This is another in my series of interviews of those involved in Infidelity, in order to give a perspective to others and put a human face to these stories. As you will see below, “Charles” (named changed to preserve anonymity) was involved in a relatively sexless marriage. He feels completely rejected by his wife romantically/physically, and it’s why he sought out an Affair, which he now very much regrets. Again, an example of “cause and effect”. If you don’t make your spouse feel understood, appreciated, desired and wanted, someone else might. Happy and content people rarely have affairs. His writing is raw, powerful, and full of shame, regret and inner turmoil. Well worth the read.
With that, meet Charles….
Basic info: 28 years old. Married 3 1/2 years.
Affair Info: Began October 2012 and ended in November 2013.
1. Tell us about yourself.
I’m 28 years old and I never thought this kind of conversation would be one that I was having. My parents were hard working and honest people. Both held two jobs the majority of my life and I owe my work ethic and what courage I do have to them. I’m going to talk a lot about courage because it’s something that came up frequently in my therapy work.
I’m a nerd by hobby and by trade. I love computing. It’s how I make my living. There’s something about the process of logic that has always been a comfort to me. My entire life has been a fight between the needs that I feel that I can’t make sense of and the desire for something orderly, rigid, and solid. I’m successful. I’ve two beautiful children. Everyone thought that I would never stray from my marriage. I was considered by all of our female friends to be a tremendously loving and attentive husband. They’d talk about it when they came to hang out with my wife and were away from their husbands. It was something that I, and my wife, took pride in.
2. Tell me about your marriage. At the time of the affair, how long had you been married? Did you feel happy, content, other, or something in the middle? Explain your honest feelings about your marriage.
My marriage was never good. That’s the cold truth of it. I’ve known my wife since we were thirteen and I love her, and have always loved her. We have been close. When my wife needed something, whether she was fourteen or twenty-five, she’d call me. One night, back in college years, we hadn’t spoken for about a year when she suddenly called me. Scared, at a party, her first time witnessing someone do cocaine. I picked her up, left a girl that I’d just started dating, and took her home to her parent’s. There was nothing in it for me other than the satisfaction of being someone she could count on absolutely.
The problem is that I loved her, wanted her, and she never wanted me.
When we got together I felt this amazing relief. This sense of arrival. This great validation of caring for this person so much. I didn’t understand the baggage that I’d brought with me into our relationship. I didn’t even understand the depth of my resentment.
After the initial period of passion and romance, our relationship settled immediately into a situation where we were bestfriend roommates. The sex gradually dried up until we would go several months without it. That resentment I mentioned earlier because to rear up in ways that I’d never thought possible. I began to doubt everything about how she felt about me. I began to doubt myself. We fought through it and got married. Because, through it all, I’ve never trusted a woman the way that I trust her. I can tell her anything, including how unhappy I was with aspects of our relationship.
She assured me she was just going through something. It’d work out.
Then one day, about three weeks after we were married in June of 2011 (we’d been together almost five years at this point. Three of which had been that slow spiral) she pulled away from me when I kissed the back of her neck at the kitchen counter. I’ve never been so wounded in my life. It’s embarrassing to talk about but there’s something about how fragile a man’s pride is when it comes to giving affection to a woman.
I’m tired of feeling like such a villain so this part is one I could talk a lot about. I want people to understand why I did what I did and made the mistake that I made. It isn’t about justification so much as it is about forgiveness. I feel like if people knew, really knew, they might be inclined to forgive me.
But besides those difficulties, the lack of intimacy and sex and affection, my marriage was probably stronger than most. We communicated everything. When we had things to accomplish we were a well-oiled machine. We were comfortable around one another for the most part. Knew each other. Trusted each other.
I ruined all of that.
3. Tell me the story of the affair. Had you ever cheated before at any level (including a drunken kiss, flirting, etc)? How did the affair begin? How did it unfold? Was it both emotional and physical, or just one? How often did you meet? What did you normally do?
I’d never cheated. And I never thought if I ever cheated it would be on my wife. I’d pursued her for ten years before we finally dated. I’d been there for her. I’d made a point to always make good for her. It was inconceivable.
