An affair I’d like to forget.

Via on May 9, 2011

I’d try almost anything to obliterate it.

Photo: Corey Holms

Some bitch hussy chick found my husband to be charismatic, wonderful, funny and, apparently, pretty sexy. Qualities I hadn’t bothered to notice in a long time. Probably because he hadn’t been exuding these qualities. Around me.

But I digress.

He really is a great guy. No more, no less perfect than I. We have a beautiful, funny, caring son; two cuddly cats; a modest home in a pleasant wooded neighborhood. There’s even a white fence. No, it’s not picket. Split rail. An omen perhaps?

A winding paver stone walkway leads from our front door through some unkempt flower beds to our driveway. It has subtle curves. Much unlike the careening 19 years of our marriage. We’ve had good and bad times. Highs and lows. Like any marriage.

The trees stand haphazardly in our yard. Most have withstood violent storms. The only casualty in the 13 years of living here was a large maple struck by lightening a few years back. Perhaps a sign of personal torment ahead. I’m not exactly good with metaphors. Damn. I’ll just spit this whole thing out.

I overheard his phone conversation one night last fall. He was in the basement and I was on the 2nd floor where he thought I’d settled in for the night. He didn’t count on me venturing downstairs into the kitchen for a snack and, either way, must have assumed the sound of the game–football or baseball, I don’t recall–would drown out his voice. Apparently, he was too caught up in his repartee to detect my footsteps.

It’s not unusual for him to call his brother during games. But his tone was flirty lusty. I edged closer to the top of the basement stairs to hear him reminiscing about the last time he saw and made love to her. (choke). Laughing and telling her he missed her. Approving the naked photo she texted over. I stood, shaking, at the top of the basement stairs and listened long enough to a) confirm it wasn’t some sick joke, b) make sure I wasn’t sleep walking and c) collect evidence before flicking the light switch on and off to signal my presence. “I can hear you, you know,” I said.

My world collapsed.  That was almost six months ago—just days after our lackluster 19th anniversary and a few days before my birthday.

My forgiveness. A work in progress.

It wasn’t immediate, but I forgave him. Or so I thought. I have my moments days of second-guessing myself. Should I have let him back in? What if I hadn’t found out? Does he truly love me? Will there be another? Do I really still love him? Here are 7 things that kept me sane.

  1. I fell in love once while married. It happened during a very rough patch in our marriage after the last of 6 failed in vitro fertilization attempts. By rough patch, I mean complete disconnect. Ships passing in the night. Each of us coping in our own ways after the very clinical, frustrating, painful process of trying to make a baby. I was depressed to the point I could hardly speak–and I had a full-time job that required verbal communication. I’d drive home balling my eyes out to the theme song from the Titanic. But along came my life saver. A man who made me laugh with his Jim Carey kind of hilarity. Even funnier, I found him arrogant, jerky and unattractive up until this point in my life knowing him. But the constant laughter he elicited from the depths of my broken heart did it for me.  I felt alive and became addicted. I sensed the funny man’s attraction to me, but neither of us admitted our feelings until some time later. The fact I had these feelings for someone else helped me relate to my husband’s behavior and put this blow (no pun intended) to our marriage in proper perspective. The glaring difference between our dalliances: mine didn’t involve sex. One make-out session end of story.
  2. We have a son. This speaks for itself.
  3. We were friends a year before we dated. We met in August 1989 and I really liked this guy as a person before he got the nerve to ask me out a year later. But I wasn’t into ‘nice’ guys at the time and I came very close to backing out of the date. But I went and that was it. Stuck like glue, married in 1992. (If that’s not a song, it should be).
  4. My husband’s string of bad fortune. A serious car accident about 3 years ago screwed up his left wrist. He’s left-handed. He could’ve been killed—both cars involved were totaled. One month later, appendectomy. Then there were 3 wrist surgeries. A layoff. Spiral leg fracture. Almost deadly infection. He was laid up off and on for months. Then he broke both wrists after flying off his bike to avoid crashing into our son who was on his bike. Did I mention the layoff? All of these health issues undermined his motivation to find a new job. Then he had to have the titanium rod removed from his leg because it was painful and possibly infected. Another surgery. Fun times. I’m sure I’m forgetting something.
  5. Compassion. One never knows how one will react until the situation smacks you upside the head. But somehow I had an open heart and mind. Yes, I was hurt. [I found my way back to the bedroom, picked up my book and stared at it. Moments later, my husband appeared. I looked at him and said, “It’s over.”  He gave me a blank look then left. I’m not sure how much time had passed before he reappeared sullenly. “When do you want me to get my stuff out of here?” ASAP, I said.] Pretty compassionate, eh? [After packing a make-shift overnight bag–was he going to see her? who was she?–he went into our son’s room. His voice was low. “WHY?” our son cried. “Why Daddy?” I couldn’t sit there and listen to my son’s heart break so I made my way downstairs to the kitchen. It was impossible to ignore the anguish that poured out of my son’s room. My son–9 1/2 years old at the time–came downstairs in despair–“Why, Mommy? Why?”–and fell into my arms. “I don’t know, sweetie.” He wanted to know if we’d still be a family. Or would he be like his friend, Jon, who was shuttled back and forth between his parents. “I don’t know.” My husband kissed us both good-bye, told us he was sorry and walked out the door]. But…
  6. I love him.
  7. He loves me. I believe that in my own insecure way.

