We were in his office. I could see photos of his wife smiling and laughing on the bookshelf and his desk. I'd thought about escaping when I first saw them that evening. Instead, I stayed, feeling nauseous about the person I'd become. He's just too charming, his presence too intense for me to resist. To be honest, my willpower is nothing to brag about. And it doesn't help that I'm falling in love.
We met at my first business conference when I was 23 and right out of college. He sat down next to me, smiling, burning my left cheek with his gaze. He had dark hair, a goatee and a scar on the side of his face. I shifted around for a position that would avoid the strange, immediate sexual tension. Our body language felt like foreplay.
‘Maybe he’ll be easy to resist’
He was persistent from the start, a quality I find extremely sexy. He shamelessly invited me for a drink in front of my boss. I assumed he was single because he mentioned his ex-wife and I was taken aback by my disappointment when he said he'd remarried. After drinks, he asked whose hotel room we'd end up in that night. I found him slightly ridiculous. "It was nice meeting you," I said, as he dropped me off.
I was relieved when he arrived at the restaurant — the tension from the conference was gone. "Maybe he'll be easy to resist," I thought. But one, two, three drinks later and it was over.
The cab home from our date was intense: the lights outside were blurred, the ride felt faster than usual. We continued the kissing that got us kicked out of the fancy lounge, and when he unzipped my pants I couldn't believe I was so weak. He doesn't know this, but I cried all that night, kneeling in my bathroom after he dropped me off. I thought about his wife at their house, about how I had lost my self-control. "Is this the type of person I am? Dating married men?" I wondered. I felt so guilty, and moreover, I felt guilty that I enjoyed it.
After the date I wrote to him saying it could never happen again. "If that's what you want," he wrote me. "Let me know if you change your mind." I didn't want to say no, but I knew I should — you're not supposed to date married men. But he'd figured out how my mind worked — leaving the ball in my court put me in control, or so I thought. After our next date at a swanky local jazz club, I went home with him.
Sliding into his bed, slipping under his dark sheets, I watched him follow me, muscular and handsome in the dim light. I knew he was older but not sure by how much. Already in bed together, I asked him his age. "Forty-five," he told me cautiously, and I felt the thrill of being with a man twice my age.
That next morning, I woke up to the light. His wedding ring encircled a finger of the hand that had touched my body in her bed. The tan high-heeled shoes I'd left out in the hallway were now inside the bedroom. Was he worried she'd come back early from her trip and see them? Photos from their wedding on the walls suddenly drove home what had just happened. I'd never wanted to know what she looked like. I forced my attention to the details knowing if I didn't, I would fall for him. I got dressed and left in disgust — with him, with myself, with what this was.
After three months, it was clear that the details wouldn't stop me. Seeing him once a week was no longer satisfying. "Hello" and "goodbye" phone calls turned into hour-long conversations. Wink text messages became "I miss you." "I want you" became "I love you." I worried about how we got here and where it was going.
He told me there were things he needed that she simply couldn't give him. "I don't just want children, I need them," he said over red wine during another intense conversation. She didn't want kids. He told me that I'd helped him come to these conclusions. It seemed like they'd never talked about having a family before they married. But I kept quiet about her. None of this was for me to judge.
It was clear to me that his realizations were causing their relationship to unbind. I wondered if I was just a distraction from his situation, or someone who came into his life to help him figure out what he wanted.
Open marriage, open mind?
They decided to have an open marriage. They both agreed that if one of them had an affair they wouldn't tell the other person. As far as I knew she didn't know about me, but he didn't seem to mind her finding out. It was as if they lived together but had separate lives.
It's been eight months now. The other day he texted me, saying "We're like the stars in Twilight, incapable of removing ourselves from a dangerous relationship." Our emotional, intellectual, spiritual and sexual connection is undeniable. It's so overpowering that even though he's married I have no desire to be with another guy. They're all completely uninspiring in comparison.
The book “Eat, Pray, Love” describes a soulmate as, "Someone who shows you everything that's holding you back, bringing you to your own attention so you can change your life ... They tear down your walls and smack you awake ... They come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself."
I used to think cheating was the worst crime — being unfaithful to a commitment seemed like the ultimate betrayal. Marriage, in my mind, was a romantic concept surrounded by the idea of true love, not adultery. Plus, I've seen what happens to the mistresses in the movies. Now I see it differently: It's a selfish commitment to yourself to get to that uncomfortable and unknown place — a place that shakes you up and compels you to confront your needs, to move your a step closer to yourself.
There are certainly hard times. I go back and forth between loving and hating him, wanting to commit and wanting to leave him. But for the most part it feels good to finally feel emotions like this. The two of us have exceeded the boundary of passion, and I can't imagine going back to something less.
The possibility that I could be the person he's looking for makes me shaky. He's amazing to me, I'm just not sure I'm ready for commitment and a family. I'm not even sure what the two of us would be like without her in his life, what we'd be like together as a couple out of the closet, seeing one another every day. But I'm most nervous about him leaving me.
What happens in the future depends on many things — his relationship with his wife and how long the two of them can handle an open marriage, his desire for a family versus his commitment to their union, what I can handle and what I want from him, and what he wants from me.
Do I feel guilty? Yes. Do I feel like a home-wrecker? I do. But if, in several years, he is happy and has a family, with me or without, and I can finally let people in behind my emotional walls, then our meeting will have been worth it — especially if the two of us are together in the end.