Monday, November 8, 2010

True Story: I Cheated on My Husband

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/amazing/challenging things. This is the story of Jo, her marriage and her affair. I imagine that many readers have strong feelings about marriage and fidelity. I really appreciate Jo's candor and her willingness to do this non-anonynmous interview. We're going to keep the comments respectful, right?

Could you tell us a bit about your romantic/relationship history? Were your parents happily married?
The short answer here is : no. My parents divorced when I was 3 and have both been married 3 times to very different people with very different family dynamics resulting each time. From a young age I wanted to fully experience another person, build something, expand one another’s lives. And I did - with some boyfriends it was sexual growth, or emotional growth, or it was intellectual, but I was never able to connect on multiple levels with one person.

Tell us about the man you married.

A complicating and important part of this story is my health. I went undiagnosed with Celiac disease from ages 12 - 28 and it was extremely debilitating most of the time. I was having a particularly difficult time in college, and it was about a year in that I met and began my relationship with my husband. He was older than I and extremely intelligent, responsible, and self assured. He wanted to be a support to me and I found his presence very comforting.

How long had you been married when you began to have the affair? Were you actively unhappy in your marriage?
About a year into our relationship I started really focusing on getting well. I didn’t want to curtail my life anymore. I wanted to be healthy and able to be myself, and I thought my husband would embrace this. But he seemed threatened by it and became very judgmental. I think he liked our reserved life (which felt very restricted to me) and didn’t want it to change. I continued trying to include him. So I wouldn’t say I was wildly happy but I wasn’t unhappy - I figured we were just working through some things and I hoped he would come around.

Could you tell us about the man you had the affair with? How did you meat him? How was he different from your husband? Did he know you were married?
I met him while still in college, we were in a photography class together. I remember so clearly the day I met him, he walked into the room and I felt this wave of energy. I had never seen him before but somehow I recognized him…I just knew he was supposed to be in my life. He was talented, funny, and engaging. He encouraged my photography and I think I did some of my best work during that time. We became inseparable but nothing physical happened at first. He knew I was married but we didn’t talk about it. I hoped this intense love I felt for him would dissipate but it never did. I felt guilty about my feelings but overwhelmed by them at the same time.

We were working together in the darkroom one night and he was playing one of his CDs while we worked. A blues song was playing and the man sang “ if you can find love don’t trade it for silver, don’t trade it for gold” and at that moment we looked at each other. We just stood there staring at each other, and I knew in my gut that I couldn’t walk away from him. He walked over to me and I kissed him. The wave of chemistry was incredible, I didn’t feel sick or tired anymore, I felt alive. 

How did you rationalize the affair in your mind?
I knew that having an affair was wrong. I felt sneaky and dishonest and I wanted to end my marriage immediately. But I would doubt myself and hesitate. I didn’t want my husband to be hurt, I at least didn’t want it to be anymore painful than it had to be. Every moment I spent with my husband in my “regular life” felt like a farce, like I was cheating on the person I really loved.

What did the affair give you that your marriage didn't?
Everything. My marriage was based on me being sick and my husband being in control of our life together. It sounds simplistic but that is the point it got to - I would try to reason with him and he would shut me out or be derisive. I was hurt but also confused - I was trying to improve my life and I wanted him to be apart of it. For instance, his dismissal of my dreams of going to Africa or focusing on my photography hurt me deeply. I felt ashamed and then resentful. It was almost polar opposite of what I experienced in my affair.

How did you keep it from your husband?

My husband was always very involved in his work and that hadn’t changed. He had said he would deal with me again when I was done trying to be someone I wasn’t. At this point we were just going through the motions. I was still very careful and discrete. I didn't like the sneaking around, it made me so uncomfortable.

How did this end?
Three months into my affair I left my husband. I got my own place and was finally able to be open about my new relationship. I never missed my ex-husband, or my old life. My health was certainly not perfect but it was improving. And I was finally free to be myself without a constant judge and jury, that alone was an amazing change. However, I wanted to be incorporated into my boyfriend’s life in ways that I hadn’t been before; and that was difficult for him. He said he had trouble trusting that he was anything other than a fling to me, and he held me at arm’s length to avoid the possibility of getting hurt.

Now that I’ve known him for years I can see that this is an issue for him. No matter how hard I tried to show him how much he meant to me he just couldn't let this guard down. I had never felt so misunderstood, and I wondered if he was even capable of loving me the way I loved him. Over the next year we had some amazing times but we were also always testing each other. Looking back, we agree that if we had met in a different way things could have worked out. That doesn't change the fact that we were pivotal in each other's lives - we stayed dear friends - and so we know the connection is real.

