Tuesday 21st November 2017
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Have you ever had an affair?

Photo by Nan Goldin

I did, and am currently writing that chapter of the book. It was when my marriage was well and truly dead and I was looking for a way out—an “Exit Affair,” they’re called (and before you judge, you’ll have to wait and read the book to see what kind of behavior my husband was up to at the time). How about you? Have you ever? Or even come close?

Posted on April 24th, 2017 54 Comments

54 Responses

  1. Stella says:

    Yes

  2. Rosie says:

    Yes, once a long time ago. OMG, I had forgotten about that. And one night with a guy whose wife was having a baby, but I didn’t know that until I woke up in his house and saw the “Congratulations! It’s a BOY” cigars.

  3. Emily says:

    Yes, a convention affair that extended beyond the convention…I left for the convention the day after finding my ex with his girlfriend. It started at the end of long night out and continued because I had been attracted to this man for years and just loved him. It was long distance and goes as these things usually do. We weren’t friends for awhile afterward and we are now again.

  4. Christina says:

    Yes, and it led me to realize I’m much better and happier in “monogamish” * relationships.

    *http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/03/magazine/infidelity-will-keep-us-together.html

  5. RebeccaNYC says:

    An exit affair, and later when I was single again, an affair with a married man that went on for years. We’re still friends. Je ne regret rien.

  6. Tami says:

    No, but I daydream a lot about it.

  7. Heather says:

    Yes, though I was the ‘other woman’ for a married man. One of the great loves of my life. Met him online, seemingly everything I’d ever wanted in a partner. Of course he was lying about his marital status. I suspected and then knew for several months before actually confronting him with the information (googling and finding the wife’s facebook page, then a lawyer friend did some research for me). After 3 years of inaction on his part (claiming he’s going to get a divorce), I’ve just ended it. There were parts that were blissful and parts that were infuriating, but one of the worst things were the shitty, judgemental comments a lot of my friends made towards me about it. Judge not, people.

    • DeDe says:

      Seriously? Fuck those people. Life is complicated and shit happens – no one is immune, no matter how morally superior they think they are.

      • Heather says:

        Thanks for saying so. Yeah, one of the awful parts was how invisible the relationship was… as I was his ‘secret’ – so if my friends asked me about it at all, it was snarky stuff, “how’s the married guy?” as though I needed reminding. Then when I ended things, I only told one friend (the one who was most understanding), so the breakup felt invisible too.

  8. Joanne says:

    I thought about it a lot during my 25 year, on and off again relationship, especially because we so rarely had sex, and we have not for the past 3 years, but I haven’t. Made me realize that, for me, it’s not about sex but history, respect and yes love. I still do not completely understand this part of myself, as I miss sex, but not enough to jeopardize what I DO have.

  9. Stacey says:

    Yes. Mine was an “exit” affair as well. But we ended up getting married and we’ve been together for nearly 20 years. When I met my husband I knew he was my “beshert” and I had to pursue him.

  10. sarah says:

    Yup. And it was the some of the happiest years (3) of my life.

  11. joannawnyc says:

    I’ve been sooo tempted! But not recently.

  12. DeDe says:

    Yes – and I left my husband for him. The guy turned out to be a sociopath (had an attempted homocide in his background, a history of domestic violence, an epic beating that nearly killed his victim, and possible incest involving his very young child – all of which I was completely unaware of). I was lucky and got out before I could be physically harmed, but the psychological damage has taken years to heal. My husband actually helped me leave and we eventually got back together. He is honestly the very best person I have ever known in my life.

  13. Elisha says:

    Yes I’m in one right now. Married nearly 25 years but my husband’s high sex drive turned upside down after 15 years of marriage. We worked on it for 3 years, at the end of which he told me I was fat – which severely buzzkilled my desire to sleep with him anymore. Enter the affair. Best sexual years of my life! I’m still married and don’t want to leave while kids are at home (currently youngest is in middle school). I am beginning to understand why so many marriages disintegrate when couples become empty nesters. We haven’t slept together in 2+ years now and sadly I would rather it be this way.

  14. Caroline says:

    It was a lifetime ago, but yes.
    well before kids and marriage.
    Exit affair for sure. My first real long term boyfriend. somewhere along the way the relationship status had been downgraded to something I knew should end.
    The affair definitely helped clarify the situation.
    Not making excuses, just what I did.