Oh, one other thing that does not deserve its own number: She seemed a bit loopy. This helped. But it also made me wonder why he would go for a loopy gal. What did that say about me?

The haunting.

Okay. I have to admit. Trust issues? I had ‘em even before this  “affair”…so the real-life affair, unlike those that I created in my imagination, really did me in. But we sprang back to life without even planning to because I let him back in the house so he had somewhere to sleep. Our collective finances would not allow for an indefinite hotel stay—Holiday Inn Express or not. I let him back in as a friend, not sure of what I was doing. I felt bad for the guy. He messed up. He wanted to make things right. I didn’t know how I felt about that, whether I could remain married to a man who toyed with my trust in the worst possible way.

Before we knew it, it was like we were back in our 20’s. Friends. Accepting each other despite our flaws. Talking. Actually talking about meaningful things. And we fell in love all over again.

A few weeks ago I found myself in trapped in affair paranoia relapse. I’m not sure whether this is the clinical name for such suffering, but it will have to do. It crept up on me like a poisonous snake then swiftly, suddenly took hold.

  1. The honeymoon ended.
  2. Every time he looks at his cell or texts a friend, I wonder—is it her? Or someone else?
  3. We don’t have a lot of deep things to discuss since we’re together all the time. (He’s still unemployed).
  4. He had sex with her. Our sex had a blip of make-up wowsa.
  5. All of my prior relationships were with jerks who treated me like crap and I wonder if all this time he’s been posing as the nice guy.
  6. I’m insecure. Really?
  7. I’m 21 months older than the hubby. She‘s 13 or 14 years younger than him.
  8. A few years ago, a friend (now ex-friend) came onto him blah blah blah when she was wasted on martinis and he was about to walk her home. Also drunk, he was taken off-guard. Her lips landed on his. He told me about it first thing the following day. I can’t shake the idea that he’s decided never to tell me what ‘really‘ happened [His affair prompted me to finally tell him about my own “love”… and gave me an opportunity to question, once again, this story] since that he knows damn well that knowledge would compromise the already fractured trust. The stories I make up in my head are much more vivid.
  9. A good friend is going through a divorce and suspects cheating; a good friend who has already divorced suspected cheating; a neighbor around the corner is getting divorced and recently moved out of the neighborhood. It’s like post traumatic stress syndrome only worse.

The little reed, bending to the force of the wind, soon stood upright again when the storm had passed over.
~ Aesop

I have to make a choice, I know. Forgive him the entire past for once and for all. Or end the relationship. It can’t go on like this anymore. He got his hair cut today and when he returned I said it seemed he was gone pretty long. Something going on with the stylist? I don’t care if she just got married.

