“He loves me and I love him,” I told a friend. “His children have grown up. It’s time he had a life too.”
Like so many, she condemned my actions and made me realize how easy it is to judge others from your own perspective. And how complicated life can be.
“I would never have an affair with the partner of someone I knew,” I said, feeling the need to defend myself.
She pointed out that no matter what, the victim is injured. And I had to agree, causing a fit of self-loathing that lasted until evening when it dissolved into the tender embrace of the man I now loved.
Over the weeks and months I had many opportunities to reflect on my happiness in finding not one but two great loves in my life. Gradually the world became a better place, full of smiles, laughter and warmth. Why should I give this up?
It was like waking up from a deep sleep. My lover laughed when I said that. “You are like the princess,” he said and hugged me. We were careful. Neither of us wanted trouble. We drove for miles to walk and have lunch where neither of us was recognized. I loved the times when we could walk hand in hand, sit at a table and laugh together – like a real couple.
Lockdown added another layer of deception to the process.
Our concern for one another and our families prevented any physical contact. But when each period ended, we spent every free second together. It was intense. And then, maybe because we really got to know each other, I realized that I loved this man enough to let him go. I was fed up with being the other woman. We both deserve better.
I ended our love affair late last year. I’m still not entirely sure what the catalyst was. Maybe in the end it was just a deeply ingrained sense of moral indignation. A feeling of being a bad person. In the extremely unlikely event that our affair had been exposed, I would have likely been convicted of a predatory whore who did not care about the sorority.
Or maybe I was just sick of the secrecy. Not being able to introduce him to my family and friends. Whatever the reason, the result is the same – two people deprived of the love that rarely shows up. A love that makes you feel like you’ve come home.
The breakup was predictably chaotic and hurtful. We both said things we didn’t mean. Neither of us got in touch, but we both know that each is thinking of the other. Because you can’t just turn love off. Most of all, love for the kind of intensity this man and I shared.
Most of the time we were together, I was happy with our casual arrangement. But as time passed and it became clear that we were both falling head over heels in love, we had addressed the possibility of having more one day.
A real life together. A home. Whether that would ever have happened or not, who knows?
If I’m being honest, I regret my decision to end things between us now that this wonderful, warm man is no longer in my life – who tells me that I am beautiful, that I feel safe and loved -, even though social values tell me it was the right one. It is as if life were complete again for a while – and the loveless void that arose after my husband’s death has reappeared, only this time it is more of a yawning abyss.
I haven’t had the strength to delete my ex-lover’s contact details yet, and some days I struggle with myself not to just dial his number and try to revive what we had. That didn’t happen – but hand on heart, I can’t swear neither of us will give in.
Because I admit that I have a fantasy that has a fairytale ending. Yes, marriage and all that. And a large part of me desperately hopes that the fantasy can come true after all. I still don’t know exactly what I wanted from a relationship that most of us would simply call an affair, but I know what I’ve lost: the love and camaraderie of someone who made me laugh and make me feel to be adored and beautiful – and happy.
Stella Magazine, The Sunday Telegraph (UK)
This article appears in the Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age, which is available on August 15th. To read more about Sunday Life, visit The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
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