When it comes to matters of the heart, it’s not always as clear as black and white. A lot of what happens remains in the elusive grey area. Here is one such story of a Singaporean mum.
Until today, I don’t know if what I did was right. It doesn’t seem explicitly wrong, but it seems to have crossed the line of what’s acceptable.
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Ben is my colleague, I’ve known him from the day I first started work. I was already married to Kevin then.
About three years into my job, I started getting close to Ben. I cannot for the life of me remember how and when it started. What started as breakfast eventually led to us having breakfast, lunch and random coffee sessions between our otherwise busy days.
We talked. A lot. We talked about everything under the sun. Politics, feminism, economics, sex, sports, you name it. I was fascinated by Ben’s intellect. He seemed so knowledgeable.
I loved how Ben challenged my opinions and ignited the spark of knowledge in me. I never realised how 15-minute-breakfast breaks became hour-long sessions. I never realised how even when Ben and I were surrounded by other colleagues, we were lost in our own world of conversation.
Somewhere along the way, the conversations became more personal. Ben told me many things about himself. Over time, I knew everything about Ben – his food preferences, his special way of holding a fork and so on. And Ben knew all my little idiosyncrasies.
I never realised when we started completing each other’s sentences. I never realised when I started knowing what Ben was doing at any time of the day. I never realised when we progressed from communicating in the office to sending each other messages over Whatsapp.
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I never realised when Ben’s messages were the last thing I saw before I fell asleep and the first thing I saw when I woke up.
Kevin? He was there. We had a daughter who was mostly taken care of by his parents. We lived together albeit in our own worlds.
We did fight every now and then but I wouldn’t exactly describe our marriage as turbulent. He spent most of his time watching tv or using his handphone. I spent most of my time trying to get him to spend time with me.
Probably the only thing that was still going strong was our sex life. Sometimes I felt like we were housemates or friends with benefits. I felt as if we were merely using each other to fulfil our needs.
Our conversations were never deep and exciting. It was a lot of him talking about himself, his job and his accomplishments. It was a lot of him telling me that there was a pile of laundry that I had yet to fold.
Not that I was losing it for him though. I loved him, more than anything in the world. But it takes two to tango and while I had no doubts that he loved me, he made close to no effort to showing me his love.
And there was Ben. Ben would notice when I was wearing a new dress, when I did my eyebrows, when I trimmed my hair – none of which Kevin ever noticed.
I started spending time with Ben outside the office. We would go for dinner or drinks occasionally. It started with us going out as a group. But everyone ceased to exist, for we were always lost in our own world filled with us teasing each other and making inside jokes.
I never realised when group outings became just him and me.
There were subtle signs that things were heading elsewhere. Like how comfortably his arm would be around my chair and how I was always seated next to him. And how we turned up as a pair for every party or dinner that our common friends invited us to.
Kevin was never free to accompany me. Kevin never noticed that my attention was elsewhere. Maybe I was out of his hair and that was all he ever wanted. Maybe he was too busy working. Or maybe, just maybe, he trusted me too much to even think my attention was with another man.
Then one night everything hit me so hard. Kevin told me he had to co-host a company dinner and dance with a female colleague.
“I know how angry this will make you but I’m telling you because I love you and I don’t want to hide anything from you. But I promise you that you’re the best thing that ever happened to me, and you have nothing to worry about.”
Just the thought of it made me so angry and jealous. I sulked about it for the next two days. Then suddenly I woke up. Tears of guilt and anger streamed down my face. I was mad at myself.
It hit me hard that the reason Kevin was in the dark about all the time I had been spending with Ben was because he never checked on me. Not because he didn’t care, but because he trusted me.
And what had I been doing? Spending all my time with another man. It struck me that if Kevin had done the same, I would be nothing short of devastated. I was ashamed of myself. I decided to set things right.
I started avoiding outings with Ben. Even in the office, I avoided eating alone with him. Eventually, Ben got the message. Maybe my distance made him realise that we had gotten too close.
Ben and I are still friends today. We do go out at times, but only in the company of other friends. We don’t text each other unnecessarily. I think it was a silent and mutual understanding.
I came clean with Kevin. It almost tore our marriage apart but he found it within himself to forgive me.
I am sharing this story to tell you that cheating isn’t always what we think it is. It’s not only about wine and candlelight dinners. It doesn’t always involve sex.
My relationship with Ben was purely platonic. It was innocent and there was absolutely nothing physical about it. However, that deep emotional and intellectual connection that we shared – it’s more dangerous than anything else. It could have torn my family apart.
Even it if didn’t, it’s not right. Even if no one knows, I know, deep within me, that it isn’t acceptable. In a marriage, there is no place for this much of interaction with someone of the opposite sex.
It’s easy for me to justify my actions by blaming Kevin. Yes, Kevin isn’t perfect. Marriages are never perfect. But filling the void with another man’s presence is not the right solution.
I’ve learnt to accept Kevin’s flaws. I’ve worked on understanding him better and managing my expectations. I thought about it long and hard and decided that although he was withdrawn, he was a good person and I loved him with all my heart.
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After working around his flaws, I find that our relationship has improved tremendously. So maybe while I was busy keeping track of all that he didn’t do, I overlooked what I could do better.
I am currently expecting our second child. He still spends most of his time watching tv and with his phone. I still spend most of my time trying to get his attention.
But I lay my head on his chest as he watches TV. While I listen to the rhythm of his heart beating, somehow he puts his phone away, or switches off the television, runs his fingers through my hair and reminds me of why I fell head over heels for him in the first place.
I wish to remind women who are in a similar situation that it’s easy for sparks to fly with someone outside the home. Marriages can get stagnant and boring at times and it’s the couple’s responsibility to change that.
Someone who doesn’t smell your morning breath, who sees you only when you dress up, who doesn’t have to pay the bills and co-parent with you, will always seem a little more exciting. Don’t confuse these fleeting thrills with the stability of marriage. It’s never worth it.
Instead of letting your heart go astray, try with every bit of what you have to save your marriage. Most of the time it’s well worth the effort.
** Names have been changed to protect the identity of the mum in this story.
If you are in a similar situation and feel like you need counselling, please click this link:
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