Jeremy slept with one of the bridesmaids at his wedding. And then he cheated again, just for good measure. Obviously, Jeremy isn’t his real name. And obviously, he felt justified. His wife of 7 years struggles with depression and anxiety, he told Fatherly, and her libido is all but non-existent.
“Sex became basically a once a month dutiful obligation. No foreplay, no real intimacy, just get it over with quick,” Jeremy says. “It’s hard to explain just how crushing it is to be rejected by your wife over and over. You lose your confidence, your self-worth, you feel unloved.” So you cheat. And you never tell.
Cheating comes in many forms, from emotional, to financial, to physical. Many cheaters are caught; many others confess. But there’s a shadow group of people like Jeremy who never tell — perhaps because they’ve learned from their mistakes, perhaps because the cost of hurting their partner is too high. Perhaps because they’re afraid. We spoke with Jeremy (on condition of anonymity) about the factors that led up to his affairs, and how he plans to salvage his marriage without confessing to his infidelity.
How did all this start?
So the first time was a year into the dead bedroom situation. A close female friend was staying over and my wife was out of town for the night. This was a close friend. Like, she was one of our bridesmaids and we were in her wedding. We commiserated about our unhappy marriages over a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. And ended up sleeping together. That was just a one night thing, though.
How did you guys leave it? Were you worried your friend would tell?
The next morning we woke up, hungover, and went out for breakfast. We discussed it and agreed we had no intentions of telling our spouses what happened. We didn’t discuss doing again or not doing it again, but it hasn’t happened again. I don’t have any concerns about her telling anyone. She and I are very good friends. We were [friends] before that happened and after, and we trust each other completely. She’s also close with my wife. I’m good friends with her husband, so there’s that aspect of not wanting to hurt anyone.
Have you ever considered cheating again with this person?
She lives out of state, so it’s not exactly practical. If she was closer, would it have happened again? Maybe. I knew her before I knew my wife. I can say I was always sort of interested in her, but we were never single at the same time. Did I plan on it happening or want to have an affair with her? No, it just sort of happened.
And then you cheated again, right?
There was about a two year gap between the close friend and second woman. To get out of the house, I started getting involved in a local community theater. It was a fun way to pass some time, meet people. I did theater in high school and college and so I wanted to get back into it. I needed a hobby because I was bored. My wife wasn’t interested in it or the people, so it was just my thing. One night, this past May, there was a big birthday party for a theater person and my wife didn’t want to go, so I went on my own. I hung out with this woman who I was currently in a show with. She was in the midst of a divorce and had her own issues. And one thing lead to another and we ended up sleeping together.
Was this another one-time thing?
At first we agreed that we shouldn’t keep doing it. But every night I went home and my wife said no, I kept thinking of the other woman. We were in a show together, so that meant rehearsals and those can go pretty late. So, it became a perfect cover. She knew I was married and I made it clear I wasn’t leaving my wife for her, and she understood that.
And what happened with that?
Every time I felt guilty, I’d suggest to my wife that we have sex, and her saying no only justified what I was doing. I felt bad, but at the same time with my wife’s mental issues, I worried that she might harm herself if the truth came out. Ending [the affair with the woman from the theater] was fairly simple, I told her what was going on and she understood. She and I both knew that wasn’t anything that was going to last. She had just gotten out of a bad marriage, so she understood the desire to work on the situation. I’m still involved in the theater, and so is she. We’re still friends. That part of it all has been easy.
What’s the main reason that you cheat?
The reason I’m cheating is the lack of sex, and that’s entirely because of [my wife’s] mental health problems. To be fair to her, she recognizes the problem. For the last three years she’s been seeing doctors, taking meds, hormones tests, and trying to fix the problem — which is that she has no sex drive. She’s trying, but nothing is working. We’ve talked about it. It normally ends with her crying that she’s an awful wife and comforting her until she goes to sleep and I continue to be frustrated at the lack of sex.
Do you worry about having children, given your wife’s low libido?
Neither of us are interested in having children, so there’s no issue with that.
Why haven’t you told her about your cheating?
The mental health issues are the biggest reason I haven’t told her. When I posed the divorce or counseling ultimatum to her, she told me that when she got home from work that day she considered swallowing a handful of pills and being done with it all. I’m genuinely concerned she’ll harm herself. I don’t think it’s a manipulative ploy on her part.
So what’s the plan now?
Just two weeks ago I finally had enough of the bedroom situation with my wife. The affair reminded me of what I was missing. I told her that we either had to go to counseling or get divorced because this no sex thing wasn’t working for me. She agreed and we just started counseling and finished the first session last week.
We had discussed counseling before, but my thought was more that she needed counseling and help. But I think through the cheating I learned just how bad things in my marriage had become. The once-a-month duty sex had become so uncomfortable that it was difficult to perform. I began thinking maybe I needed to see a doctor. Once I was with the theater woman, I realized I was completely fine. I realized how much I missed that part of life. That’s how we got into to couple’s therapy.
What’s your goal with counseling? Do you think it will save your marriage? Or do you mostly want to make sure your wife is stable before discussing divorce? Or maybe both?
Honestly, I want my marriage to work. I love my wife. She’s a good person. She’s a good partner. If we were having sex, then there wouldn’t be a problem. She’s great in every respect of our marriage, except that one. So I do hope counseling works. If it doesn’t, I want to make sure she’s going to be okay when we get divorced. I don’t necessarily want to get divorced, but I can’t go on living like this. Back to, it’s hard having a wife who has no intimacy towards you at all. No sex, not even kissing, hugging, it’s basically a roommate.
What would you tell other married people in your situation? What would you have done differently looking back?
It’s a big thing that I can’t say I would want to encourage someone to do, but I can understand why it would happen. As for what I’d do differently, I’m not sure. I wish I made it to the realization I’m at now without having to have gone through all that, but I don’t know that I could have done that any other way.