I lost my bearings and had an affair

Now the man's wife wants to hear my side of the story! Why? What good will that do?

Published December 21, 2011 1:00AM (EST)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

I am a woman in my mid-20s. Last year I somehow managed to lose sight of what I wanted in life and went on an emotionless rampage, mostly doing things I probably shouldn't have. One of these things involved meeting a married man while at a family member's house and proceeding to have an affair with him (I was not in any other sexual relationships at the time). The initial idea was his. He was very attracted to me, and he told me he wanted to get separated from his wife. Of course I didn't believe that he would leave his wife for me, nor did I want him to even after he claimed that he loved me. Nevertheless, I went along with the affair because I was bored and didn't care about anything or anybody. It lasted only a short time (couple of months? I don't even remember) during which I met his wife and baby (I know I'm horrible). They were all staying with my family member.

Anyway, they moved away, and I stopped talking to him except for here and there asking how each other is doing. About six months later, I met my fiancé (I told my fiancé what I had done) and asked the man not to contact me anymore. It's been about eight months since that. He hasn't; however, his wife has. She emailed to say she knows what happened and would like my side of the story. I figured she knew what was happening a long time ago, even when it was going on.

Why on earth would she want to hear from me? Do you really think it's possible that she just wants to use the information against me? That's what the paranoia is telling me. My reason is telling me it's just running around in her head, and she wants answers. If that's the case I think she should just give it up anyway! Talking to me isn't going to help her in the least. I don't really want to send her some email telling her what she already knows, and I don't think I should apologize to her. But part of me wonders if it will be beneficial to either her or me to at least acknowledge her with a short response. Although other parts of me think that would just open a can of worms. Maybe I should just ignore it and even close the email account she sent the request to.

Can you help me sort out the best answer, since there's probably not one right one?


Just Go Away

Dear Just Go Away,

In what way did you lose sight of what you wanted in life? Did you have a loss of faith or loss of vision? What happened? That is what tugs at me.

Perhaps what you thought you wanted in life wasn't really what you wanted. You may be entering a period in which you admit to yourself what your passions really are and arm yourself to pursue them. Your earlier life may have been determined by concerns that are no longer relevant. Maybe there is something deeper that you need to express. I like that possibility.

Another possibility is the opposite: that you were pursuing your true dream and got knocked off course -- someone said something, you had a setback, some event caused you to doubt the validity of your passion, and you became angry and fearful and said, well screw it all, nothing matters, it's all meaningless, I might as well have a stupid affair with some married man.

Were you thrown off track? Or were you in a false pursuit and woke up to the falseness of it? Meditate on what happened. Listen for an answer. An answer may come in your dreams, or in writing in a journal. Pay attention. Open yourself to the answer. There will be clues if you look for them. You know, deep inside, what makes you feel powerful and true and what makes you feel wretched and false. So spend some time thinking about what you do want.

As to the question of how to respond to the wife's communication, you might write her a note somewhat like this:

Dear wife of the man I had an affair with,

I am truly sorry for what I did. I realize it was wrong. I know I cannot undo it or make it up to you. For that I am truly sorry. I would like to make amends to you in some way but I think the only way is to tell you how sorry I am and to get out of your life and out of your husband's life.

If you want my side of the story in order to compare accounts, to know if your husband is being truthful to you, I can certainly sympathize with that.

Part of me wants to do what you ask -- to give you my side of the story. But if the right thing to do is to get out of your lives completely, and I think it is, then that means making no further communication.

Again, I am truly sorry for what I did. It was wrong and thoughtless and I regret the harm it caused.

You will not hear from me again.

By Cary Tennis

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