What? An affair? Cheating on your spouse? Am I serious?
Kevin (not real name) was a married man with 2 kids. He explained to me, “My wife is bipolar and it’s depressing to be around her. She doesn’t like me and I don’t like her. But I can’t divorce her because she’s not capable of caring for the kids alone and neither am I. She’s often in bed for days. I have to take time off from work to make sure my kids are fed, clothed, and attending school.
“The only thing that keeps me sane while I wait for the kids to grow up,” Kevin continued, “Is having my girlfriend in my life. Cheating on my wife is the only way I can stay in this marriage.”
I once heard someone describe it this way: Having an affair to preserve a marriage is like dropping a bomb on a city to rebuild it. Marriages and cities can both be rebuilt, sometimes, but a bomb is a rather extreme method.
I ran into Kevin years later and he was happy. His kids were grown, he was divorced, and he was with his same girlfriend, full-time. He felt he had made the right decision in staying with his wife for those long, unhappy years.
Still, I wonder what Kevin’s behavior taught his children about relationships, as they eventually found out about his infidelity. People’s behavior is never black and white, and I don’t know if Kevin made the right choice for himself, his wife, his children. But I’m an outsider in his life. I don’t make choices for other people. It’s hard enough making my own choices.
I knew another man, I’ll name him Steve, who conducted a 2 year affair with a woman. He was in love with her and she felt the same about him. Both of them were married. Then, their spouses found out.
Steve’s wife was bereft and begged him to give up his girlfriend. She said she’d do anything to stay married to him.
“But I love my girlfriend,” Steve told her. “I can’t give her up. I’ve never loved you that way. There was always something missing between us.”
Steve left his wife and waited for his girlfriend to leave her husband. The girlfriend decided she didn’t want to leave her husband for Steve.
Meanwhile, Steve’s wife, after begging and pleading, suddenly fell in love with someone new. “It was like a veil was lifted from my face,” she said. “I felt free of my addiction to my husband for the first time. I no longer had to hope against hope that he would love me back. I finally feel at peace with someone and truly loved.”
On the eve of losing his wife, something amazing happened to Steve. “I fell in love with my wife for the first time,” he lamented. “It’s not fair! All these years she was crazy about me I felt so alone. Now that I’ve finally fallen in love with her, she won’t give me a second look.”
As I’ve said many times, we’re all flawed. We stumble through life doing the best we can with what we know at the time. That’s what makes life so beautiful — it’s a never ending mystery with plot twists everywhere.
I don’t recommend having an affair to sustain a marriage though, just as I don’t recommend dropping a bomb on a city to rebuild it.