'After An Affair, Keeping Our Marriage Meant Working It Out Everyday': A Mum's Confession
"My husband suggested that we try for separation and start seeing other people, and once even mentioned that maybe we should stay but try the concept of an open marriage: where we were openly fine with each other meeting new people and having relationships with them."
Extramarital affairs are considered one of life’s more painful experiences. The betrayal can often come as a blindsiding shock and one that often changes your perspective on life for good.
According to statistics, although the perpetrators of affairs are both husbands and wives, it is more common for us to hear the story of the man cheating on a relationship and damaging the family unit.
However today, we at theAsianparent talk to one woman whose identity has been withheld at her request for privacy, on the harrowing experience of the affair she had. She recounts a timeline of her experiences and gives us insight into what could be going on in the minds of someone involved in having an affair.
He started out as a friend
“He started out being a friend of a friend’s. I met him on Facebook, in the comments section as we were arguing about a topic of interest to the both of us. He added me up and we were soon we reacting to each other’s posts on the regular. At the time my husband did know of his existence as a friend of mine,” she says.
“We had an awesome rapport right from the start and in many ways, he was like a perfect match: same preferences in just about everything, similar views. The chemistry was apparent from that very first conversation, but at the start, it was strictly only friendship,” she adds.
The mother of a five-year-old boy confides that she had just miscarried the year before and was slowly picking up the pieces of her life when the affair occurred.
“I had one older son who was five years old at the time, and I miscarried a daughter at 5 months the year before. It was a baby that I was looking forward to and a pregnancy I enjoyed with all my heart. After the loss, I could not relate to any of my friends. I felt that they were on totally different planes. It was antagonising every time we would meet because they would show off those extra babies on their arms like arm-candy and it would irk me thoroughly. I stopped going out with them, I stopped taking their calls,” she says, adding that despite these were not her friends’ intentions this was how she saw it.
“I wanted new friends. So when this guy came along, I thought ‘perfect!’ I had never had a male friend as close before and I thought I could make it work. I never in my wildest dreams imagined it would lead to something else because up until then I was a mother and a wife who followed ‘the norm’. My life revolved around my child and my house and my married life,” she notes.
“During those first few conversations, my husband and child featured strongly throughout. He knew I was married and had a family and I would give him daily updates of my life. But slowly, I started only talking of my son, and avoided mentioning my husband and our ten-year marriage in my daily stories and chats with him, until I slowly began to drop my husband completely out of the conversations,” she says.
Soon the conversations that were mostly witty and sparky debates on matters of interest, developed flirtatious connotations to it and had to be deleted so her husband would not see and get suspicious about. “My husband has a more conservative style of speech so I thought he would get upset at some of the messages that were being exchanged as we were really open with each other, so I started deleting entire threads of conversations,” she says.
In hindsight, she notes that this was probably a way of priming herself to go to the next level, which was to develop romantic feelings for her friend, though at the time she says that she was truly unaware of where the relationship was heading and that she only wanted to be friends, and that too the best of friends.
Extramarital affairs: Can a married woman and a single man be best of friends?
But can a man and a woman really truly be just best of friends? It is something that experts have debated on for years.
“I wouldn’t say that all friendships lead to something dangerous. But for me – considering my circumstances and considering my life experiences and what I was looking for and what I was lacking in my life when he came along – yes. It was all leading to a dangerous fall. It was only a matter of time,” she notes.
She notes that initially what she really wanted to be companionship. She wanted someone to connect with, and someone whom she could relate with.
“My husband and I didn’t talk much and we were on totally different wavelengths. We haven’t connected much for years before this and he was focused only on his work. I could be in extreme pain on the side and he wouldn’t notice,” she says.
Recounting her side of the story, she notes that expressing his love and showing he cared was something her husband did not do.
“I don’t want to sound like I’m harping on small things, but my birthday was never celebrated, anniversaries were not cared for. I can count the number of times my husband just touched my face, like for no reason at all. There was no tenderness in our relationship and I was really craving for it,” she notes.
“My husband never held my hand, in public or in private. Random hugs and kisses never happened. The only touch I experienced was during sex. And there was a lot of it, but it was not very satisfactory at all. I just wanted to feel.. loved I guess. Feel human almost,” she notes.
However, these were not a cause of concern to her until her affair.
“Frankly, I did not even feel this was a problem, and I did not even know what I was missing or lacking until this guy came along and opened up a whole new world for me. Although I deeply regret the affair and everything that happened, I am thankful in a way to him for showing me that it feels like to be loved. I do not know for certain if it was indeed true love, but I would like to think so. I am sorry for what happened but I am thankful for being able to feel special even if it was only for a short time,” she says.
“For years I was just living my life as a married woman and I was slowly losing my spark without even knowing it, and suddenly this guy comes along and tells me things I did not believe in myself anymore. He was first and foremost a very good friend. And he was very kind to me, and I had not been receiving those things for a very long time prior to him coming into my life,” she adds.
She said it is not that whatever happened (or did not happen) between her and her husband was reason enough to have an affair, but she chooses to see what came out of the affair as something that helped her in her marriage afterwards.
The unravelling of the affair: Dealing with the aftermath
Speaking on the unravelling of her affair, the 32-year-old mum reckons that she likes to think that she would have eventually confided in her husband, but that he found out by accident one day.