  15. Kathleen Trail says:

    Not sure it counts as a true “affair” because it was college and apparently my frontal lobe wasn’t fully developed. I had been dating a guy that I’d realized was gay (although it took him another 6 months to admit it), but in a cowardly move, I didn’t bother to break up with him when I should have. His roommate and I would hang out when he wasn’t there and we had a few weeks of hooking up before both relationships ended. I don’t think my not-quite-boyfriend ever found out – I was more worried about ruining his friendship/roommate relationship, but the truth is I wasn’t very kind to the roommate in the way we broke it off either, so kind of asshole-ish of me all around.

  16. Diane says:

    Yes–exit scenario as well. Happened so long ago and I don’t think about it that much anymore, so much has changed. But when I do think about it, I feel sad, hurt, foolish, naive. I was a late bloomer, never dated in high school, did not see myself as attractive. And the appeal of the affair was that I (improbably)caught the eye of the football star, the gorgeous guy, the popular one. What I see now but didn’t then is that it was never really real, it was never going to last, it was really so much of my own fantasy. He was a beautiful guy but selfish, vain, nasty and shallow. I don’t judge myself — my life has worked out so far — but I feel great compassion for the person I was then, the situation I was finding my way out of. Even to this day not many people in my life know about this.

  17. CarrieM. says:

    Yes. I both hugely regret it and am grateful for it, because it made me realize it’s not something I would ever do again, and it ultimately made me appreciate my husband so much more.

    We weren’t married at the time (we are now), but we’d been together for several years when it happened. I’ve always had a much higher sex drive than my husband, and it’s always been a blow to my ego that he rarely initiates sex. So long story short, I was a musician playing a show on a weekend my husband was out of town. I met a hot guy from another band and we wound up at his place. I also had a bit of a substance abuse issue at the time that clouded my judgement. We met up a few times after that, but I ended it quickly after my conscience finally kicked in. The guy lived in my neighborhood, and that was a huge source of stress for me for a few years, as we’d occasionally see him on the street and of course, I never told my husband. Luckily, the guy was cool and never let on that he knew me.

  18. Adrien says:

    No. But kind of yes. I think you’d call it an emotional affair but I wanted it to be more. I was desperately unhappy in my marriage and was looking for a way out. The object of my affection liked the attention he got from me, but not actually me, as it turns out. (I did leave my marriage and I’m in a much better place now.)

  19. Lisa says:

    My first husband was an alcoholic in denial with spending issues – felt like his mother more than his wife. Met a wonderful man, had an affair, we both left our spouses, and are happily married to each other. Not proud of our behavior, but so happy with the result.

  20. Beth says:

    Yes. I was married with a child, he was married with 3 children. We met at work. We had an affair 2 years before I told my husband I wanted a divorce. And another 3 years while we fought/finalized the divorce. Married him 2 months after my divorce was finalized. We were married for almost 6 years, I thought he was my bashert. That is, until I confronted him last spring. He had been having an affair for almost a year with a girl who works for him who is half his age. I spent the first month begging and pleading to save our marriage, then realized it was time for me to go. The divorce will probably be finalized one year to the day I confronted him. It has been the worst and best year of my life. I realize now my soon to be ex-husband is a very emotionally broken narcissist and what he did to his first wife and to me, he will do again. I don’t regret it though. My son seems to have survived all of this mostly unscathed emotionally, his father and I coparent really well, and I continue to have a close and wonderful relationship with my stepchildren. C’est la vie.

  21. Debra K says:

    Yes. An epic exit affair with a man so completely wrong for me that my best friend said to me, “you know, he’s not exactly an upgrade”. But the sex was amazing and the whole affair woke me out of a stupor and caused me to re-evaluate everything I thought I wanted in a man. My ex-husband and I are still friends and while it was a traumatic period for both of us, we came out the other side realizing how wrong we had been for each other. I think an exit affair has a different function than a long term cheating kind of infidelity, not that any of it is less painful, it’s just that it can be sort of cathartic and freeing if you are unhappy. I don’t judge anyone for these choices because you never know what couples go through behind closed doors and even the happiest marriages on the outside can be rotten to the core on the inside.

  22. Anon says:

    Three years ago, something started that could have turned into a full blown affair if I had been ok being the other woman and constantly hiding what was going on.

    It was an exit affair for him, that started with him keeping a long distance significant other from me, turned into an emotional affair and then changed one night when we had too much to drink. I was naive enough to believe he would break up with the s.o. to pursue what we had. And when he didn’t I had to break it off. It still hurts and at the time I couldn’t tell anyone about it since we lived in a small town and had some of the same professional connections. I suppose I never was able to fully mourn the relationship, as brief as it was the pain was deep because I felt that we should have ended up together.

