A Heavy Price

Relationships Are a Lot of Work. But Ending One Isn’t the Easy Way Out.

I just got off a call with someone who is perhaps the most uniquely qualified person in the world to understand what I have endured for nearly 18 months, a nightmare that he, himself has endured for almost two years. “Thank you for what you’re doing,” Tony said to me. “Your voice, your story is our story. People need to hear. Men need to understand.”

Since I started this blog and especially since I took my message to an international audience, reaching an initial 5 million ABC 20/20 viewers across this country and countless others across the globe, I have been pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of support. But more than the support, I am encouraged by people who have seen my story, heard my message and feel like I have somehow shared their own unique story. Anthony. Tammy. Charlie. Shelly. Rose and the dozens of others with whom I have exchanged stories and comments, and the hundreds of others who haven’t necessarily reached out but feel as if my story is connected to your own, this blog post is for you.

I screwed up. Selfishly I hurt the woman who, despite our many differences, arguments and dissonance, I loved deeply for more than 28 years. And despite the many who refuse to believe the sincerity of my grief, I have suffered and paid dearly for my decisions and I understand and accept that I will continue to pay for the rest of my life, like few will ever know.

Our marriage had seen its share of ups and downs, and right or wrong, we stuck together through the best and the worst of it. How? Why? I now ask myself those questions as much, if not more than others ask me. We loved each other, but as the years passed, we were no longer in love. I am outgoing, yet she felt she had no need for friends. She didn’t want children. When she lost her job, she wanted so much to be a homemaker. She had wrapped her entire life around mine, and although it wasn’t what I wanted, I didn’t stand up to her to change it. And by refusing to deal with it, I enabled it. In so many ways, we were the very definition of a codependent relationship. But I didn’t even know what that meant back then. I just knew I felt smothered, mothered and in need of change. In need of independence. A new start.

The all-consuming guilt I feel for having betrayed my wife, for devastating her and making her feel as if her life was over has been overwhelming. And that is an understatement.

While it isn’t an appropriate defense to justify my decisions and my actions, I honestly didn’t fathom the depths of the pain I would cause my wife’s heart when I made the fateful decision to leave her, to start life over with someone else.

Divorce, it seems, has become an epidemic, a sociological game of probability, if not certainty. Fodder for entertainment news headlines, we have become conditioned to the regularity, the normalcy of celebrity breakups and heartache, the bigger the better, the more normal. Jen. Brad. Gwyneth. Will and Jada. As an audience, we have grown accustomed, if not morbidly entertained by the inevitable death of these fairytale Hollywood facsimiles of marriage many aspire and cling to.

“You’ll get through this,” I told my wife in an attempt to console her after announcing I was going to file a petition for divorce. “A lot of people get divorced and go on to live happy lives. It just takes time.” But what the hell did I know? I had seen celebrities, my friends and friends of friends get divorced for years. And they lived through it. But they don’t always tell you about the heartache, the tears and sleepless nights they lived through. For some, it’s more pain than they can possibly bear.

In the fall of 2017, two months prior to meeting the woman I fell so hopelessly in love with, if you had asked me if I was happily married, I would have told you, “yes.” But was I? How could I have been? How is it that a month after kissing my wife goodbye at the front door of our home in South Carolina before I drove 600 miles to Delaware to start a new career, did I fall in love with someone else? Was I that unhappy? Was it so unbearable to live another day, another year, another decade married to someone who I had promised to remain faithful to until one of us, or both of us, took our last breath?

Understandably, some want to zero in on my infidelity as the reason my wife took the life of my girlfriend and then herself. End of story. And many, I among them, feel sympathy for Jennair. But they’re missing an important point. While hurt and betrayed, my wife was willing to forgive me for my weakness, my decision to have a physical and emotional relationship outside our marriage. She wanted more than anything to repair the damage and start again.

But after weeks and then months of recognizing just how unhappy we both had been for years and of a rapidly-escalating mistrust between us, including her planting multiple recording devices in my car, my office and sewing them into my clothes, of hacking into my computer and phone, of following me wherever I went and putting GPS devices on my car, I made the difficult decision to end our marriage, to end years of mind games, control and dysfunction and rediscover myself again. And I hoped the same for her, believing that she would find her footing and reemerge stronger, and that we could someday be friends.

My wife didn’t kill Meredith and then herself because I was unfaithful. She did so because she couldn’t imagine her life alone. She had wrapped her life, her whole being and her reason for living around mine. And just as men who stalk their wives after being told they want a divorce often kill them, my wife couldn’t bear the thought of me being happy without her. She didn’t kill me because she wanted me to suffer, so she killed someone I loved—just as some men kill their children, then themselves, to make their surviving spouse suffer.

As I sat there, listening to Tony’s story over the phone, I shook my head in horror and disbelief at the similarities to my own. After 27 years of marriage, he too found himself, not in a sexual affair, but deeply in love with another woman. And like my wife, his decided life wasn’t worth living. With her two children in the house, she retrieved a gun from the safe, locked the bathroom door and took her own life.

“I still can’t forgive myself,” Tony told me. “If I had known, I would have stayed married. We weren’t in love, but destroying her life, my kids’ life because I wasn’t happy, just wasn’t worth it.”

He may as well have been speaking my own thoughts aloud—the thoughts that have haunted me since the day Jennair killed herself and my girlfriend. I would have stayed, had I known. My happiness, my relationship with another woman wasn’t worth the cost.

I’m not saying that someone needs to stay in a broken relationship, but I’ve learned that there is a right and a wrong way to end it.

I’ve said it in front of millions and I will say it again and again until I die. “We all have a responsibility to take care of the ones we love, but especially for the ones we hurt, to make sure that they’re okay.”

And that is why this blog post if for those readers who have reached out to me, or read my blog posts, and thought that they can relate to my story because they have considered infidelity or have already crossed that line. Here is what I want to tell you. If you’re currently having an affair or if you’re ever tempted to start a romantic relationship with someone while still married or and/or committed to someone else, STOP. Don’t do it. Think about it. Is it really worth it? Are you truly escaping your unhappiness or are you just taking it with you to another relationship? Are they the problem, or are you? Or are you both? More importantly, are you willing to destroy someone else’s life, your own and countless others to find out?

Let my experience spare you from a tragedy of your own. While it is unlikely that you will find yourself with a story just like mine, there are countless other stories that have ended tragically because the relationship was brought to an end the wrong way. Do it the right way. With honesty. With respect. And with faithfulness to your past, to your wedding vows, and to the heart of the spouse you once cherished. Stay married while you are still married.

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9 thoughts on “A Heavy Price”

  1. Mark,
    Thank you for sharing your blog. After conversations and hearing your truth I can’t imagine going through something like this. My husband and I made our choice to make our marriage work, along with reconnecting again as we once were. I wish nothing but the best for you and will always be here for you. I miss Jennair everyday and always will. She was my girl back in the day. I continue to pray for her peace and I continue to pray that one day you can forgive yourself. Talk soon friend.

  2. Thank you for this post – it’s the biggest question I wanted answered —how would you have handled things differently if you could go back in time.

    I agree that if you can take the emotion out (which is easier said than done) and take time, communicate, go to counseling, whatever … to determine if you really want to leave the marriage…and then if you still believe divorce is the only option, talk to your spouse and get the divorce. Don’t cross the line emotionally or physically w/the other person beforehand (whilst y’all married) as it could have a permanent affect to your (former) spouse and/or children. I can speak from experience my stepdads affair (that I discovered/confronted him on at age 20) still affects me and I’m 50 years old.

    And it also gives you a clearer head for future relationships, should you chose one.

  3. Mark, I watched 20/20 and I emphasized for you and your losses….I have been in 3 relationships where the other person was wonderful at first but slowly became more controlling and it took a toll on me mentally….I felt I was losing myself and trapped….I imagine when you went to Delaware alone just that made you feel alive again and I believe people’s lives cross when two people are going through the same thing and almost create a support system for each other….people want to term things as an affair but I don’t see it that way…. you met a truly good friend with Meredith and she made you happy and you did that for her….you nor her were out looking for anything but you both were so unhappy and nobody cared about that….but I think what drew you to each other was that you both understand that and were trying to do the right things by everyone….the road goes both ways in a marriage and it was just as much Jennair’s responsibility to make you happy as it was for you but it sounds like she was happy because of you but she wasn’t doing her end of the deal….mental illness is something to be addressed but if the person doesn’t get it for themselves then there is nothing you can do….it is like an addict….if they won’t help themselves the other person has no choice but to get out….god the best you could do with the knowledge you had and you can’t take this tragedy as your fault….you cannot control other people and the ones that think they can are the ones that will bring upon themselves heartache….I pray for you that you can find your way past this….I think the most heartbreaking thing is that the wife that was supposed to love you didn’t want you to ever be happy….Is that really love???? No….real love is you want the other person to be truly happy with or without you.

  4. What she did was horrible and it was not your fault. It looks like she couldn’t bare to live alone – without the love of her life – you – someone she grew up together and had loved for her entire life.

    The horrible event was not your fault. You have to forgive the past. Take care

  5. Mark, reading your blog has been incredible painful for me, in fact I had to stop reading. My husband did the same thing to me as you did to Jennair. The only thing you need to add is three kids.

    He left me because I was not fun anymore and he fell deeply in love and couldn’t fight it anymore. He forgot to add that he had failed as a provider and a husband but thought it was fair to leave me and the kids and tens of thousands of HIS debt for a co worker 14 yrs younger.

    Jennair’s anxiety of a future alone and financially damaged is something I live with everyday. Only the thoughts of my children drove the crazy thoughts of revenge out of my mind.

    The lies and cheating still hurt me everyday and it has been years. After what he and his mistress did to me and our children I can really understand how Jennair texted you “I hope you never find happiness “.

    Listening to the tapes of you and Meredith making plans for the future or the sounds of you having sex with Meredith had to be debilitating.

    I saw a Twitter post by Meredith

    Couldn’t be more excited…,” Just a week on the job and I’m already feeling the love from #NovaNation.

    My husband’s mistress would post like this…in a situation where you know other people’s lives are being destroyed by her actions and people are in horrible pain she feels the need to “spike the football” as my father refers. InJennair’s eyes that post read “I took your husband and there is nothing you can do.. I’m young and beautiful and you are old and ugly’

    Jennair did the wrong thing, but she was not wrong about her life being destroyed. Her future was years of fixing the mess you and her made together.

    My saving grace is my children who often thank me for my dedication to them… I am blessed

    Good luck Mark, the more you honor Jennair and forgive her the better you will be.

    Leslie T

  6. Mark, I can only say thank you so much for again sharing so much. It is so true. I wish after all I’ve been through someone could have said it all to me many years ago….I think about it everyday. Sharing so much of this devastating path you are on and the awakening and moving forward to help others is amazing. I have a long path ahead but feel I may just get one step ahead of the pain and sadness and start forgiving myself and loving myself again… again I thank you so much for all you do!

  7. Came upon your blog, this is the first blog post I’ve read so far. I saw you on 20/20 and I can’t get your story out of my head so I went looking and found this. I’m so torn, I feel that each of you were the victim and each of you are to blame as well. I am curious, you say what not to do, when ending things with a spouse, but what do you feel is the correct way to end? Also how do you think your wife would have handled things if you didn’t have an affair, do you think you guys could have stayed friends or at least that she would’ve get differently?

    1. First and foremost, think hard about whether you actually want to end the relationship and that it’s for the right reasons. As I’ve said previously, in hindsight, I wish I had stayed in the marriage. There were good times and bad times, and I was controlled in many ways. But it wasn’t unbearable. I wish I had stood up for myself, demanded changes and tried harder to make it work. But if you have to end a relationship, do it as kindly and respectfully as possible, making sure the other person is okay and gets the help they need, either from you, from friends or mental health professionals if necessary. I wish I had put my relationship with Meredith on hold and tried to work on my marriage, and ultimately, if we decided it couldn’t be fixed, ended it with integrity, knowing that we tried everything. That said, to answer your last question, if Meredith hadn’t came into my life and I had tried to end our marriage, based on Jennair’s final letter, I think she would have still taken her own life. And mine.

  8. Mark, I totally agree things should have happened differently but I have a very strong opinion on the borderline personality disorder that you address in the next post. Your marriage could’ve ended tragically whether you cheated or not. So you do really have to stop blaming yourself. Ending a marriage in the “right” way may have set your wife off just as much as ending it this way. Borderline personality disorder can be very dangerous, especially if the person has always needed that control and has an extreme fear of being left – the definition of BPD. She simply did not want you to be happy without her- a sign of a VERY controlling person. A BIG clue is that she did not want you to have friends or be close to your family! So even if you ended the marriage in a more proper way, she knew that you would go on to meet someone- that would be normal . She could’ve killed herself and you also. Because just the thought of you meeting someone could set her off. Yes that would’ve saved Meredith but that would’ve not necessarily saved anyone else. As a reader mentioned, Jennair chose not to help herself and that is very common among personality disorders. Sadly, they are not very treatable anyway. As hard as it is for me to say, sometimes I think the only option is for the spouse to leave. Maybe one day more time and effort will be put into treating this disorder! Thank you for the post!

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