I used terms like “harmless flirting” and “nothing happened” in this timeline. I used them and others to reflect my opinion at the time. They do not represent my opinion now. I have also condensed areas as this is going to be a long post. I will answer questions and add to it where necessary.
Together since 1995 Married 2014.
D-Day 1 2003 – Affair with female friend
D-Day 2 2017 – Affair with female COW – LTA 22 months
D-Day 3 2019 – Multiple online affairs and porn use
I met my wife (BS) in 1995 while working in a local social club. There was an 18th Birthday party at which she was a guest. We spoke on that evening and even had a dance together. I gave her and her friend a lift home. The next day I gave my phone number to her friend and asked that she ask my wife to call me. We went on a date and hit is off. We dated through the summer until I was offered a job in another city. We decided we should try and have a long-distance relationship. I really wanted this relationship to continue as I knew that I was falling in love with her and did not want to be without her. This long-distance relationship worked well, and I would often return home (sometimes for surprise) visits. She soon started University near to where I was living and working. In this time during the long-distance relationship we both declared we loved one another.
In 1999 I returned to my hometown to start a University course (a mature student).
I had a friend at Uni who was living with his girlfriend and another woman. I would visit and soon noticed that the other woman (AP1) was interested in me. She would smile and make an effort to come and speak with me. I liked this attention and reciprocated. I did find her attractive and enjoyed talking with her. I did not see this as a red flag at the time as nothing was happening. She would ask how I was and what I had been up to since we last spoke. Her demeanour was open and overtly friendly. We started flirting with one another and then inappropriate physical contact. She would try and push me around or wrestle with me. I would easily overpower her. I enjoyed this and wanted more of it. She would enjoy the contact and the flirting. I withdrew from my relationship with BS, I convinced myself that we were not happy (not true) and that this behaviour was acceptable because I was only having a bit of fun. This went on for a month or so. It was building up in frequency. During this time, I was thinking more and more about taking things further. I was trying to make it clear that I wanted to take things further and I guess she was too. I say that because the night we first kissed one of our “friends” got annoyed at us flirting and said “Oh for gods sake just kiss”. I was around 30 at the time but showed the emotional maturity of a 16-year-old. We kissed and I did try to have sex with her, but she stopped me. While I was frustrated and annoyed at not getting any further that night, I did stop, and I went home. She did say, when she stopped me, that the only reason she did was because I was in a relationship. I think it could have been her trying to force my hand into leaving my BS as I can think of no other reason for the sunned attack of morals. I felt guilty at this point as I was clearly in an affair. The self-justifications were flying, and I just carried on doing what I wanted. I was a self-centred selfish arsehole. I thought about the damage I was causing to my BS but chose not to worry about it as I would never be caught. I remember telling myself that I would deal with it if I ever was caught. I have no idea what this meant, but it was another excuse to continue and ignore any pain caused. The affair continued after this kissing session, I think she felt a little uncomfortable about turning me down and there was a slightly nervous moment when we met again. It took a couple of times before things were back to flirting and touching. I thought I was at this time falling in love with her (not real of course). We all (BS and AP1 included) went out for a meal one evening, I was touching the AP under that table. My BS challenged me on this, and I denied everything. To cut a long story short I left my BS and went to AP1. I moved in with the three of them. That night we had sex. My BS called me late that night and begged me to come home. We agreed that I would come home the next day and talk. We discussed what we wanted and that she (BS) did not want to lose me. I agreed to take a couple of days away to think about things and decide on what I wanted to do.
I took a couple of days away to think. I thought about what had happened to me and what the hell was I thinking. I knew I had made a mistake and wanted to stay with my BS. When I got home, I spoke with BS and said that this was my decision. We discussed letting AP1 know and I suggested I tell her in person as I thought I owed her that. A huge mistake as I was not out of the affair and I owed her nothing. I went to her place and she knew straightaway that I had made the decision to stay with BS and she was upset. She was alone in the house. She asked me to reconsider and tried to kiss me. While I pulled back the first time, I did not the second. We kissed and we had sex again. I knew straight away what a catastrophic mistake I had made. I was numb. I apologised and left. I sat in my car for 15 minutes in a state of panic. I was so pathetically weak. I knew doing what I did would shatter any hope I had of repairing my relationship with BS. I decided that the best option would be to lie about it. Pretend it never happened. I take full responsibility for my actions that day. I hate myself and what happened. Reflecting on this pushed me into a cycle of self loathing and even more anger. I wrote a few pages previously (for BS to read, not posted on here) about how I felt and how much I hated myself. Subsequently, I realised this is not necessarily a secure way into R. I need to shake these feeling off and focus my attention on my wife and recovery. I’m not ignoring these feelings, but I’m no longer letting them delay recovery or understanding why.
