It's been six months since leaving my husband for another man…

August 1 | Guest post by Hetti Anne
"I'm leaving you" pin from LEJUMEAU

It has been six months since leaving my husband. Six months since I left him for another man. Six months that I have been experiencing the utmost happiness, while also experiencing the most gut wrenching guilt. Six months that I have been paying for my choice through reduced access to my most amazing children ever. Six months where I have stayed silent on this topic because of the guilt and fear of being judged for what I did.

I'm not staying silent anymore.

When I married I meant what I said in my vows, and never intended for it to be my "starter marriage" like some do. It was a forever thing. Or so I thought…

Unfortunately, some small differences grew to be bigger ones over the years. And for a while I was sitting alone at night working out a budget for "if we did split." Could we afford the house and cars and daycare and child expenses, and everything else? I loved my house and my neighbourhood, and I knew if I was the one to leave I would have to give that all up. We have children, and I had no idea how this would affect them — I had no idea how to co-parent, or how to share time, or any of those things. But, as those lonely nights became more — with him downstairs and me upstairs — I didn't know how much longer I could do it for.

Instead of facing my unhappiness and voicing my concerns I put on a happy face, sent loving text messages every day, and slept around in secret. It didn't make me feel good, the guilt was killing me. But, knowing that I could feel attractive and wanted again made me keep going back for more. Until eventually everything changed overnight. Someone who I had been attracted to for awhile showed interest. And, after the first kiss, I knew that I couldn't stay married any longer. One night, as my husband and I were sitting down to watch a movie, I blurted out that I had been cheating. I left that night and moved out soon after.

I never wanted to cause as much hurt as I did that night — he hadn't done anything to deserve that, but I didn't know how else to handle the situation. It was selfish, and, for that, I live with the guilt of it. My children suffered through three moves in six months — switching school, varying schedules, and parents with ever changing temperaments. I can't watch a movie with a mom and kids in it and not cry anymore, no matter if it is a happy or sad movie. The nights my kids aren't with me I miss them every single minute. Being a "part-time" parent was never my wish. My kids can drive me crazy but I still want to be there for all of the insane and hair pulling moments. I want to be there to kiss them when they are hurt, and to tell them to go to sleep a million times each evening.

But I wake up now every morning happy — despite my home wrecker label. The kids are adjusting, and opening up to me about their feelings. And I see a light at the end of the tunnel. If I could do it all over again I would try to do it differently, but I would still do it. Because, despite all the problems, and my guilt, I am happier, and that makes me a better mom and a better partner.

Who else has found happiness in leaving their partner?

  1. It is time to forgive yourself for all of the fragile hearts you fumbled with in the dark of your confusion.

    That's part of a quote I read recently that struck such a chord with me. So many times, people try to tell us that it's okay or we didn't really hurt anyone. It's important to acknowledge the ones we hurt, as you have done. But it's also important to acknowledge that you cannot change that hurt. You can only forgive yourself and try to show more love and kindness and forgiveness. I'm sorry you felt driven to a path that caused such pain to so many people. I'm sorry that your guilt and fear over what people would say kept you quiet for so long. I hope you find peace and happiness and that you're able to share that with your children, your new partner, and your co-parent.

    17 agree
  2. Just out of curiosity, I'd love to hear more of your story as far as why you and your husband were so unhappy… what happened, did you do anything to try to work on your marriage, did he know how unhappy you were, did you ever talk about it or go to counseling, etc. etc. The thing that struck me was the inclusion of the fact that you were still sending him loving text messages every day while sleeping around. Why? Were you just playing a role or trying to bridge the gap or covering your tracks…? As a reader it would help me understand where you were coming from if there was a little more to this story.

    I'm happy to hear you've found happiness despite the turmoil and obvious difficulties. I think fleshing out the background would help readers empathize more and make your story more relatable. Best of luck to you.

    17 agree
    • My marriage was not that bad, and my husband is a great man and great father. Unfortunately I don't handle conflict well, and over the years found myself drifting apart from him as we had very different ideas and ideals of what we enjoyed. I should have talked more about it, we probably should have gone to counselling. I never wanted to hurt him and for a long time I figured that I better become a better person and change because my morals were lacking. But, I knew the discussion would be one of judgement, there were already hurt feelings from previous things done in the relationship that were always lingering in the background, even if they were never spoken about. The truth was that I never felt good enough for him, not being myself anyway. And, that isn't to say that being a lying cheating wife I should have felt good, or he should have accepted me for that. Before any of that I had felt the same. I guess the lying and cheating was my way to "justify" my feelings.

