This is the Testimony of a WIFE who found out about the 'MANY OTHER WOMEN' in her husband's life, only after his death.
'The Other Women': Betrayed by my 'perfect' husband: Julie discovered the man she loved had been unfaithful after he died
21st September 2009
On a bitterly cold afternoon in early January 2003, I found my husband Henry on his back, spreadeagled on the kitchen floor.
I tried to revive him while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. But the man who for 16 years had loved me, driven me crazy, fought with me, fed me, made love with me, made a baby with me, exhaled one last breath - the air I had blown into his lungs.
Later, at the hospital, the doctor told us it was a pulmonary embolism. A blood clot, possibly formed in the leg, had moved upward and lodged in the lung, causing cardiac arrest. He was only 44. I slid off my chair to the floor and screamed.
I was 27 years old when I met Henry. He was good-looking, charming and charismatic, and when he strolled towards me at a party, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world.
Often shy and insecure around men, I was drawn to his exuberance and his forceful love. As our relationship progressed, my friends repeatedly told me how lucky I was.
'My supreme loveliness, I love you as I love life,' he pronounced dramatically in December 1988.
This was his marriage proposal, and - like his elaborate dinner parties and everything else he did - it was a grand gesture.
Over the next few years, from the outside, we'd have looked like any other young married couple. After the birth of our daughter Liza in 1998, we decided to leave the city and we bought a nice house in a small town.
I was working as a freelance graphic designer, specialising in cover designs for book publishers, and Henry, a writer, was either working on his book or cooking and entertaining friends - his great passions.
But as I was soon to discover, my marriage had been an illusion. On the day of the viewing of Henry's body, I glanced over to the coffin and saw Cathy, one of our neighbours.
She was weeping hysterically, her head and arms draped over Henry's lifeless torso. Cathy's daughter, Amy, was my daughter Liza's best friend and because of our daughters' friendship, Cathy and I had also become friends.
When she lifted her head from Henry's coffin, her face was red and wet with tears. At the time, I was too deep in my own grief to think much about this other than that I, his widow, hadn't allowed myself such a public display of emotion.
The next few months passed in a blur. A small group of friends and family surrounded Liza and me. They tended to Liza when I could not. They brought food into my house. They let me cry.
Cathy arranged for her minister to visit and offered her own comfort, telling me not to despair, that I was a strong person capable of remaking my life. And gradually, things did get easier. I felt able to take Liza to school again and to return to work.
I thought I was coping quite well until one evening in mid-July, seven months after Henry's death.
I was with Tomas, a friend who'd lived with us for a while when he had been renovating his own house. When I told Tomas how much I still missed Henry, he asked whether I missed everything about him.
I paused. It was an honest question. I decided it deserved an honest answer and told him I didn't miss everything, but that I felt very guilty for having such thoughts.
Tomas said I shouldn't feel guilty. When I pressed him further, he told me Henry had been involved with a woman in California - where he'd travelled several times in the past year on research trips for his latest book.
Then he said there was more, and advised me to speak to the other friends who had helped arrange the memorial service for Henry. They had found evidence of Henry's infidelity on his computer.
Bizarrely, I didn't feel as shocked as I thought I would upon hearing about this 'other woman'. Some things about Henry's behaviour shortly before he died began to make sense: long absences, more time in his office with the door closed, lots of fighting between us.
The next morning I called my friend Emily. She started crying. 'It's Cathy,' she said.
'Cathy and Henry were having an affair, for two years at least. We found all their emails on his computer the morning after he died.'
I flew into a blind rage. I thought Cathy was my friend. We'd been inside each other's houses almost every day.
We'd picked up each other's children from school. We provided each other with emergency childcare. We took each other's children for sleepovers. She and her husband, Steve, ate meals with us. Our houses were almost interchangeable.
The thought of this happening right under my nose was too devastating. I felt fury, anger, frustration. I was ashamed and humiliated. Then it dawned on me that I had to collect Liza, who'd been at a sleepover - at Cathy's.
I got into the car and drove over to her house where I saw her, relaxed, reading in a hammock.
In that instant, with dumbfounded disgust, I realised I must have provided childcare for Amy after school while Steve was at work and Cathy and Henry would have been at it on her sofa, or in her spare bedroom, or wherever else they did it.
