I’d like to start by saying that I’m a pretty stable person. I manage to walk out of the house early each morning pretty color-coordinated and put together. I’m always on time, if not early. People know they can rely on me to lend an ear in a world where they so often feel alone, and while at times being needed by others can weigh heavily on me, I would not change a thing. I need to feel useful. As I type, it’s 8:15 a.m. and I’m at work (my work gives me some downtime), hiding in my office. People stop in and out of my office all day long, so first thing in the morning, I like to be invisible. Morning person I am not, admittedly, even though I awaken at 5:30 at the latest each day. I have my moments of seeking others out and needing that connection, and at other times, I wish to hide away in my own little world so I can be left alone with my thoughts.
Once, in what seems like another lifetime, I was married to a man named Scott. We shared three children together, and I was a stay-at-home mom who occasionally worked part-time from home in recruiting and transcription. Scott and I had what others would have called a great relationship. We enjoyed each other’s company, had great talks and agreed on how to parent our kids. My nature was always somewhat bohemian, but I kept this in check during my marriage. I wanted to be seen as someone who had settled down and grown into a mature, responsible adult. Any doubts or insecurities I had about myself I tried to stifle. One day flowed fairly easily into the next, my children were born, we moved around with Scott’s job, and did all of the things you do in creating a shared life. We were never rich, but we managed to pay the bills and have comfortable houses. My remaining at home was a trade-off. We did not take many vacations to speak of because money was tight, but we both felt it was well worth whatever sacrifices we had to make.
During our marriage, I always felt I was on a spiritual quest. Reincarnation had always been something I believed in, but I never openly talked about this with my parents or sister. I was raised in a Southern Baptist home, so this belief certainly flew in the face of all that I was raised to hold true. I was usually reading some kind of book on spirituality (the Conversations with God trilogy is like a Bible to me). I had my spurts of daily meditation, and whenever I took the time to meditate, I felt instantly calmer and more focused. Feeling a sense of calm is a beautiful gift to me, as my childhood home was filled with anxiety-prone people. We were never taught how to let the small stuff go. Everything became mountainous in its impact on us; nothing was “laughed off.” It’s only as an adult that I have realized how important maintaining a sense of humor is. Finding a peaceful, loving, calm way to move through the world was that jewel I was forever in search of-not only for myself, but for my children. As a parent, who doesn’t swear that they will do it differently than their parents? Who doesn’t proclaim to have a better way?
Such is the way my days passed in my life with Scott. Of course, the majority of the time was taken up with changing diapers, breastfeeding, taking the older kids to school, cooking dinner, and baking-always baking! It’s a great love of mine, to be sure. Especially cookies! Not just any cookies, though. They have to be partially uncooked so they’re wonderfully gooey! My kids take for granted always having cookies on hand because it’s all they have known all their lives. Scott changed jobs, and those changes took us from Oklahoma to Washington state, to Kansas and back (fortunately) to Washington state again. I loved being a parent to my boys, and was proud of the healthy relationship I had with Scott. So what was the problem, then? Why do I refer to my marriage in the past tense? Well, it’s not easy to explain (it never is, is it?).
While I always loved him, it’s only post-divorce that I will admit that I was never “in love” with him. I desperately wanted to be. He was my best friend and life partner. I held him above all others-always said he was “the best person I knew.” I met him when I was 21 years old and had just come out of an abusive relationship. During that destructive time, I became an alcoholic to cope with the daily stress of living that way. I attended the local community college as a Mass Communications major and worked in the school’s NPR station. Scott worked for the college’s PBS station down the hall. He was married to a crazy gynecologist (yes,I wrote that!) whom he never saw, and he and I struck up a friendship. He had red hair and was physically not “my type,” as I had always had a penchant for men with longer dark hair. We shared the same group of friends, so we found ourselves drinking together occasionally. A physical relationship ensured, and he left his wife. Do I feel guilty about the fact that I was “the other woman?” Not really. Not in that situation, at least. They hadn’t been married long, she had been cheating on him. It was more a marriage of convenience than anything else. He was unhappy and taken for granted by her, and I needed stability badly. We needed one another, simple as that.
After a 6 month or so relationship (I moved in with him shortly after our relationship began), we married in my parents’ home in West Texas. A month later, Scott accepted a job in Tulsa and so our life as a married couple began. I went to college, changed majors, two of our children were born and life moved on. I became sober prior to starting our family (thank God), and this sobriety is what helped me want to lead a stable life. I also had the need to appear perfect to the outside world. Admitting that anything in my life was less than ideal just wasn’t something I felt okay doing. Loyalty to Scott was extremely important to me. I was never really attracted to him, but our sex life was okay. He wanted it more than I did, but I gave in once a week or so and technically, it was good. He had all the right parts and knew what to do with them! The thing that was missing was that “spark” we so often dream of. I convinced myself that everything else my marriage had made up for what it lacked. No relationship was perfect, and I reasoned that most people probably did not feel that kind of chemical attraction to their mate. We marry for practical reasons, usually. Because I am a dreamer, I spend a great deal of time lost in my thoughts. It’s the way I’ve always been, so I don’t think much of it most of the time. Over the years, I developed secret crushes on other men, but never acted on those feelings. Monogamy meant quite a lot to me. I never worried about Scott cheating. He told me most everyday how beautiful he thought I was, and truly made me feel special. I was lucky. I’d spent a lifetime before meeting him feeling that I never cut muster, so having this affirmation from him was meaningful.
