August 20, 2019
I had a year long affair four years into my marriage…
Jessica and Thomas’ story
I had a year long affair four years into my marriage when our second child was just a few months old, with David, who was a friend to both my husband and I.
David came to live with us for a number of weeks to help Thomas with a project he was working on. It began unexpectedly as an escalating friendship, an emotional connection but grew into the beginnings of a physical relationship once we moved back interstate where David lived, sometime later.
At 23, I was young, vulnerable and found myself involved in an entanglement which I didn’t seek – although, in hindsight I was unhappy, feeling ‘trapped’ at home with a baby and a toddler 24/7. David’s initial advances were opportunistic, taking advantage of my vulnerability and naivety.
After David returned home and prior to us moving interstate as a family, David and I continued our relationship secretly, communicating via letters. After some months and feeling guilty, I tried to put a stop to our correspondence but David persisted stating, “There’s nothing wrong with us being friends”. At this point I told Thomas what I’d been doing and how I felt about David. Thomas forgave me and we agreed that I would have no contact with David. However, upon moving and once David and I began seeing each other again regularly, both with my family and then secretly, the affair very quickly deepened to a physical one.
A few months later I ended the affair suddenly, after David told me of a dream he had about Thomas and I separating and me losing custody of our eldest child – which distressed me so much I finally came to my senses and saw reality. I then told Thomas the truth, admitting that I had been disloyal and unfaithful a second time.
Upon finding out Thomas gave me the choice to leave, if that’s what I wanted, but if I stayed I would have to work hard to regain his respect and trust. He didn’t trust me at all. Though I felt very vulnerable I was actually relieved; glad the truth was out and I didn’t have to try living a double life anymore, because extreme anxiety was impacting my mental and physical health.
Simultaneously Thomas became unemployed and made sure I had no further contact with David at all (100% cut off). Thomas was with me everywhere I went – we literally did everything together, as a family, (which was awesome in hindsight).
Thomas basically made decisions for me. Immediately, we went together to get counsel from our pastors who recommended professional counselling for me. I saw the counsellor a couple of times, then stopped going as she was ‘going places in my past’ that I didn’t think were relevant or related to my present circumstances?!
However, of most benefit to me long term, has been (ongoing) extensive personal reflection and self-help; identifying and dealing with past abuse and its impact on me as a woman and affects on my marriage.
Jessica and Thomas’ Interview
- Share your brief background/love story
Thomas and I met at church when I was 12 years old and he was 15. Our families became good friends and we started going out when I was 15. Having moved interstate with my family and after Thomas virtually proposed when I was just 17 years old, we actually split up for nearly two years. When he visited one last time (being his last ditch effort to see if there was any hope with us getting back together), the spark of interest was rekindled but I didn’t say anything to him cos I knew it would mean ‘together for good’ – ie. marriage. After much contemplation, I headed interstate with my brother to inform Thomas of my true feelings however, we didn’t make it – on route I was nearly killed in a terrible car accident. Being a mechanic and at my father’s request, Thomas came to investigate the damage to our car (which was extensive). Seizing the only opportunity I was going to get and from my hospital bed, I revealed my feelings to Thomas – to his utter surprise! We were married 9 months later when I was 19 years old. We’ve now been married for 31 years; have 4 adult children, and 3 grandchildren.
2. What were the first signs of things starting to go wrong in your marriage?
Jessica: about 2-3 years into our marriage – The ‘in love’ feeling waning but resentment growing towards Thomas for not meeting my emotional & physical needs (this coincided with severe sleep deprivation after our first child who had a medical issue).
Then four years into our marriage, after our second child, when David was living with us –
- Neither of us taking it seriously when I told Thomas about some initial flirtatious comments made by David, in Thomas’ absence
- Wanting to spend time with David just to talk and connect with someone who I felt ‘saw’ me
- Taking and making opportunities to be with David alone
When David moved back interstate our relationship continued via letters. Despite trying to put a stop to the relationship and initially feeling guilty –
- Enjoying the companionship and the thrill of a secret relationship
- Deepening feelings for David when we moved back interstate followed by
- Escalating of relationship to physical stage alongside strained relationship with Thomas
First ‘signs’…. I am a male so for me it was Jessica telling me.
I did not see the signs, even in hindsight from my perspective, no real signs or issues – how wrong I was.
However when I look back on it, I too, probably had thoughts of being trapped and thinking that if Jessica died, I would be free. There was obviously something underlying here in terms of affection and love that I didn’t really see as an issue on my part. But looking back on it now, I think there was an attitude within me of taking Jessica for granted.
3. At the time were you aware that your decisions were unhealthy/entering dangerous territory?
Jessica: Yes and No
Yes – I told Thomas but it kept happening because David was living with us and Thomas was away at work and David was with me at home working on the project
No – I didn’t reflect on my actions or the potential consequences
Yes – but too connected now with David; too far down the slippery slope of marital decline
Thomas: Hard one to say, so around the same time Jessica told me about David (the first time) there was another woman that I had a flirtatious moment/interest in (not physical or emotional), just in my head – I entertained the thought that if Jessica was not in the picture then I would be in a position to take it further with this other woman. This was after Jessica told me about her and David’s relationship so to an extent; I could justify this in my head.
4. What effects did you begin to see in your relationship with your husband?
Jessica: Emotional distance; resentful and other negative thoughts about him; strain; resulting in physical disconnection and distance.
Thomas: From my point of view, most of our interactions were the same but maybe had become more of a routine that we seemed to be getting into. For me work seemed very important and providing for my family was probably where I saw most of my value to my wife. There were things that were preoccupying me when I was doing extra jobs/hours at work to make ends meet. At this stage, I also had a back injury which required me to give up work and resulted in ongoing chronic back pain. The change in our relationship I was attributing to the factors that were happening in my life more so than what were happening in Jessica’s.
