This is my most difficult post to write. It is the most personal and the most vulnerable topic for me. It's also where I made the most mistakes and where I hope to help other couples avoid the trap that I fell into. I hope to turn what the enemy meant for evil in my life into something good by starting the healing in so many hurting couples out there. Please read the following post as a cautionary tail for your own life.
We hear rumours sometimes about someone cheating on their spouse. Occasionally, an affair will tear apart a family. I have known families in shambles because of an unfaithful husband. I have had friends brokenhearted over cheating boyfriends. I used to hear these stories and be so angry. I would wonder how someone could betray their partner in that way. When an affair happens in a marriage, even when it's suspected, it tends to polarise people's opinions of the couple. One spouse appears pitiable and blameless and the other, the one that acted out, becomes a villain. I used to feel this same way. That is, until I found myself on the brink of my own affair.
Now I get it. I understand the desperation, loneliness and powerlessness that drives someone into the arms of another. I realise that affairs aren't what tear apart a family. That fabric was ripping before the affair began. The indiscretion is simply the final thread that makes it all fall apart. I see now that cheating is a symptom of an already broken and bleeding marriage. As someone who came very close to an affair myself I want to shed some light on why they happen.
When I speak of an affair I mean being physically intimate with someone other than my husband. If I were speaking emotionally then I would have to admit that, yes, I did cheat on my husband. I was emotionally intimate with someone other than my spouse. Even when I speak of physical intimacy I am not completely innocent. Though I never had intercourse with this other man I feel that's just arguing over semantics. We did speak to one another sexually and I did allow him to see my body. I'm not trying to let myself off the hook by minimising what I have done. Nor am I trying to gain approval for "restraining" myself from going all the way. If circumstances had have been only slightly different I truly believe I would have left my husband. Now, when I hear of a couple split apart by an affair, I think, "there go I, but for the grace of God." And I know it to be true. I am also not trying to excuse my actions. I know what I did was wrong and it is a regret that will be with me my entire life. The effects of this "almost affair" will be lasting.
It all started so innocently. I think they all do. I was introduced to this guy. He was a friend of a friend and we spent time together as a group. I would run into him once in a while and we would chat. He was friendly, kind, interesting and he had some very determined opinions about some things. We would have debates about things like politics, racism, sexism and religion. He was (I guess I should say is, it's not like he died) a Christian guy and I found it intellectually stimulating to chat with him. At the point we met I was only working part time and mostly home with my oldest child so I didn't feel I was getting a whole lot of adult input. I started to talk with him more and more. He was a good listener. He would even let me call him late when I was up with a crying baby and he would keep me company when I was up all night... while my husband slept. Slowly I started to feel more supported by this other man than my husband.
I had been frustrated with my married life for a while before this other guy came into the picture. My husband and I had troubles in the bedroom from the beginning. None of that was created by this new friendship but this new man then became someone I could talk to about my problems. He was my confidant, my shoulder to cry on. One day he said, "you shouldn't be here talking with me. You should be giving your husband a good time." His alluding to sex, at a point where we were experiencing almost a sexless marriage, was a breaking point for me.
Most often in a relationship it is the husband that has the affair. I believe this is in part due to them being, most often, the ones with the higher libido. That doesn't mean that I think having a higher sex drive makes you weak willed and powerless and I'm not telling women that if they don't give in enough it's their fault if they get cheated on. There is a lot more to it than that. So much has to do with feeling valued, wanted, desired and appreciated. It's about power and appreciation. I would even argue that when most affairs begin they aren't really about sex at all.
