I wrote Part 1 of this story a few months ago. I've found it really hard to sit down and continue, but it's time to get it all out.
Names have been changed.
When I was in high school, I dated Rick. During our short relationship, I befriended his best friend, James. While Rick was cocky and arrogant, James was sweet, funny and paid attention to me. The first time I met him, he was the third wheel on our date. Rick walked right through the door to the movie theater, but James held the door for me, smiled sweetly, and put his hand on the small of my back as I walked through. My body shivered and somehow I knew that someday, we'd be together.
Things with Rick ended shortly after that date. We stayed friends, and a few months later - the fall after we graduated - James and I started dating. We slept together right away. I cried afterward the first time because I was sure he'd just use me for sex. But he was different - we fell in love quickly. I was genuinely happy.
A few months into our relationship - just shy of my 18th birthday - we moved in together when his mom kicked him out. We were completely broke, but we had each other and we were in love. A year after we started dating, we got engaged. I admit that I pressured him into it - I didn't want to live together for years without an engagement - but as soon as we were engaged, we set a date and began planning.
Two weeks before our wedding, I was out shopping with one of my bridesmaids. I was in the fitting room when I got the call that my dad was in the hospital because he'd tried to kill himself. We learned he'd been having an affair for a couple of years and the stress of leading two lives had become too much. To make it more complicated, the affair was with my best friend - a girl I'd known since kindergarten, a girl who'd joked about having a crush on my dad - who we'd innocently teased about marrying my dad (little did we know).
They both swore the relationship was over. She begged for forgiveness; she couldn't bear to lose my friendship. She stood up with me on my wedding day. Two weeks later, she and my father ran away together. It was years before I spoke to either of them.
I remember on my wedding day, as I was about to walk down the aisle with my mom and dad, the moment it hit me: I wasn't throwing a big party - I was getting married. This was the wedding, but it was also the start of a marriage. I said to my mom, "I don't know if I want to do this." But I pushed my fears aside, reminded myself that I loved James and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.
Two months into our marriage, Rick struck up a conversation. It wasn't unusual - we'd stayed friends - but this time it was different. He was more flirty than usual. He admitted he still had feelings for me; he wished I hadn't gotten married. It was the first I'd heard of it - he was our best man AND living with his girlfriend.
Somehow, we began an emotional affair. Things escalated. One night, it got physical and after that, our affair ended.
James was still upset, of course. He had every right to be but it was over, I was sorry, and we tried to move on. I got pregnant and, at seven months pregnant and on bedrest with pre-eclampsia, I found out about the affairs James had been having. He had met a woman online and had been planning to run away with her before I got pregnant.
I was jobless, sick, pregnant, and had nowhere to go, so I stayed. I tried to make the best of it, but with the baby came postpartum depression. And when the baby was four months old, I discovered I was pregnant again. I was a new mom, depressed, pregnant, and stuck.
This man I'd once loved, this relationship we had...none of it was the same. Our relationship did remain stable throughout my second pregnancy. Things weren't great but they didn't get worse. We were parenting a baby, expecting another one, and James worked long hours away from home during the week.
When the baby came, my depression worsened. I was raising two babies (mostly) on my own. Our one-year-old was a good baby, but she was very active and sick a lot. The new baby was a very colicky baby. James didn't help around the house, he wouldn't help with the babies unless I forced him, and he was completely oblivious to my depression and sleep deprivation. I knew the man I married could be selfish. I knew he was lazy and immature, but when it was just the two of us, it didn't matter. I thought he would grow up. When the kids came, though, I grew up and he didn't.
He started to complain to Rick about me. I was also talking to Rick - he was the only one I could talk to about how things were at home. He knew I was overwhelmed and had no help. He tried to make James be more understanding and helpful, but somewhere along the lines, my husband had quit caring about the kids and me.
Rick decided to quit fighting his feelings and try to pursue a relationship with me. At first, I was not interested. Crappy marriage or not, I was still married and had children with my husband. Even if I felt the marriage was over, I was still in it. Then I thought about it some more. Here was a good man who wanted to make me happy. Didn't I deserve that? It didn't matter that I was still married or that he was getting married; we began an emotional affair that soon after became physical.
I know the affair was wrong. Still...it saved my life. I couldn't have continued living that way. It's hard to admit even now, but I know I was on a path to suicide. Being with Rick in a relationship where I felt loved, valued, and cared about saved my life.
The affair didn't stay secret, though. A couple of weeks after Rick got married, we got caught. We were in love and neither of us wanted to be with anyone else. We decided we'd stay together. And we did...for about six months.
During those six months, I was tormented by his wife. She vandalized my property, stalked me, constantly called and texted me and threatened my children and me. I lived in the small town where Rick and James had grown up, so everybody knew our business. I was called a cheater, a slut, a whore. My own mother told me I was nothing but a cheater just like my father.
James moved out but tried to control me however he could. I don't know how many times he called me, threatening to kill himself because I'd ruined his life.
Despite all of that, things with Rick were amazing. He helped me, he was supportive, we communicated and were not just partners but friends. He treated my girls as if they were his own and I was put up on a pedestal. We had a real relationship and even if it started out in a terrible way, it was the way a relationship should be.
But James kept his grip on me. He did grow up, he did show me he could be the man that I needed him to be - the dad our children deserved to have. How could I end a marriage, a marriage that involved two little girls, to be with this other man? Yes, he was amazing and was good to me and things were easy with him, but he was not my husband and not the father of my children. I had no problem leaving a marriage that was doomed to be with him, but what if that marriage could work?
And so I ended things with Rick and went back to James. It was incredibly hard to look into the eyes of the man I loved and tell him it was over. I was a mess. Yes, I loved James and wanted to make our marriage work for the sake of our children, but I was madly in love with Rick.
Once I accepted the heartbreak of ending things with Rick and realized that it was going to take time to put things in the past, things became good with James. We had our problems and fought sometimes, but it was normal stuff, not like it had been before. We were happy more often than not. I would talk to Rick sometimes, but we weren't able to go back to being platonic this time like we were before, so I eventually had to be strong and cut off contact again. And, to be honest, any amount of contact at all was not fair to James. I was still in love with Rick and we had had an affair, so if I was still contacting him, I wasn't giving James my all.
And that is how I got to where I am now. That's the end of my "backstory" and now I think I can talk about how I am feeling and have it make sense. And, if nothing else, it has been good therapy for me to get it all out.