Great loves come in many forms, ours didn’t end the way I thought it would, but that doesn’t take away from its import. The unavoidable truth is that I am a better person for having loved him and I’m honored to say he feels the same way about me.

What advice would you give to someone who is unhappy in their marriage and considering an affair?
It can be such a difficult and complex situation but here are some truths I took away from my experience….
1) Have an affair with yourself first. This doesn’t mean be self-obsessed, it means you deserve your own love and respect as much as anyone else in your life. That way you will find out who you are and what you want. If I had committed to being well enough to be myself in the first place I may never had been married at all.
2) I believe this with ever fiber of my being: you can control your actions, but you cannot control who you love.
3) Be brave - sometimes you just need to jump. If you are in a relationship and “the one” walks into your life be willing to cut ties and pursue it outright. My affair was my hesitation to set my old life on fire and begin anew. I knew what I wanted that night in the darkroom - I should have acted then.

True love doesn’t happen everyday. This isn’t to say that we all only have one great love - because I don’t think that’s true- but if you know in your gut you are meant to be with someone be willing to soul search honestly, and end one story before you begin another.

Have you ever cheated on a partner? Any (respectful!) questions for Jo?

22 comments

  1. "You can control your actions, but you cannot control who you love."

    I agree with this wholeheartedly. :)

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  2. I can identify with your boyfriend's feelings of mistrust. I once had a relationship with a man who cheated on his long-time girlfriend to be with me. We had a serious attraction off and on for a few years (and I'd say it still comes and goes even though we see each other very infrequently) but his infidelity to her was the main reason I never pursued anything more with him.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing this. This sounds a lot like my story. This just recently happened to me.

    I am married but my husband was living in England and I was living here in US waiting for my visa. We had met and been married overseas in South Korea where we were English teachers. In Korea we were isolated and depended on each other for all the support and companionship we needed.

    At the end of this summer I went to my high school reunion. There I met an old acquaintance. We talked all night. I felt an amazing connection I had never felt with anyone before. He lived 2 hours away though so we talked online here and there but didn't see each other (just as friends).

    Fast forward to about five days before I was supposed to leave for England...the guy I met at the reunion said he was coming to town and I happened to be having a going away party.

    That night I ended up being unfaithful to my husband, but shared the same feelings as Jo. After that point I still felt a duty to go to my husband and give my marriage a chance.

    I saw the other guy one more time, I thought it would be the last. That night I couldn't sleep...I realized what I had to do. I had to leave my husband. I felt maybe true love did exist...and it would never be with the man I married.

    I don't know what's going to happen between me and the new guy, I need to take it slow, but I feel so much better for reading this article. Thank you.

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  4. OH MY DAYS! I cant believe this came up today in my reader!!!

    I need to talk to Jo :(

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  5. Reading this makes me sad. With all due respect, it's a sad time when the sanctity and importance of marriage is tossed aside. I think more people need to think before marriage about the life long promises that are being made.

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  6. My soon-to-be ex-husband and I have had quite the tumultuous relationship encompassing a couple separations and reconciliations. Two weeks into the last reconciliation he engaged in an affair. I found out about it after two months. We agreed to "try" with minimal success.

    Fast-forward six months... I encounter my first love online. Two weeks later I asked my husband to leave. I was not willing to engage in an affair and I knew he and I would never be successful long term.

    Now? I am with my first love... and have never been happier.

    Thank you, so much, for your honesty Jo. Good luck to all who find themselves in that situation.

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  8. Jo, you write so clearly and poetically, it makes me jump for joy despite the topic. Whenever someone goes through something life-altering, takes the time to self-reflect on the situation, and then is generous and humbled enough to share with the rest of us, I feel like the world (women especially) is closer to finding peace with imperfection. And marriage is far from perfect, no matter how much I adore my husband! Thank you for keeping us focused on what's important: loving ourselves so we can love and be loved.

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  9. I have lived the past five years a life I never thought I would. Having an affair did not end my marriage, my marriage had been over and broken before the affair began. And I agree 100%, you need to love you before you can love anyone else. When I asked for the divorce, I left for me, not another man. Officially divorced, I never once thought I made a mistake. It's sad and I never thought I would ever cheat on someone. Most importantly, you must love yourself and take care of your children. Some of us stay for our children but when you think about it,they are living a life thinking a marriage is loveless and strained. Thanks for sharing your story...

