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Photo Finish

The Proof of My Husband's Betrayal Was In the Photos

I remember the exact moment I knew that my husband did not love me and never would.

The proof was in a packet of photos I had just picked up from CVS. Getting back the thick envelopes, I remember the eagerness and excitement I felt to see my two year old’s beautiful face shining with joy as she blew out the candles, opened her presents and ate her cake.

There were at least 60 photographs inside. Bubbe, Zayde (Grandma and Grandpa in Yiddish), Isabella, Ariella, my husband, .... but me? A sliver of a shoulder... a hand on a child’s arm, fingers cutting a cake, a nose kissing a cheek touched with frosting.... these were the images my husband chose to collect of me in the photos of our family journey -- slivers, corners, never all of me. I kept shuffling through the pack, not believing this was it, but it was. I checked the index to make sure nothing had been lost. Not one single picture of “just” me, not even one with my daughter.

What was I to him? I was the hand that cut the cake, the kiss on the cheeks, the arms wrapped around the family. But to Jim: me, I, Kim, did not exist. He did not want to see me in “his” photo album of life. He could not see me and unfortunately, I was disappearing, ghosting away until I was some sort of iconic mother-wife without a name. He had imprinted his life on me, but mine was evaporating.

It was not only the loss of love that hit me in that moment, it was the loss of a love affair and a loss of self... realizing what we had was not what I thought I had. Talk about a wake up call. Hey, your husband doesn’t love you, he never did, he never will, he doesn’t even SEE you. You don’t exist.

My spirits sunk and never got back up.

I remembered earlier moments like this. We were looking at our neighbor’s honeymoon pictures from five years earlier and seeing the many, many pictures her husband had taken of her. One stuck out; a dewey, just out of bed look, with so much love in her liquid brown eyes as she gazed at her husband through the lens.

I was jealous. I had no such photo after seven years of marriage, and I knew, in that moment, I never would. There were no such shots of just me, no requested poses -- no desire to capture me or my love on my film. I was not being seen.

It doesn’t only happen on honeymoons. If you look through the album of any real love affair, marriage or not, you will find that moment. I found one recently of our next door neighbors from our summer home in the alps. She is laughing, he is looking at her with “that look,” the look of love.... they are in their 50s, maybe 60s... how long has that been going on I wonder?

Sitting outside CVS in my car, I realized what I had known since those honeymoon photographs, but had denied all these years: that if I wanted that kind of love, to be loved like that, I would have to leave the marriage. To feel loved like that, to have that dreamy, floaty feeling and to share it with your lover, that is the pinnacle of all things feminine and sensual.

After my divorce, one of the first things I did was hire a top, national photographer to take beautiful, very feminine pictures of me. I wasn’t at my lowest weight, wasn’t tan, and i didn’t have time to find really great outfits, but that wasn’t the point. I needed to have my own photo album, one that featured: me. I wanted proof, to show some day, that I existed. It was time to re-route the journey a bit.

I got them back today and can’t stop looking at them... I feel like my soul exploded and out came me, who had been hiding all these years in the corner of a photo, out of the slivers, and corners, and shadows, into the light.

Comments

Susan_Breeden says,

Lovely essay. I can truly relate. I'm glad you've found yourself again!

MicheleC says,

I've been there...hope you've found what you've been looking for!
With love and guts,
MicheleC

Lauren_S says,

Wow. I think I just had my own moment through your moment. No joke. Beautifully written. I hope I can get through it as gracefully as you did.

GraceT12 says,

I love this piece! So candid and nuanced and brave.

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