My wife is having an affair.
Somehow, writing those six words makes it more real, more painful. I’ve known about it for months now; few things of note stay secret in a marriage. But my knowledge has provoked not an instance of remorse. If anything, she seems to be a little more empowered with each passing day.
You think you know someone, and then you don’t.
Affairs tear relationships, families, people apart. Trust is no more, confidence shattered. Someone who’s been betrayed can spend a lifetime unable to repair a broken soul. Ask ten people who think they’re happily married: Would you prefer to discover your spouse was having an affair, or would you rather your spouse come to you first, and told you he or she was leaving? No one wants to discover an affair. No one. And it’s true what they say: the spouse is always the last to know. Of course to that question there is no good answer, but sometimes life gives you lemons.
I am not here, baring what remains of my soul, to tell you about some fling. No. What I’m trying, desperately, to understand is a long-term, emotional and physical relationship between my wife and another. There’s a difference.
Like most affairs, it started innocently enough. She met a new friend. God knows she needed one. In hindsight – and there’s always hindsight – I suppose I knew, on some level, I wasn’t capable of giving her the affection she so desperately needed. And I’m going to tell you a secret, a truth so profound it will change your thinking of the one cast aside:
No matter how wonderful you are, how talented, how full of love, no matter how good-looking you may be, or how thoughtful you have been, you cannot, ever, compete with the newness of an affair.
Because an affair is just that: it’s new, it’s exciting, it’s different. And it’s “forbidden”. In a vacuum, you may be the best lover the world has ever known. When your spouse is having an affair, you’re going to be second-best. It’s just a fact.
Many victims of infidelity blame themselves; it’s a natural conclusion for the aggrieved. My problem, though, is that such blame is absolutely fair. You see, I introduced them. I thought it would be a positive thing; in hindsight – there’s that word again – I was the enabler. The broker.
That was eight months ago. Three lives, during this time, have been wholly and irrevocably altered. There is no going back. Even if it ended today, none of us will ever be the same. This is real, and speaking for myself, I am not the person I was eight months ago. Before it started.
I have always been a giver. That’s an asset and a liability, of course. See, I thought I was thoughtful. I thought my wife could use something new and positive in her life – heaven knows she’s had a rough go of it. And I met him, got to know him, and stupidly, securely thought, “I bet he’ll be a happy, positive influence if she gets to know him.” I was the enabler. The broker. Me.
And even I, in all my pain, have to admit I was right. Lord but I was right. Their relationship took off so fast I didn’t even know they were gone. But they were, and still are.
So where do I go from here? Now I sit, an unwilling cuckold of sorts, at a distance. I can say with certainty that I have never brought about feelings in her like he does. I understand, intellectually, that I’m on my own. Even in a fair contest, I can’t compete with this guy. He’s good looking. He’s strong, and he makes her feel incredibly safe. I think it’s made worse that I can see they joy in his eyes when he’s with her. Did my eyes ever sparkle like that?
They’re meant to be, these two. On that there is no debate. So my challenge, my opportunity, is to be what I so desperately want: I have to be a better man. And that means letting them go. I have to do that thing that’s so easy, and so hard. I have to love her enough to let her go. I understand, by the way, that she’s already gone. This is for my own sanity.
Can I find the strength, when I feel totally destroyed, to be happy for them? I’m told that’s a key step in my own healing. It is so hard.
For those of you who haven’t been through this, count your blessings. I envy you. But if I am honest with myself, I envy him the most.
Even now, eight months later, he sits at the door and awaits her return. How could I compete?