An old school friend this week went public on Facebook to share he was in a new relationship. It was a shock to many people in his network as he’d been in a 10-year relationship with someone else and there had been little to suggest their relationship was in trouble. In fact, his recent Facebook posts all included his long-term partner and they were seemingly solid.
When I saw his new relationship status, I was not surprised. He’s started messaging me quite randomly about a year ago, innocuous and appropriate despite having not seen each other since primary school. They usually pinged into my inbox late at night on the weekend. A casual “hey, how you going?” And while I was always friendly I had no interest or intention of taking it further.
But about a month ago he started messaging me more frequently, complimenting me on my new profile picture, but following it by telling me how many times he’s looked at it. Then he started sending me screenshots of some of my Instagram photos telling me which ones he liked, how nice my eyes were and how we should catch up for drink.
I was polite in my thanks but did not flirt back and I would usually divert by asking how he and his partner were. He would respond but without enthusiasm and the conversation would die.
Earlier this month, and late one evening, he asked me if I thought he was attractive.
“That’s a bit random and probs best for your missus don’t you think?”
“Just wanted an honest opinion, no worries. Thanks anyway.”
Then half an hour later: “PS taking it as a no lol”.
“I’m not really comfortable with this line of questioning.”
I didn’t hear from him again.
Today I know that his messages were those of a seriously unhappy man, desperately seeking the confidence and assurance that he was desirable. He was in a relationship that made him unhappy. He has since confirmed to me that he had felt this way for two years. He and his now ex had been sleeping in separate beds for a year. He wishes the timing were different and that he hadn’t had to hurt his ex in order for him to be happy.
My only wish for him was that he’d grown the balls to do this two years ago. Like so many, he needed to know he had someone else to go to before he left his current partner. And while I don’t judge him at all for leaving to find happiness, I do wish that people would own it when they are unhappy. And more importantly, do something the fuck about it.
People who cheat on their partners are unhappy. Period. It doesn’t matter how drunk they are, or how bad a fight they had had that day, they cheat because they’re unhappy.
And it shits me no end that people don’t own that and say, I did this because I’m unhappy. And if you are unhappy, why don’t you do something about it? Why don’t you leave?
I’ve asked many married men and women these questions over the past few years and while “the sake of the kids” is the most often cited, I don’t believe it’s the most accurate.
Leaving a partner, especially a long-term partner, is life-changing. And anything that is life-changing is going to be scary as fuck. The reality is most people are just plain scared. And while no one likes to hurt someone they care about (and they do usually still care about them deeply), they almost always admit that leaving was the best thing they did, for them and their kids.
I’ve slept with several married men since I left my husband, men who swore they were absolutely happy in their marriage but “needed” something else. Something to make them feel desirable/attractive/powerful/wanted/special/sexy, it doesn’t matter what adjective you use. The fact is, they weren’t getting it from their partner. What they need to decide is if that need is a deal-breaker. If it’s not a deal-breaker, then they should suck it up, not get sucked by their work colleague, or gym buddy or girlfriend of a friend. Talk to your partner about it, get counselling, find a compromise.
If it is a deal-breaker, then break it. End the relationship and let their partner have some dignity in the break-up. Don’t let them find out it’s over by fucking someone else.
You can take any moral standpoint you like on the fact I knowingly slept with married men. I’m OK with that because they were my choices and I own them. I also own the reason I decided to stop and it had nothing to do with “doing the right thing”.
I no longer wanted to share time with men who were too gutless to admit they were unhappy and end their relationship. Not for me – God knows I didn’t want that. But because a man who will admit that and act on it shows incredible strength of character. Leaving someone you love, no matter the circumstances, is devastating. I’ve done it. And having gone through it, having found the resolve to do what was best for me, although viewed by my family, work colleagues, and many friends as being singularly selfish, I felt more true to myself than I’ve ever been in my life.
And, while I fucking hate cliches, I’m a better person for it. So, whatever your sexual preference, don’t be a dick. If you’re unhappy, grow a pair, grow a vagina, and take the actions necessary to change it. My friend finally did.