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Fallout from an affair that didn't happen, advice requested and would be much appreciated

(57 Posts)
Cherubino Wed 18-Dec-13 12:29:05

This is a long story (a novel?), and I'm sorry to take such a long time to explain, but I don't know how to describe it in fewer words, as it's complex. I hope I don't come across as some self-obsessed narcissist (I know there is a war in Syria, etc), but if so, please break the news gently! If anyone is patient enough to read through, I would really appreciate their advice.

I know that affairs shouldn't happen, but there are many reasons why they do. This is the background to my problem: I have been with my husband for 23 years and we have two sons. Eighteen or so years ago, despite loving and caring for my husband, I lost all physical attraction to him. We went through counselling, I read everything going, I did everything I could to put things right. My husband understandably didn't want to face up to the truth and he still wants physical relations regularly. I come from a broken home and just don't want the same for my boys. I realised it would destroy our lovely family if I didn't try to overcome the problem, so for 18 years, I have pretended to enjoy physical relations with my husband, though inside it kills me and it gets more difficult each day, as it feels incestuous and dishonest. I feel hugely guilty and experience self-loathing frequently. I have looked at all the options in depth over the years and decided many years ago to sacrifice the sexual element to keep our family together. My husband is the kindest, most loving man and I know I'm lucky to have him. We get on well a lot of the time and I don't really want to be with anyone else, but it's very, very hard to forego the pleasure of passion. Up until 5 years ago, though, I had never even considered an affair.

But then, five or so years ago, I came across the business profile of a man who I had been very attracted to when I was eighteen. At eighteen, we didn't sleep together, but came close to it. For various reasons, it never happened and as far as I was aware when I contacted him, he was still with his wife of many years. However, when he emailed his reply, I found out he had had an affair which broke up his first marriage and then remarried. He was pleased to hear from me and we agreed to meet up. I asked my husband if he was okay about me meeting up with this man, who I described as an old friend. My husband was fine about it. I will call the old friend 'Simon', though that's not his real name.

Simon and I met up and it was enjoyable, and totally platonic - initially. We continued to meet very occasionally (he is very busy in a senior management role that involves huge amounts of travelling), for long walks, which we both enjoy. On our second meeting, he asked me about my marriage. I avoided commenting but he fished and I was eventually honest about my difficulties. He said I should have an affair, but he didn't say with him. Not long after, though, he started making comments about being attracted to me. Up until that point, I honestly hadn't dared even think about that aspect. I knew he was remarried and had assumed he was happy with his second marriage. Once he started showing signs of attraction, though, I started to get hooked back in to feeling very attracted to him. On our second meeting (months later), he started holding my hand, and making a few non-platonic comments. To try to summarise: eventually - many more months later - things culminated in him finally sending me a sexually explicit email which blew my mind and which I responded to in similar fashion. Immediately afterwards, he then sent me a brutally blunt email saying that 'e-flirting was okay, but this was not e-flirting' and that he was a married man and was worried about losing access to his daughter if his wife found out. It may sound stupid, but that was the most initmate enounter I'd had with anyone else in 18 or so years, and for me, it was tantamount to sleeping with someone. I felt absolutely devastated, humiliated and very angry that he had falsely led me on to be so intimate with him (knowing my marriage problems) and to think that we would take things further, even though I could understand his point of view. It nearly broke the friendship, but I forgave him. We agreed to just be friends.

Two years passed and we emailed intermittently. He then made attempts to meet up again, but I was very cautious. In October this year, we finally met up. He apologised for what had happened two years ago and explained that he just panicked. He then said that though he had a daughter he loved, a wife he didn't argue with, lots of money and loved his job, he was 'screaming inside'. He told me he still had feelings for me and wanted to sleep with me, if I was still open to the idea. I was really shocked and confused, but also elated in one way - in another, I was angry he just dropped this on me again, after all my work to adjust to being friends. I asked if he meant it and he confirmed he did. I was too confused to be able to explain all this to him, though. But, before we parted, we sat in his car, and I encouraged him put his hand up my thigh. He touched me and said some very explicit things. I was completely overcome with emotion and desire. I had to go, but he left me with the impression he was going to arrange a 'lunch' date, ie we would go to a hotel together.

