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When I discovered my wife was having an affair, I knew it was my fault

Marriage 
'13 words and the marriage was over. It was almost a relief'  Credit: Getty Images

I once kissed a woman who wasn’t my wife. Passionately, desperately; it seemed innocent but wasn’t, and we pulled the brake before the lever came off in our hands. It was over as quickly as it began.

But always the thought of it was there: that thrilling shortcut to a more exciting life; a step through the looking glass in the opposite direction of home, of children, of domestic life – a reminder of a time when I was still young and desired. 

I hadn’t forgotten a few years later, when the kids were going ballistic in the bath one evening, and Alice, my wife, was annoyed with me for some – probably understandable – reason. 

“Can you give me a bloody hand up here?” I shouted. Grudgingly, she came to help restore order. 

Wordlessly, I left the room. Just what had been so very important that she could ignore the strife so evidently erupting upstairs? Who knows what might have been had curiosity not got the better of me, had I not crossed the line of intrusion? 

But I did. I picked up her phone and went straight to sent messages: “I long to be miles from here, happy in your loving arms again xx”.

So that was it – 13 words and the marriage was over. It was almost a relief. 

The next few days were a blur: I dropped the kids off at nursery, went to work, picked them up again, made dinner and more or less ignored Alice, whose own work far outstripped mine in terms of importance and hours spent in the office. And I began thinking of other places to live.

It was the kids who saved us. All I could see at home was evidence of their innocence: stray socks on the landing; toys emerging from the back of the sofa…if I left, they would not come through it unscathed. 

It was like signing a contract with sadness, unnecessarily. So I resolved to fix it, at first by doing nothing, in the belief the affair would fizzle out, as they generally do. But, when it didn’t, I confronted Alice with the expectation of an apology and a chance to move on. 

And then things got worse. 

What I thought would be a pragmatic process of recovery became several weeks of counselling and deadlock over who was most at fault. 

My own behaviour, of course, had been far from exemplary. The stress of work piled onto the pressure of caring for two young children had taken all I had: there was no more room for emotional engagement. I was drained, all the time, so Alice had sought attention elsewhere. 

Neither of us expected nor deserved much sympathy. What happened happened because we are human beings and all the more likely to make mistakes when the pressure ramps up, and the opportunity to fail presents itself. But out of sheer bloody mindedness and a sense a duty to the children, we decided not to let years of hard work go to waste for one silly transgression.  

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Happily, the white heat of despair forged a stronger bond. There are still places we will never visit together, simply because I know she went there with him. So forensic was my investigation, so obvious the digital footprint, I know too much. 

But my own imperfections are clearer still, so my advice to any struggling couples would be to forget about counselling and rebuild your bond by learning something new together: yoga; life drawing; knitting; anything filled with joy… A dance class is just as difficult as sitting in a room with a stranger discussing your flaws, but less judgemental and can generally be done with a smile on your face.

Do you have advice for our writer, or know anyone who has been through something similar? Let us know in the comments section below

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