Let me explain. When you have the higher libido in the relationship (for my relationship that's me) it can be a somewhat powerless feeling. Your partner has you at a disadvantage since not being intimate doesn't have as great an effect on them. They have the power to deny you your wants and needs. You may laugh at my use of the word need in that sentence. I think there are many people out there that don't think of intimacy as a need in marriage. They think of it as something base and unnecessary. They can even think that it is a virtue to deny themselves those "carnal desires" and that sex is sinful. My calling it a need may not just seem laughable to you, it might seem downright wrong. To that I would say that I do not believe that sex is sinful. Outside of a marriage, yes, but in the context of marriage, where it was created for, it is anything but. It was designed to foster and build intimacy and bonding in a marriage. If you disagree with this assessment then I would encourage you to email me. I have some material I would point you to that would explain why I say what I do. I would also encourage you to read the Song of Songs, a story of love, longing and desire. To address the idea of a physical need for sex, I believe there is one. Men will experience wet dreams if they haven't ejaculated in more than a few days. Their bodies will release extra built up sperm whether they like it or not. As a woman with a high libido I would even go so far as to say that I have a need for intimacy as well. If I haven't had sex in a while I start to experience strange sex dreams, I have trouble sleeping, I'm easily distracted, it become harder to focus on anything for to long and I can't stop thinking about sex. This doesn't mean having an affair is justified though. I used masturbation a lot to pacify that need and I believe that there are many, many marriages where that happens. I even thought it was a good thing. I figured if I was taking care of my desires myself then I wouldn't have to rely on my spouse for them. I wouldn't feel like a duty, or a chore. I wouldn't have to keep asking and being turned down. I thought I could get some of the "power" back.
My husband held all the power in our relationship. I felt like a pawn to his whims. It wasn't just the physical desire portion that had me powerless, it was that I felt unnecessary. I wasn't desired, I wasn't needed, I wasn't valued, or appreciated. I was a roommate and I was miserable. My self esteem was plummeting. After all, how disgusting must I be if men are supposed to want it all the time and my husband wanted nothing to do with me? Enter, other man.
My heart was breaking at this point and I would have done anything to just feel wanted, valued or even just to be accepted. Then this other man tells me I should be "giving my husband a good time." That was it! I believe my response was something like, "Yeah right. He doesn't even want it." This, of course, brought out a lot of curious questions from this friend, after all, men are supposed to think about sex constantly, right? I had had enough and it all came pouring out. I told him about our troubles in the bedroom and my frustrations. I told him about how I was feeling. I told him all the hurts my husband had heaped on me and I cried. This man listened to me, he was attentive and caring and he gave me advice. He explained to me what might be going on in a man's head and he instructed me on the best ways to approach the situation. He wasn't a predator waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting an vulnerable woman. He legitimately cared for me and wanted to help me make my marriage right.
As time when on, nothing really helped my relationship with my husband and the other man and I remained friends for a few years. We talked a lot and my husband knew about him. I'm not sure if he knew how dangerous this friendship was or if he would have even cared at that point if it was dangerous but he never had any issue with my friendship with this man. Still nothing really changed in my relationship with my husband. How could it when there was someone else saying and doing all the "right" things to compare my husband to. He would always come up short. I continued to talk with the other man and gradually.... I don't think there is any other way for me to put this, I fell in love with him. It was such a complicated relationship as you can understand. In one sentence he would be telling me how beautiful I was and how much he wanted me and in the next he would tell me what I could try to improve my marriage.
This man had his own demons and his own struggles but he was rational enough to know that a relationship between the two of us wouldn't have been workable or right. However, he didn't have kids and he wasn't attached. If I hadn't been already married when I had met him I believe we would have had our very own tumultuous and rocky love story but I was married and he recognised the sinfulness of a relationship between us. He knew it wouldn't have been right and he knew he wouldn't have been right for me. However, that didn't make us want to be with one another any less. We started speaking to each other sexually. When I was feeling so broken down, undesirable, unattractive and unlovable it was so good to hear someone say I was beautiful and wanted. I felt like I was being seen for the first time. Then it would break my heart over an over again when he would say the words I so longed to hear from my husband.
We tried to break contact between us. He would tell me we needed to stop and it would last for a few weeks, tops. I would say I needed to stop and I would run back to him the very next time I was hurt or needed a boost. He was like an addiction. I would get my fix from him to feel high for just a few moments then come crashing back down to the reality of my broken marriage. Then my husband found out. I had left my email open by mistake and even though I had deleted the messages the other man had sent to me I hadn't realised they were stored in my sent mail. When I returned to the computer later the file was opened and I KNEW my husband had read all the inappropriate things we had said. He had also read some hurtful things I had said about him. Fear gripped me at that point. I expected him to rage at me. I thought he might even throw me out. I figured that was the end of my marriage. Then he said nothing. My husband didn't even mention it to me. He carried on like nothing had changed for days and didn't confront me at all.