Following that, I became obsessed with the idea of having an affair with him but also very anxious to the point of feeling ill and unable to cope. I emailed him (we don't phone, partly time but mostly because it would alarm him due to his wife finding out), explaining my anxiety after all the distress two years ago, and asking him to be honest about whether he really wanted an affair. I poured out my affection and told him how much I desired him. He took ten days to reply, saying he 'wasn't ignoring me, he was just travelling a lot' and he would reply when he could 'catch his breath'. I was very disappointed and quite shocked at the flatness of his response, but I sent an email saying I understood and would wait. Two more weeks went by, and I heard nothing. I chased a reply from him, I was polite but a little curt. He finally replied very apologietcally that he'd been busy with work but the main issue had been a health scare and a minor op to remove a polyp. The surgeon was 99% certain it was benign, but he was awaiting results. He said that was why he hadn't had chance to reply to my email as his mind had been on his health. I replied that I totally understood, tried to reassure him (I had been through the same health scare twice myself, plus my father had bowel cancer) and apologised for chasing a reply, but explained to him again that I hadn't realised his health situation and had been anxious about whether or not things were going to happen between us. I asked him to let me know when he had his results and offered to meet up with him if he was available. I received no reply. Two more weeks went by and I knew he must have had his results (private healthcare is a lot faster than NHS).

During that time, I became frenzied with anxiety, and incensed that he hadn't even told me his results (but suspecting he was fine from what the surgeon had said previously). I was angry and frustrated that he still hadn't answered my basic question about what was going to happen between us, despite me explaining my anxiety. I ended up sending him a very angry and rather sarcastic email, saying that while I understood he was busy and I was sympathetic to his health scare, he had ignored me, had not told me his health results - despite recently saying he wanted to sleep with me - and had avoided answering my basic question about wanting an affair or not. I also said I felt humiliated after pouring out my feelings in an email, only to be told he was 'too busy' to reply. Basically, I went off the deep end and made a personal jibe about him not being as 'red-blooded' as he liked to boast about being. I told him he'd messed me around in the same way twice now, and I wouldn't forgive him, I was no longer attracted to him (a complete lie, due to my anger) and considered our friendship at an end. He replied just 8 minutes later (the fastest reply I have ever had from him), saying he'd just been very busy with work and had had a bad health scare, was sorry I felt that way, and sorry that my marriage was making me so unhappy. He said about the friendship ending: 'As you wish.' While he had the 'fondest feelings' for me, maybe I was right - he just 'didn't have the time and maybe not the inclination'.

I was devastated again at his response - I suppose I'd hoped he would attempt to make amends. I re-read my email and it was so angry he must have felt attacked and horrified by my naked display of emotion. I took his reply to mean he was happy to end things, and so I didn't contact him. Two weeks later, I realise that while we can't and shouldn't have an affair, I am desperately unhappy to lose his friendship, so I emailed an apology, explaining how upset and hurt I was, saying I'd made a mistake in ending the friendship (or whatever it was) and asking if we could just revert to being friends, and that I still loved and wanted his company, could we just meet up for a walk and email occasionally, rather than never seeing one another again. I have had no reply. He has quite an ego but it covers up insecurity, and I'm worried that my negative remarks about him not being 'red-blooded', and me losing my attraction for him will finish our friendship forever.

My whole marriage issues aside (please, I have been beating myself up about them enough, I don't need others to do it for me): please could anyone who understands just tell me if I've behaved like some horrible, hysterical, demanding diva with Simon, or if it was understandable for me to send an angry email given the circumstances? I have now tried to put it right with an apology, but I think I should leave it at that; I know he would be horrified if I tried to phone him. I realise I have probably lost the friendship, but I forgave him previously for really hurting me badly twice. I still feel as though he badly humiliated me and let me down, but I know he just wouldn't see it in that way and will have been amazed to get my angry email. I can't decide anymore if this man is benign but just totally unaware of how he impacts on my feelings (my own belief) or just a total selfish arse. But I honestly do know him well enough to say he's not the type to just leap into bed with any woman, so I know he wasn't just being totally shallow about suggesting an affair with me.

Having had eight years of isolation in a small village, and now having moved to a new area 250 miles away, I am very isolated again and have no one to talk to about all this. I feel vulnerable and lonely, although I am doing all I can to make friends. I realise I have written a novel, and I am very sorry for presuming on other mumsnetter's time, if you have reached this far, that is!

I would really appreciate just knowing if I have behaved badly towards Simon, or if you agree that I have justifiable cause to have sent my angry email. If anyone has read all this, a huge thank you for your time, it is much appreciated.

Cherubino Wed 18-Dec-13 12:33:56

Sorry, edit: I should have said it was the most 'intimate encounter I'd had with someone else since before meeting my husband', not since 18 years. Apologies for the time confusion.

leaveitalone Wed 18-Dec-13 12:40:18

I have experienced something similar and I realised that the men think they want an affair but only if there's no risk. You are very emotionally engaged and will end up even more hurt than your are now unless you stop contact. Do your very best to leave this alone and look elsewhere for fulfilment. He is not the solution to your isolation or lack if intimacy in your marriage. He doesn't want to lose his money, his status, his family or to be the bad guy but gets a thrill from being in contact with you. You have both behaved 'badly' to each other and to yourselves. Forgive yourself and him, block him and move on.

