An anonymous contributor confesses to cheating on her longterm boyfriend.
Until recently, I held a very black and white view of relationships. I can admit now that I looked at people who were unfaithful as simply selfish bad people, with bad morals. I believed that a wandering eye was a symptom of a bad relationship and those who sought extramarital relations were just too scared to admit their relationship was failing.[restrict]
I met Jack* when I was 22 and we went from drunk kissing on nights out, to drunk sex, to semi-sober dates, to meeting friends, to meeting families and then assuming the role of boyfriend and girlfriend. Our lives have become intertwined in that really magic and messy way. We live together, we go to all family occasions together, we’re in the same group WhatsApp’s. We have mutual friends and shared responsibilities and plans. We’ve been together for almost a decade.
The first twinge of uncertainty hit me when the first lockdown was announced in 2019. As much as I enjoy our home and our life together, I realised the thought of being home alone for an undefined amount of time terrified me. I enjoyed going to work and seeing my colleagues and having conversations about things that existed entirely in my own word outside of Jack. Faced with the idea of isolation and endless movie nights, I felt dread.
Honestly, I don’t know how Jack felt during this time. I guess like most people we settled into a ‘new normal’ of jigsaws, Zooms, quizzes, food boxes and banana bread. We went for walks and got coffee together and more walks and eventually a trip to Sligo when restrictions eased. All the while I felt a sense of dissatisfaction, and was consumed by the realisation that this life I had been living when distilled to the smallest parts amounted to nothing.
Even now, I struggle to say what was missing. I love Jack, I like coffee walks, I enjoy jigsaws. I just wasn’t excited about any of it.
When offices started to reopen I rushed back to two days a week and gradually three. I work for an international company with a small Dublin office, but a much larger function in London. The company I worked for had been impacted as much as any by the great resignation and over lockdown I had said goodbye to old colleagues and hello to new ones on Zoom. Of course there were pleasantries, but without informal in-person moments, my new colleagues were relative strangers.
Things changed when I was asked to attend an event in Lisbon. I revelled in the opportunity to be traveling and to be away from home. The first day I landed in Lisbon, I met some of my new colleagues and instantly I warmed to Craig*. Craig worked on a team I rarely had contact with so our only interactions prior to this event were in large group calls. But in person we seemed to gravitate towards each other. He was warm and friendly and funny.
At first, all our interactions were very innocent. I enjoyed Craig’s company, we talked about our lives, partners and work. Over the next few days I realised that I was able to talk to Craig in ways I had never spoken to Jack. Craig and I had a lot in common, we shared the same values and there was a refreshing honesty about our conversations.
I found it so easy to be around him.
On the last night of the trip I slept with Craig. I was drunk, he was drunk and we agreed it was a mistake. The next morning I felt awful. My body was heavy with the guilt and regret. I thought about Jack and how much this would hurt him. I flew home and thought about telling Jack but I knew it was the type of revelation that would break us apart.
I’ve heard people talking about how sometimes affairs reinvigorate their relationships, that they can suddenly see their partner in a new light. None of that happened, I simply looked at Jack and realised I never wanted to cause him hurt.
I changed jobs and now have no contact with Craig. Honestly, things are much the same with Jack as they were in lockdown. We still watch a lot of movies, we go get coffee, we talk about getting a dog. Our life is small, ordinary, quiet. I just hope that silence doesn’t become deafening again.