The lonely void of adultery
Posted On April 11, 2020
All through the winter and into the spring of my 37th year I fell deeper into the yawning chasm of my entanglement with X. I still felt constantly feverish, like I was going mad.
On one level, life continued as it ever had; my eldest daughter made applications to university, I took her on open days and helped her with forms and telephoned accommodation offices. I made careful, loving plans for my husband’s 40th birthday. At work I was newly busy with the responsibilities of a recent, significant promotion.
All of those things were my real life: but simmering underneath it was a cauldron of that persistent other, an entire life that only X and I knew about.
X was the first thing I thought of when I opened my eyes in the morning and he received the last text I sent each night before I went to sleep. His recommendations informed the websites and articles that I read, the music that I listened to, the clothes that I chose. So confident was his unshakeable belief in his own opinions, I began to doubt my own in a way that I never had before.
I had been so decisive, but now I felt that I called none of the shots. And there was something addictive in that, too – in the increasingly total surrender of my previous tight control, in the gradual blurring of the outline of my hitherto clearly defined future. I had no idea what was going to happen any more, and I told myself that this was exciting rather than terrifying. He, it, utterly overwhelmed me.
From time to time I would reach into my mind and take out the abstract concept of guilt, a guilt I knew I should feel more strongly and I would examine the fact of it, like carefully holding a jewel up to the light.
I knew on an academic level that I was behaving so very, very badly. I was betraying a trust that my husband had earned in me over our many years of mutual and unwavering fidelity. Our bond in this respect was so strong that he instantly believed any casual lie I told, and I knew too that I was taking advantage of that.
I was enabling, also, X’s own deep betrayal of his wife – a blameless, loyal, mousy woman who certainly did not deserve the half-life that she and their daughters were unwittingly being forced into. If I tried to talk about this with X, though, he took it as a personal betrayal. He became angry.
How could I doubt his love for me, to the point I didn’t see that it was so strong it transcended the restrictive, outdated concept of fidelity? Were my values so bourgeois, so lower-middle-class, that I really believed monogamy had a place for people like us? And besides. BESIDES! I needed to remember that we couldn’t control this. It was bigger than us. We were, he told me, soul mates. We should, and we would, be openly together, in time. It wasn’t a matter, any longer, of if. It was a matter of when. Surely I could see that?
This new idea – the idea of a future with X, of swapping the comfortable life I had so carefully chosen and built, of exchanging it for an entirely different future – started as a ludicrous and laughable idea when we first talked of it, but it gradually took shape in my mind.
The idea started more and more to appeal to me. Maybe, I thought, I was not in fact behaving as badly as I knew myself to be. Maybe, I thought, I had not simply and greedily sought out an illicit enhancement to an already good and full life; maybe forces greater than any of us were at play here, and had brought me to someone I was intended to love and to be with always.
Maybe my marriage was not as good as I had always believed it to be. Maybe my aimless, restless discontent over recent years and months was not symptomatic of a transitional phase of my life but was, in fact, indicative of a deeper malaise, something truly fundamental.
Maybe I was falling out of love with my husband. Maybe my marriage had run its course and I needed X to help me see that. These things are sad, they are very sad, but they happen, don’t they? People fall in and out of love, of marriages, all the time. You think it won’t happen to you, and then it happens to you.
Yes, I slowly decided. Yes. On all fronts, that explanation satisfied me. It explained my yearning, encompassing need to be with X at all times, to be in constant touch with him, to please him, to have him approve of and admire me and want me. It must be because I loved him passionately – what other explanation could there be?
And yes, I was behaving badly towards my husband, towards my children, but not without cause. What greater cause is there than an overwhelming love? People would understand. Certainly, they’d understand if it ever happened to them. In time, all of this would have meant something, would be worth it, would have had a purpose.
All we needed to do, now, was come out into the light, and everything would be OK. I would be able to breathe again and sleep soundly once more.