By September of 2012 our marriage was a roommate situation. I’d spent nights, in bed, crying to my wife about how unhappy I was. I was very distraught. It wasn’t a wild, irrational distraught. It was more like a despair, honestly. I didn’t have the courage to leave because I felt like we could turn things around. I felt like we could make it work and she could get help. I begged her to go to therapy. She agreed.
I met a woman at work. I guess you could say the attraction was instant. She was 22. Gorgeous. And so light, playful, and flirty. She paid me attention. I liked it. I suddenly felt that spark you feel when someone shows interest. I wasn’t certain what it was but I wanted to know. Wanted to feel it. So, I asked her to lunch. I had the courage to be clear about my interest, about the fact I was married and didn’t want to leave my wife.
In my head, this was something that I’d do, some awful thing that I’d do that would help me carry on until my wife and I figured it out. The OW wasn’t put off when I told her my intentions. But she didn’t jump all over me either. We spent time together and developed a flirtatious friendship. In October, it escalated, and we slept together. Our bedroom demeanor, our desires, were very much the same. We had very similar backgrounds, personalities, priorities. We clicked. It was intense. I think I knew then that I was crossing more than just a typical boundary but didn’t know how to admit it to myself or handle it. It was one more mistake in a line of mistakes. Bad decisions.
The affair began in earnest when we went away for training together in January of ’13. Six months away from home. In the same space. In a place where nobody knew us. We spent almost every day together. The sex was incredible, passionate and frequent, often a half-dozen times a day or more on weekends.
I fell for her. It’s the illusion that gets you, for sure, but it’s also the other woman. The idea that she’s nothing, or that she’s false, is one that will ruin a lot of men. You have to admit to yourself the truth of what it is if you want to break free. You can’t lie to yourself because it seems to make it easier. I fell for this girl. I fell for the lie of us, too, but I fell for that other woman.
It never felt right though. Even in the depths of our wonderland – it never felt right. I mean, fell for that girl or not, my best friend was at home. We spoke on the phone. I felt disconnected. Absent. The guilt only made it worse. I made the decision to leave her when I came home.
Only, when I came home in August of ’13, she’d houseguests. Two friends from out of town. The next week they were there. I’ll never know guilt like that week.
Because my wife had gone to therapy. And worked some things out. When I came home she’d gotten herself ready to reinvest herself. She was romantic. Spontaneous. She wanted me constantly. Paid compliments. Begged for attention. We had house guests so we went out with them often. It felt like everything I’d begged her for. Only now, I was guilt ridden. I couldn’t enjoy it.
The day they left. I sat her down and told her at our dining room table. Confessed everything. I had planned on telling her that I was leaving but seeing the work she’d done, how she’d been, – take into account the fact that telling her was traumatic. Her sobbing. Her confusion. Her complete heartbreak. How broken I felt. How awful. I thought maybe I could fix it. So, I ended it with the OW, and poured myself into wanting a second chance with my wife.
I made every mistake, though, that a man could make in this situation. I stopped talking to the OW – for awhile. But every hiccup between my wife and I, I found myself reaching out to the OW. She played so understanding. So same team. The affair continued, emotionally, until November 2nd of ’13. I came home from a Germany Trip and ended things with both women for good.
That’s the short of it. The long involves a complete mental breakdown. I didn’t trust how I felt about either of them. I didn’t like the guilt. I just wanted to do the right thing. So I completely flipped on both of them. With my wife, it was a guilt-ridden apology for everything that I’d done, an explanation that I wasn’t ready to commit to our marriage and needed time alone. To the OW it was an anger, falsely hurtful, tirade designed to chase her away. It worked. My wife moved into an apartment nearby that I paid for. I never spoke to the OW again.
4. How did you manage to keep it a secret? How did you hide the affair?
Lying. Amazing amounts of lies. Awful, cowardly, gut-wrenching lies and the benefit of distance. She couldn’t see what my life was like so I hid it from her for the first time since I’d met her. I became a stranger.
5. How did you feel during the affair, both when you were with the OW and when you were at home? What were your thought processes?
