Recently in the Mail, Stephanie, a 37-year-old former financial adviser and mother of two, revealed her heartbreaking discovery that her husband of ten years was having an affair with a female colleague.
Readers responded in their thousands to her agonised question: ‘Should I stay or should I go?’
Now, in a desperate attempt to hold his marriage together, her husband Ian, a 40-year-old hedge fund manager – who shares the family’s large five-bedroom home in South-West London, attempts to explain his behaviour.
After ten months, my affair really is over for good, but I don’t expect my wife, Stephanie, to believe me. Neither do I blame her for continuing to be suspicious that I’m still in contact with my former lover.
But I told Stephanie I wouldn’t see or contact Kate again – the woman I was having an affair with – and I’ve kept to my word.
My wife and family are what matter now. Reading even a few of the thousands of messages and letters my wife received from Mail readers about my betrayal has been a painful and shaming experience.
Deception: Ian cheated on his wife and the mother of his children, Stephanie, after he grew close to his seemingly vulnerable, younger work colleague Kate (Picture posed by models)
One piece of advice in particular leapt out at me: ‘Once the trust is gone, it’s too late to save your marriage.’ I can only hope this isn’t true.
There isn’t a single moment I haven’t been haunted by guilt since that first night, back in March, when I saw my mobile phone – which had text messages from Kate on it – in my wife’s hand, and realised that she’d found out I had deceived her.
I know I’m totally to blame for Stephanie’s unhappiness, and I hate myself for it. My wife didn’t deserve to be treated like this.
In all our 17 years together, she has shown me nothing but love and loyalty, as well as being a wonderful mother to our sons.
I don’t know if she can ever forgive me for what I’ve done, but I’m determined to try to make it up to her. I’ve realised what’s important in my life, and I am terrified of losing her and the children.
But I’m not a serial philanderer. I have never been unfaithful to Stephanie before, and if she’s willing to give me a second chance I’d never be so stupid as to betray her again.
I don’t want my family to split up, or our two boys – who are seven and four – to have to suffer the distress of their parents divorcing.
This time two years ago, my wife and I were staying in a hotel in Rome together. I was there on business, and Stephanie asked her mother to look after the children so that she could fly out to join me.
I remember sitting on the balcony of our hotel after dinner, thinking I had everything a man could wish for – a beautiful wife, two gorgeous sons, a lovely house and a well-paid and challenging career.
If someone had told me then that I was about to risk it all for the sake of an affair, I’d never have believed them.
But now I realise that is exactly what I’ve done. Worse than that is my constant awareness of the terrible hurt I’ve caused to those I love most in the world. I regret my actions with all my heart. I’m just afraid it’s already too late for me to repair the damage.
I’m not trying to make excuses for myself. There are none. The bottom line is I met a woman I found attractive, and I slept with her. I could go on about how overwhelming my feelings were at the time, and how I couldn’t help myself succumbing to them. But I’d be deceiving myself.
Any husband, or wife, who cheats on their spouse at some point takes a conscious decision to do so. If you don’t want to risk destroying your marriage, you walk away from temptation. I know now I should have done that the moment I first realised I was falling for Kate, my work colleague.
I will always be sorry I didn’t. Instead, I deluded myself that I was in love, behaving more like a reckless teenager than a middle-aged father of two.
After she discovered our affair, Stephanie kept asking me what I found attractive in Kate. I didn’t want to talk about it at first as I thought it would only make things worse, and there is nothing more excruciating than being forced to describe to your wife what you found particularly attractive about another woman.
Mistrust: Stephanie still believes that Ian only stayed with her and their sons because Kate rejected him (Picture posed by models)
But now I’m beginning to understand that perhaps Stephanie does need to be able to know this kind of detail, in order to come to terms with what happened, so here goes.
Kate is an attractive brunette in her early 30s, but I never compared her looks to my wife. Not once. I know Stephanie finds this hard to accept, but it’s the truth. It wasn’t about looks, and it was never a competition.
I admit I was selfish, egotistical and flattered by another woman’s interest in me, the way she listened to me, and appeared to admire me. I realise this makes me sound incredibly immature, and like a lot of men, I probably am.
I’d known her for about six months before we were assigned to work on a project together and found ourselves becoming close.
She told me over lunch in a wine bar one day that she was in the middle of a break-up with her boyfriend, who like me, worked in the City. He wanted Kate to marry him, but she said she wasn’t ready, and he was rather a heavy drinker. She was worried about being rushed into a decision she might regret.
I guess that was the moment I should have stepped back, made sure that we weren’t crossing the line between a professional, working relationship and something more intimate. But I didn’t.
Later that day I found myself thinking about Kate a lot, feeling protective, and if I’m honest, sexually jealous of the boyfriend she’d mentioned.
Gradually, over the next few months our relationship deepened. Lunches turned into drinks after work, and occasionally when Stephanie was away at her mother’s with our sons, dinner as well.
I started to feel a little guilty about this, but suppressed the feeling, reassuring myself that Kate and I were also work colleagues and I had done nothing wrong. I know that sounds ridiculous now, but when you are setting out on a great deception, it’s extraordinary the kinds of lies you start to tell yourself – never mind your wife.
Then one evening in July last year, as we were leaving the office together, I offered to walk Kate to the station. Stopping in a small garden square to chat on the way, I suddenly leaned over and kissed her.
The urge to do that had been building up in me for weeks. As my mouth touched hers, it felt completely spontaneous, but the moment I’d done it I knew we’d gone too far.
Even so, after that I found I just couldn’t stop thinking about her. She was on my mind constantly.
As a professional man, I am normally cool, calm and rational. But in my relationship with Kate I began to act rashly, taking risks that I knew, deep down, could not only cost me my marriage, but also my career because Kate worked for my company, too.
