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How to Survive an Affair


What Is an Affair and Why Have One?

Sounds simple, I know. First of all, let's qualify what an affair truly is, because there seem to be conflicting definitions. Obviously if both parties are unattached it's not an affair at all. If I'm married or otherwise in a relationship and you are, too, and we hook up for a night; that's a fling. If we continue this relationship, it's a full blown affair for both of us. If I'm in a relationship and you're not, it's an (extramarital) affair for me and for you it's just a relationship with an uncertain future, but not an affair. Same thing in reverse if you're attached and I'm not.

Now, there are going to be certain grey areas here, such as if we just hook up once or twice a year, if we have a non-sexual (does this exist—and why?) but superclose relationship, etc. But I think we all know that an affair is something, should it become public knowledge, would be bad news for one if not both of the parties involved.

I think that the "why" is much more complicated. One or both of you is: bored; starved for attention; not getting enough sex; getting unsatisfactory sex; turned on by someone you know from work, the gym or elsewhere and can't resist; your marriage sucks anyway; your spouse pays more attention to the car/kids/work/golf/sports or anything else in the world than he or she does to you and the bottom line is that you are need to feel appreciated because you are UNSATISFIED. Then of course there's pure chemistry, intellectual attraction and primitive lust all wrapped up in one neat package.

So then you meet someone who blows you away and what do you do? Well, you could have the courage (some might also call it lack of balls while some call it loyalty—I'm not here to judge) just walk away and forever wonder what if, or you could see where your heart takes you because your brain has just been put on hold. Let's choose the latter because that's what this article is about.

This article is about what you should know; what a good friend who has been through it will tell you if they've had the experience. It's not always easy to hear. It's definitely not easy to write, but it's all true...I promise. Lastly, please accept the fact that I write from a man's perspective so I don't have to jump through such unwieldy grammatical hoops as he/she or her/him or the most confusing and misused pronoun of all: they.

Scared Shitless

One caveat here: If your current relationship has hit a dead end and you've been looking for someone all along, this may not apply. And if that is the case you've got nothing to lose. But if your relationship is lacking in some areas but is workable, that's where this information would or will apply.

When you first meet her, the chemistry is undeniable. You don't know what's going to happen and you uncharacteristically don't care. She brings something to the table that makes the hair arms on your arms stand up. Her eyes, her smile, her hair, her voice—maybe all of them—do something to your wiring and you're hooked. You know what could happen, what might happen, and it scares the shit out of you because you know what you've got to lose.

But that doesn't stop you.

What happens next is up to both of you. You can, as I alluded to earlier, walk away and wonder what if, or you can walk towards each other and let fate make the decision. If you choose to do the latter it may change your life. And you very well may not care because for the first time in a very, very long time you are in the sun again. In the warmth of the sun that used to shine on you when you meant something to yourself, felt good about yourself. Attractive, witty, wanted—the real you before time and kids and life intruded to make you just another one of the crowd.

And it feels good. Shit, it feels great. You feel...

Drunk with Love

Now you've done it. You've slept with her. Do you just want to run away, burn your clothes and wish it never happened? Or do you, regardless of the consequences, want more of her? And more and more.

You, my friend, are falling in love. And it can happen just that fast—oh yes, it can. And it doesn't matter what you look like, what she looks like, what the world thinks or anything else that makes any sense at all. You are two people on an island and that's all that matters. The time you spend with her nourishes you; recharges you. Every conversation is wonderful. And when you see each other it's like you're high on pure oxygen. I will tell you this: there is no better feeling in the world.

And every time you make love it gets better. You've never kissed like this before, never felt your heart beat out of your chest like this before. Never wanted to make love day and night like this. Her body is perfect to you. You do things you've never done before—never wanted to or were never allowed to. But now it all seems natural, perfect. You make love for hours...days. You can't get enough of her. Over and over.

This is the life you were meant to live; this is way relationships are meant to be. Why have you had to wait this long to find it?

And you will fall in love.

How can you not? But what's next is that...

You Will Lead a Double Life

So you're living in bliss. You've found your soul mate and last but you're not together on a permanent basis yet so...you'll be leading a double life. You'll send and receive thousands of emails. You'll speak with your love when you can: at work, on the way home, on the weekends, walking the dog; whenever possible for as long as possible these conversations only cement your feelings for each other. After all, how can your conversations about family, bills, soccer games, grocery shopping and what's for dinner compare to your talk about love, passion and living the life you and your love have both dreamed of, but out of the shadows at last. You can't wait for that moment.

