was gathered -- the text messages, website reviews, etc. was photocopied and the originals put in a safe at my friend's house, including the mobile phone. Keeping the information at my home wasn't an option. During those first few lonely nights, it would have been so easy to go through them and relive the emotional roller-coaster again. I could have thrown them out, but decided not to. I am not exactly sure why.
I gave my husband the photocopies as I wanted him to be fully aware of what I knew and maybe realise that what he did was wrong. By this time he was living in an apartment, where he still resides. He is able to freely see whoever he wants now. He is not happy. We did try couples' therapy but the betrayal was so deep and the activities so detailed, happening over such a long period of time, that it was hard to leave it in the past.
That's the thing about betrayal. It's so very hard to forget, even when you have forgiven. Today I am in a much better place and my daughters are happy too. They were sad for a long time, as was I, but our life has moved on now. An amazing family, superstar friends and a little bit of therapy were the ingredients of my recovery.
I can imagine how attractive an option prostitution can appear to a man looking for 'no strings attached' sex. I am led to believe that men visit prostitutes for all sorts of reasons. I imagine the reason for my husband's infidelity was that he got a little bit greedy. He had the beautiful wife and kids at home and, I guess, when you have money and opportunity, sometimes the temptation is far too great.
Considering consequences and risk factors is, it seems, so easily put to the back of the mind. The risk of being found out seems so little in comparison to the great fun you can have.