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Wed 18-Dec-13 12:40:27

1. Simon flirted with you and led you on for his own amusement, he does not care about you.

2. Leave your husband - he deserves to be with someone who actually wants a physical relationship with him.

3. Spend some time on your own before embarking on a new relationship.

meditrina Wed 18-Dec-13 12:45:52

A physical affair might not have happened, but it sounds as if an emotional one did. Or does your DH know about the extent and content of your contact with OM?

OM doesn't sound good for you. He's broken one marriage over adultery, and doesn't seem to have learned from it as he's having secret relationships again.

Your problem is your marriage. You need to think hard about what you do, and do this unclouded by third parties.

It doesn't really matter. The whole interaction with Simon was fucked up, dishonest and twisted from the start.
End your marriage for gods sake, it's a sham. Cut simon out of your life, properly. Seek some counselling.

Roussette Wed 18-Dec-13 12:58:20

I don't feel it's OK to be harsh about your situation. It is obviously not a black and white situation.

HOWEVER. 'Simon' quite likely has had a string of affairs at different times in his life and is used to 'compartmentalising'. You are in a different place and want something emotional. He doesn't. He can't offer you what you want. You have made this into something it really is not. You are living and breathing this man, it is ruling your life. Simon isn't doing that about you. I think you need to take a step back and re-evaluate what you actually want.
(now reading that back, it sounds a bit harsh!)

Cherubino Wed 18-Dec-13 13:02:52

Leaveitalone and Meditrina, thank you both. I really appreciate your understanding, non-judgementalism and honest advice. What you say makes a lot of sense and reading it cuts through the confusion and helps me a lot to get a clearer view on things.

Libertymae Wed 18-Dec-13 13:06:23

Cherubino, I really feel for you after reading your post. You must be tremendously lonely, stuck in a passionless marriage for 18 years.

Simon sounds like bad news, plain and simple, but I suspect the drama of the situation is the most attractive thing to you. I don't think you have behaved particularly badly towards him, to be blunt he sounds like an arse anyway. It's very clear on reading your post that no happiness lies with you having anything else to do with him. He is never going to be the kind of friend you need.

The root of the issue is you have no sexual attraction to your husband, despite getting on well. That's no way to live your life, or to make your husband live his. There's no reason why you couldn't amicably separate. Presumably your boys are much older now than when you first made the decision to stay together for the sake of the family?

LittlePeaPod Wed 18-Dec-13 13:11:37

Wow, what a messy situation. It's very hard not to be really harsh but I will try. Outside of any DC, there are only two people that would have have a right to feel angry and upset about this whole situation and you are not one of them. Your DH and OMs DW are the only people who have been treated badly. With regards you and OM, well you both reap what you sawed.

I am afraid it is very clear from your post that although OM found the idea of having an affair attractive but he never had any intentions of going ahead with it. He has had affairs in the past so if he really wanted to it would not have been difficult for him to have an affair wit you. He clearly doesn't want to risk losing his wife and DC this time. As the saying goes "his just not all that into you" and never was.

You seem to have hung your happiness on him and IMHO you have pursued him much more than he has you from start to finish even though his not really showed that much interest in following through with anything other than an EA with you. It would be really concerning and obsessive if you continued to try contacting him when he has made it clear by not responding and ignoring your emails he does not want contact with you.

You are both wrong for behaving the way you have. You are clearly unhappy in your marriage and its very unfair on your DH for you to continue as you are. You really need to leave OM alone, end the marriage and seek help to help you move on. Hopefully to a much happier place.

Cherubino Wed 18-Dec-13 13:14:26

Roussette, thankyou, I really appreciate your post. I don't think you're being harsh, you're just honest and I am grateful for your kindness. I honestly don't think Simon has had a string of affairs; he's very cautious and his first affair came after a huge crisis in his first marriage after 20 or so years. Up until that time, he had been totally faithful. If he was just a superficial casanova, I really, really wouldn't have got involved with him, and that's what makes it so difficult. However, you are completely right - I am clearly so much more emotionally involved than he is and it is ruling my life, whereas he is just getting on with his. It's just that not having him in my life any longer is terrifying and leaves me feeling incredibly bleak and empty. I know I don't deserve my husband's love but I really am trying to do the right thing by my children, and I do love and care about my husband, despite what others may think. I appreciate the fact that you understand this really isn't black and white. I have never had an affair before and had never planned to - I just hadn't anticipated how missing out on the physical side of my marriage would mess me up so much inside and make me this vulnerable. I know many other people who have moved on and left a less than perfect marriage only to regret it bitterly and end up with something much worse and even more difficult.