I never saw or spoke to AP1 again after that, although I was in contact with my “friend” for a couple of weeks after, but I realised quickly this was not healthy, so contact was broken with these people too. I did not do any subsequent self-reflection or any attempt to fix myself properly. The affair was swept under the carpet and rarely spoken about again until D-day 2.
Between 2004 and 2017 I was watching a lot of porn. This was a substitute to physical contact with my BS. I thought we had reached a natural decline in our sex life and thought that watching porn and using this to satisfy any urge I had was OK. The porn use was often. It did start with short viewings and limited usage, as this was enough to get me excited and I would get what I needed. After years of watching it, I had become quite immune to it. The standard porn was not enough to get me excited as I had seen it all before. I would search out different typed of pornography and it would be some quite hard-core stuff. This was happening a few times a week. I would be browsing 30+ videos before I found something that would be what I wanted. Close intimacy with by BS was very limited. This was my choice. BS tried to initiate sex, but I rarely agreed. Since D day our sex life has improved greatly (A period of HB followed by more emotionally linked love making).
I had a long-term emotional affair with COW (AP2). This started in October 2015 and continued through to August 2017. We worked in the same department as accountants for a manufacturing company. She was new to the business and was struggling with understanding what was needed of her. This applied to a male colleague too. I liked her and when our boss asked another colleague and I to take these two under our wings to help them I took this opportunity to work closer with AP2. We worked together and I helped her get a sound knowledge of the systems used in the business. A few days after doing this work, I received an e-mail from her which was slightly flirtatious. I flirted back. She would be very jokey with me and want to grab a coffee whenever I was making one. In these early days I would be making coffee with a male colleague. She would be there with us and the three of us would chat. Despite the work we had done together and us hitting the deadlines, the team, as a whole did not. In the January of 2017 we all received an undeserved dressing down from management. She was upset by this and we spoke together in private, where she cried. She told me she wanted to move to another job, but it was too soon. I agreed to help her with the additional workload we were given. Classic Knight in shining armour. Once again, we worked well together. E-mail exchanges between us increased in the early part of 2016 they would be less professional discussing work frustrations, the fact that management were being unsupportive, and wanting further help. She would no longer ask anyone else for help and focussed her attention on me. I did think at the time this was odd behaviour but welcomed the attention. She continued to try and make me feel good about myself and I was happy to help her where possible, enjoying the attention I was getting. Looking back, I was clearly in an affair with her but did not realise or want to realise it at the time. The e-mails were soon becoming more flirtatious as well as ego massaging. I was living the lie that this was acceptable as we were both having a hard time at work and this flirtation was harmless. I was not considering that this had become something much more serious and we were in an affair. I refused to accept this until way after D-day.
Text messaging started in the March and phone calls in the April. These were frequent, several text messages a day and four or five calls a week. I hid these from BS and ended calls before I got home. I knew she would not like me calling another woman so hid it. While still in denial of the affair I was protecting myself and the affair. Clearly lying to myself and my BS. I was talking to OW about not being happy in my job and how I was applying for a new role elsewhere. We would talk about anything that came up, but I was making time to have these conversations. I would let OW know what time I planned to leave so we could have a call. This continued for another year. There was no physical contact, but the calls, texts and e-mails continued. The summer of 2017 was an opportunity for the entire team to join a European conference which would involve a hotel stay. I have only recently accepted that I was falling in love with her. Fake love of course, but I was in the affair deeply (Limerence?). I am genuinely happy that D-day happened before this conference. I denied for such a long time that anything would have happened. With a few drinks inside us who knows? It seems stupid to deny that there was a high probability that something could have happened. A few weeks before this conference I was challenged by BS. I, as before, denied any affair and told her this was all in her head. BS found evidence on my mobile phone and confronted me with this. I only partially accepted anything was going on even with this evidence. On discovery of the affair I deleted text messages and call evidence as well as e-mails. We did manage to retrieve all the e-mail from the work server, but not text messages (this was on a work phone, so no chance of getting them once I had left). Although I did only delete a fraction of them. There was enough still on the phone to prove there was an affair. While still in denial and firmly in the fog, I agreed to end the affair. The following Monday I went to work and tried to explain to AP2 that we were in an affair and we needed to end contact. She denied an affair and even laughed at the thought. She did agree to NC. Ture NC was made impossible as we still worked together, and she was still e-mailing me. We agreed that mails could still happen if they were strictly business related and professional. I did once or twice respond to e-mails, but in the main maintained NC. I did break that in a big way on my last day in the company (~6 months after D-day) by attending a leaving lunch with everyone in the office (having said I would not do so). OW was there. Another selfish act and betrayal. I called AP2 after I got home on the night, I left the business with my BS present. I ended that affair again at this time and told her that there was to be NC. She was still in denial but did keep to NC until recently where she read my LinkedIn profile. (see recent thread).
