What I Learned From Having an Affair With a Married Man. ~ Jennifer Garam

Via elephant journal
on Aug 16, 2012
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“Want to be in a book club? Just us?”

Tilting my head, I squinted at David’s* email. We were both in the literary industry and connected on social media, but I’d never met him in person. And based on what I could tell from his online persona, he was married.

“I’m bad at book clubs. I’ve caused the demise of many,” I wrote, declining his offer, and clicked Send.

But he kept writing. A few weeks later, he asked me to lunch.

Sitting in my therapist’s office, I told her about David’s invitation.

“The last thing you need is another literary married man,” she said, referring to my ex, a successful writer whom I hadn’t been able to get over for years. We weren’t in touch anymore, but a few months earlier I’d been devastated when I found out he’d recently gotten married.

“I know,” I said. Never having had an affair with a married man, I did have a history of dating guys with varying degrees of unavailability and knew how painful it was. I had no desire to put myself in that situation again.

But David was persistent and I was curious. Maybe lunch would be professional. Maybe he was going through a separation. I told myself I’d go just to get more information, but if it turned out that he was in fact married, I wasn’t interested.

Sitting in the upscale restaurant waiting for him to arrive, I stared at the same line in the book I was reading over and over again, but the words were swimming in front of my eyes, and I couldn’t focus. When he walked in, the first thing I noticed as he reached to hug me was his wedding ring.

Looking over the menu, we talked about writing as if this was a business lunch, but my heart was pounding.

“You know everything about me and I don’t know anything about you,” I said, because he’d read my writing, so he knew all about my childhood traumas, bad breakups, and struggles with depression, anxiety, and OCD.

“The balance is off,” I said, swirling a French fry in ketchup. “Tell me something personal about you.”

“I’m sober,” he said.

“Like, you used to not be?” I asked.


And that was it: instant intimacy. We’d only just met, but we could already tell each other everything about ourselves. Lunch lasted for three hours and turned into coffee at a café a few blocks away, and then a lingering walk through the Manhattan streets as the sun warmed us on that bright fall day.

After I left David I was in a daze, dizzy from our effortless afternoon together. That night he emailed me, “I don’t feel like pretending I didn’t feel something between us today.”

Reading his words, I couldn’t believe he was so straightforward, and I was relieved. I didn’t feel like pretending either; I could pretend for years, wanting something more but subsisting on the pretense of a friendship with a subtext of sexual attraction, living indefinitely in an unfulfilling fantasy. We agreed to meet for coffee to talk.

Sitting across from him, he pressed his leg into mine under the table. “You’re not going to move?” he asked.

“Nope,” I said, pressing back against him, my eyes locked on his.

“I should tell you,” I confessed, propping my elbows on the table and leaning forward, “I have this pattern with unavailable men.” I told him about the guy I had a fling with who lived with his girlfriend, and my ex I couldn’t get over, who was married when I met him. We’d had a flirtation for a couple of months before his marriage dissolved, and started dating as soon as he got separated.

David told me that he wasn’t happy in his marriage but had children and planned to stay married for his kids, until his youngest—who was eight months old—graduated from high school. Still pressing his leg against mine, he made it clear what I’d be signing on for.

“I don’t care,” I said. “This feels so good I don’t want to walk away. I just want to follow this feeling wherever it goes.” I have such an overactive conscience I couldn’t even take a paperclip from work without being swamped with guilt, but for some reason entering into an affair with a married man didn’t faze me.

“Just so you know,” he wrote to me that night, “I’m not going to be able to keep my hands off you for long.”

A few days later we met for seltzers on a rooftop bar, and I curled up into him.

“Let’s go somewhere,” he said. “The park? Or we could go to my office…”

We wound up kissing on the couch in his office that night, and later that week I found myself back there, but in the middle of the workday, lying naked on the floor with him in front of an open window, his coworkers on the other side of a thin wall. I could hear the shuffle of footsteps and the murmur of voices, desk drawers opening and closing and phones ringing as he slowly traced his fingertips across me and looked at me like he never wanted to stop.

It’s going to be hard to get over you, I thought, closing my eyes trying to freeze this moment at the very beginning that I already knew was catapulting towards an end. Then I leaned in and kissed him, pulling him towards me.

Only a week and a half after meeting him, I was having a full-blown affair with a married man and could no longer recognize my life. I’d been unemployed for almost a year and spent most of my time alone, on top of which I hadn’t dated or had sex in the four years I’d been hung up on my ex. Every day was drudgery as I sank further and further into painful isolation. Left to myself, my depression, anxiety, and OCD had been progressively getting worse, and I’d even started having debilitating panic attacks.

