Are families disposable, like diapers, paper plates and razors? Can you really substitute one for another and just go on with your life?
Janet was married to Bob, a fireman, for 30 years. They have three children together.
She received a phone call at work one spring day from a man who asked her why her husband was calling his wife, Kathy, over 60 times a day. Janet asked him if Kathy had just returned from a vacation in Colorado. He said yes. So had Bob.
"I put two and two together," Janet says.
Kathy was a paramedic at Bob's firehouse. She was also married to a fireman. When Janet confronted Bob, he told her that Kathy's husband was crazy. Janet didn't believe him and told him to get out. He moved out, but he begged her to take him back.
Janet says: "Long story short, he told me he didn't want to start over, blah blah blah. I believed I owed him a chance to correct the situation. I believed him when he said he would no longer see that woman. So I let him return home."
A month later, Bob called Janet and told her that Kathy's husband had shot himself in the head in front of Bob while he and Kathy were drinking coffee in the couple's kitchen. He left behind a teenage son and a preteen daughter.
"That woman buried her husband and continued the relationship with my husband. She even called him while the wake was going on."
Bob moved out of the house again. He told Janet he was living with a friend, but he was actually living with Kathy, at her house with her children. Janet calls them "his new family." She says, "We became the disposable family and he disposed of us."
Janet says her son became suicidal and her daughters began to struggle with addiction. "And Bob pretends he's done absolutely nothing wrong. He sleeps in a dead man's bed, lives a dead man's life. His family has welcomed this woman and her kids with open arms as if our 30 years of marriage was nothing.
"My kids and I are trying to pick up the pieces, and we do realize that we're so much better off without him. He was a paycheck not much else. I have to laugh — when I asked him why he did this, he said someday he would write me a letter. Really?
"I struggle daily with the fact not just that he cheated but that it mattered so little to him. It meant nothing to destroy his family. Who does that? Truly, what kind of person does that? What kind of people are they? Not people I want in my life. He destroyed so many lives, I'm ashamed to have the same last name.
"I guess I will forever be somewhat insecure, but believe me being alone and enjoying life is better than being in a relationship that was so sick."
Are you better off without your cheating spouse? Send your tale, along with your questions, problems and rants to [email protected] And check out my e-books, "Dear Cheryl: Advice from Tales from the Front" and "I'll Call You. Not."