I told her that I knew about her affair with Henry. My hand twitched, it wanted to smack her face. 'What,' I asked, tensed with bewildered anger, 'did you think you were doing?'
She murmured her response. She had been weak, Henry had been so persuasive, she was so sorry, so sorry. I told her she had a week to tell her husband, or I'd do it.
I drove home with Liza in a state of shock. I ran upstairs, took off my wedding ring and dropped it into my jewellery box. My marriage was over. It felt like a divorce.
Like Emily, Henry's best friend Matthew had seen evidence of Henry's infidelities.
I called him to see what had survived from Henry's computer hard drive. Matthew gave me Henry's personal journal, book notes, and correspondence.
The first journal entry I read was from early August 1999. It went into explicit detail about having sex with Cathy.
I closed the book. My mouth was open, sucking in air. Once I had some oxygen inside me, I cried till my head ached. My chest hurt like it had been cleaved in two.
I moved on to his emails. In messages, Henry and Cathy gushed about how great sex had been the day before. And how mediocre married sex was by comparison.
Reading that hurt me in ways I could never have imagined, every word a spike in my chest. But I kept reading. I couldn't stop. I was disgusted, outraged, but also ravenous for more information.
I had to understand, to have some idea of what his life had been like during those last years. I wanted to understand my own attraction to a man who had done such great damage.
It crossed my mind that if he hadn't died, I might never have known. Though the more I thought about it, the more I saw that the clues had been everywhere and I had chosen to ignore them.
Although this may sound crazy, I think it is actually surprisingly common in a marriage. We seem to have automatic blind-spots to what we do not want to see.
After reading Cathy and Henry's emails, I turned to other correspondence written during the months before his death.
In one long letter, Henry unburdened himself to Christine, the woman in California.
He told her he'd had five sexual affairs in the past three years as well as a few romantic dalliances.
Of Cathy, he wrote: 'We saw each other for nearly three years. It was like a second marriage. Our kids were best friends. I would say that in some ways we saw more of each other than our own spouses.'
In a fury, I slammed the letter down on my desk, crying as much in rage as from my own shame that I had been so blind.
I desperately needed some answers, but the man who could answer my questions wasn't here any more.
So on the spur of the moment and in a fit of rage, I went through Henry's address book and started calling the women.
'What did you think you were doing, getting involved with a married man with a kid?' I asked Christine.
She told me that at first, Henry didn't tell her he was married. Eventually, he said he was married but had 'an arrangement'.
Next I called Ellen. 'This is Julie. Henry's wife.' She started crying.
Weeping continuously, Ellen told me that after they met at the gym, Henry had flirted with and pursued her.
The last woman on the list was Eliana. Like Christine, she apologised quietly. She described meeting Henry at a party in our town and how their sexual relationship began.
Twenty per cent of men and 15 per cent of women are having extra-marital affairs, according to a study by Manchester Metropolitan University
Perhaps surprisingly, I found that after speaking to these women, my initial revulsion towards them softened. They hadn't known Henry long. They hadn't pretended to be my friend.
Over the next few months, Eliana and I corresponded at length and a friendship began that continues to this day.
I realised that though I thought I knew my husband, I didn't. I began to understand a lot more about him and about myself.
I had fallen in love with a man who had appeared to be confident and charming, but who was - underneath - lonely, insecure, and ultimately incapable of putting the needs of his family ahead of his own.
He had wanted adventure, all the time. It was as if he needed to feel like a hero. I wondered if this was a guy thing - the famously satirised midlife crisis.
Now, nearly seven years later, I continue to work on forgiveness. It was a long journey but I no longer wake up every morning feeling angry and bitter.
I hope my experiences have helped me to make better choices and to look more closely, beneath the surface, at myself and the people I meet.
It does bother me that our culture frequently rewards the kind of behaviour Henry exhibited - the movie-star charisma, the ability to charm and 'work a room'. Yet underneath, he was so troubled, so destructive and self-destructive.
On a good day, I tell myself that Cathy is another imperfect human and feel compassion for her. Like Henry, she was very troubled.
Although some people find this difficult to believe, I don't hate Henry. He made some truly terrible choices. But he died so young, before he had the chance to make amends and start over.
In living too much for himself, Henry missed the point of living for others. How can you feel anything other than sorrow for that?
*ADAPTED by Lorna Martin from Perfection by Julie Metz (Voice).