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My husband was leading a double life. How I fell apart, then found strength.

One woman's story of finding strength during divorce and deceit.

My husband was leading a double life. How I fell apart, then found strength.

A few weeks after giving birth to my first baby, I was wracked with pain to the point that I could barely move.

Swinging my legs, one after another, out of bed took nearly all my willpower. This pain had nothing to do with the physical stress of childbirth or the stitches still holding my swollen private area together.

This pain came from a place so deep within me that I could not determine where the pain ended and I began. We were intertwined. It was all-consuming.


It felt as if half of my DNA had been ripped out of my body and I was left with a dangling half-strand.

Until that moment, I hadn't realized that my husband had become a part of me. Now, in his absence, I felt an emptiness where he had been. I knew I would never be whole again.

In “Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind,” psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman and writer Carolyn Gregoire explore what happens in the aftermath of a traumatic event:

“The more we are shaken, the more we must let go of our former selves and assumptions, and begin again from the ground up. ... Rebuilding can be an incredibly challenging process. ... It can be grueling, excruciating, and exhausting. But it can open the door to a new life.”

I know that door.

I found out my husband was leading a double life almost immediately after I gave birth to my daughter.

There was another girlfriend, and a secret credit card. Then other women started to come forward.

I was suddenly on my own with a newborn baby. I grieved him, and the future I thought we would have together, like a death.

Photo from me, used with permission.

While these have been without a doubt the most difficult months of my life, there was also something incredibly freeing in being ripped to shreds and then rebuilding myself piece by piece.

I told my therapist that everything seemed somehow clearer. “I feel like the human interactions I do have are very genuine now. I used to make kind of superficial small talk a lot, and I don’t do that anymore. I can’t really explain it. I just feel like I see people now.”

She told me that these moments of clarity are made possible precisely because you no longer have room for a lot of the crap you used to spend so much time thinking about. You are stripped clean.

You’ve always possessed this power. Maybe you just never knew how to access it.

Before experiencing trauma, I cared very much what people thought of me, from close family and friends to strangers. I had trouble making decisions because I wanted to please everyone. Even navigating a grocery store could be stressful — all those strangers silently observing and judging me.

Then, for months, I was trapped in my own body, forced to sit in the pain. Let me be clear. When I say “sit in the pain” I mean not running into someone else’s arms, not getting sloshed every night, and not hiding behind work.

Being trapped in my body meant that I couldn’t run from the darkness or try to do whatever it took to feel “good” again.

We humans naturally try to avoid feelings of discomfort — especially today, when instant gratification is just a click away on social media or a swipe away on an online dating app, when endorphins can be produced and manipulated simply by picking up an iPhone. People are even less likely to be still. To just feel.

But as I sat in my pain, I slowly started to trust my own intuition. I became grounded in a very clear sense of self.

When you begin to truly trust and like yourself, you tap into an immense amount of power.

Photo by me, used with permission.

You’ve always possessed this power. Maybe you just never knew how to access it. You find a power within yourself that’s like an anchor, freeing you from a lot of life’s insecurities that seemed so important before.

Dr. Sharon Dekel says, “Post-traumatic growth can be defined as a workable coping mechanism, a way of making and finding meaning involved in the building of a more positive self-image and the perception of personal strength."

The other side of pain is not comfort, or health, or well-being. It is truth.

When this truth comes pouring in, you begin to see all the grimy layers of protection lift away, and you discover that your journey has just begun. You begin to let the light in and, what’s more, you begin to seek out the light.

One morning I woke up and had a sudden realization. The thought entered my mind like a lightning bolt:

“You were always whole to begin with.”

So as much as I sometimes want to scream and rage at my ex-husband, I also want to thank him. I want to thank him for forcing me to become the person I was always meant to be, for showing me that I am a fighter and that I will never give up.

But most importantly, I thank him for allowing me to become this person before my daughter ever knew anyone else.

You can read more about Jen's journey in her memoir "A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal."

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

4-year-old New Zealand boy and police share toys.

Sometimes the adorableness of small children is almost too much to take.

According to the New Zealand Police, a 4-year-old called the country's emergency number to report that he had some toys for them—and that's only the first cute thing to happen in this story.

After calling 111 (the New Zealand equivalent to 911), the preschooler told the "police lady" who answered the call that he had some toys for her. "Come over and see them!" he said to her.

The dispatcher asked where he was, and then the boy's father picked up. He explained that the kids' mother was sick and the boy had made the call while he was attending to the other child. After confirming that there was no emergency—all in a remarkably calm exchange—the call was ended. The whole exchange was so sweet and innocent.

But then it went to another level of wholesome. The dispatcher put out a call to the police units asking if anyone was available to go look at the 4-year-old's toys. And an officer responded in the affirmative as if this were a totally normal occurrence.

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