People cheat on each other. This much is true. Whether it’s through long, drawn-out emotional affairs or drunken aberrations not to be repeated, some 25 percent of men have cheated while in relationships and 13 percent of women cheated too. While those numbers aren’t wildly scientific (people are probably not dying to admit they’ve betrayed the trust of a partner or spouse), they suggest that cheating is widespread. The reasons for stepping out are varied: some people are bored, others are trying to escape emotional abuse, still others are just falling into an affair without fully realizing it. But the reasons are often also the same: People are looking for something different. Here, Fatherly talked to five women who were looking for something different themselves. Some of their names have been changed.
“My husband was like my roommate.”
The first affair partner I ever had, it wasn’t intentional. I was not searching to have an affair. That was not my intention at all. It just kind of happened spontaneously. He was living in another country at the time, we had never met face to face. It was just, like, a cyber friendship that turned into something that was a lot more. We eventually made plans to meet each other after eight months. I still keep in contact with him. I still text him almost every day. My husband remains a good friend, but it’s essentially like living with a roommate. It’s not really a marriage anymore. So, that’s really what I’m seeking with other affair partners. Just a physical relationship. I’ve considered getting a divorce. It’s just a long process. My home life isn’t bad. It’s not like a combative or argumentative relationship with my husband. It’s just not intimate anymore.
— Anna*, 36, Illinois
“My husband was in deep denial for years.”
I never intended to cheat on my husband. But things happen. We are parents to three, one who has autism and ADHD. My husband was in deep denial for two years and became emotionally abusive. I didn’t feel guilty at all about having the affair because it saved me. It ended when my affair partner committed suicide. I was completely shattered. My husband found out by going through my phone not long after things began in 2013. He didn’t know everything until after Jacob’s death and I was in therapy. My therapist recommended that I tell him everything to help both of us move on. It was a hard discussion. I was a week from filing for a divorce when Jacob died. He wasn’t a reason for the divorce. I had plenty of other reasons. But I stopped the proceedings, went into therapy, and decided to stay in the marriage and give it a chance. Three years later, things are okay. My husband trusts me again. We worked through a lot.
— Wanda*, 50, Kentucky
“He became so controlling.”
When we got married, he became very controlling and jealous. I put up with it. I wasn’t fooling around — he just didn’t want me to talk to any men or even go out to lunch with girlfriends. And then I fell in love with a guy I was working with, about eight years into the marriage. Our marriage was really falling apart. The affair made me feel more loved and more confident. I didn’t feel good about it at the time, but in retrospect, I don’t have any regrets. I never dated the man I had the affair with, after the marriage ended. My ex-husband asked me after the divorce if I had an affair, but I didn’t tell him who with. I’m single now and I’m fine with that. I’m happy to be out of the marriage. I don’t think I would have done anything differently. Maybe I would have ended my marriage sooner. But I was concerned about my children.
— Tegan*, 48, Nevada
“My husband was pulling away and dumping all of his problems on me.”
I was just looking in the mirror and realizing I was getting older and older every day. I had settled into a routine. My husband at the time was having some difficulties with work and mental illness. He was pulling away and dumping all the problems on me. It got to the point where I felt I could handle everything: the bills, the investment accounts. I could handle all that. I’m well-educated and I have a college degree. He didn’t want to get help. I just looked at him one day and thought, He doesn’t get to have my entire life. I thought there had to be someone out there who could have a conversation with me, who found me attractive, who was missing what I was. I started going on dates. My husband and I got a divorce. We could not solve our problems. I talked to him, before, about an open marriage. But he wasn’t okay with that so we got a divorce. I’m fine with what happened. I don’t have any regrets — at least not about that part.
— Tami, 61, California
“My husband got sick and became a different person.”
My husband has Alzheimer’s. He became a totally different person. The person I lived with was not the person I got married to. I became severely depressed. There was no one but me to do anything and everything. I decided there had to be some outlet for me. I don’t really even know why or when I decided, but I did at some point I went on Ashley Madison. I started just going on simple dates; it was fun. But then I met someone. We’ve been in a relationship for over a year now. I’m not dating anyone else but him now. It’s helped me a lot.
Now, I’m able to take care of my husband in a much better frame of mind. He’s no longer living with me, because it came to the point where I couldn’t do that, but he’s in town and I visit him all the time, check in on him, and do things with him. He has no memory at all. I tell him something and five minutes later he’s not going to remember it. So I’m happier now. I grieved the loss of my marriage. The loss of my husband. The loss of the life that I had. The life that I thought I was going to have as I got older. I just got to the point where I knew it was gone, it wasn’t coming back, and he wasn’t going to get better. It took me quite a while to accept that.
— Jean*, 58, Kentucky
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