Do I love him? Yes. I mean… I think. Sure.

Can I forgive him? Yes.

Can I trust him? Uh… I need to or our marriage will dissolve on its own. He’ll get tired of me asking who he’s texting or why he’s been gone so long when he just went out for a hair cut (even though, as it turns out, he was back in the right amount of time) or why he’s not paying attention to me or why he moved his foot away or forgot to kiss me goodbye.

That’s it. Starting today, I’m making the choice to shove all of this in the past and let go of the blame and anger. Clean slate. Besides, who else will accept me on the days I wear sweatshirts or feel down or say something ridiculous? Who else will laugh at my non sequiturs? Who else can I trust more than I trust him?


NOTE: This is easier said than done, but I am committed. I’m trying.

About Lynn Hasselberger

Lynn Hasselberger lives in Chicagoland with her son, husband and two cats. She loves sunrises, running, yoga, chocolate, and NYR, and has a voracious appetite for comedy. In her spare time, she blogs at and A "Green Diva" and social media addict, you'll most likely find Lynn on twitter (@LynnHasselbrgr & @myEARTH360) and facebook. She hopes to make the world a better place, have more fun, re-develop her math skills and overcome her fear of public speaking. Like her writing? Subscribe to her posts.


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150 Responses to “An affair I’d like to forget.”

  1. […] and/or humorous things to tweet. From all over the world! Who could resist (besides my husband, who glazes over when I talk twitter much the same way as I do when he drones on about history or […]

  2. […] open a vein or two: the first visit with my brother; my fear of speaking; the pain of infertility; my husband’s affair; struggles with what I wear; getting older; […]

  3. […] confident, a wildly charismatic jackass, and he cracked me open. He was addictive the way the most toxic affairs are: I’d drag myself out of bed at 5 a.m. just to be with him; I’d save my nights for us, […]

  4. Hi Lynn, this piece moved me when I first read it. Now that I've "met" you and put two and two together, this was even more powerful. Raw honesty and wisdom. Beautiful.

  5. […] social community the great gift your vision, voice, wisdom, and hashtags. You’ve shared your infidelities, pity parties, broken bits, and gratuitous porn. We love you like the family members we want to sit […]

  6. […] social community the great gift your vision, voice, wisdom, and hashtags. You’ve shared your infidelities, pity parties, broken bits, and gratuitous porn. We love you like the family members we want to sit […]

  7. Lyl says:

    It never fails to amaze me how the universe brings what you need to hear! I am so grateful to have happened upon this article and all the wonderful responses. Being in the same situation and devastated, feeling alone and isolated — this is much needed therapy for me. There just isn't a lot out there (help wise) to rememdy this siutation or give advice, support. etc. I lack the bravery you exhibit and admire how you are able to put it out there (for yourself and us!). I will check out the links and sites posted here. Thank you so very much!!

    • So glad this was helpful to you, Lyl! Sorry to hear you find yourself in the same situation. It takes time to heal and, well, I'm not 100% healed yet. Hang in there! Was this recent? Feel free to comment more here or message me via facebook.

  8. […] Other possible juicy topics about me: I’m one of those liberal freakin’ treehuggers; my husband had an affair; I’m raising my son to be a hippie; we fed a maimed mama raccoon for a while. (Side note: one […]

  9. Thanks to all for the comments. I know there were a number of negative ones that didn't get written here. But appreciate all who read this piece. Cheers!

  10. […] Plus a bunch of other stuff that certain people don’t think I should ‘put out on the […]

  11. Anon says:

    Thanks for posting this. I have had a similar experience, but the other way around, sex on my part and dalliances on his, 10 years later. Trust is a hard thing to regain. I think this is the most important thing you have shared, I wish I could share it online and be ok with that, but my family would never let me live it down. Anyway, thanks for putting it out there!!!

    • Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Trust is definitely difficult. And there were certain people who did not appreciate me sharing this. In fact, they basically bullied me about it. That was quite nice. (not) Cheers!

