So, I am a single man in love with a married woman. On the surface, it seems like EVERYTHING in my relationship is going my way. We are closer than ever. We have gotten past some very dangerous landmines. We are communicating constantly. We see each other 4-5 times per week (sometimes more) for a few hours each time. Our physical relationship is hotter than ever. Our emotional connectedness is at an all time high and gets stronger by the day. My affair partner has begun individual counseling to try to find some clarity regarding our situation. She has already told me that when she thinks about the future, she is thinking about me/us and not him. She has told me that she would rather be with me than him. She has told me that she knows her real happiness can only be achieved with me. She accepts that her marriage is nothing more than a good friendship and always has been. She’s felt “trapped” there for years. He’s a good dude. Boring, bland, passionless, but good. And she’s struggling with how she can walk in and just destroy his world. She knows her family (and his) will be devastated and very disappointed in her. She acknowledges that she’s lived a majority of her life trying to make other people happy and “do the right thing” and never put her own happiness first. My belief (confirmed by her words) is that she is going to counseling to try to figure out how to navigate the end of a relationship she’s been in for half of her life.
So, what’s my problem??
Well, it would appear that I have run out the string on being in a secondary relationship. I knew early on that I am not cut out for being in an affair. The secrets, the hiding, the lying, the denial, the stolen moments, becoming someone whose behavior does not match one’s self-image or presumed values… in general, the cognitive dissonance an affair requires. I can’t keep it going. I am meant to be open and honest. I am meant to celebrate my love; not hide it away.
So much in the moment is wonderful and happy and the momentum has definitely swung mightily in my direction. And yet I find myself “sweating the small stuff.” For instance, leaving her at night knowing she will be in his bed. Knowing the distance between her shower and her clothes/closet and that there is no privacy. And knowing that she is trying to keep everything the same so he doesn’t suspect anything which means his All Access Pass is still active. Granted, she told me a month ago that there had been no desire or intimate activity since she met me. But I am afraid to ask if that holds true. Besides, it’s the simple things that get me. The most mundane details of daily existence are the threads that bind us. He’s got them and I don’t. He’s the one who goes to the grocery store with her. He’s the one driving her to do her shopping and then carrying her bags while she shops. He’s the one whose opinion she solicits regarding how that shirt or those jeans look on her. He’s still the one who hears that familiar intimacy in her voice when she’s talking about the details of daily life. That magic fiber that binds us together. Add to the fact that new years eve found them in NYC for the ball drop; another one of her “bucket list” experiences that she, yet again, ticked off with him. Granted, they were with several of our mutual friends. And she promised that there was no midnight kiss. But, I was miserable just the same. I missed something else that she will remember for the rest of her life.
The secrets, the hiding, the lying, the denial, the stolen moments, becoming someone whose behavior does not match one’s self-image or presumed values…
We’ve discussed “taking a break” after January (which will still give us time to experience some things we already had planned). We’ve talked about what that looks like (no contact or just greatly reduced contact?) but made no decisions. Ostensibly it is to give her time to tend to the details of unraveling her current long-term relationship. That’s no easy task. But, in truth, it’s for me as much as it is her. I can’t take the torture. And it is, indeed, torture. Self-torture. She does everything right. She tries to protect me as much as she can. It’s my own mind and imagination that assails me. I need to let go and try to quiet my mind. I need to fill that space with something else.
Yes, the tide has turned and I feel like it’s a matter of time before EVERYTHING changes. And yet I still feel my skin crawling every time I think of the little things. And I don’t know how to stop it. And I don’t know how much longer I can take it. And I want it all to be worked out… yesterday.
I’ve read through most of the comments. It actually amuses me a bit to see such certainty and judgment from some of the commenters who have no idea about the details of my situation. YOUR blanket doesn’t cover me. Like Robert Browning’s “The Last Duchess,” the narrative reveals more about the speaker than the “duchess.” Your filters reveal your experiences and biases but have nothing to do with me and my situation.
A few weeks after this story was posted, we took a trip out of town for a week together. The day we came back home, she told her husband about us and asked him to move to his parents’ house. That week, she told her family. As expected, she got little support or understanding. She withdrew from some friends for similar reasons. It was a very private and isolating time. During this time, we spent more time together than ever. It was a relief to know that our “secret” was known. We were being honest.
In the couple of months since then, she has had some setbacks due to medical reasons but we are together and stronger than ever. He is still not living in their home and they are having an ongoing discussion about the end of their marriage.
Despite some of the vitriolic (and inane) comments, she is trying to be respectful about the way she ends the marriage. She is doing everything she can to not cause him more pain than necessary. He did nothing wrong and he is a nice guy. I’ve met with him and apologized for the way things transpired. The situation is much more nuanced and sophisticated than it would appear some of the commenters are able to process.
We’re not “there” but we’re well on our way. We are trying to be honest with everyone involved. It is a difficult situation. Life is messy. And it is tough to find one’s self in a position of cognitive dissonance and self-recrimination. The only way to handle it with dignity is to try to treat everyone involved with respect and honesty. Knowing that something you must do in order to seek your own happiness will directly cause pain for someone else you care about is not an easy thing to do. Handling an emotionally difficult situation with grace and elegance rather than clumsy self-absorption requires care and precision. And it is not an exact science. You don’t always get it right. But you must forge ahead with an eye toward healing – for everyone. In order to come on the other side of the experience with your self-esteem intact and any sense of dignity will require patience and fortitude. And there will be plenty of times when both of those are in short supply.
You just have to take it one step at a time and give all parties involved time to process the new paradigm and readjust their presuppositions. Everyone involved, on either side of the equation, is involved in the journey together whether they like it or even acknowledge it. It really is an exercise in pain management.
The road ahead is long and winding. It won’t be easy. Then again, the road behind us wasn’t, either. But the reward at the end is happiness. It is knowing that we have found the one with whom our soul connects.
Anyone who looks at an affair with a simplistic “black and white” filter is doing a disservice to the human spirit… and to themselves and those around them. Life is messy. And life is beautiful. Tragedy and comedy.
So, we’re moving forward. She filed for divorce. She’s signed a lease on a new townhouse. She’ll be moving there in a few weeks. I’ll help her get settled there. After she’s had a few transitional months to herself, I’ll join her there and our life together will officially begin. We’ve been picking out furniture and home décor. Her family is starting to accept the way things are. They haven’t completely come around but they are making motions in that direction. They finally admitted that they knew the marriage was in trouble for years despite the calm appearance. But the reality of the change is still emotional and raw.
It has been a long and arduous journey. The end is near. Very near. We know the date the divorce will be final. We know where she will live. And we are making all the necessary life changes to be ready for our life together. Finally.
Here’s to happy endings!