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  10. Thank you for sharing, Jo. I saw your comment about marriage being a spiritual union, and it got me thinking. I have to agree that that is exactly what marriage is, though I suppose I mean the phrase in a different way. I've been married for over six years now. In the grand scheme of things, that's not long at all, but by God's grace and through Jesus' love for each other, I pray that we both hold to our vows for a lifetime. The only path I know to a happy marriage is with God's help. I wish you the best and thanks again for giving us all the opportunity to take a closer look at our relationships by sharing your story.

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  11. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I really appreciated it.

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  12. I too have Celiac disease and I have nothing but the deepest sympathy for Jo and what she went through, particularly the feeling of being judged and disregarded when you feel like you are finally discovering and becoming who you were really meant to be....!

    Thank you for sharing your story.

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  13. Just 2 months before my husband and I were to get married. I had a fling. It was completely stupid and unlike me. I truly believe it was something that was done out of stress or something. I obviously was not thinking clearly. After it happened I was so depressed I did not eat for three days... I was weak and did not know what to do. I talked it over with a couple of friends (TRUE CLOSE ones) and decided that WAS NOT ME. Not who I was at all. I was/am not ever going to tell my husband. I love him to death. He is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. It is nice to share my story every once in a while, even as Anon. I love my husband. I am glad that he and I are together. Cheating was not me. Not something I wanted to do. The adolescent me did it with out thinking.

    Though, the guilt still haunts me. I love my husband. And nothing is changing that. I would never do something like that ever again. I am happy with my husband.

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  15. After reading most of these stories, i realize that most of you are just selfish and very low self esteemed! Infidelity is just a word to describe someone who Does not know what real love is and what it means to be married. Marriage is sacred and real. True love is two souls with one heartbeat,two heads with one mind, two heads with four eyes with one one VISION which is each other and no one else. I am a single man with a Godly ambition. My mission on earth is to find my EVE and live happily ever after. There is no such thing as an unfaithful spouse, only a person who is confused about where to receive real love if not at home. If a husband/wife won't give it at home, that forces them to go out and find it somewhere else. A woman only wants to be loved just like a man does. Use the same energy and connection that you felt for each other at the time you first met to the time that you got married and it can electrify your life! Cheating in my life is very hard to do because I choose to love the person that I'm with and only that person. If it isn't meant to last, then let them go before committing adultery or etc... Thy shall not commit adultery, if you break that commandment, then turn and spit in GOD'S face because that is what you are doing anyway! Pray for Mr/Mrs. Right and GOD will deliver them! Cherish every moment like its your last and your marriage/relationship will make it to the high peak, that I promise.

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    1. yes, only God can will be my judge

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  16. As Plato said 3,000 years ago, True Love is a choice.

    What I see in your article is someone who has only experienced Eros and a bit of Philos love. Plato divided love into 3 sections, and 3,000 years of research have proven this correct. Platos 3 levels of love:

    1) Eros - This is "chemical" love. And, as Plato said, it is not real love. It is what happens when someone walks into your life with the right set of pheromones, the right visual stimulation, and so on and so forth. When this combination hits at the right time in your life, your body will release chemicals into your body that give you a sense of euphoria. But, this will not last. Research shows that as your body acclimatizes, it stops releasing these chemicals. The typical time it takes to acclimatize is 6 months to 2 years. This is why the typical affair only lasts that time period. This "type" of love is not something you really control. And, it is the only love that is not controlled. It is often called puppy love, the honeymoon period, and so on... but, it is not love. It is a chemical reaction. This is also what usually causes physical and emotional affairs to happen. And, learning to recognize it can cause you r life to be much happier.

    2) Philos - This is called "the love of needs". That is because they meet your needs (usually emotional), you feel an attachment to the person. This is the highest level of love most people experience these days. This love is developed by meeting the persons "love language" (read The Five Love Languages), and by filling their personal emotional needs (read "Affair-Proof Your Marriage"). In nature it is believed that the "Eros" part of love was to tide people over till they had firmly established themselves in "Philos" love. Today media though has made many young people believe that the chemical love ("Eros") is the greater love... Often leading one to loneliness. Philos love though is that comfortable love. It is the love you grow old with, because they complete you and you complete them. When people say "they just grew apart", what it really means is that one person did not feel like their needs were being met, and instead of seeking couples counseling, they seek divorce.