“I had forgotten to delete a message. But when he found out he was livid. And rightly so. He was so, so angry and told me he was going to take my child away from me and file for divorce. That was the first time I realized the gravity of what I had done,” she says.
The very real threat of losing her son was beyond painful for her, and she further notes that she did not want to “break the family apart.”
“I did love my husband – he is also the father of my child and we shared some important things together,” she says.
She decided to give it her all to make the marriage work and to rectify what she had done.
“Fast forward to almost four years later now, and it took a good three years for things to finally normalise and fall into place. There is still the odd day when the incident would be brought up, but it has reduced so much in frequency,” she notes.
The first thing she did was to sever ties and bonds with her affair partner, and vow and uphold the promise of never communicating with him ever again.
“As painful as it was, I was the perpetrator of a betrayal. I had done something unforgivable and it was only right for me to feel the pain, a fraction of the hurt I had caused my family,” she notes.
Then came the long and arduous process of fixing the pieces of her marriage back together.
“I wanted to fix what I ruined, but also make it better because it was not a good relationship pre-affair, to begin with,” she notes.
“We went to a few marriage counsellors but nothing helped. He is not the sort to ever open and talk about anything so I quickly understood the only help I would be getting with my relationship problems came from within me. I was the only one who could fix this,” she adds.
“I stayed quiet mostly so he could vent his anger out, and I listened a lot. I spoke when he wanted me too and I gave him details about everything: What I said, what I did, where I went. The affair I had was mostly emotional, it was not sexual, but I did meet him outside a couple of times. And I gave my husband all the details he wanted until one day he stopped asking,” she says.
As a couple, their initial reaction was to turn to God and look to religion for answers, and while that helped that did not last very wrong.
“My husband suggested that we try for separation and start seeing other people, and once even mentioned that maybe we should stay but try the concept of an open marriage: where we were openly fine with each other meeting new people and having relationships with them,” she says.
But soon, all suggestions fizzled out together with his anger.
“After An Affair, Keeping Our Marriage Meant Working It Out Everyday”
However, how does one start to fix something that may seem beyond the point of repair, after such an upheaval?
“I guess what I really truly did was just wait out the storm. Just wait, without reacting, bearing in mind that I was the one to blame here so I needed to just be the anchor here and let everything fizzle out. And it did, thankfully,” she says.
“I needed to hold vigil for my relationship. For a very long time, it felt like I was just was waiting for forgiveness while remaining repentant and trying to work on my marriage. It seemed to me that I had to be patient for a very long time, years in fact, but I am glad I did. I know that seems like a very anti-climatic answer but that’s exactly what I did. I waited – a lot,” she says.
However, while waiting she notes that the affair had finally jolted her husband into communicating better with her. They were now speaking without barriers between the two of them as they had already been through a very sordid experience and they felt there was nothing further to hide.
The added levels of communication were useful in binding the broken relationship and they remain to this day married.
“Thankfully, in my case, I was able to iron out (most) of the problems and I am still married to my husband. Are we happy? Yes, thankfully, 4 years later we are finally happy most of the time. Of course, we are not totally happy all the time and I don’t think anyone is, but we try our best. I am trying my best,” she says.
Advice to women in similar situations
While talking it out, praying, and waiting patiently for time to heal things as time often does, she notes that she also started working on herself and her perspective of life in general.
“Meanwhile, I kept listening to a lot of TedTalks and lectures on extramarital affairs, and on the mentality of cheating and how it happened and I heard something very interesting that was like a revelation to me,” she notes.
Here was a woman who had been a devout and faithful wife for over a decade and had done right by her family. “I was a good mother, I had been a model wife prior to this. Why did I do something like this?” she questions.
She shares that on one of the numerous lectures that she listened on the science of cheating, one relationship expert pointed out that sometimes people cheat not because they are turning away from their partner, but because they are turning away from the person that they had become. It isn’t as much as looking for another person but looking for another “self,” needing to feel alive again.
“I had big ideas for my future growing up, and I had not achieved them. I was a shadow of the person I was, and I was nothing like who I thought I would be even ten years earlier,” she says.
“I started to find happiness in my life myself and stopped depending on my husband to provide it for me. I took classes, started learning new skills, met people more often, reconnected with safe friends,” she notes, adding that getting the love from her spouse should be merely a bonus as one should find happiness in one’s self first before expecting it from others.
Asked what advice she would give to women in similar situations such as hers she says: “Don’t do it. Don’t enter into close relationships with the other sex when you’re married, even if it starts out as strong friendship. Unless it is a mutual friend, and the friend is present in your everyday life in clear sight to your husband and is not a secret, don’t do it. If you think you have to keep this relationship a secret from your spouse, best friends, and family, it is not a relationship you should be having,” she says.
Cheating, in her opinion, is anything that requires you to build emotional walls with your spouse. “Choosing to confide in and trust, and find joy and happiness primarily in someone else outside your marriage can directly lead to cheating: avoid that at all costs,” she says.
“It is never okay to cheat. If you are being abused (physically or mentally), leave the relationship rather than cheat. Cheating opens up a whole new can of worms, one that will change not only your husband’s life but also yours drastically,” she adds.