It was a mix of cowardly justifications, evasions, and this overbearing guilt. The thing is – it wasn’t guilt in regards to my wife. I knew that she didn’t deserve what I was doing. Nobody does. But, honestly, I felt guilt because of what I was letting myself become. I used to take pride in taking care of my wife and being someone she could count on. I’d become someone who was doing one of the most vicious things you could ever do to someone, instead. It was a horrible feeling.
But the affair was so damned satisfying in so many ways. The sex. The freedom. The feeling of love and romance and happiness. Those were real, too, and that’s what makes them so damned hard to shake free.
My thought process became one of resignation. I’d tell my wife that I had strayed, that our marriage was broken, and leave. But I’d only do that once I got home and had to.
That’s not a brave man, or an honest man’s, way of approaching things. But that is what gave me the room to keep cheating and keep hiding things from my wife. I had my cake. I was eating it, too. Fucking awful.
6. What was D-day like?
When I told her it was probably the most awful moment in the history of any relationship that I have ever had with anybody. The fact that I would stray had never crossed her mind so it broke her entirely. Top to bottom. I was one of the things she was most sure of and it made her doubt herself. She said often after, in therapy, that the one thing I stole from her was her ability to trust her own instincts and feelings. Even typing that makes me go to the edge of tears.
I’ve never felt so incredibly regretful. I had really believed that my wife had withdrawn from me because she didn’t love me the way I loved her. I saw in that instant that she had, that she’d made mistakes and gotten caught in her own processes, but that the affection and desire and commitment had really been there. It wasn’t just hurt pride, though that -was- there, I saw real heartbreak.
It’s going to stay with me for the rest of my life.
7. Did you formally end the affair with the OW? If so, how? And how did she take it? Has she left you alone?
I broke her heart when I lost it. I met up with her. Looked her in the face. And lied to her. I said she wasn’t real, never had been. I said that I’d never cared for her and I’d used her. I said that she was a lesser version of my wife. That she was a stupid girl. Lies. She was a different girl and a beautiful heart. She’d fallen for me and found herself in deep waters and didn’t know how to be. SHe’d only wanted to wade through them together. I knew it but I lied because, in that moment, I felt like if I was honest she’d not go. She’d stuck with me through so much, even when it killed her. She broke apart. I saw it like I’d seen it with my wife. She fell apart, entirely, into a million little pieces and I felt wholly responsible.
8. What have the biggest challenges been — both in terms of fixing your marriage and inside yourself — now that it’s over?
We started therapy when she moved out. Once a week. I was going to my own as well, by then. And her, too. The challenge became understanding what we were and how to fit together. At this point there were no illusions. We were a mess. We still tried, though, because we made a decision to for each other. The biggest challenge for us, though, is really a handful of things. I wish there was only one.
She’s never forgiven me. It’s been a year but she pours over my phone, calls me everytime I’m away from the house. She’s called the OW before without telling me. (The OW is now engaged and my wife spoke to both her and her fiance). She refuses to accept responsibility for her part in the affair. The unfair truth about an affair, in my opinion, is that they don’t happen in happy marriages. And there is some responsibility in that unhappy marriage on the individual that cheated. And, being wronged, it’s really hard for them to embrace the fact that they created a situation where an affair was possible. My wife still won’t tolerate that idea that she somehow helped me go wayward.
So, I resent it. She told everybody we know about what I’d done. I’m a pariah to many of the friends we share, her family. She told my employer. I resent that, too. I resent this idea that I’m some broken person that blew up a perfectly good life when I’d told her many times it wasn’t good, perfect, or happy. I struggle between the guilt of what I’ve done, the feeling of utter responsibility for what I’ve put myself and everyone else through, and then this anger at feeling like I’m now defined by a series of bad decisions.
We’re separated still, and still trying, but it’s becoming increasingly clear to both of us that we will never be able to repair what we’ve done to each other.
9. How do you feel about the OW now?
I miss her. I wish it wasn’t true but it is. She reached out to me a few months ago, said she missed me. Explained her new guy was safe but she had hopes for us. My guess is that she heard I was still separated and saw a chance. I didn’t reply. Because, even though I think she’s wonderful and I did feel something real for her, I’m not in a place where I can see anything with either of those women being good for who I am and who I want to be.
