If you had met me exactly eight years ago, you would have thought, “Wow, she has it all.” Why I cheated on my husband the very next month is a complicated question to answer.
It took several months of therapy, hitting rock bottom and intense self-discovery work to arrive at the answer.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Eight years ago, my marketing agency was just starting to take off, my kids were happy and healthy, we lived in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, I had a large group of friends and I was married to a husband who loved me. My life was the textbook definition of happy (suburban edition).
So yeah, life was pretty good. Our marriage was not, but neither of us even realized it. After 11 years of marriage, we were comfortable. We didn’t fight. We traveled. We shuttled kids to play dates. We hosted friends for dinner. He played soccer a couple of times a week. I was in a book club.
Everything was fine on the surface.
Scratch it just a bit, and it was a different story.
Why I cheated on my husband
We had both been eroding our marriage so slowly that the effects were only obvious over the long-term. My need for control meant I could be a real piece of work. I was judgmental and quick to criticize. I could be volatile. I felt entitled. And a lot of this bad behavior was aimed at my husband. Or at least he bore the brunt of it.
The criticism and anger drained his confidence and self-worth. He was so exhausted that he didn’t argue. He ignored my behavior, unsure how I would react if he confronted me, and resigned himself to walking on egg shells around me.
He was passive to my aggressive.
By 2011, the erosion was pretty severe. The foundation of our marriage was still standing, but barely. We were no longer connected on a deep, intimate level. We were living cozy, parallel lives. Now, don’t get me wrong. We weren’t exactly roommates. We loved each other. We had sex. We laughed.
But we also didn’t talk about our marriage, our feelings, our frustrations. I didn’t talk about what I needed, and he didn’t talk about what he needed. In short, we weren’t paying attention to our marriage.
I know this now, of course, but I didn’t know it then. I had no idea how vulnerable my marriage was – or how vulnerable I was. And that’s why I cheated.
As you might imagine, it didn’t take much wind to knock our marriage right off its foundation.
The wind arrived via work.
Like many entrepreneurs, I did a lot of networking to get my company’s name out there. Because I’m tall, blonde, smart, easy to talk to and quick to laugh, I started getting a lot of attention. Men were especially interested in me and what I had to say. They’d hold me hostage in conversations and then request follow-up meetings (though they didn’t want to hire my company). They showered me with praise.
One day I realized I was walking catnip at these events. And that’s a powerful feeling. You know how they say power can really fuck with your head? It’s true.
I became addicted to hearing how awesome I was, all the time, by all these new people I had just met. I couldn’t remember the last time my husband had really, truly paid attention to me. “What the hell,” I thought. “Why was he not paying attention to me?”
The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. “Well, if he doesn’t care, I guess I don’t either.”
The flirting got more intense, particularly with one guy, Bill (not his real name). Bill was smart and accomplished. I loved talking to him. Our conversations were flat-out fun. We talked about travel, not carpools. We talked about food, not grocery store lists. We talked about our childhoods, not our children.
And then one day, Bill and I spent about six or seven hours texting furiously. I can’t remember why we started texting – we had never connected outside of happy-hour-handshake-here’s-my-card events. But I do remember the adrenaline rush. Having someone’s undivided attention for that long left my breathless. hat’s a big part of why I cheated.
I wanted more.
Bill’s wife saw the unusually large volume of texts, so we switched to email.
A week later, Bill was at a business lunch a block from the restaurant I happened to be dining at. I don’t remember the email exchange, but I do remember that this is when the physical part of the affair began. In his car. In the parking lot. Classy.
So, to go back to why I cheated on my husband.
You just read the long answer. The short answer: I was being taken for granted. (I was also taking my husband for granted, but that’s another article.)
Our couple’s therapist, Dr. Kaufman, pointed this out to us – nearly a year later.
A lot had happened between May 2011 and May 2012. My husband and I were different people, struggling to rebuild a marriage that had been decimated. We were determined to reconcile and build a stronger foundation for a stronger marriage. And we did. It’s seven years later, and our marriage has never been better.
Here’s how we pay attention to each other:
- We kiss “hello” and “good-bye.”
- We look at each other when we talk.
- We ask questions – and then we listen to the answers.
- We cuddle on the couch when we watch TV. And we cuddle in bed … just because.
- We express gratitude for the big things (“Thanks for running to Home Depot on a Saturday morning!”) and little things (“Thanks for filling up my water bottle”) that we gladly do for each other.
- We pay each other compliments.
- We check in with each other to make sure all is well.
- We discuss what’s bothering us.
- We accept each other’s quirks – even the super annoying ones.
- We laugh at each other’s jokes.
If you can learn anything from my experience and why I cheated, it’s this: Pay attention to each other! If you don’t, someone will step in and fill the void.