  23. Marianne says:

    In 2012 I started collecting testimonies from women who’d stepped out on their partner–straight, gay, bi, monogamous, poly. What interested me was the notion that, while men and women report being unfaithful in equal amounts, public depictions of infidelity either assume only men step out, or are much kinder to men than to women. For me, the most interesting thing was that most of the women I spoke to had never truly had a conversation with their partner about what constituted infidelity for them. it was also clear that the people who were the happiest in their relationships were those who had had an explicit conversation about what their “contract” entailed, and who kept to this contract to the letter.

  24. also anon says:

    Yes, and it was the best decision I ever fell into. My wonderful child is a product of this, I guess, “exit affair.” My ex decided to stay with me despite know that he was not the father- a few years later, we were done. I stayed through his many affairs and innumerable flirtations- it’s now hard to look back at how demeaning that life was.

  25. Mamavalveeta03 says:

    A flirtation when my husband was going thru grad school and was emotionally and physically absent much of the time. Luckily, it never progressed. I’ve learned to have more reasonable expectations of my husband and marriage. That and growing up a lot have held us together for 35 yrs!

  26. Jo says:

    +1 on the emotional affair. It made me realize how unhappy I was in my marriage and how emotionally absent my husband was. He finally figured out something was going on and called me out on it. And now we’re in therapy, trying to rebuild our relationship although I have my doubts that he’ll be able to give me the emotional support that I really crave in a partner. Funny enough, the object of my affection is also emotionally unavailable so there is obviously something I need to resolve within myself.

  27. KimFrance says:

    I am loving these stories! Thanks for sharing, ladies.

  28. Kirstjen says:

    I don’t really know how to answer this question. My ex & I were together forever & had what I thought was nearly a perfect relationship except for a serious libido mismatch. I met up with a guy who I’d been in love with as a teenager. When I first saw him, my thought was YUCK. A couple hours later, I didn’t want to go home. Still, I didn’t do anything.
    2 weeks later, I told my partner, in tears, that I couldn’t get the guy out of my head. My partner moved out a week later. His GIRLFRIEND moved into his new apartment 3 days later. Now they are married.
    Amazingly, after having him tell me I was ugly or fat or both for 20+ years, I’ve had to fight the men off with a stick. I was 49 years old when it happened, just turned 51 a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t figure I’d ever have another lover. I’ve had the best sex of my life and more lovers than I’d be willing to admit. It’s been scary, ego-boosting, and just a ton of fun.

    • Heather says:

      Out of all the great stories here, this one might be my favorite! My ex also body-shamed me… said I smelled bad, tasted bad, etc. Of course I don’t — and I don’t for a minute believe you are overweight or unattractive! Learned that those kind of put downs come from the persons own deep insecurity.

  29. c.w. says:

    One of my marriages ended, in part, because my husband thought I was having an affair. I wasn’t. But, because life is weird, I ended up getting together with the guy he thought I was having an affair with––we didn’t last. That was decades ago. I make no judgements on those who have “strayed” and those who haven’t. I have had relationships/marriages that have lasted from 15 years to 4 years. All of them were worthwhile in their own ways and I was loved and I loved. I’m now happily attached and assume it will stick.

  30. M.A. says:

    No. But I probably would have in the past if someone had shown interest.

  31. Amy in StL says:

    Yes and I’ve never admitted it to anyone other than my ex-husband and the man I cheated with. I married my college sweetheart because that’s what you do, not because I was ready or in love with him. We were not a good match and when I began working with someone who was young and fun and chased after me I gave in to it. I’ve always regretted that my marriage ended that way. That was over 20 years ago and I’ve not had many long term relationships since then.

  32. Betsy says:

    I haven’t. And I wouldn’t because I am just not wired that way – not because I am any great moral police officer. Right now, I can’t imagine stirring up the energy.

    Many of my friends have been cheating partners, cheated on by partners, and the other woman. Life unfolds in ways we can’t expect. I’d never judge anyone for cheating, but I always encourage my friends to make a change if they are persistently unhappy.

    As a second wife to a husband who was cheated on, I can honestly say that an exit affair led me to the great love of my life. You just never know.

    • vishy says:

      “I can’t imagine stirring up the energy”. Haha, this is me. I tell my hubby that even if he died, I don’t think I would bother starting a new relationship. Besides which, I don’t care for being so vulnerable to another human being. I really love being on my own, and luckily, my hubby is a loner too, so we are alone together if that makes sense. I don’t think anyone else would afford me that freedom.

