couples

'I cheated on my husband a week before our wedding. Two years later, my best friend told him.'

I cheated on my husband at my hen's party, and it was the biggest mistake of my life.

That night, I felt anxious before my girlfriends and I had even arrived at the bar.

Once we were seated, I didn’t sip my drink. Instead, I gulped down cocktail after cocktail to take the edge off my mounting unease.

"Last night out before you’re a missus!" my friend Jaz, who knew me as a party animal, whooped as I downed yet another strawberry daiquiri. She winked and gestured to the barman for a refill. "We’re only just getting started!"

To the cheering friends around me, my eagerness to get plastered made it look like I was in the mood to revel. But I wasn’t drinking to celebrate my imminent marriage.

Instead, I was drinking to escape the voice in my head that warned: "Angie! You’re not ready to commit!"

Watch: The Mamamia team confess our relationship deal-breakers. Post continues below. 


Video via Mamamia.

I was getting cold feet.

An hour into the drinking session, I excused myself to go to the toilet. My legs wobbled beneath me when I stood up.

In the quiet cubicle, I took my time. I needed to be alone. I didn’t understand why, but I felt overcome by a powerful mix of anger and grief. My friends were too rambunctious with happiness, too excited on my behalf.

Deep down, I felt jealous of their carefree lives. Why were they so keen to celebrate the end of my freedom? I wanted nothing more than to go to bed in a stupor, away from their banter and laughter and high hopes for my future.

Instead, I loitered by the hand dryer, delaying my return to the bar. I took deep breaths to try to ease the tightness in my chest. What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t I happy?

I felt certain I loved my husband-to-be, Jayden. At the same time, a part of me resented him for wanting to tie me down.

After our wedding, we planned to move back to his hometown. I pictured myself, decade after decade, supporting his hobbies, prioritising his career, having sex the way he liked it.

Had my future been decided? Would that be my life?

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Not that Jayden was selfish — he wasn’t telepathic, that’s all. A perpetual people-pleaser since childhood, I’d never learned to pipe up and ask him for what I wanted.

(Unlike him, I didn’t even know what I wanted!)

But I understood that unless I got the hang of expressing my needs soon, we’d run into serious problems.

I made an awful, drunken mistake.

I’d started making my way back to the bar when a dark-haired stranger approached me. He was clean-shaven, his shirt was crisply ironed, and he smelt of sandalwood cologne.

"Have I seen you somewhere before?" he asked.

I knew he hadn’t; it was nothing more than a chat-up line. I felt a wave of anger and grief wash over me again.

But I wasn’t angry at the stranger, whose interest was mildly flattering. I was angry at myself, at Jayden, and at my oblivious friends who couldn’t see I wasn’t ready for marriage.

"Have I seen you somewhere before?" the stranger repeated.

"Yes" I replied, unsteady on my feet. Then, in a senseless moment of drunken self-sabotage, I lurched forward and kissed him.

We ended up back in the grimy toilet cubicle. He unzipped the back of my dress while I unbuttoned his jeans.

The sex was soulless and unsatisfying, and it was over within a few minutes.

Why I went through with the wedding.

I walked down the aisle on my wedding day feeling sick to my stomach. I knew that with every step I took, time was running out. I had to save my fiancé from myself before it was too late.

Halfway down the aisle, I wanted to turn back and run.

I wanted to sob and to scream, to crush the white roses in my bouquet, to tear up the tulle skirt of my wedding dress.

My heart blazed with shame. My conscience shrieked: "Abort!"

But all eyes were on me. I couldn’t do it.

Then I reached the altar and looked up at my husband-to-be, who had no idea how I’d betrayed him. I saw his eyes shining with pride and adoration where there should have been disgust.

I’d never been big on strength, resolve or courage, but at that moment, every trace of those qualities left me.

As he took my trembling hands in his, I convinced myself I had a duty to protect him from the trauma of learning what I’d done.

I didn’t deserve to marry Jayden, but neither did he deserve to have his heart broken.

You’ll destroy him if you tell the truth, Angie. That’s how I justified my silence. Why burden a good man with so much pain?

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So I vowed to be faithful to him, forsaking all others. My voice shook but gave nothing away. I wept when we shared our first kiss as husband and wife.

