Photo by Joshua Newton on Unsplash
They say people come into life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime, and I believe it. My husband and I have been together for 18 years, my best friend and have I known each other for more than 20 years, and I still talk to my high school English teacher. But I’ve had other relationships — shorter relationships — which have been just as valuable. I’ve had school friends, work friends, mom friends, and “bar buddies" — guys and gals who willingly indulged my love of beer and bad karaoke.
But John? Well, John was none of these things and all of these things. Because John was different. John was unique. John was the man with whom I chose to have an emotional affair.
Make no mistake; I didn’t plan to have an affair.
John and I never went on a date. There were no love notes or candlelit dinners. We didn’t go to the movies, the club, or even my favorite locale — the bar. And we never shared a coffee or took an afternoon stroll. In short, our “relationship” was benign. That’s the tricky thing about emotional affairs. There isn’t a thing or act which defines them. They are full of gray areas. Of maybes, what-ifs, or could-have-beens. And they sneak up on you. They are subtle betrayals of the heart.
And that’s what happened with John, i.e., what began as an innocent conversation at a work event turned into something deeper. Something darker. Before long, I — a happily married mother of two — was carrying on late night conversations with a relative stranger, one who lived hundreds of miles away.
The reason our relationship grew is varied and complex. You see, I have an illness — a severe mental illness — and in the fall of 2017, said illness consumed me. I was buried in the throes of a depressive episode. I was also suicidal. I had written a note and made a plan. I felt safe confiding in John because John had been there. He lived with a mental illness and had survived suicide thrice, so I reached out. I texted him, and he was able to offer a level of compassion and empathy I’d never known.
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Of course, my husband was — and always has been — supportive. He holds me when I am down. He listens to me, even when my thoughts and words don’t make sense, and he offers encouragement. He loves me the only way he knows how. But at that moment, I needed someone who “got it.”
I yearned to speak to connect with someone who understood. And John? Well, he did.
He knew what I was thinking and how I felt before I uttered a single word.
Does that make what our tryst okay? No. I was deceiving my husband. I was misleading my husband, and I was lying to my husband. John and I spoke in secret. I intentionally carried on conversations behind my partner’s back. Plus, things didn’t end there. I began messaging John in the morning, in the evening, and while at my job. We exchanged voice memos, calls, and pictures, and, at times, our conversations became racy.
John shared intimate details of his love life on more than one occasion.
And that? That is when we crossed a line. The line. That is when our friendship became something more.
I am not sorry I had an affair. I cannot be. Because while my relationship with John devolved into something else, it began innocently. I was asking John for help. For guidance. For support. And he gave it to me. John saved my life.
But there are things I wish I'd done differently.
I wish I'd placed limitations on our conversations. I wish we'd stuck to the matter at hand and only spoke about my mental health or, on occasion, work. I wish I'd shared my struggles with my husband instead of shutting up and shutting him out, and I wish I'd set boundaries. John and I should not have been texting 20-plus times a day. But if I hadn’t reached out that day — if I hadn’t gotten help the minute I did, in that very moment — then I may not be here.
Life for my children and husband would look quite different.
So yes, I am sorry for the way things went down. I am sorry I lied to my husband, and hurt my husband. I am sorry I let my heart stray, and my mind drift, and I am sorry I betrayed my husband. I made him question my faith and trust. But I am not sorry I turned to a friend in a time of desperation. I am not sorry I turned to a friend in a time of desolation, and that I let a friend, male or not, in — to my mind, to my soul, to my heart.