I knew something was wrong the second my (then) husband turned off his location in our iMessages. It was the day of my company’s Christmas party. I was walking back to my desk from the kitchen with a fresh cup of coffee, checking my phone, when I saw the message.
Chris stopped sharing his location.
My heart dropped, joining the coffee in my stomach in location and acidity. We’d been together 10 years, married for about three months, and in all that time, we’d never stopped sharing our locations. My anxiety pulled a move in direct opposition to my heart and shot through the roof. My hands began to jitter. What on earth could have happened?
Somewhere in my haze of panic, I realized there could only be one explanation—but this couldn’t be because of Roy. Could it?
My Husband Based His Entire Identity Around Servicing Me
Let’s back up.
Throughout our marriage, Chris and I developed a codependent relationship, described in Psychology Today as “a dysfunctional relationship dynamic where one person assumes the role of ‘the giver,’ sacrificing their own needs and well-being for the sake of the other, ‘the taker.’” My ex-husband was the giver. I was the taker. He formulated his entire identity based on what he could do for me and—even more importantly—how he could show it to others.
Chris would bring me (and my co-workers) coffee at my first retail job without us asking. He’d constantly post couples selfies of us on social media. He loved to brag to his friends about how great of a boyfriend, then fiance, then husband he was (both in the bedroom and outside of it). And I developed a big part of my identity around letting him do those things, reveling in the attentiveness and thoughtfulness this person gave me.
Now, those actions on their own don’t immediately scream “codependent.” But that was the driving force of our relationship—it was performative and shallow, yet masquerading as deep, meaningful and “perfect.” After 10 years, little had changed.
I’d been in therapy for most of my 20s, tackling my anxiety, anorexia and self-harm. I was making great strides, but I still believed deep down in my heart that there was something fundamentally wrong with me. You see, I’d fallen in love with Chris while I was still in love with my high school girlfriend. At the time, I thought that made me an unfaithful, permanently flawed human. I also thought it was influenced by my life being incredibly stressful (my girlfriend and I got outed to our parents, and neither family was what you could call supportive) and Chris was my escape.
But I’d been getting better. I wasn’t quite “there” yet, wherever “there” was, but I felt very secure in my new marriage and was learning to feel better about myself. And I loved Chris, heart and soul. I thought he was “the one” for the rest of my life. We had our ups and downs like any couple: He cheated on me twice; I got drunk and kissed a girl at a club. But we always forgave each other because of that codependency.
Then, I met Roy.
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I Realized I Was in Love With Another Man
It’s a cliche opening but it’s also the truth: I first saw Roy when our eyes met across a crowded bar, and it was electric.
It was a mutual friend’s birthday party, and Chris had stayed home sick, so I was flying solo. I was chatting with a friend as I scanned the backyard bar, and zap—I locked eyes with the most gorgeous human I’d ever seen. I briefly forgot how to breathe. I felt lightning circulate from my head to my toes and back again. Startled, I reacted instinctively by flashing a quick smile and returned to my conversation.
He came over to talk to me.
The rest of the night is a blur of images—Roy and I playing flip cup, he and I sitting on the sofa talking about movies for what felt like hours, him showing me one of his favorite films at the end of the night—and by the time I Lyfted home, I knew one thing: That night was something I’d never experienced before.
I’d like to say I knew instantly that I loved Roy, but I was a professional at denying and bottling my emotions, so it took me a few weeks. Once I finally realized it, I wrote about it in my diary. I loved two men at the same time. What did that mean? How was that possible? It baffled me as much as it excited me.
Of course, that’s when Chris read my journal—without my permission—and everything exploded. Spectacularly. I hadn’t even kissed Roy, and yet Chris reacted like I’d already begun an affair based on feelings I wrote in a journal and nothing more. That’s when I saw he’d turned off his location as a tool to make me panic (and to pull a suicide scare I’d later learn he faked).
Roy and I had only sat close beside each other on his purple living room sofa as we watched movies and drank mimosas on Sundays. I’d explicitly asked Chris if it was OK for me to hang out with a male friend, and he’d explicitly said he was fine with it. With 100 percent honesty, I can say Roy and I did nothing untoward—until Chris read my journal and gave me the first ultimatum of many soon to come: him or Roy.
I broke off my friendship with Roy, unwilling to risk 10 years of a relationship for someone I’d only known for three months. Driving home from our mimosa brunch, where we confirmed we had feelings for each other and shared our first (and what I thought would be only) chaste kiss, I cried harder and longer than I could remember crying in a long, long time.
My Affair and His Control Triggered Our Separation
After nine days of no contact, Chris agreed I could text Roy again under the condition he could read what we said. Big mistake. That led to a huge fight and the next ultimatum. It made me so infuriated that I drove to Roy’s house under the guise of “explaining the situation,” when my actual purpose was to do exactly what I was being unjustly accused of and sleep with him.
We spent the night in his bed, making love and talking and drinking red wine. I felt safe and exhausted and thrilled and in love, and Roy studied me like I was the most precious artifact in the world. I returned home, satisfied and a little guilty and once again fully intending to have no contact. I lasted exactly four days before unblocking Roy on Instagram. Some connections can’t be denied.
The next five months were painful at best and traumatic at worst. I promised not to contact Roy yet unblocked him on Instagram every day when I left for work and re-blocked him every night when I got home. We messaged constantly. Chris promised to start therapy to try and understand this new desire of mine, but really, he was biding his time, hoping I’d just get over Roy and we could go back to the way we were.
Promises made, promises broken. Chris existed in a cycle of neutrality, fury and victimhood on endless repeat. I existed in a limbo where I tried to be patient with him but was chafing at his pace, at his controlling, at his restrictions and emotions. Eventually, about a month and a half after Chris read my diary, I told him I wanted to do what our couples therapist recommended and separate. He moved in with a family member of mine; I stayed in our apartment.
Roy and I grew closer and closer, seeing each other every second we could. Of course, eventually, we were found out. We came home one day to see Chris had smashed three of our wedding photos into the living room carpet. Roy helped me clean up the glass. I filed for divorce four months after Chris and I separated.
I’m Now Living a Fuller Life in a Healthy Relationship
Here’s why, even through all the trauma, I don’t regret having an affair: I moved away from codependency into a healthy relationship that doesn’t manipulate, shame or control me. What I learned was that I was capable of loving more than one human at a time, and it’s a perfectly acceptable way to live your life when done ethically, which I know I didn’t do.
So no, I don’t regret having an affair. What I regret is not following my heart sooner and choosing Roy from the beginning.
Oh, and locations? Roy and I don’t bother to share ours. We just trust each other to be where we say we will.