I want to be past that part of my life and rebuild as something I can be proud of. I could never do that with her. I’m still just accepting I probably can’t do that with my wife.
10. How long since you’ve had any contact with the OW?
Four months since she emailed me. I haven’t spoken to her, haven’t seen her, since November 2nd of last year.
11. What have you done to either fix your marriage or yourself? Counseling (couples or solo)? Read books (if so, which and did they help)?
Counseling. Books (After the Affair). Both individual therapy and couples. A million talks. Vacations. Separation. We’ve tried everything. But you can’t manufacture forgiveness. We can’t force her to forgive me. And I can’t seem to forgive myself.
12. What have you learned about yourself, your marriage and life, because of the affair?
I’m an incredibly romantic person despite my best efforts to be rational. I need emotional connections to take priority over to-do lists, even though I love to get things done. I need to be able to express myself romantically to a woman and have her appreciate it. I need her to do the same so I feel satisfied and safe and happy.
I’ve learned that my wife is a stronger human being than most and that she deserves to be loved for who she is. I’ve learned that even though she makes me angry, that she hurts me, and that she hasn’t forgiven me – it isn’t like she’s some awful woman. It’s just that she’s flawed. And I put her up on a pedestal and because of that didn’t give her enough leeway or enough safety to work through them with me. She’s vulnerable, too. She’s amazing.
I’ve learned that I had no idea what marriage was or should be. I thought I knew. I was wrong. The results were tragic.
I’ve learned that life isn’t always about decisions that are easy and consequences aren’t always quick to reveal themselves. I’ve learned that having courage is so much more than a choice. It’s about cultivating something in yourself that allows you to make decisions that don’t always feel right. I’ve learned that I have to get better at that.
13. Do you feel vulnerable to another affair, with the same woman or someone else? Do you miss “it” even if you don’t miss “her”?
Yes, yes, and yes. I feel vulnerable constantly. That’s part of the reason I think my marriage is going to end. There’s nothing stable in our relationship and we both deserve better. Maybe I’m the only reason that’s the case. I don’t know. I know it doesn’t matter, though, because nobody should feel the way my wife and I do presently.
I don’t like the term addict. I’m not addicted to anything.
But I haven’t had a healthy relationship in five years and being in-love, happy, and supported is one of those things that everyone wants to be. It’s easy, when you’re unhappy, to think you’ve found it when you haven’t. That’s a danger. A real danger. I’m scared to death of failing myself, and those around me, and that’s what keeps me from falling right now.
14. Seems like every Betrayed Spouse I read wants to know why their Spouse had an affair. It’s a tough answer to get to or hear. So, looking back, what was your reason/excuse/rationale for having the affair? What did you tell yourself in your head that allowed you to do something you knew was dangerous and wrong?
I had the affair because I was too unprepared, too insecure, and too selfish to appropriately handle my marriage. I had the affair because my wife deprived me of affection and validation when I needed it and that set off a chain reaction within me, over years, that eventually left me vulnerable to compromising myself.
I told myself that I deserved to feel wanted and happy. That if I felt those things then what I was doing wasn’t really wrong.
It might seem fucked to say, truthfully, but I wasn’t entirely wrong. People -should- be happy and feel wanted by a partner. They shouldn’t go to their wives and cry and say, look, this isn’t working and something has to change – and have nothing change. But what people should do is take responsibility for their own selves and leave before they do something selfish and stupid and so damned and incredibly hurtful.
Still, I’m not a monster. I was deeply wounded and very frightened by what my marriage had become. It made me vulnerable.
15. Do you feel remorse for the affair?
I feel remorse every single day. I wish I would have left my wife. Maybe we could have gone through therapy together and found one another in a real way. I certainly wouldn’t feel the way I do now. I wouldn’t feel like a cheater. Like a liar. I wouldn’t feel like I’d ripped something from someone I care about. I wouldn’t feel like I compromised myself.
I could be proud of making that decision, even though it would have hurt. It’d have been honest and courageous.I feel like a coward so often now that I don’t know what to do with myself. The affair has given me a deep insecurity in what kind of man I am. I regret it every single day for so many reasons.
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