How flattering for Simon to be able to turn you on so much. And I'm sure there was an element of "knight on a white charger" there for him as well, until he suddenly saw things in the cold light of day and realised that would mean an emotional relationship as well. Because that is what he most definitely didn't want. He did want to be fancied, and lusted after, but you made it complicated for him by involving feelings, hurt or otherwise.

Think long and hard about what you really want to do. Even if the affair had taken off, and you'd had mind blowing sex, then what? Simon wasn't going to leave his wife, and were you really prepared to be a long distance, long term, occasional 'bit on the side'? Were you prepared to lie and manufacture excuses to your DH and DC to see him? For months, years? Or would that have been the catalyst to leave your marriage?

Think. You've had counselling in the past, my guess is that at the very least you'd benefit from some more to work out who you are and what you want.

WarmFuzzyFuture Wed 18-Dec-13 13:22:30

*OP, firstly, is your DH aware that you no longer find him sexually attractive? Because if he does, he is not a nice man to still have sex with you, knowing that you no longer enjoy it. What has your DH done to try and help meet your emotional and sexual needs? Have you been to counselling at a couple?

Regarding Simon, your 'relationship' with him is a demonstration of how miserable you are in your current situation. However he is not a solution.

I agree with Rousette 'I think you need to take a step back and re-evaluate what you actually want'

Roussette Wed 18-Dec-13 13:24:29

I feel for your Cherubino. I just think you have to look at how much you are thinking about him... how many hours in a day, how many days in a week etc.
Then try and imagine how much he is thinking of you. I think you will know the two don't bear comparison. I think you are hanging something on to this man. Something unrealistic. 'He' will not rescue you from a marriage such as yours. Only you can make that happen. 'He' has become that oasis in your desert and it is hurtful to slowly realise that he isn't an oasis but a mirage. (lordy... that was a bit profound of me!)
Because you are now back to square one with your imperfect marriage and having to face reality and no Simon.

Cherubino Wed 18-Dec-13 13:33:06

Libertymae, thank you for your understanding and kindness. I really appreciate your post and again, what you say makes a lot of sense. My boys are 9 and 12. They and my husband would be completely devastated if we were to split up as a family. So would I. I had a very complex, unhappy childhood with a mother who slept with other men and brought them back to the house in front of my guardian while he sat there crying in the corner (the guardian who was an ex-catholic priest that she left my real father for and was supposed to be her new 'husband' and who took care of me until he died when I was 19). So, I'm prepared to do what I can to preserve our family. The issue with Simon was not planned and I would never actively seek an affair with anyone else, nor would I risk it again. It's just that living without passion for 18 or so years has been even tougher than I imagined. I felt that even just having one passionate encounter with Simon would enable me to get through the rest of that side of my marriage with one happy and fulfilling memory of real passion. That was naive and simplistic, but we all make mistakes.

While I appreciate the messages from other mumsnetters, even if I were pepared to split up our family, it's just not that simple. I am approaching 50 and I have friends who have split up from unhappy marriages and are now lonely, dating desperately and only coming up against inadequate, creepy men who have not much to offer but expect some sort of 18-yr old super model. I know getting involved with Simon was wrong, but it was my only release from a very difficult and complex situation. It is very easy to judge when you're not experiencing the situation yourself. I understand why people are so judgemental about affairs, but life is complex and people make different choices. It doesn't mean that we are all irresponsible, immoral, uncaring people. Please at least try to understand that.

Vivacia Wed 18-Dec-13 13:34:26

please could anyone who understands just tell me if I've behaved like some horrible, hysterical, demanding diva with Simon

I think Simon is one massive headfuck. I think this whole "friendship" has been drama and intrigue. A complete game player and you're not in the frame of mind to play along. Not one part of it has been healthy. I think it's a distraction from the mundane misery of your life. I know you don't want people to talk about your marriage, but I think this and your unhappiness are the elephant in the room.

Vivacia Wed 18-Dec-13 13:37:41

I think you're staying in the marriage for the wrong reasons. I feel sorry for you both stuck in an unhappy relationship. I'm afraid it sounds a bit selfish.

lapetitesiren Wed 18-Dec-13 13:38:07

He seems to be playing emotional headgames with you which have pushed you to feel quite desperate so no, you are not unreasonable to have sent the email. But he ' s not really interested and maybe you are one of many who flatter his ego, the large communication gaps suggest hes busy with other things / people / his real life. Don' t beat yourself up over this, he' s not worth it. Put your energy into deciding what to do about your real relationship. Many relationships get boring over time, even if you change partnerd/ have an affair there is no guarantee you will feel passionate for ever.

