The affair happened a couple of years into Linda’s marriage. She was 32 at the time and had just relocated to Pennsylvania with her 2-year-old daughter, while her husband, a 33-year-old electrician, stayed behind in Arizona to sell their house. The couple planned the move to be closer to their families, but as soon as she and James were apart, Linda realized she was vulnerable. When she ran into an old flame in Pennsylvania a few days later, she knew it was just a matter of time.
At first Linda and the old flame only talked on the phone, five, six, seven times a day. But five months later, they became intimate. Sometimes they made love at his house, sometimes at hers. “The sex part meant so little to me,” Linda says now. “I was caught up in the conversation, the romance, the newness of the relationship.”
When Linda’s husband, James, joined her six months after the affair began, Linda told him she needed time to sort through her feelings. James, still unaware of the affair, agreed to move into an apartment for a while. But he soon found out about the other man, after reading what he’d thought was an innocent E-mail. As tears filled his eyes, he asked his wife, “What’s going on?”
“It was a very difficult conversation,” Linda says now. The guilt and lies and logistics of leading a double life had become too heavy a burden, and she told her husband everything. Afterward he just sat quietly. “He didn’t shout, rage or even threaten to do anything,” she says. “He just sat there devastated.”
That was three years ago, and Linda and James are still together, working on their marriage and taking it, Linda says, one day at a time. “It hurts me now to remember,” she says softly. “I know what I’ve done to our marriage, and I will live with that for the rest of my life.”
How to ‘AffairProof’ Your Relationship
Marriage and family therapist Shirley Glass, Ph.D., offers these suggestions:
Maintain appropriate social boundaries. Avoid emotional intimacy with people you find attractive. Resist the desire to rescue an unhappy soul who pours his heart out to you.
Don’t go over the line with Internet friends. Never exchange sexual fantasies with anyone but your partner.
Recognize that work can be a danger zone. Don’t lunch privately or take coffee breaks with the same person all the time. When you travel with a coworker, meet in public spaces, not in a room with a bed.
Keep old flames from reigniting.If a former lover is coming to the class reunion, invite your partner along. If you value your relationship, think twice about having lunch with an old flame.
Protect your marriage by discussing relationship issues at home. Resolve to be open, honest and caring with your partner.
Make sure your social network is supportive of your marriage. If you do need to talk to someone else about your marriage, be sure that person is a friend of the marriage. Surround yourself with people who are committed to their relationships and who don’t believe in fooling around.