Mike and I got together the night John Lennon was killed. We lit candles and sang songs and cried. From the start, we were best friends and soulmates. We did everything together, went everywhere together, talked about everything together, and eventually had two, beautiful kids together.
We formed an all-original rock band named 27 Dreams in honor of our June 27th wedding anniversary. We wrote hundreds of songs together, played clubs, and recorded in numerous studios. The first time I heard one of our songs on the radio, I was grateful to be blooming into the person I’d dreamed of since I’d written my first song on piano at age six.
After nearly a decade of pursuing our music, we changed course in a big way. My day job was working in a doctor’s office, and one morning I looked at Mike and said, “You know what? You’d be a great doctor.” I thought he’d ask me what I’d been smoking (which, in those days, was a reasonable question!) and tell me I was crazy. Instead, he said, “You know what? You’re right.”
So without a single college credit to his name, we embarked on the long and challenging journey of becoming a doctor. I say, “we” because I supported the family while Mike went to school. Everyone thought we were crazy since, a) we were hippie rock musicians, and b) the odds of getting into medical school for even the most straight-laced and dedicated of students were (and still are) extremely low.
After Mike graduated from the University of Colorado with high honors, we nervously awaited medical school responses. He applied to five schools and was waitlisted at every one. Finally, CU offered him a place in their upcoming freshmen class of only 129 students. Everyone was wrong. We weren’t crazy. Mike was going to be a doctor.
Despite the grueling schedule of medical school and residency, Mike remained a loving and attentive husband and father. And we always had a studio in our home. We never stopped making beautiful music together.
Flash forward 15 years.
Something was up. Mike started picking fights with me, and I had no idea why. It wasn’t like him. I asked what was wrong, but he told me I was imagining it—that everything was fine. At a romantic getaway in Maine, things got really crazy. After dinner, Mike got into a physical fight with a stranger at the bar. I’d never seen him fight with anyone, ever, even in our rock n’ roll days. Something was palpably wrong.
On our drive home, he pulled off the highway into a strip mall parking lot. “There’s something I need to tell you,” he said, parking next to a row of Lowe’s shopping carts. I waited patiently, clueless about what was about to hit me. “I kissed Janelle. In my office. Once.” Janelle, a married woman with a 1-year-old son, was a doctor who worked with Mike. She and her husband had been guests at our younger son’s bar mitzvah. I didn’t like her from the moment we met which, for me, was rare. You see, I’m a hugger. I hug almost everyone. I blame it on my Brooklyn DNA. But I never hugged Janelle. From the beginning, she rubbed me the wrong way. (Women’s instincts—don’t ever take them for granted.)
Surprisingly, after hearing Mike’s confession, instead of feeling angry, I felt a huge sense of relief. His strange behaviors finally made sense. He promised the “relationship” wouldn’t progress. He even called her in front of me, to tell her it was over. She sounded upset, but I was thrilled. My husband, whom I’d know all my adult life and loved with all my heart, had crushed a small seed of betrayal before it grew into a marriage-killing weed.
That was September of 2007, two-and-a-half years before he left.
Turns out, he never stopped the relationship. He tried, he said, but the connection was too strong. “She’s my best friend,” he told me. This was what hurt the most. I thought we were best friends and would be until we took our last breaths. We even had a catalog of songs to prove it. The stark wretchedness of the situation took my breath away: He’d been lying to my face for nearly three years.
I cried, a lot, for a long time.
I even kept crying even after meeting the man who would become my second husband. He understood. He was divorced. He’d survived that particular hell and come out stronger. He held me as I purged the memories, inside jokes, and intimate whispers of a 30 year relationship one soul-crushing tear at a time.
They’re married now, Mike and Janelle. They tied a new knot a year after I did. Life really does go on. I hate what Mike did, but I can’t hate him. We have two magnificent children together, so we’ll always be in each other’s lives. Still, we rarely talk on the phone or see each other in person. We text. It’s less personal. Safer. An innocuous, soothing, past-relationship balm.
Going forward, I will always be sure to tell friends, and myself, to trust your instincts and be aware of changes in loved ones’ behavior. Just because your partner says everything’s fine, that doesn’t mean it is. But the primary lesson, and the toughest one for many of us? Love the person in the mirror with your whole heart. She is, and will always be, your very best friend.
The good news? I’m a stronger person now, happily married to a man who’s my new (and very hot!) best friend. And, once again, I am blooming.