      Obviously I have work to do on myself, I am not perfect. I do not think cheating on your partner is a good idea, and I recognize the hurt that it causes and I do not wish that on anyone.

      4 agree
  3. Just here to say that you are not alone. I have been in your shoes – going on one year. It takes a while to work on yourself, acknowledge the mistakes that you made/the pain caused to your partner, and deal with judgmental people who have their moral hats on (whether that be people in your life or other commenters on this thread). There's a lot to this journey (positive and negative), and while I don't have regrets of leaving my partner for someone else, I will always think of my past partner and wish him positive thoughts. Our journey is hard for people to understand, but your life is about your happiness, not theirs.

    Thank you for being brave enough to share your story, even though it must have been difficult and hard to do.

    15 agree
    • Yes!!! I don't regret my decision to leave, just the way that I did it. And I will live with that because I made the mistakes, and I own that it was my fault. It still hurts sometimes though, and it will take time to get over that for both of us I think.

      • Hetti, are you still happy with your new man? I’m in a dilemma with my marriage and I wonder if I can talk to you about it.

  4. I was in a very similar situation. I am extremely happy with my new husband, more than I thought possible. However, the guilt that you talk about is tremendous for me. I feel terrible for cheating on someone who was, overall, a good husband. I never, ever would have thought I would leave him. I really can't get over the guilt I feel, even though I am happy and feel like my new husband is a true partner to me. This is something I haven't talked about with anyone (the guilt) so, thank you for sharing.

    5 agree
    • It's hard to talk about because cheating isn't a good thing. I am lucky that I have some amazing friends who support me, but I lost of friends in this too because they think I'm a terrible person. I may have made a terrible choice, but that doesn't make me a terrible person. At least that is what I keep trying to tell myself.

      1 agrees
  5. I don't understand this post. Is the reader supposed to get some sort of value or lesson out of it, or is the author just declaring her facts in the situation? Is it "offbeat" now to cheat on our spouses? Or is the revolution in no longer feeling bad about it?

    49 agree
    • Valid questions. I think Offbeat tries to provide a forum for people to discuss things that have always been kept quiet out of propriety. There have always been cheating spouses and there have always been people who were happier with their new partners than their old ones. But those weren't topics people talked about, so the people struggling with guilt or misery or fear felt very alone. What is "offbeat" isn't so much the story as it is that we can bring these topics into the light so we can stand together and say, "Yes, I've felt that way too. I didn't realize it wasn't just me!"

      I would venture a guess that no one at Offbeat expected this post to be uncontroversial. If it doesn't float your boat, that's okay! Your opinion and perspective are valid. Thank you for sharing it with us.

      51 agree
      • I don't think I can sum up our reasons for publishing this post, and many other controversial posts like it, than this comment! Thank, Cassie. You nailed it with "Offbeat tries to provide a forum for people to discuss things that have always been kept quiet out of propriety."

        As the person who accepted, edited, and published this post, I have to say it really personally resonated with me. My husband left me, totally out of the blue, and devastated the FUCK out of me. And, then, a few months later when we were both out of a bad relationship, when we were both with people that made us happy, and both living better lives, I couldn't stop thanking him for making what must have been the hardest choice he's ever had to make thus far. This post actually reminded me to thank him again.

        Relationships are messy and wonderful and awful, and I believe that ALL those messy/wonderful/awful stories are worth telling and reading.

        30 agree
      • Unfortunately, “happier with a new partner” lasts as long as romantic love, 2 years. Then the new passion dies and there is a need to monkey branch to a new shiny fresh partner. This behavior normally goes on until the woman hits the wall and is no longer attractive, with 5 kids from 4 different husbands. At that point her mileage and baggage are too high, and she gets a cat or a few cats because nobody wants anything to do with her. It is best to look in the mirror and examine what causes this behavior.

    • Everyone has a voice. This author is allowed to express hers. Offbeat is providing her that space.

      15 agree
    • I feel terrible about what I did. Any because people are judged so harshly when they cheat many have to live with guilt and negative feelings, and lost friends and have no outlet for that because they are the one who caused the pain, so they don't get to claim that they have any.
      I am learning many lessons everyday since I left, and I will live with the guilt too. I'm okay with that, or becoming okay with that anyway but those in a similar situation can see that it is okay to feel bad and say so! Sure, I screwed up and I am not asking for a free pass on that, just the ability to explain my side of the story and realize that it is not a guilt free/ pain free ride on this side either. And, I do not want anyone's sympathy, or think I deserve it! I know I was 10% in the wrong, and that is the choice I made and the consequences I live with. But, that doesn't mean those in the situation should have to stay silent

      2 agree
  6. I appreciate the author's writing this because it is interesting to get a glimpse of a perspective we don't often hear from.