"I’m crying happy tears!" I insisted when he cradled my face. He trusted me, so he believed that lie — just as he believed all the others that would come after.

At the reception, I drank too much Merlot and ended up dry-heaving over the toilet, head spinning.

"What’s the matter, Angie?" my best friend and bridesmaid, Nina, knelt beside me, rubbing my back.

"I’m hormonal." I rattled off every excuse I could think of. "Getting married is one big emotional whirlwind. I’m not good with crowds and being in the limelight is freaking intense."

All those statements were accurate to an extent. But the principal reason for my anguish? I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone, not even Nina.

Instead, I reassured her that nothing was wrong and forced a smile for the rest of the night.

How my husband found out.

Ultimately, it was Nina who plucked the truth out of me a couple years later. She’d noticed I’d been growing more and more unhappy.

One Friday evening, she invited me around for dinner. I showed up with plenty to drink, as usual, and proceeded to drown my sorrows.

A few hours later, I woke up on the couch wearing her nightgown. I learned she’d showered and changed me after I got blackout drunk and vomited over myself.

"I can tell you’re in pain, Angie." She hugged me as I cried into her shoulder. "I know you! I see the signs. You smoke a lot more than you used to. You eat way more takeout. And these days, you never attend a social event without drinking yourself stupid. What the heck is going on, girl? What’s wrong?"

Under her expectant gaze, my defenses broke down. I was so tired of suffering. I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed someone to hear me out, to absolve me.

Begging Nina not to hate me, I admitted what had happened at the hen's party. I explained how, through two years of marriage, I’d continued keeping the truth from Jayden.

Her body froze. She pulled away from me. Her next words made my blood run cold. "Angie. Either you tell him, or I will."

"What?" I couldn’t breathe. I’d never felt so close to a panic attack. "But he’s innocent, Nina! He doesn’t deserve to go through hell because of me. I don’t want to ruin his life because of my stupid mistake."

"You think you’re doing him a favour by lying? Are you delusional? You’re keeping the truth from him. That’s wrong! You’re manipulating him into believing he lives in a different reality."

Bawling, I buried my head in my hands. Nina grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me.

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"Listen, Angie! You don’t want to hurt him. I get it. But the fact that you cheated on him shows you guys have problems. If you refuse to be honest, you have no hope in hell of repairing your relationship." She closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. "Like I said. Either you tell him, or I will."

I wish I could say I had the guts to fix my own marriage. But I couldn’t bear the thought of facing Jayden. So I chose the cowardly option — just as I’d done for the past two years.

"You tell him," I whimpered.

Nina tutted, shook her head, and picked up the phone.

What I learned.

A week after Nina’s phone call, Jayden filed for divorce. I do not blame him in the slightest. I agreed to divorce him, feeling a mixture of devastation and relief.

It’s now been several years since I came clean to Nina, and I’ve come to believe she was right to push for honesty.

I thought I was protecting Jayden by keeping my transgression a secret. In reality, I was robbing him of the right to choose whether he wanted to be with me.

Mamamia’s award-winning podcast The Split discusses navigating separation and divorce. Post continues below. 

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I’d confessed my fling earlier. Would Jayden have forgiven me? Would he have worked through our relationship issues?

Maybe, but that’s pointless speculation about a hypothetical situation. By lying throughout our brief marriage, I irreversibly damaged his trust in me.

Currently, I’m in therapy, and I expect I will be for a long time.

I’m working on reducing my alcohol consumption, as I drink far too much to self-medicate.

I’ve also started addressing my people-pleasing issues. I struggle to identify and express my own wishes in relationships. I’ve realised I need to get better at asking for what I want, otherwise, I end up feeling resentful.

At the hen's party, my resentment manifested as cheating. I wanted to regain a sense of control in my relationship with Jayden, and I went about it in the most immature way possible.

So if I’ve learned anything from my mistake, it’s the importance of not burying your feelings. Repressed feelings can burst out of you unexpectedly in the form of hurtful, thoughtless actions.

Jayden didn’t need me to cheat; he needed me to face him and have an honest conversation.

This post originally appeared on Medium and has been republished here with full permission.

Feature Image: Getty.

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