  12. Sarah says:

    Good luck! You are so strong! My mom went through a similar situation about four years ago, some days I wish she and my dad had been able to work it out.

  13. alessi101 says:

    Good luck. Unfortunately cheaters usually continue to cheat, especially if they get away with it. Perhaps it is a compulsion. I hope that this isn't the case for you though. Again i wish you good luck. Thankyou for sharing this.

    • Thanks, Alessi. Hopefully he doesn't prove to be 'one of those' … I told him if he feels the need to do it again, to let me know so I can find myself a mister-ess (what is the male version of mistress?) :D

  14. farmwife says:

    You're a better woman than me. I told my husband 22 years ago that the only way out of this marriage is horizontally. Apparently the ability to castrate a male critter in less than 30 seconds with a pair of scissors is a great cultivator of fidelity…

    But really….*HE* should be the one making absolutely sure he gives you NO reason to doubt his whereabouts, texts, and calls.. If he is serious about your relationship, then he simply must understand he has to be completely transparent to you.

  15. Mixed Emotions says:

    Just reading your story Lynn. Very moving. Your courage is inspiring. Having been on both sides, I found it takes time/patience and insight to move forward, heal and grow. It's been 3 years now. I take it a day at a time with my husband as we slowly find our way. I could write more about what I've learned but it's long so I will stop for now. You (and others who have posted, especially Lyl from 8 weeks ago who hadn't found a lot out there) may find the items below helpful:

    Belleruth Naparstek's Heartbreak, Abandonment & Betrayal

    I googled and found good books on the topic, then went to Amazon, which lists related books such as "After the Affair" and "How Can I Forgive You?" by Janis Abrahms Springs, PhD to name a few I read. Recently, "Transcending Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder, The Six Stages of Healing" by Dennis Ortman, PdD has been helpful.

  16. Comments from facebook October 24 2011

    Nicole Shree Spray thank you for the article. Grace of reality. Wsdom.
    Saturday at 8:20am

    Nathaniel Wolfe The only reason people have such a hard time with this is they have a sense of ownership and possession of thief spouses, bread from attachments to contrived ideas of marriage, fidelity, and what we think "should be". My wife and I have been very happily married for 20 years, and it's quite acceptable for either of us to explore intimacies with others. Neither of us wants The other to miss out on opportunities to share happiness and love. Life is too short.

  17. More facebook comments…

    Sunita Pillay I've been on the side you speak of, Nathaniel, and I find that monogamy is more beautiful and a far more fulfilling state of being. It has nothing to do with ownership of the other, on the contrary, I believe it's absolute trust in the other. For example, it's perfectly acceptable for my partner or me to express attraction for someone else, but why do either of us need to chase after every desire that pops into mind? He has a beautiful, caring, perfect match of a partner in front of him, and vice versa. What more would he be searching for? And to that end, the search is endless, as are our desires! Moreover, as I get older, I want my worldly desires to become less, not multiplied and amplified. I view monogamy as two geese who mate for life in mutual trust ands happiness with what is. Not two people who are chained together by a piece of paper and societal expectations.

    Diane Ferraro Oh boy. This one has the long-lasting qualities to make it a doozy of a read time and again. Love your writing, Lynn!

  18. Facebook comments continued…

    Nathaniel Wolfe It's not about desire, it's about sharing of souls. The "pain" from "infidelity" stems from expectations of the other person. It's fear that they might love someone more than you. It's fear if loss. It's a blow to ego. If you're desire is for the others fulfillment, and not your own security, one is happy for the bliss ones loved one finds.

    Nathaniel Wolfe And, even among monogamous species, the same gander does not fertilize every offspring of his mate. If you are going to use biological examples, it's best to know the realities. And while monogamy may work for some, it is no better or worse than other systems of love. It is actually quite new in the scheme of things, and if we are honest, not a very wide spread successfully navigated institution.

    Nathaniel Wolfe I have absolute trust in my wife, and she does of me too. And we are very happy.