5. Throughout this time did it ever get to the point of considering separating from your husband?
Jessica: Yes. Initially when David frankly brought up the topic, my ‘morals’ told me I didn’t want to do this; but eventually yes, I started entertaining thoughts of if Thomas was to suddenly die/be out of the picture etc. I don’t think I actually contemplated this as a reality though.
Thomas: I wanted Jessica to be happy but it was not going to be that she just could replace me with David. I loved her and was prepared to fight for her however, if she wanted out, I would wish her well.
It was really hard, I mean really hard, to learn to love again.
Separation was probably not the path I wanted to go down. Having known Jessica’s heart I believe that her no longer being with me was not in her best interest and was not going to solve what we were going through. I have a very wise mum who had already pre-advised me (prior to us getting married) about the examples Jessica had been set by her role models which were very unhealthy, regarding love and respect. I think with this in mind there had to be more effort on my part, if we were going to stay together.
6. How did you take action to walk away from the temptation before it was too late?
Jessica: I didn’t. I was naïve initially and later deceived, not thinking the affair was wrong and justifying my behaviour to myself anyway; blinded to reality, to the damage I was actually inflicting on my family. If not for David’s dream I’d hate to think of what could have happened…..
7. Did you seek advice or counsel during this season? If so, how did it help you?
Jessica: Yes, at husband’s request – I would do whatever he asked me to do just so he could trust me again.
Thomas: For me help came more so from people who were not qualified or competent to be giving advice. While I knew Jessica was going for professional counselling I did not believe that I had issues I had to work through for her. For example, a well-meaning person who was trying to explain what trust was about actually planted the thought that I would really never know what Jessica’s real relationship was with David. So for them, they were trying to tell me that I had to trust her regardless of what she’d told me. Well meaning, but I actually did trust what Jessica had told me was truth but I could never walk away from the question mark he planted. Seek counsel from objective people who have a credible track record as being competent.
8. What led you back and, has kept you together since then?
Jessica: Thing that have led us back….
- complete cutting off of all contact with David
- spending 100% time with husband doing the actions/behaviours of ‘together’ which eventually led to emotional reconnection (during affair being intimate with husband was extremely difficult as my heart wasn’t in it/like an affront to my soul but as I began to feel loved again this slowly reignited my love and desire for Thomas)
- intentionally being grateful for my husband and choosing to focus on his good points
- determining to only speak positively about Thomas
Kept us together since….
- feeling ‘seen’, valued, appreciated and cherished by my husband – not taken for granted
- taking the time to improve my self-esteem and myself as a person – learning about my insecurities, weaknesses and vulnerabilities and dealing with past issues that were impacting my relationship with Thomas
- Thomas not travelling interstate for work for more than a week at a time
- being intentional in prioritising and planning to regularly do things together just as a couple (eg. going for an after dinner walk, sharing coffee and homemade fruit toast for breakfast on the weekend, regular date nights, dinner and evenings out, celebrating our wedding anniversaries, overnight getaways, weekends away – especially as our kids got older and more independent)
For me it was actually taking ownership of the things that I could control and how my failings contributed to Jessica’s decisions. This was never Jessica’s fault alone. I had to learn again how to trust which was probably the hardest thing I’ve had to do. I had to learn how to cherish her and be appreciative of everything she did. Having a year off work gave me the opportunity to see how hard she worked in keeping the household running, the kids clothed, the part time work that Jessica diligently did.
Showing appreciation and continuing to love her slowly changed the way we felt about each other. The thought of feeling trapped slowly went away with a new thought of wanting to wake up with Jessica every morning. I would often say as we went to bed, “Good night my princess” just so she would know that for me she truly was a princess and that was how I thought of her.
9. How did your perspective on commitment and the vows you made change after this experience?
Jessica: I have a much more mature view on commitment now – time, age, overall maturity and life experiences have made clear there importance/significance and how young and naïve I was. Way too young to get married.
Love is not just a feeling but an act of the will.
My marriage vows were impersonal traditional words I didn’t even understand, apart from ‘death do us part’. I so enjoy weddings I attend these days where couples write their own vows, as they are so personal and deeply meaningful!
Thomas: Commitment was not so much an issue; for me it was about setting new commitments for moving forward. I committed to not putting myself in a position where I would be alone with another woman. We actually both did this. While I still think it probably holds weight but probably sounds a bit old fashioned, what we really meant by that boundary/commitment was that we valued our love so much that we wanted to protect it at all costs.
10. What advice would you offer to couples who are having difficulties with boundaries of the opposite sex?
- Both need to value that marriage is sacred and something to be guarded
- Recognize the need for, set, and value boundaries and don’t compromise them – ever!
- Analyze, then communicate honestly the reasons why you’re feeling like compromising those agreed boundaries (ie. what need of mine is not being met? Why would I sacrifice long term stability, respect and trust for short term gratification?)
- Compromise begins in the mind, that’s where the battle starts (wise proverb: “As one thinks in his heart, so is he”). So guard your mind, don’t even entertain thoughts of compromise
- Stay in love with your spouse, rekindle the spark, often
- Agree to be mutually accountable with your spouse and ‘check in’ with how each other are going regularly
- Start setting boundaries before you get married but the boundaries you should be setting should be opposite to boundaries – they should be positive commitments in how you want to live. The best boundary for not having an attraction to another woman is to absolutely and whole-heartedly cherish the one you have, being thankful for each new day that you’ll spend together.
- This one is not so much a boundary but an understanding that guys are really bad about knowing how to do everything. Talking and communicating is really not our forte, so pre-marriage counselling should be a must for both partners to actually work that out before you start making some of those really deep commitments.
*please note the names have been changed to respect the privacy of the people involved