    3) Agape: With the exception of the love of a parent for a child, this love only occurs by making a conscious choice to love someone because of, and in spite of everything. This is the love that lasts. If you ask any couple that has been happily married for 50+ years how they did it, they will tell you "They made a choice". Many of these couples were on the brink of divorce many times. Many almost had, or even had affairs. But, across the board they will all tell you: "they made a choice". Ie. you do control the ultimate form of love. The ultimate form of love only comes when you make a choice. And, the proof is out there.

    A recent study is 2011 showed that arranged marriages in Asia actually had a statistically lower level of abuse, divorce, and a significantly higher happiness level than Western society. And, a fundamental discovery in all of this was that children in Eastern society have learned from a young age the simple rules that Plato taught, and that we seem to have forgotten. True Love is a choice.

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    1. Very insightful. I wish more people would realize this. There would be much less hurt in the world.

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  17. I have been married almost 13 years, and up until this week had not been unfaithful. My marriage, I thought, was reasonably happy. We did not fight often, and we are good friends. We enjoy parenting our 2 young girls ages 10 and 8. Then I met my daughter's guitar teacher. For the first few months, I did not notice him. But one day he was here, we brushed by each other, and I felt some type of electricity. That night, I dreamed about him all night and woke in a sweat. Initially, I dismissed it and did nothing. The next time I saw him, I knew I had to try to reach out to him in some way. We starting texting and it soon turned into full on flirting. Within a week, we were in bed together.

    I started really evaluating my marriage. I now realize that I have been surviving and I have had moments where I felt deeply unhappy because he is very negative and moody most of the time. Our sex life has been lackluster, since the first several years he had very low interest, and then eventually I lost interest as well. He does not have a lot of energy and tends to procrastinate and watch a lot of T.V. I am very athletically active and people oriented, and very positive. Suddenly I realized that our marriage was on very thin ice, and that I had not been attracted to him in several years. I have tried to re-ignite my libido, and took responsibility that maybe it was my hormones or just the mundaneness of being together so long. But my efforts to inject some spark into our relationship have been mostly met with resistance by him.

    The man I have met is attractive on so many levels. I know it's early, but I feel like I have a lot of life experience and relationships to contrast against. He is very open and communicative, loving and sweet. He is a phenomenal and passionate lover. He is extremely intelligent and interesting, great sense of humor, and we share a love of music and other things. He is physically healthy and active. Our values appear to be similar and we are both outside our comfort zone in having an affair. I felt immediately that we were friends and had a similar, comfortable vibe. He is also married but was already further down the road in potentially dissolving his relationship. So there is potential there. We are both going to visit our therapists this week. He is self aware and exploratory, which is extremely attractive.

    So now, I'm trying to figure out what to do. I feel like I owe my husband the chance to save our marriage, but I am pretty certain it's too late. I tried for years unsuccessfully to reignite my feelings for him without someone else in the picture and now the attraction to this new man may have been the final nail in the coffin of our relationship.

    Now I'm trying to figure out my exit strategy. My goal is to do everything possible to minimize my husband's pain and children's pain, but I know that is probably unrealistic.

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    1. I do not know what to say to the ladies on here but I would like you to think of what is not missing but what you might destroy. My wife aft 12 years and 4 children decided to have an affair. She thought I did not care for her and basically fell out of love with me. So much to the point that in her journals she wished I would die she she could have her lover. She said she wanted a divorce and all she wanted was this other man. She poured out her love to him in a massive email. It was too much for him to leave his wife and decided to cut it off. She then told me everything. I have been devastated ever since and she is begging me to not leave or divorce her. I have forgiven her but the pain is real. The consistent images of her and him haunt me daily. She did not know how much I really loved her until she saw how I changed in not only as a person but also a man. My confidence is shattered. I have been lost ever since! But if you feel that your husband does not love you.....think again before you destroy him and your life. I want to die everyday. If not for my kids, I would be dead. You would most likely regret all of this later on as my wife has found out. She is willing to have the pieces of me that are left. Though not much is there anymore. She wants the "old me" back. But he is dead. She has come to terms that he is dead and she killed him. I was changed instantly. So if you wish to make the biggest mistake ever, i am letting you know what it is like. Knowing that your spouse wants another man is the worst feeling in the world. I live it daily knowing she wanted another man. Talk to your husband. My wife did not know how much I loved her until I broke down crying what I read. She said her heart melted because mine was burned. I do not understand it but she is doing everything possible to help me. Nothing works. Leaving your spouse for another because of an affair is not the answer. many of you probably think "I just had an affair....I guess there is no turning back because there is much I am missing" is a lie and you need to explore this with your spouse first. Remember if he was great at first and then changed, what makes you think a current lover will not later. Please keep in mind what you are about to destroy.

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