  19. Facebook comments continued…
    Sunita Pillay Sorry, I don't believe polyamory is simply about "sharing of souls". That idea, for me anyway, is laughable. No personal offense intended. I think it's essentially about having amazing new sex. Polyamory is just like finding a brand new (or vintage, for that matter) thing, let's say an item of clothing. It's difficult to look at that old pair of jeans with the same eyes with which you once did, especially if there is an awesome new pair of jeans sitting next to it. You can say this about any *thing* that has lost that new feeling. But that feeling is ever present, if you're looking with the right eyes….

  20. Facebook comments continued…
    Sunita Pillay … And once you see you're loved one in that light of newness, there's no reason to connect with anyone else sexually. Furthermore, sex can't exist without desire. It's all about desire! (And ain't nothing wrong with desire; It's human.) Mind you, I am not trying to preach the gospel of monogamy (yawn), I'm just defending my own stance, after having experimented extensively with polyamory. Also, and I have no statistics for this, but I'd bet that most women you ask wouldn't want to be in a polyamorous relationship. Women, although some may be reluctant to admit it, often conflate sex with love, whereas men can separate the two more easily. As a woman, having more than one sex partner can be a dangerous business emotionally.No doubt, I will get attached. I like the security of knowing my guy's mine, call it possession or ownership or whatever. I don't care! It's a system that works for me, and I'd venture to say it works for all of my female friends. But you know, different strokes for different folks. Peace! :)

  21. Facebook comments cont'd

    Lynn Johnson Hasselberger I'm with you Sunita. But if your situation works for, you, Nathaniel, great. Just curious–how long have you been married + was did your marriage start out with this understanding?

    Nathaniel Wolfe We've been together since 1995, married since 2000, and it was an understanding from the start. I think people forget that for most of history, and in many non-Christian based current cultures, especially matriarchal ones, multiple partners are the norm. And FYI, If you think intimacy between two or more people is about sex, then I kinda feel sorry for you. My relationships are long term and sex is just one small, albeit enjoyable, part of knowing another person as completely as one can. I personally get nothing out of casual sex, but I don't disparage those who do.

  22. Facebook comments continued…

    Lynn Johnson Hasselberger Marriage is a flawed "institution" and the fact it's even referred to as an institution says quite a bit. Definitely flawed. I applaud you, Nathaniel, for your open-mindedness and ability to create an unconventional marriage in which you are both thriving and happy. I don't think I could mentally take the complexity of that type of relationship…I think it would make me feel ungrounded. But that's just me! Have you ever considered writing about your marriage? I think it would be well-received by elephant readers.

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  24. Maria says:

    Thank your for sharing your story. I had a similar situation. The see saw of emotions lasted for about 3 years but then the wonderful release of fear and anger. The result I am a better person. Oh yes we stayed together and worked through it all. There is an interesting book written in 1957 that sums it up. " The revolt of the middle aged man".

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  26. […] At least not publicly. I don’t think I’ve even said the word out loud to anyone but my husband, if at […]

  27. I admire your openness. Wow. I've been thinking about this A LOT lately. Is there REALLY only one person out there for me? Is marriage the only relationship you can have with someone you love? Do we kowtow to societal definitions, tradition, religion, cultures instead of embracing emotional cues when thinking about love and/or expressing love?

  28. […] time we have issues in our relationships whether in the beginning or when they end (after we have missed the shot), we’re challenged […]

  29. […] My husband and I are in marital therapy. Why? That’s another story. […]

  30. […] at the two-yearish mark of the affair. I forgave my husband for it, but some suffering shrapnel—which my body and soul continue to […]

  31. […] survived many struggles—from eating disorders and infertility… to (gulp) infidelity—and enjoyed quite a few triumphs, blessings and overall good […]

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  34. Sarah says:

    I have to ask… what does your husband think of you disclosing this story publicly? For me, if I were your husband, I would feel really betrayed and embarrassed that you would make public this story. I'm not going after you for writing this, because it's beautiful and honest as all can be, but that's pretty ballsy to publish your name and to not make this anonymous.

