Married when they were both 21 years old, Carla* and Jason Evans began their life together juggling a newborn and a meager bank account before either of them had finished their junior year of college. Over the years, they weathered the storms together and appeared to be the perfect couple. But underneath it all, 15 years of being a full-time suburban housewife with a part-time job was taking its toll on Carla. Her lack of satisfaction culminated in a yearlong affair with a coworker. She hid her extramarital relationship from everyone around her until eventually the guilt got the best of her. Even after she confessed to Jason, the two decided to remain together. However, broken trust and Carla’s refusal to end her friendship with the coworker she cheated with now threaten to tear the couple apart.
“I wish I could make my reason for cheating on Jason more interesting by blaming it on his crazy work schedule or saying I had fallen for another man, but those things aren’t true. I looked up one day and I realized that I’d sacrificed my dreams of traveling, starting my own business, and earning a graduate degree so that I could maintain balance in my home.
“Because we were so young when we married, we focused on building our financial future. Jason assumed the role of provider and worked constantly while I stayed home with our first child. It was always my intention to return to work full-time, but we ended up having two more kids. Staying home to raise three children and only working part-time was very difficult for me. These were necessary compromises. . But, after 15 years of keeping the peace for the greater good, I felt completely absorbed by marriage and motherhood.
“Jason took the joy out of anything I wanted to do by trying to make me feel guilty for having individual aspirations. When I talked about my lack of fulfillment, he would turn the tables on me by talking about how much he gave me. He was controlling. As I became increasingly dissatisfied with my marriage, Mark, a family friend and coworker who was going through his own marital issues, listened to my woes. He cared about my feelings. One thing led to another and our attraction to each other became sexual.
“The affair between us lasted almost a year. I tried to be respectfully discreet, and I never denied that something was going on. But then again, Jason never asked about my unaccounted-for nights out. I’ve ended the physical part of my relationship with Mark, but we still keep in touch quite often. While I want to give 100 percent to fix my marriage, I’m afraid that giving up my friendship with Mark completely may mean losing touch with my individual desires.”
“I was raised in a household where a lack of money caused my parents to fight constantly. I always dreamed of having my own family and doing things differently. I believed that making a lot of money would make my marriage run smoothly. I worked hard to provide my wife with all the things I thought would make her happy: a big house, nice car, trips and tons of jewelry. She doesn’t even have to work. All I asked was that she put the needs of our family first.
“In the months leading up to her affair with Mark, I had noticed that Carla had become very withdrawn from me. She was easily irritated, unwilling to talk or share and, at best, unpredictable with her time. She would come in at all hours of the night and even told me that she was staying at her girlfriend’s place on occasion. But I never imagined that she was having an affair.
“When Carla told me about what she’d been doing, I was shocked. But in the back of my mind, I assumed that because she was bold enough to tell me about the affair, it was just a onetime thing. That’s part of the reason I didn’t fly off the handle or go buck wild. I didn’t want to do anything that might get out of control and jeopardize my children’s well-being. Just because their mother’s values were screwed up at the time didn’t mean I had to corrupt their innocence.
“I admit, I’m not the easiest person to get along with. Over the years I’ve lashed out verbally and even physically at Carla when I’ve felt disrespected. I can see how my behavior might have been considered controlling at times. But my priority is and always has been setting up this dream. I guess the problem is, it wasn’t hers.
“There are days that I can’t stop rehashing what she’s done to me. But Carla is the mother of my children, and we’ve built this life together. I don’t want to go through the pain or the public embarrassment of a divorce. What’s done is done. I just want us to move forward.”