It was a dark and stormy afternoon. Or, more precisely, a perfectly ordinary afternoon that quickly turned ominous as I opened my e-mail.
The anonymous writer wrote, “I’m deeply sorry to tell you that your husband has been having an affair with someone I know and is planning to leave you for her” (and, by the way, empty your bank account). “Hmmm”, I thought. “Probably a hoax but better look into it.” I was 3 weeks into a new job. To make matters worse, it was an open-plan office where everyone could see my computer. Not the best way to impress new colleagues.
Sure enough, the e-mail turned out to be true. My husband of nearly 20 years was involved in a hot and heavy online relationship with a woman who lived hundreds of miles away. He worked at home, so he had plenty of time—and god knows what else— on his hands.
You might be wondering, how erotic could it be if they never actually saw each other? Apparently, very. She had a Webcam. He had a Webcam. They had X-rated video visits during the day and furtive encounters late at night, fueled by a depth of passion that can only be inspired by the bank account of an unsuspecting third party.
A week later, the girlfriend contacted me directly. She was sheltered, naive, and deeply ashamed. She’d been trying to break off the relationship but my husband’s violent outbursts terrified her. She e-mailed that he was a pathological liar, that he’d made disturbing sexual comments to her young daughter, and that she’d trusted him with managing her IRA, which he had day-traded into oblivion.
I might have forgiven an affair. But once I started digging deeper, I discovered that my husband had wiped out my life’s savings and our children’s college funds, also through day-trading. Now there was no going back. I didn’t trust him; I didn’t respect him; there was nothing to “work on”. And although the financial damage was devastating, there was a bright side: I had solid reasons to get out.
Five years passed. I found a smaller house, a new job, managed to pay the entire cost of my son’s college and my daughter’s first 2 years of college. It has been hard, lonely, and frightening.
And then, a year ago, I received another e-mail. This time, it was from an old friend— a man with whom I’d worked decades ago. We started to correspond. We had dinner. We fell in love. And this time, the Internet has been my salvation.