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After the Affair

Last year I fell in love with someone. It should have been a happy, loved up, sex-filled time, except that person wasn’t my boyfriend.

It is a truth (almost) universally acknowledged that having an affair is wrong. Wrong with a capital W. Maybe you have a preconceived idea of the type of person who might have an affair, or an inkling as to the reasons that might prompt one. Perhaps people who have affairs are sad, unhappy in their current relationship. Perhaps they are people who long for excitement or maybe you think they’re horrid, selfish people with no regard for those they hurt.

Whatever your opinion may be, I don’t believe I fitted any of those stereotypes. I never thought I would cheat and always believed (still do) that cheating is wrong. The person I met felt the same and yet there we were sneaking around and ultimately hurting people.

To say I surprised myself is an understatement. I had always joked that I was too disorganised and too bad a liar to ever have an affair. Yet lying became like second nature and that scared me. Some people say affairs are all about the thrill, but I found it unbelievably stressful. I think unless you truly don’t care about those you cheat on, I don’t think affairs are entered into lightly. The guilt is constant, as well as the fear of being caught of course. Cue sleepless nights, weight loss and permanent feelings of nausea. Loneliness also plays a part – talking to friends and family suddenly felt impossible as I knew they’d react with horror, disgust or disappointment.

Now I want to make it clear here that this is not a cry for sympathy, just a personal account of what engaging in something seriously taboo is really like. When the truth came out, I lost a fair few friends and those that stood by me certainly didn’t condone my actions. Surprise was a common reaction. “I never thought you’d be the type” came up a few times.

One of my friends asked me if my morals had changed after having an affair. Believe it or not, I am still firmly against cheating and have no intention of ever doing so again, nor would I congratulate someone else cheating. I think what has changed is my perception. There is no one type of person that cheats, and just because someone has cheated does not mean they themselves are necessarily bad or can’t be trusted. A bad action alone does not make you a bad person if you accept responsibility, learn from it, and try to make it right. Similarly, if you know a friend is having an affair, don’t immediately cut them off because you don’t agree with what they are doing. Talk to them instead – they may need your support.

There are many, many reasons why someone might cheat. It doesn’t make it right, but perhaps it’s a conversation we need to open up. Like so many things commonly regarded as taboo, the way forward is to break down stereotypes, be kind to others even if they behave differently to us and start talking. Communication is key. Be a good friend. There will always be someone who will listen without judgement.

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