This is one of many True Life interviews, in which we talk to talk to people who have been through unusual/interesting/challenging things. This is the story of “Michelle,” who got involved with a married man. I’m sure many of us have strong feelings about this sort of behavior, but I appreciate Michelle’s candor. Please keep your comments respectful.
Can you tell us a bit about your romantic history?
I’ve had a few boyfriends. My longest relationship was for 2 years. We lived together but we were at different places in our lives and had bit of an awkward, drawn out break-up. It left me pretty down for about 6 months or so afterwords.
How did you meet this man that you had an affair with?
We worked together – what a cliche! I’d always seen him at work, but we didn’t really start talking until I’d split up with that long-term boyfriend and started going out more with people from work.
I realize now also that he never paid me any attention when he thought I was ‘off limits.’ As soon as word got about that I was single he was around a lot more.
What did he tell you about his wife and home life?
He was completely upfront about it because we were just friends in a large group of work colleagues. It was completely normal for him to mention his wife. A lot of the people in the office had met her at various work parties so I was aware of her.
How did you rationalize the affair to yourself?
I have absolutely no idea. My father left my mother for another woman so it’s really hard for me to face up to being that ‘other woman.’ I’ve seen how destructive it can be.
My only excuse is being so upset from the breakup that I wasn’t thinking straight. He paid me a lot of attention when I was feeling particularly low. At first I found it easy to pretend that she didn’t exist.
Did your friends or family meet him? Did they know that he was married? If so, what did they think about it?
No. Nobody knew about it but an extremely good friend in the office. I didn’t want to tell anybody because I didn’t want to be the centre of office gossip. I obviously didn’t want her to find out … and I was ashamed I guess.
I’m not going to lie though, the secrecy thing really makes it more exciting. It’s a lot easier for me to understand why it happens so much now. It’s really easy to get caught up in that excitement.
How did you two keep it a secret from his wife? Did she ever find out?
Ugh, terribly. She was away working about two weeks of each month so I thought nothing of going to his house.
When I think about it now it was a ridiculous arrangement. I spent most of my time waiting for him to call and ask me to go over. We could never make plans because obviously she would come first. I even found myself cancelling plans with friends just in case he’d call. How pathetic is that?
He only ever came to my house once. He’d rung me and asked me to go over and I refused because I was getting so sick of sneaking around. An hour later he was at my door. At the time I was swooning and trying to fool myself he was into me. Obviously he wasn’t because first thing the next morning, he couldn’t have left any quicker.
How did things end between the two of you?
This is what I’m most ashamed of. I went to his house while his wife was away, we watched a movie, had dinner, went to bed.
We woke up to the sound of the front door closing because she’d come back early to surprise him. I was absolutely terrified and grabbed my clothes but he wouldn’t let me out of the room and made me hide behind the door just before she walked in. He managed to convince her that they should go out for breakfast and then I left after they did.
On the way home he called me apologizing profusely. I asked him never to contact me again and he never has.
What did you take away from this relationship?
That I will never ever get involved with someone who’s already in a relationship again. Ever.
I really had to look at how he’d treated me, too. It’s so easy to get swept up in someone you like who’s showing you attention. But if it’s only on their terms it’ll make you feel pretty crappy, pretty quickly.
From mutual friends, I’ve since found out that I was only one in a long line of women he’d cheated with. Last year she caught him with someone else and divorced him.
What advice would you give to others who are interested in someone who’d ‘taken’?
If someone had told me to stop seeing him I would have said that I knew what I was doing. I’d have said I was strong enough to handle it, but I wasn’t.
It’s a very difficult thing to share a partner with another woman and to not be able to discuss the guy you’re seeing with your friends. You’ll be doing all the couple-y things alone, and checking your phone a lot. We did have some fun times but nothing that I’d ever reminisce about.
I’d just say, if you’re considering it, it really really isn’t worth it. There are a lot of single guys around and would you really want this guy to leave his wife for you, knowing what he’s done to her?
Have any of you been involved with someone who was taken? Any (respectful!) questions for Michelle?
P.S. If you have some unhealthy habits when it comes to your romantic relationships, this might help. And it’s free!