Losing all ability to concentrate at work, my focus turned continually to Kate, wondering when we could next meet and longing to make love to her.
I knew what I was doing was wrong. The last thing I intended was to hurt Stephanie or my sons. But I confess at the time I didn’t think about them.
It was as if the emotions I felt for Kate were completely separate from the rest of my life. Only now do I see I how callous this was, and how deeply selfish.
Then, after that, Kate and I started meeting even more frequently, deliberately avoiding restaurants and bars where we might be recognised, and admitting our attraction to one another.
Make amends? Ian asks what he can do to convince his wife that he loves her and won’t let her down again (Picture posed by models)
I didn’t get any thrill from deceiving Stephanie, and I often felt ashamed at what I was doing. But the truth is that shame – and a fear of discovery – was never enough to stop me seeing Kate.
About six weeks after our first kiss, Kate’s boyfriend moved out of their flat. A few days after that I went home with her after work and we made love for the first time. And yes, it was wonderfully exciting. But it wasn’t ‘better’ than sex with my wife, in the way that Stephanie imagines. Just different.
That same evening, Stephanie and I went out to dinner together. I remember she kept asking me why I was so quiet.
What I couldn’t tell her until now was how consumed by guilt and self-loathing I felt. But even the possibility that my wife had become suspicious didn’t stop me continuing the affair.
In my head, I occasionally thought about what would happen if she ever found out. I felt permanently in conflict. What I never thought seriously about was leaving my family – I hadn’t thought as far ahead as that. At the time, I was simply living from day to day, sleepwalking into disaster.
The catastrophic discovery of our affair came in March when Stephanie discovered a text to Kate on my phone.
When she challenged me, I just didn’t know what to do. When Stephanie asked me if I wanted to leave her and our children, I panicked, going out and getting drunk rather than facing up to the consequences.
I felt as if I’d totally lost control over my own life. I was terrified. Suddenly, I imagined losing my house and my job as well as my wife and children.
In the current economic climate I could easily find myself facing redundancy if I allowed myself to remain so distracted.
It was as though suddenly the blinkers I had been wearing for months were ripped away and I finally saw how very stupid I had been to risk so much for an affair.
I didn’t even tell Kate what had happened until the following morning, and because Stephanie had been so horrified the night before, I even discussed the prospect of moving in with Kate and trying to make a go of our relationship.
She seemed shocked, too, and told me she needed time to adjust to the idea of living with me, and was genuinely concerned about the effect the break-up of my marriage would have on our sons.
No doubt many people will think it was pretty rich of her to voice those concerns when she had been sleeping with a married man, and maybe they would be right, but I suppose she thought our affair would remain secret until it fizzled out.
That week was the crunch point for all of us really, the time when loyalties, jealousies and love were all tested to the limit.
Even now, Stephanie believes I stayed with her and the boys only because Kate rejected me and didn’t want to live with me, but it wasn’t like that.
Kate and I both felt that if we did move in with each other we would be reacting to events, rather than because we were in love. And the more I thought about abandoning my family, the more terrible the prospect seemed.
Although the atmosphere at home was terrible, with us sleeping in separate bedrooms and constantly arguing in front of the boys, I still never felt I was going to walk away from my family.
I found myself crying whenever I was alone, in the car driving to work, or in bed before falling asleep. I even worried I was having some sort of breakdown.
Finally, in April, Kate and I met and had a really frank discussion about what we should do. Kate admitted she didn’t want to become a stepmother before she’d had a chance to have children of her own.
So we decided to part, agreeing not to call or e-mail one another. Kate also said she would start looking for a job with another firm, or even go abroad.
Of course I was distressed about not seeing her any more. But I also knew by then that I loved my wife and wanted to save my marriage.
That night, when I got home, I wanted to talk to Stephanie, to tell her how sorry I was. But what I’d done seemed so appalling that I didn’t know where to start.
I felt as if I’d woken up from some bizarre nightmare in which I’d acted completely out of character.
The more I thought about my betrayal, the worse it seemed. I tried to imagine how I would have felt if it was Stephanie who’d had the affair instead of me, and realised for the first time how much I must have hurt her.
I couldn’t face Stephanie’s parents. It was bad enough confessing to my own mother and father how I’d let down the daughter-in-law they were so fond of.
Inevitably, they were horrified at what I’d done, especially my father, who couldn’t believe I’d betrayed Stephanie so cruelly.
I hoped that going away on holiday to our second home in Devon might help us all, the boys included, to become a happy family again.
Jake and Isaac seemed to enjoy themselves and to behave far better than they had in the weeks before that, when they had been reacting to the palpable tension in the house by being much naughtier than usual.
But, whenever Stephanie and I were alone, there was a coldness and an emotional distance between us that broke my heart. In some ways I would have preferred it if Stephanie did shout and scream at me, as she had that first night she found out about the affair. Instead there’s just been sadness, and icy silences.
I long for our relationship to return to normal. I want to make love to my wife again, to forget about the affair, and be happy again. But it seems that all Stephanie wants to talk about is Kate – what dress size she took, how tall she was, what perfume she wore. My wife’s questions about the woman she clearly sees as her rival seem endless.
I can’t understand her obsession with my former girlfriend, and I hate myself when I respond by getting angry.
Every reminder of my betrayal makes me feel worse about myself and I don’t understand why my wife wants to keep bringing it up – but I suspect many women who have been cheated on will understand why Stephanie has become so obsessed with Kate, searching for reasons to explain my infidelity.
I realise how much I’ve hurt my wife, and I want to make amends. But constantly throwing my crime in my face doesn’t help.
I know I’ve done wrong, but I am desperate to make a fresh start. What more I can do to convince my wife that I love her and I won’t let her down again?