My Husband Was a Habitual Cheater and I Still Don't Know If He Raped Me

I knew that my husband was a cheater. I knew he abused me. I don't know if the last time we had sex counts as sex or rape.
Publish date:
March 31, 2016
sexual assault, abuse, consent, cheaters, emotional abuse

Most of the time, the last time you sleep with someone, you don't know, at least not for sure, that it'll be the last time. Despite what the movies and TV tell us, the majority of us don't actually do the whole "farewell sex" thing.

And he was my husband.

Nearly four years before that last time, we had gotten married—too young, too stupid, too impulsive. I can't explain the whys because I'm not that girl anymore. She and I are so far removed from one another that I can't even wrap my twenty-seven year-old brain around her nineteen year-old reasons and her convictions. All I know for certain is that she was certain. She was stubborn. She was a dumbass.

We had a baby, who remains to this day literally the only thing I don't regret from that relationship. He is seven, perfect, hysterical, and he looks enough like his father when he's mad—his grin is mine, and his blue eyes—that sometimes I have to take a deep breath to make sure I don't react unfairly to that tiny human.

The man I married was in the Army, and we lived together with our son in Germany for three years. Over that period, he cheated on me four times that I know about and likely double, triple, quadruple that number that I don't. I don't know that I forgave him, really, so much as that I was crippled with fear over supporting a baby on my own, unable to bear the shame of a failed marriage, and so I compartmentalized my rage and his betrayals, and pretended they didn't exist.

There are periods of that time during which my only remaining memories involve the baby. I spent so much time dissociating myself from my own emotions that there are literally entire people I don't remember being friends with (thanks, Timehop, for the weird reminders of people I don't remember knowing).

The last time he cheated in Germany, it was with a woman he worked with. She was my friend.

I remember being heartbroken but not surprised. I remember a brief fight, but mostly stony silence. I remember he was mad at me for going through his phone.

We left soon after that, before it had even blown over. He was still talking to her.

My reason for not leaving him then boils down to one small moment: about a week before we left, I was in our bathroom, and a voice in my head said, in a rare moment of clarity, "You have to get out of here." That voice, it was my voice, my voice now, and the girl I was then was terrified of me. Immediately, I burst into tears, sobbing on the bathroom floor like every woman on every cable drama ever, because in my addled brain, I was certain that to leave him, to break up our family, would mean that I had failed my baby, and that was something I couldn't stand: he was the only good thing I had ever done.

o I stayed. But when we returned to the States, I didn't go to his next duty station with him, instead moving myself and two and a half year-old son into my parents' house with the excuse (true at the time) that he was to deploy in three months. The deployment was cancelled, but I still stayed home, working and saving money, reconnecting with friends, and steeling myself. I would find myself thinking things like "When we're divorced, I can—"

He came home for Christmas, and I worked as many shifts as I could, not wanting to be around him more than I had to. That visit was when I realized that six months apart had cleared my mind enough to make me realize that his proximity made me furious.

The last night he was home, we went out drinking with his father, two peas in a douchebag pod. He promised me he would be home by midnight. When I called at 12:30, he meant to reject my call but answered instead, and, "This bitch won't stop calling me," I heard, followed by the giggles of women standing too close.

I was still pitiful enough to be hurt and angry.

When he got home and into my bed (drunk, having driven) I confronted him, in a whisper because our son was asleep in the same room. He denied everything, as usual. He was angry with me for doubting him. He cried.

When I was for once unmoved, he seized my wrists and loomed over me on the bed, his hands biting into my skin, and demanded that I believe him. I refused.

He started kissing my neck, and it was all I could do not to scream. When he started pawing at my clothes, removing my bottoms, I told him to stop, tried to kick him away. He grabbed my wrists again, told me that he wanted me, that he loved me, and that unless I believed him, unless I did what he wanted, he would leave, would drive drunk ("and probably die") to his mother's house.

It is one of my greatest regrets that I did not let him go.

Instead, I acquiesced, let him have sex with me. Sometime in the middle of it, I was seized with a fury like I had never experienced before or since, and I flipped him over, climbed on him, and raked my nails down his bare chest. Not sexy. Not in the throes of passion, like I'm sure he assumed, but to hurt him. I wanted, in that moment, nothing more than to claw his heart from his chest and watch him bleed to death in front of me.

I don't think the decision to end our marriage came to me that night, but that me in my head, she knew: this would be the last time he would ever touch me. I don't know that I had yet made the connection that those ideas: the dissolution of the marriage and the "never touch me again"—were kind of dependent upon each other.

I didn't think then that he had sexually assaulted me. I had given in, after all, had eventually indicated yes. I just knew that I hadn't wanted it. I knew it had felt wrong. But I had gone along. It wasn't until years later that I realized how truly fucked up what he had done to me was, that he had violated me physically and sexually. That just because he had never hit me didn't mean he hadn't abused me. To be honest, I still don't know what to call it—I don't think I want to call it rape. Maybe I just don't want to be a rape victim. I don't consider myself one. Maybe I think it's too complicated a situation. Maybe I still think it's too gray an area. I know that he would never, by any stretch of the imagination or memory, ever think he had raped me.

I'm not sure the semantics really matter.

What does matter is that a few weeks later, during which I had been mostly silent, he called me. "We need to talk about our relationship," he said. "Something isn't right and we need to work this out."

I didn't hesitate. I didn't think. Finally, finally, the versions of myself were converging into one girl who could make this decision, who could do this for herself and for her child, because wasn't it better for him to be away from this man? Wasn't it better for that little boy to be away from that influence, that poisonous disloyalty? Didn't we both deserve someone who would actually love us?

"I don't want to work this out," I said firmly, coldly. "I want this to be over. I'm done. I want a divorce."

Weeks would follow, during which he would call me crying, or leave me angry voicemails threatening to call my parents' landline at two in the morning, when he would call me a bitch for being so unfeeling, so mean. For once in my life, I didn't waver. I didn't second-guess. For once in my life I was strong enough not to allow him to manipulate me into who and what he wanted.

The girl I was owes everything to the woman I am. But there can't be one without the other. If I could tell her anything, it would be that despite everything, despite the shit decisions and the spinelessness, despite the abuse she put up with and all the things she did wrong, that she was always better than that, than him. I would tell her that ending a bad marriage is not a failure. I would tell her that her family, her friends, they would catch her. I would tell her that her baby would be just fine. I would tell her that eventually, the world's most gorgeous man would find her and love them both.

Mostly, I would tell her to listen to me, to herself, because we're the same girl, and we're pretty awesome.

I would tell her that we'll be okay.