  35. Geneva Boye says:

    The idea of “Who else will accept me besides him” sounds a lot like insecurity based on the belief (conscious or unconscious) of unworthiness. As though the world wouldn’t accept you and love you if they really knew you or had to deal with you.

    In my own experience of healing after terrible betrayal (maternal — in my case), I lost the ability to trust. The lesson (gained during an incredibly messy healing process) that I was worthy of love and that the world would and does accept the “real” me let me regain enough security to forgive my mother, and renew our relationship.

  36. Samantha says:

    I don't normally write public responses to public forums, but I do believe writing about your husband's affair is quite gauche and won't help either of your healing processes. Cheating is a complex activity with complex outcomes, but making such a public statement about it I feel will only make things worse.

  37. Grid says:

    I hope you'll think about a follow up essay. Thanks for your story…so many of us are involved in this and have few outlets to talk and think about it with others.

  38. Jess says:

    About 5 and a half years ago I cheated on my spouse. We were not married at the time, he was away for an extended time and had no real way of contacting me. I felt alone, abandoned… I know these are excuses but I am working towards forgiving myself because it is still painful that I hurt him. I told him immediately, I couldn’t carry on the affair and the guilt ate me alive.

    About 6 months ago I told him I was pregnant. He insinuated that he didn’t think it could be his. We have been having a rough patch and our sex life is sporadic.

    To know after 5 years and getting married that he still doesn’t trust me is devestating. I know that when my son is born if he ever makes a comment about him not looking like his father I will leave him… After a DNA test to prove what an asshole he’s been.

    My soul is sick sometimes and I’m unsure if I can ever truly be forgiven. As the party that cheated I can only ask how much more can I bleed for you to know I regret the betrayal? That I would never contemplate it again?

  39. Andi says:

    I experienced this as well with my husband, many years ago. It was the toughest time in my life. I applaud those who have what it takes to forgive and move forward in a loving, healthy way. I kept at it for 10 years, but sadly was not able to restore the trust, mutual respect, and inimacy that is essential in a happy, healthy marriage. I wish you nothing but strength and courage and above all, know that you are worthy of love.

  40. Green Diva Meg says:

    such fantastically raw and honest writing. there are no formulas for this, although there will be a thousand comments here and from folks around you that say otherwise. "she should do [fill in the blank], but seriously, girl, we've gotta talk . . . excellent article. thank you for your clear and candid words.

  41. Gaia Sophia says:

    Thank you. This article is the first I’ve read that echos my journey. I am trying too. Best and hardest choice I’ve ever made.

  42. Sonicsuns says:


    Gah, monogamy really sucks sometimes. I'm polyamorous. When I read how you were feeling depressed and another man made you happy, I wish you could have had the freedom to spend time with the other man and take him as a lover. (With the full permission of your husband, of course. Otherwise it's not polyamory.) Chances are that your husband felt distressed in his own way and this other woman made him happy too. Monogamy is too rigid, for many of us.

  43. Thanks, Shannon. Sorry to hear you had to go through something similar. How did you find out?

    Writing and publishing this was cathartic but now I'm a bit emotionally exhausted reading through + responding to all the comments :) While I'm so grateful for all the wonderful, mostly supportive responses, my intent was to wash my hands of it (LOL)! Who was I kidding?

    I posted this quote to my facebook page today: Don't let yesterday take up too much of today. ~ Will Rogers

  44. Well said, Colleen. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Cheers!

  45. Thanks Elle! Can't wait to check out the website! And love your welcome to the club :) Cheers!

  46. Thanks so much, LSP! I need to let go of the idea "I want/need to trust him again" and take it one day at a time. Appreciate that bit of wisdom. ~Cheers!

  47. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, Mary. Sorry to hear you're in a similar situation. Everyone says I'm strong, but I don't feel strong. I wish I could just put all of this behind me for once and for all. Your words are very encouraging and I think there's some truth in what you say about trust. Cheers!

  48. Thank you, Kathryn, for sharing your own story. I'm grateful for your insight! Checked out your blog and love the quote in the header: "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do."-Eleanor Roosevelt

    Cheers to you! ~Lynn

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