real life

'How my kids stopped me from cheating on my husband.'

I’d just come downstairs from the bedroom where I’d tried to get my husband to stop me from cheating on him.

He failed.

He failed because he hadn’t shown me he still loved me. He just pushed me away more.

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Now I was hell-bent on going to see a man I’d been chatting with, whom I was planning to meet that night.

That’s when my sight fell on my kids in the kitchen. Just seeing them snapped me back to my senses.

I couldn’t cheat on their father.

My husband hadn’t been able to stop me from cheating, but my kids could.

I planned to have an affair to deal with my unhappiness.

Weeks earlier, I decided I was going to have an affair. I was miserable in my marriage. I didn’t want to leave my husband; we had children together. But I was also fed up.

We couldn’t go on like this. I decided to cope by finding a lover. My only requirement for the man in question was that he had to be "good enough".

He didn’t have to be too handsome, nor too successful, nor even too smart. He just had to be a normal guy who didn’t care that I was married.

I spent an entire month fielding messages from potential lovers, most of whom attached shirtless photos and dick pics to their email introductions. No thanks.

Then Joe wrote to me. He was cute enough and polite (read: no dick pic). He drove Uber at night and did yoga during the day. He had a lot of free time on his hands and he didn’t care that I was married.

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After emailing back and forth for a while, Joe and I made plans to speak on the phone. I decided our first phone conversation would happen while I was at the park with my kids.

Before you go calling me a terrible mother, the park was simply a place where I could talk to Joe, and my husband wouldn’t overhear us. I could also still keep an eye on my kids while they were occupied.

My sons were too busy playing to even be aware I was on the phone. So, perched on the perimeter of the sandbox, I chatted with Joe while my sons climbed around on a geodesic dome made of rope.

As I made plans to meet this man, I watched my boys make their way over the structure like spiders on a web. It occurred to me that I was creating my own web by even having this conversation.

If I wasn’t careful, this web would trap me. I needed to be stopped from tangling myself up any tighter.

Joe proposed we meet later that night at a nearby bar. I told myself I’d go home and give my husband one last chance to show me he cared about me.

If he did that, I wouldn’t meet Joe.

I tried to get my husband to stop me from cheating on him.

Back home, I left my sons in the kitchen to eat their dinners while I went upstairs to shower. I rinsed in too-hot water and toweled off with harsh, quick strokes. I was punishing myself for a sin I hadn’t even committed yet.

I felt guilty about what I planned to do. Part of me still loved my husband. I wanted him to show me he still loved me, too.

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After the shower, naked but for the towel I had wrapped around my torso, I went to the bed where my husband had been sprawled out all day, reading about conspiracy theories. That was all he'd been doing for some time. 

What happened to the bright physicist I married?

My husband was unemployed and rarely left our bedroom. He’d become obsessed with conspiracy theories and neglected me emotionally.

I told myself we could still get back to that place we’d lost a couple of years ago. If I just gave my husband the opportunity, he’d show me he still loved me.

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I waited patiently at the bedside for him to acknowledge my presence. He didn’t even raise his eyes to look at me.

I let the towel drop from my naked form. My exposed flesh goose-pimpled in the cool air.

My nipples stiffened as the chill breezed over my still-damp skin. Still, my husband didn’t glance at me.

“I’m going out tonight,” I said.

“Um-hmm,” he muttered.

“I’m meeting with a friend,” I said. “A male friend,” I added.

He still didn’t acknowledge me.

I told myself we could still get back to that place we’d lost a couple of years ago. If I just gave my husband the opportunity, he’d show me he still loved me.

I desperately wanted my husband to pull me back from the edge so I wouldn’t have to cheat.

I stormed to the closet and got dressed in a blouse, jeans, and heels. Then I marched to the bathroom and made up my face heavier than I had in ages.

I never got dressed up anymore. I never had the chance. We hadn’t been on a romantic date in two years.

I was starved for affection. Regret washed over me. How had we gotten to this point?

Well, we’d lost everything in the financial crisis for starters. My husband had left his job as a physicist to invest in real estate.

Then the housing market imploded. This was where we’d ended up.

He hardly seemed to register my existence. I gave him one last chance.

I presented myself to him, all dressed up.

“I’m going to meet that man now,” I said.

Finally, my husband looked up from what he was reading. He didn’t mention the heels I had on, or the way I’d made up my face.

He didn’t say anything about the man I said I was meeting.

All he said was: “Did you know Michelle Obama is actually a guy?”

My lipstick-slathered lips fell open.

“Look at this photo.” He handed me his phone.

Cradling his device in my palm, I gaped at the screen. The image showed Michelle Obama walking across the tarmac in a green dress.

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“See that bulge at her crotch,” my husband said. “She’s got a bump where she’s not supposed to.”

“It’s just the wind,” I whispered and once again I felt a chill rush over me, only this time it was different than what I’d felt before.

This chill came from the realisation of just how sick my husband was.

My children snapped me back to my senses.

Any guilt I might have felt about cheating on my husband vanished with what he said to me.

That same sense of surety and self-confidence fell away the moment I descended the stairs and set eyes on my children in the kitchen.

Shame smacked me like a slap to the face. I couldn’t sleep with another man behind my family’s back.

While my husband hadn’t noticed the change in my appearance, my sons noticed it immediately.

“Why are you dressed like that?” my eldest asked.

“What happened to your face?” my youngest said.

How could I meet Joe tonight?

I couldn’t.

If my husband had failed to stop me from cheating, my kids had succeeded.

I wish this story ended here.

I’d love to say that this is how this story ended. My husband and I lived happily ever after.

That’s not the truth.

Over the coming weeks, my husband became more obsessed with his conspiracy theories. He continued to neglect me until he finally pushed me over the edge.

I met with Joe.

Still, I’ll always remember this night as the moment my children reminded me of my true nature.

I wasn’t a cheater.

I only became one because I felt pushed there.

This post originally appeared on Medium and has been republished with full permission. For more from Elle Silver, you can find her on Twitter here, or her website here.

Feature Image: Getty.

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