When I married my husband, I made him countless promises. I vowed to love and respect him. I promised to support and keep him. And I swore he would be my “one and only,” from that day forward as long as we both would live. And he was.
Ten years later, he still is.
But I haven’t always been honest with him. I haven’t always been faithful to him and — once — I cheated on him, not physically but emotionally.
Of course, this is not something I am proud of, nor was it something I planned. I first met Joe at a work event. We bonded immediately over — of all things — body art. We had nearly identical tattoos. And so we started talking. We chatted about the day’s events and the evening’s planned speakers. We spoke about little things like the city, the weather, our lives, and our tattoos.
But beyond that, our initial encounter was rather blasé and, after a few minutes, it was over. We parted ways with a “see ya’ round; goodbye.”
That was that. I didn’t think about Joe or our encounter for another year — when our paths crossed again.
And shortly after, things changed. My life changed, and I received a health diagnosis which threw me. I was bipolar.
The good news was that I was not alone. I knew someone else with the same diagnosis: Joe. So I reached out to him for comfort, understanding, and some desperately needed support.
And he gave it to me.
He listened and related. He offered me guidance and help, advice and support. But things didn’t end with one message. Our friendship didn’t end with one call. Instead, it spurned a long and, at times, intimate relationship.
Not physical, but emotional.
Joe and I texted every day, and spoke many nights. Of course, there is nothing wrong with texting, at least in theory. But over several months the context and frequency of our messages changed. We chatted with each other multiple times every day, exchanging texts for any and every reason. And my reaction to our messages changed. I began to look forward to texts from Joe. They excited me, and made me happy.
But I still didn’t see anything wrong with our relationship. Joe understood me in a way my husband couldn’t and wouldn’t. He was lost in work and his iPhone and, well, his own little world.
Then one night things got dicey. Things got bad, and my husband accused me of having affair. An emotional affair.
I, of course, was speechless. How dare he think my relationship with Joe was something deeper. Something darker. Something more. But when I thought about it — really thought about it — the more I realized he may be on to something.
He may be right.
It is hard to explain emotional cheating. There isn’t a thing or act which defines it. It is full of gray areas. Of maybes, what ifs, or could have beens. But Joe was there. A lot. And he had become a big part of my life, maybe bigger than I would like to admit. And my husband? I had pushed him away — physically, mentally, and emotionally.
And that, in essence, is an emotional affair. It is something which affects a couple’s love and intimacy. It is an affair of the heart.
That said, I would be lying if I said I was sorry. I mean, I was (and am) sorry I hurt and betrayed my husband. That was never my intention or plan.
But I am not sorry I turned to a friend in a time of desperation — in a low time of desolation and need — because Joe didn’t just help me, he saved my life.
Figuratively and literally, he kept me alive.
And that? That is not something I am sorry for. I cannot be.