I couldn't understand it. In fact I was someone hurt and disappointed by his lack of reaction. Part of me wanted him to be angry and fight with me because at least then it would have meant that he cared. It would have showed some type of passion and willingness to fight for me. When he didn't acknowledge that anything had happened I didn't know what to do. A few days after the incident I wrote him a letter. I poured out my heart to him explaining what was going on with me, why I was hurt and what I was feeling. I asked him many questions too. I wanted to know what he wanted, why he was reacting how he was, how he thought we could move forward and I begged his forgiveness.
I think part of the reason why my husband didn't get angry with me and why he was willing to forgive was because he recognised some of the reasoning behind my actions and he felt responsible for how I was feeling about myself. He also knew that our relationship had intimacy issues that preexisted the friendship with this other man. I think he internalised a lot of that. He also knew I was lonely and as such he didn't feel he had the right to take away the closest friend I had at the time. He knew that would only make me resent him if he forced me to break ties with this man even though the relationship was inappropriate. I respect him deeply for that and I am grateful for his trust and forgiveness (that I didn't deserve).
At that point I had another conversation with the other man. We both decided it was better that we didn't see each other any longer, we said our goodbyes and he told me he loved me one last time. That was around two years ago.
I know some of you won't understand why I would stay with a husband I had so many troubles with, when I was so unhappy and give up a relationship that made me feel accepted, appreciated, desired and loved. There were times when I didn't understand it either. I loved that man too. Part of me always will. There was a time that I deeply loved my husband though. I loved him enough to marry him. I loved him enough to have children with him. Just because I fell in love with someone else doesn't mean that new trumps old! Every relationship eventually has problems. I wouldn't have just run off with him and had a happily ever after, fairy tail life. Plus, leaving someone doesn't erase the issues. You still have to deal with them even if you aren't together. I knew my best chance, and my kids best chance, at a good life was to work things out with my husband and CREATE the kind of marriage we wanted. Once I said goodbye to the distraction that was magnifying my dissatisfaction with the relationship I was in we were able to move forward in fixing the brokenness that existed for us.
We began working to create more and better love between us. We went to therapy together, my husband saw her on his own to work out some of his issues that predated me and I began to purposely work on fixing my own self esteem (something I will talk about later).
So I've seen the road that is taken that draws someone away from their marriage. I understand the anatomy of an affair. It is true that happy people don't cheat and I know the danger that comes from a relationship with someone of the opposite sex, even if it is totally innocent to start with.
It was a different kind of heartbreak to cut ties with the other man of my life. A part of me does still miss that relationship and that friendship we had. I still wonder how he is doing and hope that he has found his own happiness. Sometimes I miss the way he made me feel about myself but I am getting better at teaching my husband how to help me feel that way too.
I don't know how many relationships stray as far away from each other as my husband and I did and come back from it. I have no idea how many partners would be as forgiving of their spouses immense indiscretions. My prayer, with this entire blog, is that I will be able to give others the tools to avoid getting to the point my marriage did. I hope that you can see the caution in my tail enough to heed it. Please, be careful about who you speak to and how about the issues in your relationship. I don't want you to experience the pain and heartache that we did. The best way to avoid that is to takes steps to fix the problems you have before they grow too big. Don't multiply your problems by bringing someone else between you. This is the reason I caution you not to talk to someone of the opposite sex about the problems in your marriage. It's a dangerous road to take and one that I have seen destroy a few marriages.
Lastly, if you were the partner that has been cheated on, I hope you are able to see some of the reasoning and issues that would have drawn your partner towards that. Please, do not think that I am in any way blaming you either if you were the one cheated on. No one forces someone to have an affair. We made our own choices, though they were poor ones but I do pray that you are able to understand things a little better from your partners perspective and possibly forgive them too. I would like to give you hope, that with forgiveness you will be able to overcome, even so great a betrayal as an affair. My husband and I have been able to grow to love one another again. Our relationship is improving steadily and we now have much better communication and intimacy. We are happily healing and falling in love again.
I believe you can too.