As told to Carolyn Tate
When my husband and I took our twin five-year-old sons away to the beach last Christmas, I had no idea that would be the last thing we did as a family.
The day after we arrived home, my husband told me he was unhappy and that he was leaving.
I never saw it coming.
I've always thought women who say that mustn't have been paying attention, but now that it's happened to me, I understand how it happens.
It's not that we were blissfully happy. We'd had our ups and downs, and our sex life had dried up after the boys were born, but I thought we were just getting on with our married-parenting life.
I'd suggested we see a sex therapist the year before to try to introduce some intimacy back into our marriage, and my husband had happily agreed. It made a difference for a while but then we drifted back into old habits.
We were comfortable. We weren't setting the world alight, but we were a team and we could rely on each other.
So I thought.
The day my husband walked out turned my world upside down.
Unravelling the lie
Distant friends came forward and told me they'd seen him out with another woman, but they hadn't known what to say. (My answer, in case you find yourself in that situation: Say anything, but please say something.)
And inspection of old bank records told me he'd been on Tinder for over a year — paying for the premium membership so he could hide his profile from the public.
What I learned was that my husband was a lying cheat, and that he hadn't been in our marriage for a long time.
What I learned about myself
My husband had always been the "lead parent" in our house. When there was disciplining to be done, he did it. When there were major decisions to be made, he made them.
I was passive, always believing he knew what he was doing and I didn't. I grew up in a dysfunctional home with a single, alcoholic parent and I was always worried I'd make bad decisions for our boys. I used to avoid being alone with them because I was worried I was a boring mum.
But when my husband walked out, he didn't take the boys for about a month while he found a place to live. That left me alone with them more than I'd ever been, and I was terrified I'd mess it up.
I spent time with my boys and learned how to trust my own judgment. I was cautious at first, but I soon enjoyed the autonomy that came with parenting on my own.
I realised my husband had been gaslighting me the whole time, suggesting my background had affected my ability to be a good mum.
As time went on, I became more confident and enjoyed taking my kids out and about. My husband had always been a homebody and I love socialising, so I became more spontaneous, visiting friends and taking the boys to festivals or the beach on the weekends.
I also learned to take care of all the things my husband used to do — putting petrol in the car, taking out the bins, changing light bulbs. I realised none of them are hard at all. And I felt fantastic that for the first time in my life I was standing on my own two feet.
My husband has now found himself an apartment, and we share the kids 50-50, which works well for me. I have a great time with my kids and then in my time off, I am exploring all the things I'd like to do for me. I swim, paint, do yoga and go out with friends.
I've recently started dating again too, which I'm enjoying immensely, although I have no plans of giving up my new-found independence any time soon.
A second chance
I still question my judgment sometimes but I've grown as a parent and as a woman, and I'm taking it day by day. I look back on my marriage now and realise how numb we'd both become and, although I'll never thank my husband for what he did, I'm glad I'm exploring this new chapter of my life.
I'm a better mother, I'm happier than I've ever been and my kids are secure and loved. I would never have ended our marriage, but I'm glad it happened because it allowed me to start again.