Post DD2 I was in denial about the affair. I had accepted the existence of emotional affairs but refused to accept that I was involved in one. It took me several months after I had left my job before I acknowledged that I was fully in this affair. I was resentful of any attempt by BS to understand the affair and would get defensive whenever challenged. This was of course because I was both lying and TT her (once again protecting myself). She would get upset at my lack of attention to her or me trying to understand why. We would argue and I would get angry at her. I engaged in rug sweeping, denials and lies. On multiple occasions I have left the home and the relationship rather than deal with my shortcomings. I had given up, thinking that the situation cannot be fixed, again rather than face my failure as a husband and a wayward in recovery. I wanted things to be forgotten about and we should just “move on”. I was firmly in the fog for at least 12-month post DD2 and in denial and protecting myself for a further 12 months. I attempted to self-reflect, but in the most half arsed way imaginable. I have recently look at my first timeline (maybe 500 words) compared to my most recent which is well over 16,000.
I constantly screwed up. I did things I said I would not and did not do things I said I would. I’m ashamed to say that it took me so long to even attempt to “get it”. Reading the forum and the great books that are out there really hit home how much time I’ve wasted and how I’ve damaged further any chance at R. I sometimes shout at the screen when reading the Wayward forum or the Just Found Out. It is so sad to read that people are making some of the same mistakes I have. During the period after D-day we were making some progress. This was shattered once again when BS found online affairs via Twitter (D-day 3). Initially I opened the Twitter account because I wanted to know what it was all about and why so many people were on it. (I did not, and still don’t quite get it.) I did set up a short profile and friended a few others. I friended a woman who was posting on another sports forum I was a member of. I used Twitter to flirt with her and a few of her friends. We would be highly sexual, and they would post photos at my request. I would get some sexual satisfaction from this but did sign off and use porn after. This was relatively short lived as I was worried about any fallout from flirting with these women as they were in relationships too. I initially felt relaxed about pushing the boundaries as it was all online and therefore “not real”. It did become real though, they all lived locally, and I was considering trying to meet up with them. Things had got serious and I stopped. I did not delete the account or the messages, but rarely did I go on Twitter again after this. By the time of d-day2 I had completely pushed this from my mind and dare I say it...I had forgotten that this even happened. It was only when confronted again did I remember. I did also communicate with women on Facebook, these were also inappropriate as they were both hidden from my BS and on reflection inappropriate in content (some mentioned they used to fancy me at school other I would try to invite out for drinks with other schools friends. These other friends we “unsafe” and have since been defriended). During the time after DD2 I have thought about other women I have acted badly around. I flirted with a woman I worked with while at university, I made it clear I liked her. She fortunately told me to “Go away” in no uncertain terms. I acted as a guarantor on a loan for a friend (£5,000), at no point did I mention this to my BS. I put us at a level of financial risk. This loan came before period of transition in my career. I could not afford the repayments should my friend have missed a payment. I put both my BS and me in financial risk. This friend has also been removed from my life.
I have since deleted most social media accounts. I have Facebook and LinkedIn. I work in a professional environment and use LinkedIn to keep in contact with job agencies and fellow accountants. I have recently had a break of NC from AP2 (as detailed on another thread). Subsequently BS and I tightened up security and made sure she cannot contact me. BS had full access to this account, and we review together who my contacts are and who I can and can’t link to. Facebook is for family and “safe friends” only.
Post DD3 we discussed and deleted over 100 people from FB. As with LinkedIn BS has access to this account too. I have given over access to my e-mail, mobile phone and bank account. At any time, my BS can see whatever she likes. This can happen either on her own or when we’re sat together. We have been through HB immediately after DD2 and this lasted for quite some time. