I was devastated when my hubby of 30 years left me for another woman. But I never expected his betrayal to lead me to new love.
By Deborah Parker, 52, from Stoke-On-Trent
I grinned as I clicked ‘confirm’ on the holiday booking website. That was our annual holiday to Mallorca sorted, and my husband Tony, 55, and I couldn’t wait. After 34 years together, 30 years of marriage and four children, we worked hard and always looked forward to getting away.
Tony and I had married in November 1983 after being in a relationship for four years. This was closely followed by the birth of our children – David, now 28, Mark, 27, Katie, 25 and Jack, 23.
We were a good team – Tony was kind and charming, and was the kind of husband you could depend on. We always worked hard to support each other throughout our marriage, and when the kids grew up and flew the nest, we enjoyed spending time together as a couple again. We were living the good life.
But in September 2012, when we climbed aboard the plane for our favourite sunny Spanish island, I couldn’t help but feel that Tony wasn’t as excited for the holiday as I was. Maybe it’s work-related stress, I thought. Never mind, a good fortnight in the sun will sort him out.
But during the holiday, Tony seemed distant and was glued to his mobile phone – he took it everywhere with him. And when I suggested we go out on day trips, he insisted on taking lengthy naps instead.
Soon, we were spending hardly any time together. At our evening meals he just ate his food quickly and made his excuses to go back to the hotel room.
‘What’s going on? Is everything alright?’ I asked concerned, but Tony just shrugged.
‘I just feel tired love,’ he replied. ‘Been working too hard lately, it must have caught up with me.’
But when we arrived at home, his odd behaviour continued, and he refused to talk to me about it. I hoped that it was just a phase, but I couldn’t shake off the niggling fear that something was wrong.
I worked as a senior carer at a retirement home and Tony worked with me as a carer every other Wednesday. One day in the following month, Tony rushed into the home, walked straight past me and went into my boss’ office and shut the door.
After a few minutes, he rushed out, looking flushed, and completely avoided my stare.
My boss came out of her office, and looked at me in confusion.
‘Tony’s just quit,’ she said as I stared back at her in shock.
Before he had a chance to get in his car, I rushed outside to speak to him.
‘Tony? What’s going on? Talk to me,’ I begged.
‘I’ll talk to you tomorrow,’ he replied, and left.
My head was spinning. Why on earth had he cut his hours without talking it through with me? I knew that something was seriously wrong, so I immediately called him. After a few attempts, he picked up the call.
‘Please talk to me,’ I repeated. ‘I’m really worried about you – what’s happening?’
His response was cold. ‘I’m leaving you. I don’t love you anymore and I haven’t for a long time.’
I was stunned into silence, and the ground felt like it was crumbling beneath me. Tony was my best friend – my husband and the father of my children. We’d spent over three decades together. This couldn’t be happening.
I went home, where Tony was waiting for me, and he quietly offered to leave. But I knew I couldn’t afford to keep our home on my own, so I said I should be the one to go.
As I packed my clothes into a bag, tears streamed down my face.
‘Please Tony,’ I begged. ‘Please can we work it out? I still love you. I don’t understand what I’ve done wrong.’
But Tony was unmoved by my tears, and simply shook his head. He couldn’t even look me in the eye.
‘Is there someone else?’ I asked, but Tony shook his head again.
Sobbing, I drove to our daughter Katie’s house where I stayed, evaluating my life and trying to figure out how to exist without Tony.
Despite how cold he was being towards me, I hoped that he would change his mind. But days turned into weeks and I realised it was a futile dream.
Then just a couple of months later, in November that year, things got worse. I discovered through a mutual friend that Tony had moved Dawn, his work colleague, into our marital home. How could he?
It occurred to me that she must have been the other woman all along. I knew of her as Tony would often drop her name into casual conversations about work – but we weren’t friends. The worse thing was, Tony refused to speak to me about his new fling.
So night after night, I drowned my sorrows and cried on Katie’s shoulder.
‘You can’t carry on like this Mum,’ she said. ‘You have to move on.’
But it wasn’t easy – I regularly poured my heart out to my friends and family on Facebook, seeking comfort for the pain.
‘I am devastated,’ I wrote, and to my surprise a message immediately appeared in my inbox from a woman I didn’t recognise.
‘My father-in-law, Alan, is devastated too,’ she wrote.
I asked who Alan was, and she explained that he was Dawn’s ex-husband – she’d left him for Tony.
She asked if she could pass on my details and within days Alan got in touch. He was as heartbroken as I was. He had four children with Dawn, who had been his childhood sweetheart. He felt as though he had lost 24 years of his life.
‘Can we meet for a chat?’ he asked. ‘I’d really like to speak to somebody who understands all of this.’
Tentatively, I agreed – what harm could it do? Alan and I met in a restaurant, but neither of us ate a thing.
Unsurprisingly, we were a shoulder to cry on for each other.
‘I’m really glad I met you,’ Alan smiled at me, and for the first time in ages, I felt myself smiling back at him.
We were the only ones who really knew what each other had gone through and as we started to help each other through the betrayal, we grew close.
Over time, we began meeting up more regularly and in December, Alan asked me to house share with him – purely for financial reasons – and I accepted.
I was struggling to cope on my own and I knew I couldn’t stay at Katie’s house forever. I found myself at ease with Alan straight away, and it wasn’t long before sparks began to fly.
Then one night Alan invited me out for dinner. ‘A proper date?’ he asked nervously, and I readily accepted. That night, I felt butterflies in my stomach for the first time in years.
A strong bond was forming between Alan and I. The betrayal only strengthened our relationship and we got on like a house on fire. The first time he kissed me, it felt completely natural, and I realised I was falling in love again.
By the end of December, we announced our relationship to our friends and family. Obviously it was a shock for my children, and for Alan and Dawn’s – but the majority of people were happy for us.
But when Tony heard about my relationship with Alan he was angry. Hypocrite. But I don’t care, Alan makes me happy.
I’m awaiting my divorce from Tony but Alan has since divorced Dawn, and we don’t speak to either of them unless we absolutely have to. We are both happier than we have felt in years.
Losing Tony, my husband of three decades, was the hardest thing I’ve ever faced. But I don’t regret it, it led me to Alan – my true love.
Tony says: “I’m happier than I was before. I don’t wish to get involved in this – my private life is my business. She can discuss it with whoever she wants.”
Dawn says: “We were happy from day one, as soon as we got together. I’m much happier with Tony than I ever was with Alan. Deborah and Alan were pushed together because she had nowhere to live. Tony left her for me because she was nothing but an alcoholic. We expected Deborah to get together with Alan as they were talking to each other and she had nowhere to live. I don’t give a shit. She can go with him because he’s sad just like her. Me and Tony are getting married next year.”
Alan says: “I was devastated when Dawn left me. I thought that I would never love again, but Deborah is the best thing that ever happened to me.”