Cherubino Wed 18-Dec-13 13:46:21

Rousette, a huge thank you again. You totally understand and you are 100% right. I have had so much swimming around in my head that I can't think clearly, and yet you have summarised the situation so perfectly in a way that I just couldn't for myself. Definitely a mirage and not an oasis - I like that profundity! And you have hit perfectly on the current problem - it is a case of being back in my marriage facing the reality and all the bleak feelings that go with that. I know I just have to accept it and work through this and learn from my mistake. It's just hard trying to put all this behind me and not being mentally there for my lovely boys, however much I try. It honestly feels like a bereavement but I know there is no way around it except getting on with life and hoping that time will heal and things will settle down again.

I am shedding quite a few tears here (sorry to be so emotional), but I just want to say you don't know how much your post means to me and how much comfort your understanding (and that of the other kind mumsnetters here, of course) has brought me.

Cherubino Wed 18-Dec-13 13:58:39

Thank you, ChinupChestout and Lapetitesiren - you both make very good points and I take on board what you say. I really appreciate your understanding.

Warmfuzzyfuture - thank you to you, too, for your post. Yes, we have been to couple counselling. My husband is a lovely man but doesn't want to face the reality of me not being attracted to him. I have tried to be open about things. I have even discussed 'open relationships' with him, but he doesn't want to go that route. I started to realise pushing the issue much further would destroy our family. In my heart, I don't want to be with someone else, but feeling the way I do about physical relations with my husband is very, very hard. I know of other couples who stay together because they get on and have families but effectively lead separate lives and don't sleep together. Breaking up a family isn't always the answer. Nothing is perfect, but some compromises are harder to make than others.

Vivacia - thank you for your honesty. I appreciate your post and can see your viewpoint.

Vivacia Wed 18-Dec-13 14:18:28

I had my own Simon, although at a young age and both unattached.

mrscynical Wed 18-Dec-13 18:20:11

Well you played with fire and got burned.

You sought him out in the first place, went on long walks with him, talked about your unhappy marriage and then had "the most initmate enounter I'd had with anyone else in 18 or so years, and for me, it was tantamount to sleeping with someone". Although you claim he is not the type of man to leap into bed with just anyone but he put his hand on your thigh, touched you and said explicit things. Do you mean by this that the ONLY person he would possibly have leapt into bed with was you? That's how it reads.

He possibly realised that if he wanted a shag or affair he could probably find someone with less hassle on one of his work trips. You invested far too much in nothing. There was nothing there that you had not made happen in your own mind and by your own desperate actions.

Sorry to be so blunt but you need to speak open and honestly to your husband and leave other women's husbands alone.

Joysmum Wed 18-Dec-13 19:03:10

If you don't want to leave your marriage, you must be prepared to remain within the boundaries your husband finds acceptable. If you don't, you are doing your husband a complete disservice by taking his choices away from him and he doesn't deserve that.

So for me, it not about Simon, it's about whether you are satisfied in your marriage as things currently stand. It may well be that you aren't, it may well be that your husband isn't either but is at least doing your the courtesy if remaining within what he thinks your boundaries are. It may well be that you both want to remain married but despite not finding each other attractive, still want to be sexually active so an open relationship might suit. Point is, if you can't behave yourself then you are hurting your husband dreadfully, even if he doesn't know it and that's not fair.

WarmFuzzyFuture Wed 18-Dec-13 19:42:25

Not sure I agree entirely Joy. Having sex with the OP whilst knowing that she is not an enthusiastic participant, is hardly a 'courtesy' of any kind in my view.

It is clear that some changes need to be made. They can be small changes, Cherub but you need to do something to make your life feel more bearable.

You are/were vulnerable to this kind of thing happening because you are starved of affection. That is why the crumbs Simon gave you carry so much significance.

CarryOnDancing Wed 18-Dec-13 21:10:01

For the love of smurf's, leave the man alone. Not only is a terrible way to treat your OH but you are clinging on to an imaginary relationship and are literally desperate to have an affair!
Why would you even want an affair with a man who has a history of them? It hardly make you special.

Reading your post, at every point I couldn't believe you went back for more. Why would you email and demand a response and then get angry and demand an explanation about your discussion to have sex? Where's your self respect and more importantly, where is the respect for your OH? The mind boggles!!!! sad

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