But in the meantime you'll have to lie like a Persian rug. In fact, nearly everything you do and say at home will be a lie because just living this existence is a lie. You're going to have to do an Oscar-worthy acting job to behave like you're the same person; that you're still engaged with your family and a part of what's going on at home when the truth is you couldn't care less. You just want to talk to and be with your true love. Everything else is back burner. Even your kids, if you have them, don't seem as important as they once did. You still love them, you still take care of them but your attention is elsewhere and that's fine. A good parent is a good parent no matter what, but you've got to take care of yourself; of your needs, as well, don't you? But you have to know that...

The Stress will be Inhuman

So you're trying to be the same person you once were. A valuable employee, a good wife or husband, a devoted father/mother/son/daughter/sister/brother. And you want to be, you really do. And you try. But you're life is filled with conflict. What to do, how to do it, what are the logistics of being together? You're home saying one thing and meaning another. You're biding your time until you leave and you've got a secret you can never tell to these people you've always been honest with. You're planning a family vacation when it's the last thing in the world that you want to do or would enjoy and you can't get excited about it because you'd rather be on a dessert island with her. Your fantasy life of being with your love is far more enticing than the pedestrian life you're leading. You're trying to hold it all together but...

The stress takes its toll. You're worried about being caught. Wondering when you can be together again and if it will last forever or not. It has to for all you're giving up, right? Besides, it was meant to. But in the meantime, you're living this double life on borrowed time, and your body knows it. You're nervous; not eating the same, maybe not exercising as regularly or far more than ever to be buff for your love. You guard your cell phone like it was your baby. And whether you realize it or not it will take an unholy toll on you. And it's one you may not even realize until much later on. But when you're brain is buzzing 1,000 miles per hour trying to compute all the permutations of what you're doing, what you want, how it affects others, how it will change your life and the thousands of less major issues, it's mentally exhausting. You'll see. And what's worse is...

You Don't Know What You Don't Know.

You know everything about your new love, right? You've talked about everything. You've shared everything about your past history with others, and you know you can trust her. You know she's not in contact with her last boyfriend or anyone else that might threaten your relationship. She's as "all in" as you are in every respect; you'd bet your last dime on it.

Sure thing.

Friends, you simply don't know what you don't know. If she's clever, you'll never see the phone records, the credit card bills or even her cell phone texts. And why would you need to? You trust her completely and she's given you every reason to. You're in love, for Christ's sake, how can you not trust her with everything, including your very life? And you'll ignore anything, any sign that she's not exactly who you think she is and want her to be. You're giving your childlike trust in her because doing anything else would be unthinkable and besides, I don't know her like you do, right?

Don't be an idiot. Sound blunt? Sorry. Don't be stupid. If you can't see her cell phone records, the texts she's sent and received, her cell phone and even credit card bills if you want...RED FLAG! Why, you ask, would you even want to see those things? Let's just say it's for shits and giggles. Let's say you've been burned before. Let's say...let's just say, that there's still enough rational adult left in you to be curious.

If you don't have the temerity (guts) to ask for some of these things because what would she think about you even questioning her integrity, I understand. It's a tough one. You don't have to do it. You don't have to know the truth. If she's hesitant about demonstrating her loyalty to you then ask yourself why. That's all I ask. Why wouldn't she be more than happy to show you her cell phone records (where you cannot delete texts or calls sent/received)? "You don't trust me?" she asks. "Of course I do," you reply, "is there any reason I shouldn't? I'll be happy to share my information with you as well, just to be fair."

Again. Think about it. You don't know what you don't know. But one thing you must know is...

You're Going to Get Caught

You may think you're James Bond. You're covering every track. You've got a separate cell phone where the calls don't show on your bill. You've got a separate credit card or always use cash. No one else has seen you together. It's all worked great up until now but...

No one can stay perfect forever, and you're going to get caught. Maybe tonight.

Keep in mind that you've changed. In order to make this relationship seem so right, you've had to make your current relationship seem so wrong. You're acting different and arousing suspicion, whether you know it or not. Maybe it's the new cologne, the new clothes, the more frequent late nights at work or more business travel. Maybe it's calling your wife by another name (yes, it's happened). Maybe it's the new haircut, the new in-shape physique. Maybe it's an email you forgot to delete or you left you computer on just ONE time where there was something that shouldn't have been seen on there.

Maybe you just don't give a shit anymore and you're acting careless. Someone hears you on the phone. You use the wrong credit card for a gift for her. There are a million ways to get caught and all you need is one.

I honestly do not know one person in this situation who has not been caught. Well that's not true, I know one. And that's because I'm no rat, and that's a whole other story. But I can tell you that 99% of the time, someone is going to find out something and it will get out. Assume you're going to eventually get caught and then...

You've Got Some Decisions to Make

It's GO time or close to it. You're about to change your life and the lives of all of those around you. If you're alone or in a very unhappy and unhealthy marriage, then it's an easy choice. But that's not what this is about.