  33. Anon says:

    Yes, an emotional entanglement with a (significantly younger) workmate that ended up being a short-term physical relationship also. We mutually called it quits because I was not ready to leave (kids) and he couldn’t deal with being the other man. We still work together and are good friends. Yes, I still hanker after him (amazing sex) but won’t let it happen. I plan to leave when my youngest finishes school, so I guess it was my ‘pre-exit’ affair?

  34. Gables girl says:

    Many offers but no thanks. Been married to same faithful guy for 26+ years. I will say that relationships get stale so we always try to have something fun to look forward to–usually an amazing trip or fun house project. It helped us tremendously not having kids.

  35. Dorothea says:

    My husband has been unfaithful — several emotional affairs, and probably more than one physical affair. I don’t know for sure, and he’s never going to confess or ask for forgiveness. It crushes me, it won’t stop, and I won’t leave him, at least not for now. I want more of him, not less of him. I wish there was more openness about women who stay with unfaithful men. I’m terrified to submit this comment, but maybe someone else will say, “me too,” and that openness or understanding or new story I”m looking for will start.

    • Emily says:

      Women stay more often then we will all ever know. I did for years and years.

      I know one relationship that is significantly better post-affairs than it was pre. Both partners are very happy that they stuck it out. But they both committed to pay a lot of attention to their marriage after the affairs.

  36. Calican says:

    Yes, and I’m still not sure how or why I let it happen.
    My affair was a brilliant, amazing artist. He also had his demons. He had long been in recovery, and was battling manic depression, and his art was a convenient cover for it. And he was married.

    I was careful about keeping this affair a secret, but not careful enough about not getting pregnant. We continued the affair, even after my son was born, but I didn’t love him, and it was halfhearted on my end.

    When my son was almost two, I met someone else, and I knew this man I had just met was the real deal. I broke off the affair, his wife found out and left him, he had a psychotic episode. To say it ended in a terrible mess is an understatement. I never saw or spoke to him again.

    I went on to marry this man, who stuck with it in spite of my recent poor life decisions. He is amazing, and so is my son.

    Five years ago, my affair committed suicide. (I found out via a text message from his ex-wife). Just two weeks before he died, he called me. I didn’t answer, but after listening to his voicemail, I called him back–then hung up before he could answer. It haunts me to this day that I didn’t just talk to him. Would he still be here? Or was he saying goodbye?

    It’s been good to hear other affair stories in a judgement-free space. I know I’m not the only one, even if my story is so maudlin. (Sorry to bring down the room.)

  37. annabel says:

    Yep, over 20 years ago. we worked together, he was about 10 years younger and had knocked his girlfriend up and married her and I think was feeling a little stifled, like his single days had ended before he really wanted them to. He ran after me really hard, and I just kept saying no until one day I didn’t. we were off and on for a year or so, until I moved away. some of it was great, but he really did not treat me very well and I spent a lot of time being quite annoyed with myself for putting up with him treating me as poorly as he did.

  38. Ruth Harris says:

    This post and the marvellous comments that follow made me realize—for the first time!—that every one of my five bestsellers (Park Avenue Series) hinges on an affair of some kind: sad, mad, glad. Affairs, no matter the reason(s) provide the idea circumstance for a novelist to explore the changes and transformations in women’s lives. As to myself, I was fortunate to be single in that golden period after The Pill and before STDs lurked everywhere. Truly, the Good Old Days. 😉

  39. Donna says:

    Yes! A wonderful exit relationship that lasted, off and on, for over twenty years! He gave me the courage to leave the marriage. During our time together I have been the other women and,sometimes,the only woman. He has never married. I am 16 years older than he and realize that this will never be a permanent relationship but I know that if I need him, he will come.I love him dearly.

  40. anony. says:

    It was in another country, and that made it harder to avoid my feelings and attraction for him; it lasted a few more long distance months after I returned home. He changed my heart; I don’t know what affect I had on his. I still think of him on occasion, and sometimes miss him, though my 23 years with my husband means more to me than those three wonderful months and how he made me feel (the beginning of a relationship is always always easy and wonderful).

    It won’t happen again, for me, I’m certain. I can’t go through all that again.

    My husband only knows that I was deeply attracted to another man, not how far or how deeply felt it went.

  41. anon says:

    Yes. Started on a work trip – movie out of town – him exec, me a producer – both of us married/ young kids – late dinners – seeing bands – oops staying in each other rooms – oops madly in love – sex like a house on fire – chemistry i’ve never felt w/ anyone else, where you can read each other like a book – on and off for a few tortured years – then I just stopped for real..

