Emotional Affairs: An Offender's Perspective

When we think about affairs, we imagine love-rats who assume they won’t get caught. We imagine people doing it for the thrill or because they have one foot in the door on the way to the divorce courts. Today, I want to share my emotional affair story.

Many years ago, I found myself extremely bored, feeling neglected and watching my husband play Counter Strike Source on his laptop. My husband told me I could play Roller Coaster Tycoon, but I wasn’t in a gaming mood. I’d been home alone all day and wanted to chat to him for a while.

Realising that I wanted to chat and he didn’t, I decided to start up the randomised chat web app, Omegle. I put in a few fairly non-descript hobbies and interests and then hit the chat button.

For the most part, my connections were uneventful. There were many, many men looking for some web camera fun and I just wanted to chat. I eventually connected with M, a business-savvy Australian.

M and I chatted for quite a while and we laughed and joked, too. I told him about my love for platypi and he told me that if we got disconnected, then I could find him again by entering my only interest as ‘platypus’. It worked.

M and I switched to Google Hangouts and we chatted frequently. Our chats got progressively more and more intense and I joked that if he was mean to me then I’d leave him stranded at the airport (talking about meeting should be a red flag in itself) and he talked about chasing me and capturing me. I joked about ‘being good at fighting’ and he said he would subdue me. Over time, I began to realise that M had a little taste for control.

Fast forward a few months and I couldn’t hide it any more. I eventually managed to worm it in and open up to M that I was into the BDSM lifestyle, and it turns out, he was, too. From there, we went from laughing and joking about a silly hunt through Bristol International Airport to talking about the BDSM scenes we’d love to create, all without my husband knowing.

One day, Wolfie saw a message from M that mentioned a part of my anatomy and he wanted me to calm the chat down immediately. Shocked, confused and upset by my own actions, I told M that we needed to tame down our chat. Within a week, we had stopped chatting completely.

It wasn’t until summer 2016 that I found myself abandoned in the garden and tasked with all of the heavy lifting. I was frustrated that I, a woman, was doing the lifting part of the yard work while my husband and father-in-law were inside, watching TV. Annoyed that nobody was helping me, I took to the anonymous post app Whisper to rant about it, posted anonymously, and forgot all about it.

If you’ve ever used Whisper, you’ll know that there is a chat function that allows you to chat with the person who posted the Whisper. As a woman, quite often it makes sense to ignore these and they’re nearly always men looking indecent material, but one chat stood out to me. It wasn’t dirty, it was friendly, approachable and sympathetic.

So we got chatting, and that was how I met T, another Australian man.

T was younger than me and I found that strange at first. I struggled to grasp that he was so mature whilst being 3 years younger than me. He was also fairly recently married and now trapped in an abusive relationship. T told me that he felt he was polyamorous and that his wife wouldn’t accept it. Forced to decide between his relationship and his perceived identity, T filed for divorce. As a friend, I felt it was imperative to support him on this journey.

T and I kept chatting and it wasn’t until I posted in the ‘BDSMfriends’ group on Whisper that he knew about my interests. T pulled up the image, fired it across to me and playfully asked me to explain. It was at that point then that I admitted that I was my husband’s submissive.

T asked me more about my lifestyle in our mutual interest, was I happy in it and what drew me to it.. I opened up and admitted to T that I loved my husband, but that I felt that he was letting me down as my Dominant. After all, at the time there were no tasks, no rewards and very few rules. Within an hour, T had devised some basic rules for me and given me a list of activities I could do to take care of myself.

I felt respected, protected, even loved.

T became a big part of my life at that point. He told me that he thought I was polyamorous and I convinced myself that there was a life for me in polyamory. I ignored my husband’s discomfort. Drunk on love, desire and attention, I had two men who loved me, and I was happy.

Except, I wasn’t willing to give up Wolfie for T. I needed Wolfie and T.

I became different, I worked harder. Every time I went swimming, I swam more. T’s praise became the reward I needed for swimming those extra lengths. Finally, I felt like somebody was really proud of me.

T eventually found himself a new girlfriend and our chats decreased. All of a sudden, there were days or even weeks between our chats and I realised I was no longer important to him. Feeling abandoned, I told him about my feelings, wished him well and then cooled off our communication. I had an “I miss you” email from T last year and we chatted for about a week, but within days I realised that I didn’t miss him at all. He’d walked out of my life, and Wolfie had been there for me, waiting patiently. Even if Wolfie wasn’t perfect, he was at least trying for me, I just hadn’t seen it.

That Wolfie has been so patient and forgiving with me in all of this is nothing short of a miracle. People can and do make mistakes, and sometimes they are completely wreckless ones.

The one thing I will say is that I have never sent nudes, to anyone, without my husband’s knowledge. Any photos of my extra fleshy bits have only ever been seen by very few people and only with the approval of Wolfie. Even if I was emotionally unfaithful, I stayed within what I knew were clear and defined perimeters, the bits we had talked about and agreed before.

For me, this whole debacle was a learning curve. Until 2014, I didn’t even know emotional affairs existed. Because of the openness that I grew up with, I believed that as long as you aren’t sleeping with anyone or sending photos then it’s fine. As I was doing neither, it’s all good. Now that I know what an emotional affair is, I’m a lot more aware of them and their sneaky ways. I only wish I knew about them before.

I strongly believe that many people who find themselves in the clasp of an affair do not do so with the intention of hurting their partners. Since my experiences, I’ve had many conversations with people who have had emotional (and sometimes physical) affairs and in many cases, these people are hurting themselves by being unfaithful, too. They’ve told me that they feel neglected, dejected, unwanted and undesirable. If their partner only wanted them, they wouldn’t be where they are now. If their partner was more open to exploring or letting them explore, they wouldn’t need to venture outside of the relationship. Because they have unmet needs and divorce would bring shame and distress (especially to children), cheating feels like the least bad option in their scenario. Some feel remorseful for cheating on an otherwise good partner, and some are apathetic because they feel their partner doesn’t care about them.

I, too, could see the triggers.

If my husband had been chatting to me, I wouldn’t have ended up meeting M.

If I’d had some help, I may never have met T.

That’s not to say it is ever okay to blame our partner’s for an affair, but part of the recovery process (if there is one) comes in the form of identifying how both partner’s behaviours led to the erosion of the relationship, not just the one that did the cheating. If you don’t identify the cause that led to the undesirable behaviour, then the problem is likely to be repeated.

Fortunately for me, the conclusion has been a happy ending. It took a lot of open, honest (and sometimes uncomfortable) communication, a lot of introspection and quite a good dash of dating my husband again. It took looking at our relationship under an electron microscope and picking out all of the bits that were wrong with it. From there, we were able to find ways to make it work. We now have ten minutes together when he gets home from work, we cook dinner together and we’ve made sure date nights are back on the calendar. We also both have Steam accounts now so there has been some playful rivalry, too. For my part, it also took me having to learn to say “hey, I need help with this”. something that I still struggle considerably with. We also have a much more loving, relaxed and fun BDSM dynamic, with only rules that we want.

I still define myself as polyish to an extent. I love love, and I love to give love. I care deeply and emphatically about people, but I draw the line now at going into too-personal details without approval or trying to have two fully fledged relationships again. Wolfie knows now that I may love and care about many people, but he is the only one I choose to share my life with.

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