You're about to make what is probably the biggest decision of your life. Time for a gut check. You've talked to your close friends and have their opinions. Maybe you've even talked to a therapist. But in the final analysis, the decision—as all decisions of this nature are, really—is yours. Time to think clearly before you jump.

Are the things that are great about her truly great, or just different from your current partner? Are the things you don't like about her likely to cause problems in the future? Why are you overlooking them? Are you being yourself? Has she been totally, and I mean TOTALLY honest with you?

Is the life you've been wanting, needing and dreaming of with her going to be worth the carnage you'll cause and the costs you'll incur, both financially and emotionally? This is not something so simple that you can make a pro and con list. This is your heart, this is the love of your life and how can you live without them? But how can you live without your family? See what I mean about stress?

You are going to make the most important decision of your life. There WILL be winners and losers. There have to be. All I can advise you of is this: take your time if you can. Consider what things will be like 5 or 10 years up the road. Will you be happy with your love, having made the right choice, or will be alone by the side of the road because you didn't know everything you could have or should have.

Choose wisely...as wisely as you can, anyway. These are adult games we're playing now and there will be no second chances. But either way...

Someone is Going to Get Hurt

I don't even have to run the scenarios for you, do I? You leave your wife and family behind and they are shocked and angry, or shocked and hurt, and that hurts you, too. You stay with you wife and family and think "what if...?" for the rest of your life, plus you hurt the person who has made your life whole at last; brought you back into the sunshine. Now she, too, is hurt as are you, and worse, you have to suck it up and not act heartbroken, which you most surely are, at home and at work.

I'm sure you've broken up with someone you loved in the past. We all have. This is worse. Because chances are your earlier breakups were at an age when you had so much going on and so much to look forward to that although painful, they were not devastating. This is devastating. This rocks you to your fillings. You have nothing to look forward to but getting back to the life you were not so happy with in the first place. All is lost...it seems. Nothing will ever be the same—this much is true.

This is where you need your friends, your family, anyone who can offer you comfort. You don't have to even know them well. You'd be surprised how many of us are non-judgmental and have been through the same thing. It hurts and we know it. It's the worst hurt you've ever felt. This is where you have to call up all of your internal reserves and sincerely think about who you are, what your value as a person is, and how you can go on under these new circumstances.

The fact is, you can go on. You will; you must...please. Life is full of surprises, some are good and some suck. You've had a wonderful time and you'll never forget it. I totally get that, and the pain. But you are still a viable human being with something to offer to people. If not your family and friends, then new friends you'll make and meet. There are still good things out there to do and good people to do them with. Now is not the time to give up. Remember how special she made you feel? You ARE that special. Others will notice it, too. There will, of course, be...

The Aftermath

There's an expression, "don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

For the record, I hate expressions like that. Maybe they apply to a movie or play you just saw, but not to the end of your life as you knew it. I'm speaking here of both scenarios, really, but mostly to the end of the affair. If this is not the case, if you ended up with your new love and are happy and content at last, then a toast to you. Good. You got what you wanted and deserved.

But what if it didn't work out that way for you? If trust, distance, logistics, cost, reality and the million other potential snafus put an end to a relationship you loved and cherished, then you must still go on. Yes, you must. But know this, you will be a changed person.

You'll never be able to listen to certain songs. An expression someone uses will throw you for a loop. You'll be walking behind someone with a similar shape and similar hair to hers and your pulse will race. As you get closer, close enough almost to smell her again, she turns around or turns her head and it's not that face you loved, just the face of another stranger. What you wouldn't give to see that face just one more time, feel her touch, her skin, her kiss.

This is tough stuff, my friends; the toughest there is. You'd rather take a good beating than cope with this heartache. It's going to take time. Lots and lots of time and even then you may be haunted by her memory for life, if the bond was that strong.

You may reconnect with her from time to time but it only sets back your recovery, really. If the relationship ended for the right reasons, which I mentioned above, then starting up again would just end up the same, perhaps worse.

I cannot tell you it will be easy. It's a death. The death of a dream, of a cherished hope that you would live each day in love and with passion. Was it a dream or reality? Is the reality that all relationships lose their luster over time and the only way to keep the dream alive is to move from person to person? Were you living in a fantasy of your own making, not having to be bothered with bills, sick kids or parents, no grass to mow or dishes to clean up? How would it have been in real life?

I cannot say. I can only leave you with this: if you embark on this journey, or if you have already done so, it can be a hell of a ride for a hell of a price. It may be worth it, because of the utter joy you will feel if for once in your life. It may not be for the pain you cause, primarily to yourself and the person you've fallen for.

Ultimately, as in most things in life, the decision must be yours to make. Good luck and best wishes to all of you.

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