    All along I never stopped loving my husband – you really can love 2 people at once – which is too much of a good thing – I think affair dude would want tospend our lives meeting now and then – I just got over it – it started to feel cheap, sad. I went through drug-like withdrawals, told no one but a therapist that I went 3 times then I was good. Just saw affair guy after a year a few weeks ago. It was great. We still laugh our asses off together and I like the ego boost of knowing he’s still super attracted to me – but that’s all I need. The fantasy is enough. And we created a pretty good highlight reel.

    And surprising of all – I love my husband more now. He is a more generous partner and kinder person overall and the more the years go by, the more that matters to me. Still, I quietly marvel at my intact little family — so glad that bullet got dodged… I think it made me happier. But knowing the complications, I don’t need to do it again. Heroin is great. ONCE.

  42. Dana says:

    Yes, he was married and I was single. It started as a friendship based on mutal likes. We’d email each other constantly.(I probably sent him so many links from this website linking things “Dangerous Minds”.I had to sit on my hands not to send him the bad album covers link from last week, which also made me realize how much I miss him.) We really fell in love with each other but it sucked because I knew from the start divorce wasn’t an option for him.

  43. Rachel says:

    It was definitely an emotional affair, long distance and the one time we met in person we kissed like mad with my fiance in the next room. Not proud of it at all but it was the most intense kiss of my life. I wish we had done more but honestly, I think if we had actually gotten together we would have petered out. It was purely lust. I told my now husband because 1. he pretty much guessed as I lost about 15 pounds and was in full blown depression afterwards and 2. I couldn’t take the guilt. We’ve been married for almost 14 years now and I have to hand it to him, he’s never once thrown it in my face the rare times we fight. He’s a keeper. Do I still think of the other guy? It used to be every day for the first few years, now it’s maybe once a year.
    The last time I thought of him it was because my seatmate on a recent airplane was a dead ringer for the guy. My heart died a little bit at that but I have no plans to look him up again.

  44. Anon says:

    Yes, and unknowingly at the same time my husband was. We weren’t happy at the time and were steadily growing apart. One day, I got an email from the boyfriend of the woman he was having an affair with telling me about it.

    At that point, we laid all our cards on the table and decided that maybe what we had (we had been together almost 10 years at that point) was worth saving and fighting for. We talked, so much, and worked our way through it.

    We have now been together for 23 years, have a 12-year-old son and are still happy. Do we owe it all to our affairs? Maybe? Were we able to move forward and forgive? Yes.

    Everyone has a reason for having an affair, and only the people involved know why. I don’t judge anyone for their reasons or affairs — who can really understand how the heart works?

    Everyday I’m still figuring it out.

  45. Ms. T says:

    Reading these comments has been cathartic. I had an emotional affair with my boss. The infatuation started the moment I met him (at the job interview) and lasted until he retired (because he couldn’t manage his own feelings). Chemical. Like an earlier commenter said, he woke something up in me that had been dormant for years; I’m grateful for that if nothing else. I opened my eyes thinking of him. Drove in singing him songs in the rearview mirror. Spent the day waiting for interactions. He was my last thought at night. I’d been married for 12 years, we had three kids, and my husband had uprooted his life and moved to the East Coast for me. That said, we were at a fairly broken point in our marriage. My infatuation made it worse. When my boss announced his retirement, I told him how I felt. He told me he felt the same way, and said in the same breath that we were not going to do anything with those feelings. So we reveled in them briefly, and he took his exit. My husband and I went into counseling and while we are better now, we are not great. I think of my former boss weekly. Used to be hourly, so it’s getting better. I am somewhat infatuated with others, but not to the same degree. My husband is an amazing co-parent and wonderful person.The sex is regular and good. But if I get one trip, is that enough? I worry if I leave, aside from what it will do to our boys, I will not find the greater happiness I think is out there. The electricity doesn’t last . . . right? Thanks all for sharing. There’s a lot of wisdom here.

  46. Mimi says:

    I’m not sure whether they were exit affairs or not, but I had several affairs towards the end of a long, unhappy marriage. A long distance affair with a married literary lion went on for nearly 10 years, through my divorce and then when I was single. A recent magazine article about my lover’s wife of nearly 60 years (hint) prompted me to reread some of our correspondence and I was touched by the caring and friendship her wandering husband and I had shared. At the time, my affairs were exciting and fulfilling, but I’ve been monogamous for more than 15 years with my husband, who I deeply love. I don’t think affairs are ever much about sex. There’s the revenge affair, the I don’t feel good about myself affair, etc. As I’ve matured emotionally I became aware of how infidelity could hurt someone I love, and I guess I conquered the selfishness that had motivated them.