I'm in my mid-30s and have been with my husband for more than 10 years. Life was great on all fronts, but about three years ago I became increasingly attracted to one of his friends. This man is in his early 40s with a family. A year into it, I finally propositioned him and he turned me down. I was relieved to get it behind me and chalked it up to silliness and the raging of my hormones in their prime. Throughout the following year, however, this man continued to give me mixed signals that ignited my desire for him once more. Attempts to talk to him left me being blown off and angry. One night I ambushed him in his car and unloaded all my feelings, and we ended up having the most incredible first-base makeout session. Again I felt a release, almost a catharsis, and felt capable of leaving it at that.
Fast-forward to last summer. During a talk alone, he hinted at the possibility of its happening again. I was a little floored that he even considered it. I had no contact with him for five weeks until a string of very flirtatious e-mails led to a plan being hatched. We met for drinks, parked the car, and proceeded to have some pretty hot and heavy sex. Sex was not in the plan, but big surprise, it happened. Afterward I was mortified about being initiated into the adulterers' club and knowing I would carry that secret to my grave. Equally distressing was the torturous three-week wait to see if I would get my period (I did, thank heaven), and for the rug burns to heal before my husband saw them.
Life was easy when I first came on to this man, but the last couple of years have brought major stress in my marriage, including health, money and starting-a-family issues. I find myself fantasizing about this man more as an escape from my real life, and that scares me. On the surface I can't stomach the thought of an affair or the responsibility of destroying two marriages, but I just can't leave him alone. I'm angry with myself for not being able to control the situation last summer and inexplicably feel the need to communicate that with him. I want closure, I want to end this crush I have on him, yet I want to screw him again!
Last week I asked him to go for a walk. He knows I've been unhappy and blew my mind with some truly sweet and sympathetic e-mails. He led me to believe it would happen, yet again he blew me off. I can't take these head games. We both want to have our cake and to eat it too. For him it's a tempting easy score. For me, what started as simple lust has evolved into some kind of emotional need considering my present fragile state. Is it possible to screw him again under my own terms and still feel good about myself? Would that finally put this desire to rest? Ignoring everything that happened will not leave me satisfied. Please give me your invaluable insight into how I can end this and still feel some sense of power and control.
You, my dear, want way too much. You want things that are contradictory and mutually exclusive: "I want closure, I want to end this crush I have on him, yet I want to screw him again!" You can't have all three. You can maybe have one: closure. What I suggest is that you opt for a path that will be painful but that will eventually lead to closure.
The first step in this painful process will be to come clean with your husband. But before you do that, you have to go through a difficult and perhaps time-consuming process of understanding and taking responsibility for what you have done. This sentence I just wrote may have no meaning to you now. You may understand it intellectually, and you could probably mouth the words "I take responsibility for this" to your husband, but that's not enough. You must suffer that grievous shock of self-recognition where you say, Holy shit, that was me that did that, wasn't it? It wasn't my hormones, it wasn't the alcohol or the man's attractiveness -- that was me, just deciding on my own to go have an affair! Wow.
Once you see that you simply did these things because you felt like it, perhaps you will be a little humbled and you will see why one might be a little outraged that you are asking how you can "end this and still feel some sense of power and control." The process of acceptance you must undergo will dictate that you sacrifice some of your power and control. The fact is, it is your attempt to have some power and control that has gotten you into a situation where you are weak and out of control.
It doesn't mean you're a bad woman. It just means that you're human and we humans do things that are thoughtless and selfish. The key is to admit that it was thoughtless and selfish and declare yourself willing to do whatever it takes to make it right and move on.
Your husband may be shocked and hurt when you tell him. He may say mean things to you. He may admit to having done similar things. He may want to end the marriage. Whatever he says, do not defend yourself and do not attack him. Let him hear this news, observe how he responds, and be ready to do what it takes. Do not insist that he be ready to move on. He might not be ready to move on when you are.
And, frankly, I really think you're going to need someone to help you through this. I don't know who -- there are marriage counselors and religious people who deal with this stuff, but you have to respect them, and you have to be able to understand what they are saying to you. I would suggest that you find someone schooled in whatever religion or system of ethical thought that you are most familiar with and see if they can help you through this. You're deep into a moral problem that you have no familiarity with and you're going to need some help.
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Want more advice from Cary? Read yesterday's column.