If I could do it all again, I would have been more truthful with myself from the beginning and not clung to a fantasy.
I’ve cheated twice in my life.
Once on a boyfriend.
Once on a husband.
I never planned to cheat. I never started talking to these two “misters” out of an intent to stray. I’m monogamous by nature, and when my needs are met, I can barely look at other men.
When my needs are met.
The first wrong choice I made was getting married to my husband. Looking back, I set myself, and our relationship, up for failure, but it seemed like the right choice at the time.
I loved him for his potential. I thought marriage would change him, that our wedding vows would turn him suddenly more affectionate, passionate, and communicative. He’d be more complimentary. He’d desire and want me as I thought all husbands should want their wives.
But we would have been better as friends.
We could make each other laugh, but too much time together always left me wanting and us fighting.
I felt excluded from his interior world as well as undesired and unattractive.
He’d turn down my sexual advances, rarely complimented me, and often didn’t want me to touch him, even if it was just to cuddle on the couch.
I voiced my needs many times throughout our years together.
He told me things like, “There‘s no point in complimenting you because enough is never enough.” He made it seem like I was an endless pit of longing whose needs he could never meet.
To be fair, he was right. I was wanting him to be an entirely different person.
I didn’t marry him for him as him; I married him for him as I hoped he would become.
For years, I got my emotional needs through close relationships with other women. Since I wasn’t able to connect with my ex-husband very often on deeply emotional and intimate levels, I confided to my close women friends. I met often with them for coffee, dinners, chatted with them on the phone whenever I had a spare minute.
When my ex-husband came home from work, I gave him the space he snapped at me that he needed and convinced myself that our relationship was normal. At least we make each other laugh! I told myself, even though we, less and less frequently over the years, had those special moments together.
I was never able to get my touch needs met though.
Touch is a well-documented human need. It can lower blood pressure and stress levels as well as boost moods and immune systems. Babies can literally die from lack of touch, and there’s a clinical term for the condition in adults: skin hunger.
Researcher Dr. Shirley P. Glass, a psychologist, author, and one of the world’s leading experts on infidelity, calls her theory of why infidelity happens “walls and windows.”
A healthy marriage is composed of windows and walls.
The windows, which must stay open, are between you and your spouse.
This is how you communicate and pass intimacy, trust, secrets, and love. The couple may also have close meaningful relationships outside of their connection. However, the windows between partners and their other relationships should remain much smaller and not as transparent.
The walls are between the two of you (together) and the outside world.
The walls give your relationship privacy. No one should know more about your relationship than your partner, and any private information shared inside the marriage should not be shared with anyone outside it.
Shortly after our sixth year of marriage, I discovered that my husband had secretly been abusing drugs for our entire relationship. To prevent me from knowing about his addiction, he had built a wall between us.
Without the ability to pass intimacy, trust, and secrets to my partner, it also meant I wasn’t able to love him.
How could I if I didn’t truly know him? How could he if he couldn’t truly see me?
The wall between us didn’t come down just after I discovered his drug addiction and he supposedly got honest. He lied to me about secret purchases he made on a credit card in just his name, and I later discovered he had embezzled from his employer.
In the end, it wasn’t the skin hunger that led me to have an emotional affair on my ex-husband; it was my desire for a level of intimacy and vulnerability that we were never able to have in our marriage.
Yes, I longed to be touched, but more importantly, I wanted to be known.
I did exactly what Dr. Shirley P. Glass wrote about: I reversed the architecture of our marriage.
I met someone, and I put a wall between my ex-husband and myself while opening a window between me and this new person. This new person and I shared intimacies and secrets I felt incapable of sharing within my marriage, and my marriage crumbled just eight days after our emotional affair started.
Do I regret that my marriage ended?
I do, though, regret that I married someone based on their potential instead of their reality because no one deserves that. We all deserve to be loved exactly as we are.
I do regret cheating because it unbelievably complicated an already painful and grenade-laden experience that involved the two of us, our children, the man I quickly began dating, as well as lawyers and judges.
If I could do it all again, I would have been more truthful with myself from the beginning and not clung to a fantasy my ex-husband was never able to live up to.
It’s the greatest lesson I learned, and exactly why I chose my second husband (not the man I had an emotional affair with): because I love him as him.