Infidelity. Is there anyone who doesn’t cringe at that word? I always have. The idea that my husband might someday cheat on me haunted me from a way-too-young age, beginning probably six years before I even met him. I could not imagine a worse heartbreak or betrayal. That’s why I would never be involved in an affair . . . until I was.
In some ways, my affair caught me by surprise. The emotional aspect was intense and long-lasting, while the physical was fleeting. Still, the physical kicked my emotions into an even higher gear. My decision to become involved with a man who wasn’t my husband left me a confused, emotional mess. Not to mention the impact it’s had on so many others. My hope is by sharing a few things I’ve learned, I can help others avoid walking this road.
Your Marriage May Be Thriving
Sometimes the people most at risk for affairs are the people who see no risk. If you get too comfortable thinking you are immune, you might let your guard down just enough. I loved and truly enjoyed my husband when I began to develop feelings for another man, and in that time, my feelings for my husband never changed.
Our marriage wasn’t perfect, but there were no major causes for concern, either. The real problem was that I had deep wounds and baggage that I had never before addressed. My adolescence (a train wreck, if you ask me) laid a very shaky foundation for my marriage. I had unhealthy coping mechanisms that, unfortunately, did not disappear simply because I got married.
Infidelity Tends to Have Far-Reaching Effects
Maybe this is a “duh,” but not when you’re caught up. I knew that getting involved with another man would probably end poorly for both of our families, but I underestimated the total impact by a long shot.
As I considered whether I wanted to pursue a relationship with this new man, I thought of my parents, my siblings, and most of all my nieces and nephews. These kids love their uncle, my husband, so dearly. Was I willing to force him out of their lives?
Then there was my mood, which affected all of my relationships. I constantly wrestled with my thoughts over the following several months, causing stress, irritability, and anxiety. As a result, my husband, my kids, and my friends all paid the price. My husband summed it up best when he said, “I never thought I’d be consoling my wife over a breakup with her boyfriend.”
Choose Wisely Who You Confide In
Your friend whose husband had an affair probably isn’t the best confidant. Your friend who struggles to show grace in the little things might not handle the news of your affair well. If you can’t think of a trustworthy friend (or even if you can), find a counselor. Better yet, talk to someone before your emotions carry you across the line. Please confide in someone, however difficult.
I had help from my gracious husband, family, and kind friends to carry my burden, and I still almost suffocated beneath the weight. Before you share your story publicly, if you ever choose to do so, make sure you are emotionally prepared for the response. It won’t all be pretty, but there will be someone out there who needs to hear it.
What Does All This Mean For You?
To the woman who finds herself considering an affair — stop. Learn from my mistakes. Don’t act on feelings; they are unreliable. Not only will a new relationship fail to solve your problems, but it will also create a host of new problems. You will cause pain to so many around you and to yourself. It. Is. Not. Worth it. Seek out a good friend or a counselor before it’s too late.
To the woman who has had an affair — you are not alone. I know what it is like to wonder how brutal the world around you will be if it ever found out. I know the shame that surrounds every aspect of an affair. The feeling of being torn between two different men and two different lives. The guilt after betraying someone I love.
I know it probably feels like the world is crashing down around you. I felt that way, too. Remember, peoples’ reactions are a reflection of themselves, not of you. Take a deep breath. Put one foot in front of the other each day. Do the healing work, and let time do the rest. It will get better. You will be okay.
To the woman whose friend confides in her — your friend isn’t a victim, but she is human. She knows she messed up. Big. Even if you’re frustrated or angry with her, try to find grace for her. Ask her what she needs. It probably took courage to share her secret with you. I’m not asking you to tell her what she did is okay. Please, just help her find her way out of it.
And be careful with your, “I would never.” I used to be you.