Before meeting David, I felt dead. But suddenly, I was alive, desired, and filled with passion and vitality. My depression, anxiety, and OCD slipped away. Overnight I went from years of celibacy to being naked on the floor of his office in the middle of the afternoon, constantly emailing and sexting, and having late-night dirty chats on Facebook. Consumed with thoughts of him, when we weren’t together I was either lost in memories, reliving every detail of every second with him, or longing for him, trying to figure out the next time we could see each other.

On a cold, gray November day, we spent the afternoon in bed together at my apartment. “I think I could get divorced,” he said, his hand resting on my hip. “Now, not in eighteen years. I think I could do it. Move out, get an apartment…”

black and white lovemakingIn that moment, lying next to him in the post-orgasmic glow of the most incredible, tender, sensual experience we’d ever had together, something shifted inside of me.

Up until that point, I was pretty much OK with the way things were. I’d long ago identified that the reason I was magnetically drawn to unavailable men was that I myself was emotionally unavailable. So having a married boyfriend was perfect for me—it was passionate and exciting, and there was built-in distance so I didn’t feel suffocated, trapped, and in danger of actual intimacy. I thought I’d hang in this extramarital limbo until it got too painful, and then I could just opt out.

But in the muted light of my apartment that day, I made a decision that I was in for the long haul. I decided that I’d stand by him through his separation and divorce, no matter how painful, emotionally trying, and financially draining it was. I’d be by his side regardless of how many friends’ couches he had to crash on, and through a shitty first apartment in a crappy neighborhood with no furniture and bare walls. Warmth spread out from my heart and across my chest and I knew; I was going to make this work, and we were going to be able to have a legitimate relationship.

I love you, I thought, running my hands over his back, but I didn’t say it.

The next week, he emailed me the night before he left to visit his parents with his wife and children for Thanksgiving, “The rest of my life pales in comparison to being with you.”

He was usually in touch every day, many times a day, but over Thanksgiving I didn’t hear from him at all. After dinner with my family on Thursday night, I rushed to my Mom’s computer and stared at the screen, refreshing and refreshing and refreshing as my stomach tightened more and more. I soothed myself by thinking that it was probably hard for him to get a minute alone to contact me when he was surrounded by his extended family, and convinced myself that he’d definitely be in touch when he got back into town on Saturday.

But Saturday night I sat at the table of the bridal shower I was throwing for my younger sister, sneaking glances at my phone the whole night. There was still no word for him, and as soon as I got home I collapsed into bed crying. Terrified, I knew that something was really wrong.

On Monday afternoon he finally messaged me on Facebook. After a few minutes of, “How was your Thanksgiving?” back-and-forth, he wrote, “I can’t do this anymore.”

I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach and I couldn’t breathe. “Can you call me?” I wrote. “Can we not do this on Facebook?”

“I was at home, staying in the room I grew up in,” he said, “and I realized, I don’t want to be that guy. I never thought I’d be that guy. That guy who cheats, the one who has an affair. I can’t do this anymore, Jen.”

Hanging up the phone, I was spinning from shock, and couldn’t understand how he’d gone from, I could get a divorce and The rest of my life pales in comparison to being with you, to I can’t do this anymore in only one week. I couldn’t believe I’d never see him again, never spend another afternoon lying in bed next to him.

Part of me, a small part, felt relieved, though. I’d never have to experience that sick, nauseous feeling waiting for David to write me back or call, petrified that he changed his mind and it was over. I’d never have to miss out on Thanksgiving dinner with my family or my sister’s wedding planning because I was too checked out worrying about when I’d hear from him to be present. I’d never have to lose days I should be writing or looking for a job to intoxicating fantasies of him. I could have myself and my life back.

Blasting Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” on my iPod, I bounded out to my favorite neighborhood burger place and felt lighter already, free from my attachment to him.

“I just got dumped,” I told the manager as I ordered a cheeseburger and milkshake. “This is my consolation meal.”

“You’ll be fine,” she said, “I can already tell.”

I thought so, too, but the next day the shock wore off and it hit me. All I could do was lie in bed and wail in pain.

That week, my bathroom sink clogged, then my kitchen sink backed up, then the heating pipe in my bathroom burst, and then I broke my toe because I was thinking of David instead of paying attention to where I was going and slammed my foot into the bathroom door. My depression, anxiety, and OCD that had been eased when I was with him came back with a vengeance.

Now I was really terrified. I was unemployed and the little money I had left in savings was running out fast. I couldn’t eat or sleep and I could barely function, let alone try to find work. How was I going to take care of myself?

Once again, I couldn’t recognize my life, and I didn’t know what had happened to me. What I did know was that this was it—I’d hit rock bottom. Whatever it took, I had to build myself up and put my crumbling life back together. And on that cold, dark December day something else shifted in me. In my excruciating agony, I knew with complete certainty that my destructive pattern of having relationships with unavailable men was finally broken, and if I wanted to survive I could never, ever, do this again.
*Name has been changed



4 Stages of Cheating & When It’s Warranted.


Bonus video:

This article originally appeared in Huffington Post under the title Why I Had An Affair with A Married Man.

