"It started out like any other holiday. My husband Fred* and I had been to this hotel many times before. In fact, it had become a ritual for us to visit every year, staying about five days each time – Fred had found the place and I liked the delicious food and wonderful spa treatments they offered. Some years, we went alone, and other years, our two young children would come along.
Fred had many friends and business associates there, and he would occasionally leave me to my own devices while he went to meet them, coming back in time for dinner.
THE OTHER WOMAN
On this holiday, Fred, as usual, told me he was going to meet his buddies. Innocently, I asked to tag along – in all the 10 years we had been holidaying there, I'd never met his friends. Fred refused, saying I'd be bored with their mundane chatter. He asked me to enjoy the hotel facilities and wait for his return later that evening. I reluctantly agreed.
However, two hours later, I decided to go shopping in town. I spent a fair bit of time walking around, working up an appetite. Feeling famished, I headed to a nearby cafe for some snacks and a cup of tea.
As I crossed the road to the cafe, I saw Fred sitting at one of the tables, feeding three young children. They must be his friends' kids, I thought. Eager for my husband's company, I hurried over to him, only to stop short when I noticed a petite woman carrying a tray of food making her way towards Fred.
SEEING IS BELIEVING
I watched as she sat next to Fred and leaned in for a kiss. My eyes widened in disbelief as my husband kissed her back on the lips. My heart sank as I watched them gaze lovingly into each other's eyes. Not knowing what to do after catching my husband sharing an intimate moment with another woman, I quickly looked for a place to hide. I stepped behind a big tree, trying not to hyperventilate as I tried to work out what I had just seen.
Was the woman one of Fred's many friends, I wondered? But no matter how much I tried to rationalise what I'd seen, it came back to one thing – judging from the intimate way Fred and the woman were behaving, they must be lovers. I should know – I'd been married to Fred for 12 years and that look he gave the woman was the same one he used to give me in our 'honeymoon' years.
My eyes started to burn – I didn't realise I had been crying. At a loss as to what to do, I contemplated packing my bags and flying home. Then I felt indignant. Why should I beat a hasty retreat? It was bad enough that I was cowering behind a tree as if I was the one with something to hide. After about half an hour, I decided I needed to find out what was going on.
Taking a deep breath, I marched across the road into the cafe and over to Fred's table. He turned pale when he saw me. I'd wanted to stay calm but my anger got the better of me – I slapped him and demanded to know who the woman was.
Rubbing his cheek, Fred pulled me aside and asked me return to the hotel. He said it was all a big misunderstanding and that he would explain everything later. I became hysterical and demanded that he tell me everything there and then, or I would kick up an even bigger fuss for all to see.
Seeing that his efforts to placate me had failed, Fred brought me back to the table. The woman had remained seated the whole time, hugging the children close to her while watching my little drama with Fred unfold. Meet Jane*, Fred said, and her kids.
HIS DOUBLE LIFE
Jane gave me a meek smile but I just stared at her. Fred explained that he had met Jane four years ago during a work trip there. Jane was the waitress at the restaurant that he and his business associates were having dinner at. They connected emotionally and Fred had decided to pursue the friendship.
When he found out that Jane and her children had been abandoned by her ex-husband, Fred took pity on her and helped her out financially – he tried to make as many business trips to the place as he could, so that he could look in on her more often.
"So you repay my husband's kindness by having an affair with him?" I asked Jane. She kept quiet and looked to Fred for help. She seemed genuinely distressed. I watched in dismay as Fred reached for her hand and squeezed it. Then he turned to me and dropped a bombshell: 'We're not having an affair, Kim. We got married two years ago.'
I was stunned. My husband had married another woman? He had been juggling two families for the past two years and leading a double life? My children and I had been sharing a father and husband all this while? Was their marriage even recognised? How was he supporting dual families – did he skimp on us so he could splurge on them?
No wonder he loved going back time and again to the same hotel for a holiday – it was so convenient for him to sneak out and spend time with his other family!
I was in shock and seething with rage, but I was also disappointed and heartbroken. I ran out of the cafe and caught a cab back to the hotel. Fred didn't chase after me – I wasn't sure if I felt relieved or upset at that.
LEARNING TO DEAL
Fred didn't return to the hotel until late that night. By then, my eyes were swollen from crying and I'd packed my bags. I told him I was going home the next morning.
Fred tried to persuade me to stay, saying we needed to work things out. I refused and told him that if he still loved me, he would leave with me. He took a moment to consider, then told me to go ahead. 'I need to tie up some loose ends. I will be home in two days,' he said.
So I went home alone, rejected by the man I'd thought was my soulmate – we had been together since college and hardly ever argued throughout our relationship – and mulling over myriad questions. Was my marriage a sham? Was it worth saving? How would I tell the kids that their father has another family overseas? By the time Fred returned home two days later, I still didn't have the answers.
For a month after that, Fred and I crept around each other, not saying much and keeping up a semblance of a marriage before we attempted to communicate again. Fred reached out first, saying we needed to discuss things. He took me to dinner at our favourite restaurant and was an absolute gentleman that night, reminding me of how he used to be when we'd first started dating.
He apologised for upsetting me and told me that he hadn't planned on falling in love with Jane. 'It just happened,' he said earnestly. He said he was waiting for the right time to tell me. Sobbing, he asked for my forgiveness. He'd missed me terribly and wanted to make things better between us. 'Can't we just go back to the way we were?' he begged. He promised that he would fairly divide his time between Jane and I.
At that moment, it all became clear to me – I knew what I needed to do. We'd never going back to the way we were if Fred wasn't willing to let go of his other wife. I certainly wasn't going to share, so I asked Fred for a divorce.
He was taken aback. 'We've been married for so long. You can't just give up on us now. Think of our children,' he implored. But I remained firm. I told him he had made a mockery of our marriage and I couldn't accept another woman in his life. I couldn't understand how my husband could give his heart to someone else and sneak around while doing so.
That was two years ago. It took me about a year to finally move on with my life. I have a steady job now and have moved back in with my parents, who have been so supportive, even helping me care for my kids while I'm at work.
It was difficult at first, having to survive on a single income – I realised how 'pampered' we had been when Fred was around and bringing home a big salary – but we have managed to adjust to our new, humble lifestyle.
I never bothered to find out what the legal status of Fred's second wife was. But I explained to my children what their father did and why we divorced – I don't want to hide anything from them. I don't know if they fully grasped the situation – all they did was to cry and hug me, and ask for Daddy to make them breakfast the day after – but I hope they will understand when they get older. They still see their father once in a while, but they are no longer as close to him as before.
I have started dating again. I'm not yet ready to walk down the aisle once more, but I'm willing to take a second chance with another man. I hope that I'll be able to find someone better than Fred, someone who will not only embrace my young ones as his own, but also love me – and only me."
* Names have been changed.
This article was originally published in Simply Her December 2013.