What do I have in common with Sandra Bullock, Elin Nordegren and Anne Hathaway? All four of us were duped by our significant others, completely unaware of their “secret lives”. When I learned of Michael’s emotional and financial deception, I felt like biggest chump in the world. I was angry at him and furious at myself for being so naïve and gullible.

Talk about a bad day. Five years ago, I ended my relationship with my fiancé, kicking him out of my New York City Upper West Side one-bedroom apartment, after realizing (finally!) that his relationship with cocaine would always take precedence over the one he had with me. We were two dueling mistresses caught in an emotional, hard-fought battle for his affection and devotion. Eventually, the powerful, tantalizing white powder proved victorious.

I trudged down to the lobby eyeing the rows of communal mailboxes, eyes puffy, nose red, tresses tangled. I looked – and felt – as though I had been through a war. I could finally bid adieu to the ominous cloud that had hovered over me the past year. My bruised ego would eventually mend after several rounds of happy hours with my girls, shopping sprees, Hershey kisses and grueling runs in Central Park.

After hearing the key’s faint click, I jammed my tanned, polished hand inside the tiny metal cube. I sifted through the stack while waiting for the elevator to take me to my 12th floor sanctuary, 800 square feet of precious Manhattan real estate boasting a tranquilizing view of the Hudson River. Among my weekly mainstays – a J. Crew catalog, Val-Pak coupons and People magazine – sat a thick stack of foreign envelopes. Thanks to their generous point system, American Express was my sole credit card of choice. There was no reason for MasterCard, Visa and Discover to send me “Statement Enclosed”-branded mail.

I hastened my pace and burst through my apartment door, a premonition of unwanted, unwelcome news lurking inside those white rectangular time bombs. Hands trembling, I haphazardly sliced each one open with a ballpoint pen, their jagged edges a visual reminder of my frayed heart.

“The statements – pages upon pages of alien purchases – reflected countless cash withdrawals, gambling website fees, airline tickets, and much more. I pieced it all together within seconds; not only had Michael opened up multiple cards in my name, but had charged his work travel expenses to me while pocketing the reimbursement checks.

And there it was – a $25,000 transaction to Diva Diamonds. It was official. I had bought my own engagement ring.”

I looked down at the four-carat Asscher-cut sparkler, wishing it – and the mound of calculations– would vanish. I fought the urge to hurl my new dishes at the wall, but resisted since damaging the apartment would only result in charges which I now couldn’t afford. Instead, I pummeled my fist on the (Susan-purchased) cherry wood table, forcing my 10-pound Maltese to seek refuge under the bed. My aching hand temporarily distracted me from the misery and torment I felt everywhere else.

Check back tomorrow for part 2! Feel free to ask Susan any questions in the comments!


Susan Gernhart writes about her journey to regain her credit and peace of mind after surrendering to the fact that her fiance’s struggle with drugs would never take a back seat to their relationship.  But that’s not all, read her story to find out.  This is part 1.


Originally published on Oct 5, 2010.  Updated July 31, 2014

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