    But I'm afraid I still really can't empathize. Especially when we have no real picture of what was wrong, what (if anything) was attempted to make it better, etc… I am divorced myself, and there are things I could have done better. But when I found my relationship lacked intimacy, I bent over backwards to make stay honest- we had a thousand difficult discussions, we opened our relationship, and eventually he chose another woman (and a general "life of polyamory", which I found didn't suit me) over me. Frankly it would've been easier to cheat, but having been on the other side, I couldn't do that to someone.

    And, jesus, you can initiate a divorce without throwing the extra pain of "I've been cheating on you and I'm leaving you for him" in there, yikes. Insult to injury.

    23 agree
    • Just throwing my voice into the discussion as another person who has been cheated on…

      The author of the post is not obligated to share every last detail of what was clearly a painful experience for all involved parties with us, a bunch of random people on the internet. While we may not understand — and may never understand — it is my personal opinion that it is not whether or not we hurt others in this life that defines us, but how we react to hurting them.

      To me, it truly seems like the author is in the middle of a process, looking at the choices they made and what lead to them, their own pain and the pain of their family, and that they need to be witnessed in this process. It's such taboo to talk about cheating, even if the relationship is unhealthy (which I don't mean to imply this one was, as you're right that we don't know many details). Perhaps this is one of the few ways the author could truly feel witnessed and heard and able to talk about their experience at all.

      17 agree
      • Of course, she's not obligated to share every detail with anyone. But when choosing to write an article looking for commiseration, empathy, & understanding, leaving out crucial details to humanize your perspective will negatively affect that message.

        Without it, this reads like "Yeah, I did what I did and it was bad, but I want permission to not feel bad about it anymore." Maybe that is what the message was supposed to be? It's still unclear.

        13 agree
          • What's the point of marriage then? Seems pointless if you can just leave a life-long commitment (Your vows do say this) just because you don't want to put effort into the relationship (Which she admits).

            I mean, let's face it. Marriage is a sham. People don't even really honor it. Seems like this world should just abolish it and be done so to save all the honest people of the world from actually believing when someone says they'll love them till final days.

            3 agree
    • Judge much, A? Not constructive to tell the author off by your last sentence. What's done is done. Don't be an ass about it.

      3 agree
    • Sure, I could have left him and not told him I was cheating. But, at that point everything needed to be laid on the table and the truth needed to come out. Not because I wanted to hurt him more, but because if I didn't someone would have told him and that would have been worse.

      Should I have tried harder, maybe. Should I have done more, likely. But, I didn't. Relationships are unique to each couple/ group of people and this is how mine played out.

      I'm glad that you and your ex stayed honest and tried to work things out. And I'm sorry in the end it didn't work out.

      That isn't my story though, and I know I caused pain and I hate that.

      7 agree
      • Honestly, having been in your exact position Hetti, it's nice just to read that others have experienced it and continue to ruminate on the same sort of feelings.

        And no, I'm not looking for sympathy. I'm looking to share

        6 agree
  7. As the one who was cheated on, I find the author's perspective of being the cheater interesting. I remember trying to work it out, the thing about working it out, well it only works if both want to do so…. In many relationships this isn't the case. I think about all the time I wasted on trying to get him to workout our issues, meanwhile his whole immediate family and his circle of friends were helping him to continue the relationship with his mistress. There was so much more I could've been doing to myself happy instead.

    It's never easy to walk away from a relationship no matter what side you are on. The hurt is real and it may never go away. Everyone deserves to find their own happiness, and in a perfect world that would happen not the expense of others, but the world isn't perfect.

    Also when it comes to the loss of friendships, it's hard, over Tim I found that the loss of them was actually a good thing for my mental health. There was no risk in being told updates on the X and that makes it easier to pretend they don't exist and at times keeping yourself sane.

    3 agree
  8. Though i empathise with what you've been through, and the hard choices you've made, I want to ask you to examine why you felt the need to include this line:

    When I married I meant what I said in my vows, and never intended for it to be my "starter marriage" like some do. It was a forever thing.

