What I'm about to tell you is hard for me to describe and harder to admit to.
A disclaimer: I'm in no way promoting having an affair, nor am I assuaging myself of the guilt I carry for my actions, lest anyone should think otherwise. This is just my personal inquiry of the wisdom I can derive at this point in my life as I work to let go of and heal from the impact of this experience.
Let me begin by saying that I'm married to a wonderful man who truly loves and understands me for who I am. But after five years of marriage and a vivacious three-year-old son, I felt my life — what was left — slipping out of my grasp.
I wanted and needed to grab onto something ... someone that would help me feel like my "old" self. And sure enough, I met that very person.
I met "Noah" at the gym at the beginning of 2015. I'd seen him there a few times before our first actual introduction and asked a mutual acquaintance what his situation was. Was he married, girlfriend, gay? None of the above.
He was separated and had been living alone for a while. Since I was obviously married, my first inclination was to set him up with good friend of mine. So I took the first step and showed her his LinkedIn profile, and surprisingly she wasn't interested.
The next day at the gym, Noah curiously asked me if I found out what I was looking for. I was dumbfounded by his question. Then he mentioned he knew that I looked at his LinkedIn profile.
I gave him a very weak answer which of course he didn't believe, but then admitted he was flattered and impressed by my boldness. I then bolted from the gym in total embarrassment.
After the drive home, I realized my reaction was a bit silly. After all, it seemed like he just wanted to get to know me. So I decided to send him a connection request on LinkedIn. His response was immediate and I was thrilled. We spent the next few days exchanging text messages and pictures, and I was totally overwhelmed.
Our first phone conversation was just as stimulating as our first hello. We talked for well over an hour and learned a great deal about each other. I know what you're thinking ... you talked to this guy for an hour and you think you know him? Yes, because I felt something just by talking to him that I never felt before. It felt real.
We decided to have lunch early that week and he was just as I'd hoped he would be. He was chivalrous, polite, and very assertive, which was a complete turn-on. Halfway through our meal, he leaned over and asked me, "Do you think you could love me?"
My heart dropped. How is this even possible? Unless he's a total fraud and just does this kind of thing for fun. I nodded my head yes. He made me so nervous at times that I really couldn't even speak; I just let him do most of the talking.
We agreed to meet later after work for a drink and more conversation. He invited me over to his house. I was a bit hesitant at first because I was fairly certain how I already felt about this man and knew we would have sex.
And we did.
That was the beginning of our 7-month affair. Noah and I continued to meet at his house whenever we could, whenever our work and family schedules permitted time together.
It was difficult for me to carve out more than a couple of hours each time without causing suspicion with my husband. So our time together was always limited to the boundaries of my situation: my marriage. But Noah was always very understanding and supportive.
We had our ups and downs during those 7 months — more ups than downs. I like to think the downs were attributed to our restrictions because we could never be a "real" couple.
Eventually, my excuses got very sloppy and I had a hard time trying to cover up where I had been for hours at a time. My affair ended when my husband became aware of my relationship with Noah. He was suspicious for some time before he got confirmation for himself by having me followed.
Like all cheaters, I tried to lie my way out of it. But in the end I confessed and actually felt relieved because I was exhausted by the lies and double life I was leading.
Ultimately, I learned a great deal about myself that I would never have discovered had I not encountered Noah. What my affair taught me:
1. I'm capable of anything.
The biggest deception that I carried around was all of the things I once categorized as "I would never!" Having an affair was the biggest, juiciest doozy on that list. It was the one thing I thought I'd truly never do. It wasn't who I am as a woman.
I considered myself "better than that." However, my affair with Noah became the undoing of who I always thought I was. It was the removal of the innermost layer of self-righteousness that kept me from being "one of those people."
In this way of decidedly ridding myself of this self-image, I learned genuine compassion for my fellow human beings. I learned not to be so quick to judge or judge harshly. Everyone's circumstances are different and now I'm much less quick to judge people and their life events.
2. I can distract myself from my own life.
Now, hear me out. I know it may seem crazy or impossible — because hello, how could I distract myself from the life I was living? I was immersed in it after all. But it's true. Having an affair was the easiest method through which I could distract myself.
It was my drug of choice, simply for the gigantic intoxication factor of the potent emotions I experienced. It quickly grew into my most intense craving, the withdrawals of which were exquisitely painful.
3. It's easy to "end up" where you didn't think you would.
There's always a reason for beginning an affair, and it relates to some issue in your existing relationship. It's far better to face and resolve that first. You don't just "find" yourself having an affair or "end up" in bed with someone. It's your choice, but it's a choice that can be beautifully rationalized.
I kept telling myself that there are no wrong paths; there are no bad intentions; that we're all doing the best we can do, given where we are on our path and the resources we have available at the time.
Before it's too late, take a look at what's missing or unfulfilling in your relationship, why that is, and whether you can (or even want to) do something about it. It's preferable to try renewing your relationship, or end it with mutual respect.
So, would I ever do this again? No, because I learned what forgiveness takes. My husband has since forgiven me for my transgressions and I would never want to jeopardize his trust in me again.
Going forward, I know it will be extremely hard for him to not visualize me with this other man and question my whereabouts at any given time. And it's going to be an uphill battle for me to earn his trust and faith in me. But I know it's worth it because I know where my heart is.
Affairs aren't for everyone. If you're contemplating having one, make sure you have a very good understanding of what it is you'll lose if things should end up going south.