He met her at a work function.
He reached out his hand to say hello and introduce himself. She immediately made a joke of his name as if she was nervous.
From that moment on, she laughed at all his jokes. Listened to what he was saying and looked at him as if he was the most attractive man in the room.
That’s all it took to turn his head.
Ten years of marriage, and three children later, that’s all it took for my husband James* to cheat on me.
Not just once, but an affair that spanned two years and only stopped because he got caught.
I took him back – but only if he agreed to abide by a strict set of rules.
He’d have to stick to a curfew, let me know where he is 24 hours a day and remove the passcode on his mobile phone and tablet.
I was at home looking after our children, while my husband was schmoozing the night away at a jolly old party, meeting Jane*.
He claims they didn’t sleep together that first night. They waited until the second night. As if that made any difference.
The next day, when their work trip was over, they went back to their individual offices and back to their own lives.
James returned to his – our – life of chaotic and mundane domesticity. Now, however, his every thought was with Jane.
It turns out that not a minute of the day passed without him wondering where she was and what she was doing. They couldn’t communicate in the traditional way, by sending gushy texts or emails, in case someone saw them, so they kept their conversations professional.
I didn’t cry or even call a friend
To be honest, in the beginning, I didn’t even notice the fact that he was distracted. I was too busy running our lives.
I had so much to juggle: the kids, work, our household, looking after our elderly parents…
James eventually used this against me, accusing me of neglecting him, which felt like crap. I was doing my best.
I wonder if it ever occurred to him that I felt neglected, too.
Looking back now, I recall our eldest child saying, ‘Dada, you are different’ – but I didn’t notice the change.
He wasn’t excessively texting any more than usual, and going away for work was just the norm.
Two years in, Jane’s husband found me on social media and got in touch to tell me about the affair.
It was evening. The kids were in bed, I was unwinding with a glass of wine and scrolling on social media when I received his message.
It turned out they’d got less careful about the way they messaged, and Jane’s husband had seen a WhatsApp notification that made it clear they were arranging a romantic rendezvous.
He was just so angry and he said he would never take Jane back.
I didn’t cry or even call a friend. I just needed to process it, and my first reaction was rage.
I knew in my gut that it was true – otherwise, why would Jane’s husband go to all the trouble of reaching out to me?
At this point, I didn’t really care about what was happening in their relationship, I was just devastated; it was soul-crushing.
I honestly didn’t know how to go about confronting James, I was in such a state; I just felt like murdering him.
I waited till the next day to bring it up with him. The kids were in bed and we were out in the garden. I had been observing him all day, and then in the evening I just lost it.
I asked him, who is Jane? He was in shock and went into complete denial – he said she was just a work colleague.
I told him to stop lying to my face, that I knew he had slept with her. I didn’t tell him I knew everything – I wanted to see how much more he was willing to lie.
And he did. He continued to lie, even saying it was a one off!
He didn’t beg for forgiveness. In fact, he mostly tried to blame me for the affair. That just made me even more angry.
Angry enough to kick him out of our house. I couldn’t bear to face him and his betrayal every day.
Yet splitting up forever – the way Jane and her husband did – seemed unfathomable.
My husband was the first and only person I ever slept with. I was 30, and had resisted having sex because I only wanted to sleep with the person who put a ring on it.
He’d slept with other people before we got married, however had no long-term relationships; no old, unrequited lovers who’d pop up at inopportune moments.
If I had to dream up a man it would be him. He ticked all the boxes, he was intelligent, attractive, affectionate and funny.
We had three young children, a mortgage, and I’d invested in his business… divorcing would have had huge repercussions.
His reaction changed when we started talking again; the separation made him understand what he had to lose. He did apologise before I took him back, saying he wanted to mend it and was determined to make a go of it.
Six months later, after long talks with my family and friends, I agreed to meet up with him in a safe space, to talk in person.
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There’s no denying that James’ infidelity was devastating to our relationship – it created a trail of broken trust and shattered emotions.
Rebuilding that was no easy feat, but I decided that it could be done, with open communication and commitment. After all, we’d been married for a decade, and had already achieved so much together as husband and wife.
The first step in moving forward for us was acknowledging the truth.
I wanted to know everything about the affair, as painful as it was. He told me it had lasted for two years, and they’d met up about six times but had messaged every day.
We discussed the reasons behind the infidelity, the impact it had on our relationship, and our willingness to work towards healing.
Setting clear boundaries was one of the fundamental aspects of rebuilding the trust. So together, we agreed on a set of rules and expectations, as an essential part of our journey towards healing and fixing our relationship.
I told James I need to know where he is at all times, and his overnight work trips had to be cut to a minimum. On nights out, he had to agree to a curfew.
He was no longer allowed to have passcodes on his tablet and mobile phone.
I’m sure there was a lot of internal huffing and puffing, but I really didn’t care. He knew I wouldn’t take him back unless he agreed and stuck to the rules – so he was eager to do whatever it would take.
We had to have one night a week together without the children, and every six weeks an overnight trip without them.
We had to make it a priority to pay more attention to each other and be open if either of us were feeling neglected, or felt something wasn’t right.
It was important, also, to establish that both our voices were relevant, not just James’.
To benefit me, as a working mum, we agreed a cleaning lady would attend the house five days a week, and that James had to pull his weight, regarding looking after the children.
We did it and, a year on, rebuilding our relationship is still a work in progress. We have a long way to go. Deep down, I know that James could still be hiding things.
When he first moved back in, every time he was five minutes late home, my mind went to a dark place, imagining that he was meeting up with Jane, or loitering in the car to Facetime her.
But I have had to put my faith in the fact that James wants our relationship as much as I do.
The rules have established a structure for us – and with them I feel more secure.
We’ve managed to stick to them – well, as far as I know.
*Names have been changed
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