Jennifer Garam is a regular contributor to The Frisky and blogger for Psychology Today. Her writing has also appeared on The Huffington Post, Health.com,TheFix.com, YourTango, Crazy Sexy Life, DivineCaroline.com, and in InterviewMagazine. In 2006 Jennifer founded Writeous Chicks, where she writes about creativity and self-esteem on her blog One Writeous Chick, and teaches writing workshops for women with an emphasis on self-care, healing, and having fun. Having practiced yoga for the past 14 years, two years ago she launched the blog NotSoZen YogaJen, where she writes about being a Type A urbanite using yoga to help manage anxiety and depression. You can follow her on Twitter@writeouschick.
~Editor: Lori Lothian
~Last Photo: RJ Dollen

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108 Responses to “What I Learned From Having an Affair With a Married Man. ~ Jennifer Garam”

  1. shandell says:

    What I learned after having an affair is that it’s just sex not love which so many people including myself get so confused. If affairs could teach us anything worth typing is the reflection of what we think we deserve. which is it sex or love? u decide. 4 me! Love, so celibacy till a man can show me that he truly cares.

  2. Glenn says:

    Omg. This was an incredible read. I literally felt (to a degree) what you felt and it was amazing. Exciting. Eviscerating and penetrating. How could you write this so beautifully? Romantic, tragic. Rising from the flames. Just poetic and gorgeous. You are a story teller with great proportion. I believe in you. Thank you for sharing your work and through your life experience.

  3. Dawn says:

    I myself have been on both sides of this fence. I am alone. That does not bother me. Actually a blessing because there is calm. No drama, just peace. I have learned to accept that. To me that is a gift. Whether being the wife, girlfriend, or other woman, if someone does not respect you or value you remember and tell yourself that a mans rejection is Gods protection. Took me 30 years to figure that out

  4. Bee says:

    I don’t feel sorry for the author at all. You deserve to feel all those horrible feelings. People with no self respect and respect for other people don’t go down well with me at all. Did you ever think about his wife or kids? Of course you didn’t because you were blinded by feelings which btw are unreliable. There will always be someone nicer looking but love is so much deeper than a feeling it is a choice. I find it quite ironic that someone who is quite ugly like you could get a man to do that but hey that’s what whores are for. I’m sorry to insult but this post makes me really angry.

  5. Tiffany says:

    I did the same thing last year. It is not worth the pain and all the negative consequences it brings. Worst mistake of my life. You not only ruin your life, but you ruin the other persons family. It took me a really long time to get over it, and in some ways, I am not sure if you fully get over it. It ends badly, and since you don’t want it to end, that makes it even worse. You pass places, hear things that remind you of the person, and its a horrible reminder. If I could go back and change what I did, I would. I know I will never make that same mistake ever again.

  6. Papabear says:

    All I have heard here is about what a whore she is, or what an asshole he is, do you really know what that married man may have been through during his marriage, and how he tried to keep it together, while watching is alcoholic spouse make everyday hell, because his old belief was you stick together. How about you have a child, and everyday you go to work your mind is on fire, your heart is already broken, and you worry every day 24 hours a day 8 days a week. It seems like 8. Then one day while you have lost all interest in your marriage, but you stay just because, you think you are doing the right thing. A lady comes along and befriends you, and as time goes on nothing changes at home, but you try, and your friendship now becomes comforting, something you have not had in many years, something you thought never existed. Don’t blame the two people for having a relationship, try living in there shoes for 30 years, and see what all you better then God would do. You all talk the talk, but let’s Re you walk the talk.

  7. A fool for love?? says:

    Hello! Wow what beautiful writing! Too bad that there was not a beautiful ending as well…I know how you feel. Unfortunately, right now I am in love with a married man. I am desperate for some support and/or “help,” but ultimately, I know it is me who has to work through this touchy situation. And for people who look down on us, hey, shit happens! I vowed never, ever to get involved with a married man. And then, it happened. I was working for him at his store, and little by little, he helped to change my life. Five years later, we are still together. It’s been a hell of a bumpy ride! The absolute worst time for me is in the night time when I am in need of him, and he is not with me, at my apartment. He doesn’t sleep in the same bed as her, but still…I cry deep sobs of agony over the fact that he can’t be with me. It hurts intensely. We do a lot of drugs together, and I know I do it to cover up the pain that I feel. I KNOW it’s not healthy.. I too go for difficult men, so I know what your saying. I’m so sorry that you had to go through that. The worst part they give us is “the hope” that they’ll leave her. I know he won’t. The fact is that she’s in love with him, and he has made it so that HE is all she has in the world. Pretty messed up. You are lucky it’s over!! You don’t want to be in my shoes where you’d still be stuck! Take good care, and enjoy your freedom!!

  8. monalisa says:

    i loved it!!!!