I’m not exactly sure what brought it on, but one day I decided to write a letter to a former love of mine. He was someone I dated when I was 17- 18 and he was 27. I met him because he dated my sister for a time. She married someone else and he and I found ourselves together, and ultimately, he left me for his previous girlfriend and broke my heart. I always found him incredibly interesting, though. He was bright and saw the world in a way no one else I had ever known had, and this intrigued me. Physically, I could not get enough of him. He always kept me at arms’ length in our relationship, though. Anyway, as a married adult, I wrote that letter to this long-lost love of mine. Some time later, he replied and the conversations began. He called me and we updated one another on our lives and families. It seemed harmless enough. I was completely open about it with Scott, too. We would only talk once in a blue moon at first. Then as the Internet’s popularity grew, we climbed aboard that train and exchanged emails. Scott and I shared an email account, and I left the emails from this other man in the Inbox, clearly visible. Harmless, right? We can convince ourselves of many things, and I believed and in fact maintained that I COULD be friends with a former lover.
It was a recipe for disaster, of course. I was not in love with my husband and he felt his wife shunned the intimacy he claimed he needed. Our conversations became intimate. We were both the pondering sort (he is extremely analytical) and given our past, it’s only natural that things would move in the direction they did. We both lived, oddly enough, in Washington state (we dated in West Texas). We were in different cities, hours apart, so we never saw one another. That is how I convinced myself that what I was doing was okay. At one point or another, I set aside my need to be loyal to Scott, and began having the kind of communication with this other man that was clearly not acceptable in my marriage. I fell deeply in love with him and wished he was my husband. I imagined what our life together would be like. I wanted him to meet my children, and I wanted them to know this wonderful man I placed on such a pedestal. He never told me that he loved me. That should have been my first clue, I know, but I rationalized that he was keeping me at a distance to protect himself and his family. Made sense, right? He hinted at love, and I convinced myself that that was enough.
One night, Scott found a love letter I emailed this other man. I had deleted it (so much for being open and honest), or so I thought. A blow-up followed, he talked to the other man on the phone, and oddly enough, the other man let Scott take his spot in a personal empowerment seminar in Nevada! Crazy, I know! The other man (maybe at some point, I’ll refer to him by name) wanted to preserve his family, and things with us went too far for his liking. Backtracking is what he did best, and he backtracked with me and our relationship. It had to end, according to him. As far as I was concerned, I loved him and needed him. I could not imagine a life for me that did not include him. How could I just walk away from this beautiful thing we shared? How could he? Fairly easily, apparently. So, Scott went to Reno and came back a changed man. Part of the reason the other man sent him was so Scott could find passion in his life and learn to express it. He always felt passion for me, but I guess the point was to make him more assertive, more take charge. Within a few weeks of his return, Scott sent me to the same seminar. I really came to understand how much I had taken Scott for granted, and how blessed I was to have him as my husband. I returned home full of energy and focus. Shortly thereafter, I discovered I was pregnant with our third child. I did not contact the other man and he did not contact me. After our baby was born, we moved to Kansas and life went on.
I can’t leave well enough alone, though, and after a few years, I reached out to the other man again. He never left my thoughts. I told myself that I was just “seeing how he was.” I’m a master of lying to myself, clearly! But then again, most of us believe what we want to believe. For whatever reason and on whatever level, I felt I (still) needed him. My marriage lacked the one thing this romantic dreamer needed-love. I needed that spark, I craved those butterflies. I wanted to feel that need to completely bare myself emotionally to another man. I did that with the other man. He was the only person in my whole life I had fully revealed myself to, except my children. I didn’t feel a need to hide from him; I wanted him to see all of me. I lived in Kansas and he lived in Washington, so there was no chance we would see each other. However, my husband was unhappy in his job and I always acted as his personal headhunter. I found a job with an established company in Washington state, and we ended up moving back to the beautiful Northwest. We packed up the minivan with our three little boys, two dogs, a cat and a guinea pig and drove for four days. This opportunity was viewed as our fresh start-a chance for Scott to be fulfilled again in his career, and it got us out of Kansas, which we hated.
The other man and I exchanged emails here and there with no real regularity, but then we decided once and for all to see each other. I told Scott about it. In fact, the other man came to my house, met and shook hands with Scott. We got a coffee and walked around a local park and chatted. The chemistry was there, for sure, but we talked of our families and lives, and it was above-board. Another meeting occurred a month or two after that, and that’s when the complications truly started. We hugged. Just a hug, but it wasn’t your average, platonic hug. We kissed and touched, but it did not go past that. I felt horribly guilty. I had always harbored strong feelings for him, but never in all of my marriage had I actually physically cheated. Emotional cheating is just as bad, I know. I fully admit that now. You know what they say about hindsight, though. I began to view the other man as my husband. He was the one I wanted to share my day with and he was the one I dreamed of sleeping beside. Our lease was coming up on the new house we had been renting, so we had to move. We decided to buy a home in a nearby town, and I had mixed feelings about it. I knew my marriage was falling apart. It was hardly the time to purchase a house. Purchase we did, however, and the visits continued. I was eventually completely unfaithful. I reasoned that I was being honest because I always told my husband when the other man was coming over. I was lying, however, to everyone including myself….