We were several cocktails down and my friend’s eyes were glassy when she abruptly said to me, "Do you think it’s wrong that I don’t tell my husband every time Evan sends me a Facebook message?"
Evan was once married to a friend of ours, and he is a peripheral presence in both of our lives, but I have never swapped Facebook messages with him or exchanged more than quick smiles of greeting when passing in the street.
I said, "What do you mean? Do you just mean you don’t report every message to your husband in real time, which would in fact be a bit weird? Or do you mean that you pretend to be messaging someone else, maybe me, when you’re actually swapping paragraphs with Evan?"
Watch: What is the difference between an emotional and a physical affair? Post continues below.
Her silence told me everything. We had another drink. "The thing is," she said, "he gets me. He’s such a good friend to me, he really makes me laugh and I need that at the moment, you know? I’ve had a tough year, and it’s just such fun to have someone new to chat to".
In my head, alarm bells began to ring.
When I cheated on my husband, my affair did not begin as a conscious decision. My marriage was in a happy, safe and good place. My children were growing up, I had a lot more time for myself, and I joined a local running group. I then became active on its Facebook page, chatting and joking with fellow members and occasionally helping to arrange social running events.
In time, over the course of a year or more, the lighthearted messages I regularly swapped with one of the men in the group moved increasingly to Messenger rather than the open group page. I hardly noticed when this happened.
I did notice, though, when he said, "Let’s email about this instead, it’s easier than Facebook when I’m in the office." I also noticed when he casually took my phone number to arrange a lift back from a race, and the next training session update from him was a green text square in the middle of my locked phone screen, rather than an email hidden in my unrefreshed inbox and which I might not have seen until the next morning.