    It feels like you're trying to distance yourself from other people who've had their relationships break down by invalidating their reasons while elevating your own. There's no wrong reason to end a relationship, and I think it's important for you to embrace that fact to help you move on from your marriage. You are exactly the same as people who had "starter marriages". They didn't make those vows thinking they were anything other than a "forever thing" and they went through the same pain and guilt and grief you have. That they are on the other side, and can look back and call those relationships "starter marriages" now is because they've accepted that those relationships didn't work out the way they hoped, learnt from them, and are ready to move on with that experience to guide them.

    You need to do the same, and embrace the lessons your starter marriage taught you about communicating your needs. Otherwise every relationship is a starter marriage, or a non-starter.

    5 agree
    • I was talking about the people who legit go into marriages thinking that it will not be their last. Those who joke about it, but honestly believe that it is their first marriage, and not their last. That's fine if that works for them, but it wasn't what I thought when I got married

      I get that marriages break down for all kinds of reasons, and have no judgement on that. Just that I had thought it was my one and only marriage when I entered into it

      1 agrees
  9. 2 things, Hetti:
    I'm not sure why you're not able to be with your kids, but think of all the incarcerated mothers who have committed actual crimes they severely regret and will never be with their children. What you've done is not so big if you look at it from their shoes. Maybe that's not helpful, but it's what came to mind for me, reading this.

    A good friend once told me guilt helps no one. Martyrdom (i.e. repenting/feeling guilt) helps no one. Once you have acknowledged what you did wrong and vow to do better in the future, it's in your own and your children's best interests to have compassion for yourself (not to be confused with self-pity).
    Much love. Marriage is hard. Mine failed immediately after vows were said in total earnest (cheat-free, but misery-filled just the same).

    5 agree
    • I share custody of my children, but am not the primary caregiver as I didn't want to uproot them from their home when I left. It's hard having him use them as pawns when he is made at something I do and then decide to reduce my access and claim that it is better for the kids that way. We are working on it, but have a long road to go. I just try to be the best mom I can be when I do have them, and let them know how much they are loved by everyone.

      1 agrees
      • Telling your spouse you cheated on them, then leaving him, and leaving him with most of the responsibility of raising the children is a lot for anyone to deal with. Regardless of how painful it is for you to not see your kids, from his perspective, he's just been dealt a couple of pretty big blows that he's had no control over, AND he might feel like you're not carrying your share of the parenting responsibilities. If you've started a new life with the person who you left your spouse for, limiting access might be honestly what he feels is best (right or wrong, it's not an illegitimate feeling, and doesn't necessarily mean he's being vindictive).

        19 agree
  10. I resonate a lot with this. I was 100% committed to my marriage and thought I'd never give up. Until I was so miserable I felt I was sinking. Fortunately we had no kids to complicate things.

    Thanks for sharing your processing, healing and internal battles.

    5 agree
  11. Interesting look into what can happen to relationships/marriage. Having worked very hard at a marriage that ended in divorce I wonder if the author has learned enough from the divorce to prevent being unhappy in another few years (months, etc) with the new person. It's often not about the other person, but about our own weaknesses and areas for growth. I'm still friends with my x-husband and I have tried very hard to remember the lessons learned from the end of that marriage. I hope that the author can do the same.

    5 agree
  12. Thank you so much for writing this!
    I have been looking for a post like this somewhere on the the internet since May, since my story is quite similar, although no kids or state approved contracts are at play.
    The whole story is below, as it got quite long, but I have a few BURNING QUESTIONS
    (for Hetti, or anyone, who also has been through this):
    – Do you ever feel guilt for not trying to save the original relationship?
    – How do you cope with anniversaries, important dates, your songs and places you went together?
    – Do you share your guilt and grief with your new partner, or do you try to keep it to yourself?

    And now for the story (though it is more me, trying to get it out of the system):
    I thought my ex was The One. The first guy I really trusted. The first guy I wanted to marry. The first guy I told I loved him and believed it.
    We moved in together 2 weeks after our first kiss, but we knew each other 2 years prior.
    We knew we had the same values and the same life plans.
    I don't want kids, neither does he. We wanted to buy an apartment in the same part of our city, we both love cars, architecture, theater, etc., you get the picture.
    I was really happy with this guy and meant it, when I told him, that I wanted to be with him for all the years to come.

