Hilary Jacobs, 50, thought she’d married the love of her life. The school psychologist was living her dream with two beautiful children and her perfect home in Claremont, CA. But her life changed at 2 am on Thanksgiving morning, 2021, two months before her 12th anniversary.
Here’s the story: “We were camping with another family; the mother was a co-worker and had acted as my friend,” Hilary shares. “But a couple of hours after we’d gone to bed, there was a knock on the door from the woman’s husband. He wanted me to know that his wife and my husband were ‘engaged in something inappropriate’ on the campsite outside of the trailers. I went out to explore; my husband ran into the woods. My kids were awake by now, and they were hysterical because they thought that their dad had been hurt by the mistress’ husband. This was as traumatic as it was a revelation. Devastated to find he was having an affair, the kids and I drove home.”
Here’s what happened next: When Hilary finally spoke with her husband, he confessed that the affair had been going on for the last six months. “That’s when he told me that he didn’t want to be married to me any longer. He believed he had a future with his mistress, and while he seemed remorseful to have hurt the kids and perhaps me, he was also giddy. This was his out. I filed for divorce 18 days later (chai), which was finalized on July 19, 2022.”
In retrospect: Hilary can see signs that what she believed was her ideal life wasn’t quite hitting the mark. “I was a child of divorce, and I didn’t want my kids living my past. I thought my marriage was good enough. My dream was to be married with children living in the suburbs on a cul-de-sac with a great career, community, and loving friend group. Most of the time it felt like enough, and I felt lucky to have it. I got married at 37, had my son at 39, and my daughter at 41. I was a statistical outlier to have my children at this age, and I believed that I was lucky enough. But now, I wish I had ended the marriage sooner.”
Hilary explains what happened in the following year:
- Once I quickly filed for divorce, I set up a parenting and financial plan within days, and that still continues.
- I became psychiatrically unstable, had a bipolar episode, and was on medical leave from my job for 4 months.
- I bled my emotions all over the place, sharing my dramatic story to anyone who would listen — including in mass text messages and too many posts on TikTok, and I still can’t stop talking about what happened to anyone that will listen.
- I lost 35 pounds and look amazing! I lost weight by not being able to eat much for a few months. I feel good about my appearance for the first time since having kids.
- I started therapy and am on some good pharmaceuticals.
- I got my kids’ mental health support.
- I adopted a great dog!
- I connected with long-lost friends.
- I wrote a 40-page divorce proposal in a week (thanks to anxiety and perhaps hypomania). My attorney said it was like the 10 commandments, but better.
- I’ve managed my home on my own. I turned a bedroom in my house into a quasi-ADU that I rent and helps me pay the mortgage.
- I kept myself busy. I never sat home crying, curled up in a ball. Of course, nothing is wrong with that; it was just not my path.
- I began building my new life, finding my true best self.
- I made a promise to keep getting as psychologically healthy the best I could.
Hilary shares that she feels a sense of hope for the first time in a long time. “I got rid of the one corner of my life that sucked. It is still hard. But I am released from the things my husband brought me down, including his antisocial behavior, never saying anything nice to me despite me doing everything, binge drinking and saying hurtful things — and perhaps the worst, regularly embarrassing me. I am now free to enjoy all the great things in my life. I am my authentic self, warts and all.”
How is Hilary’s ex-husband doing? “I honestly don’t really know,” she admits. “His mistress returned to her husband — and not surprisingly, my x-husband blamed me. He does see our kids two weekends a month and has them 2-3 nights a week, but not overnight due to him going to work at 6 am. He is in therapy and says he is enjoying it. I’m pretty sure he is dating. He got an apartment nearby, which is good for the kids. He complains about finances and having to shuttle the kids to their activities during his parenting time. For the most part, he co-parents well. I think he is happier. I still do everything for the kids; he is not very competent in getting things done. For my own mental health, I handed him our divorce on a silver platter; he just had to agree. Overall, I think he is probably doing fine.”
As for her kids: Hilary says they are up and down about the situation. “The divorce exacerbated the difficulties they had before, including the ADHD that my son has. He has become very angry at times and, unfortunately, has rejected going to therapy. My daughter had signs of anxiety before the divorce, which has worsened. However, with an amazing therapist (her second) and some meds, she is doing much better. But my relationship with them is oddly stronger. As my son would say, only the three of us understand what happened. My daughter says that Thanksgiving morning is tattooed on her brain. I know this will be one of their strongest childhood memories, and boy, that stabs me in the heart.”
Hilary says she doesn’t know if she wants to marry again. “In an idealized fantasy, I would find a spouse and marriage that is everything my ex-spouse and our marriage was not. I’d like to think I would be in a marriage where I felt as strong as I feel now. I know now: Good enough is definitely not.”
What lessons from this entire experience have you learned and would like to share with others?
- As bitter as life can be, G-d is so much sweeter.
- Happy life, not a wife.
- Reverse funeral.
- People want to help you.
- Sharing your story brings people in; it doesn’t scare people away.
- You can live your best life. It is never too late.
The double-edged sword of social media: Hilary says she also found solace on the social media video site TikTok. “Hearing that people got out of bad relationships gave me hope. Watching their journeys also showed me how well I was doing.”
That’s when she took to creating her own videos on TikTok. “Unfortunately, I was in so much pain that many of my videos were super inappropriate, raw, and embarrassing,” explains Hilary, noting that she took those down after getting reprimanded by her employer. “Eventually, when I got past that super raw phase, I didn’t want those posts out there — although I do have them saved on another phone!” Find Hilary’s TikTok videos here: @thisolmmomm