When I hear about people who've just found out that their ex has been building a relationship with someone else behind their back, I feel their pain. I have been cheated on and it’s the worst feeling in the world.
At the risk of drawing a few haters, I will be up front and honest. Please read to the end. Have you ever heard the expression “sleeping dogs never lie”?
I have been on both sides of the infidelity coin. Infidelity in my book does not necessarily mean sleeping with someone, it can be as subtle as building a strong emotional connection with someone you are attracted to. It sneaks up on you. You start having problems in your marriage and because you don't want to rock the family boat, you keep them to yourself. You then start losing the ability to communicate honestly with your spouse. It’s much easier to sweep things under the carpet. You still love the person you are with, but the problems quietly grow.
You then start to have an honest, emotional friendship with someone new. You put all your unfulfilled dreams and unspoken needs onto the new person, possibly without even really knowing them. Let’s face it living with someone is very different from having email or text exchanges. The impossibility of the new relationship then becomes a huge fantasy. The grass is always greener. It's not real but it sure beats reality. Or so it seems. This is the beginning of the dissolution of your marriage. You feel guilty, you try and talk to your spouse, but the appeal and mystery of the new romance takes over. It’s so much easier to be “in love”.
Around 17 years into my marriage this is what I did. I started a long email correspondence with an old friend thousands of miles away.
Fortunately for me, I had the wisdom not to pursue the fantasy, and nipped it in the bud. I valued my integrity, my family and my marriage too much to pursue it any further. I had to be the strong one because that guy was perfectly happy to carry on, and was even proposing we met in a hotel somewhere. Six months after I ended my online romance with him, he married his girlfriend. As fate or karma would have it, my ex read the email where I broke it off with the guy. Surprise, surprise, it turns out that my ex had been on a similar journey. He had been messaging someone he had met while he was on holiday with a male friend.
So we both found the strength to be honest, but in our case, the honesty did not stop the rot, which eventually led to our marriage falling apart. It wasn’t the infidelity that was the problem. It was the problems which led to the infidelity. I was with a man who, however much we tried to work things out, would not accept my dreams and goals and furthermore wanted to be in control of everything, including the finances. The house was in his name, the money was in his name and the pension was in his name. I was responsible for the kids and the house and I had an “allowance”. So while I know 100% it was wrong of me to entertain the idea of another guy, there were serious problems underneath. These were problems which I ALLOWED TO HAPPEN.
I had to learn the hard way that it’s better to risk being who you are than to sacrifice your dreams on the altar of marriage. What goes unsaid early in the marriage always comes back to bite you in the butt. The price of losing myself was too high. It hasn’t been easy being on my own and starting again in my early 60s, but it’s been life affirming and amazing.
I’m not in any way condoning infidelity, even emotional affairs, and I know I will not bring that into my next relationship. But I do understand how it happens.