    But this early December, a week after we went to check out first apartment to buy (and then agreed to postpone our home buying plans for a year or two for financial reasons) I found myself at my company's Christmas party at 2 AM starting a conversation with a coworker I had never talked to before, but had definitely noticed.
    We talked all through the night til 7 AM, I did not mention my boyfriend the whole time.
    I wanted to kiss him when we were leaving, but I didn't and did not show any intention, but there was a weird moment nevertheless.
    He friended me on Facebook after he woke up and asked if I wanted to see him before the end of the weekend (party was on Friday, so this was Saturday noon, approximately).
    I made up a generic excuse that I was busy, still no mention of boyfriend.
    Only in the afternoon, I found the courage to tell him.
    We did not speak together until Tuesday. Some coworkers were asking what happened, as few of them knew we were together the whole night talking (there were a few of them with us at the afterparty).

    We made a pact to be friends and were so naive we believed it for a while, but we texted constantly.
    A week later, there was a good bye party for another coworker, where we told each other we fell in love with each other. I knew it was wrong (as polyamory was not an option for my ex, which I knew from conversations we had before all of this started), but I wanted him in my life so badly.

    The texting continued and we started seeing each other once a week. I took him shopping for gifts with me. When Christmas Eve came, and I was home alone since my ex went to see his parents, we texted til 4 AM.
    I was still convinced there was a way out of this, and did not have any plans to go on, but also I did not want to apply the brakes. So I did not.
    We exchanged Christmas gifts in early January and we hugged for the first time on the same day.
    We started going for tea or coffee at work.
    We started hugging regularly.
    At the end of January, we have already kissed.
    I think the relationship with my ex was doomed the moment I told this new guy not to plan anything for the last week of February, as my boyfriend went to a conference out of the country.
    We spent the whole week together. We slept together, in an innocent way, every night.
    We cooked and baked together. We were in a relationship for that week.
    On the last day we slept together.
    I knew one of the relationships should end. But I was so torn.
    We cried together almost every time we saw each other.

    My relationship with my ex started to crumble.
    We used to spend all the time together and now I was away from home two to three times a week
    (which I do not find unreasonable, within different circumstances) which caused huge fights.
    I was stuck for two more months. I knew any decision I would make someone hurt, so I just did not make one, but I was hurting all of us three all the way.

    In the end, I made up my mind, and chose a life with this new person, over the steady love and certainty. Only time will tel if I was right, but I just could not go on like that and the ship has sailed now.
    I do not regret it, as I am much happier with him, than I was with my ex.
    We laugh together all the time and I believe we will handle all the sh*t life throws at us.

    (Later I realized what exactly drove me away from my ex.
    Some of it was housewife impostor syndrome – he was six years older than me, so he had a car, we lived in apartment filled with all of his nice stuff… combined with confusion between feminism and capitalism has made me asses my value as a women and in this relationship as much lower than his, since I only made about a third of money he made. I never felt like my opinion on what to do and buy with the money mattered as it mostly was not my money.
    If I had worked on this issue, we could have saved the relationship.

    If I fought for my freedom to be out of the house three times a week, we could have saved the relationship.

    Etc., etc.)

    So on the other hand, I do really regret it.
    I know that my ex is at fault too, but the vast majority of cause and guilt is mine. I know that. And I feel guilty and I regret every day what I did to the person I once wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I hope he heals and learns to love again. I hope life treats him well. I hope that one day he might forgive me, but I cannot expect that.

    I know I am a cheater, but I also know that things are not black and white and I also need to forgive myself, which as of now, is far from happening. In this whole triangle, I also hurt myself, as I did things I never thought I was capable of. I have a really hard time trusting my judgment now.
    I keep telling myself that I think I am happy with this new person, but I thought that before, so how do I know this will last and I will not run away again, even tough I know I never ever want to do anything like this again, since I know how much hurt it causes.
    I get better at forgiving myself, but it's a loooooooong way.

    So this is my story, raw and unedited. I hope it helps someone else too. Whether to know they are not alone, or to understand what is going on beneath the surface.

    1 agrees
  13. I just wanted to say thank you for telling your story. I'm still with my husband, but I cheated on him several years ago. He was utterly poisonous and bitter at life, and I withdrew from him and became highly depressed. Unfortunately, a coworker of mine was also having problems in his marriage, and we confided in each other until we reached a point we shouldn't have. I've never been able to tell MY story because any forum I've come across is immediately blockaded with the "cheaters are the scum of the earth" types of people. No one bothers to be open to listen to the REASONS. There's never a good justification, but I wish there was more understanding.

    1 agrees
  14. I came across this article as I am considering leaving my husband. Thank you, thank you, Hetti for writing this. It encouraged me that regardless of my decision I can and will be okay. I am also not alone.

    Any advice for making the transition out of your marriage while dating another man? My guy is wonderfully understanding and I want to help him as he tries to support me. Thank you!

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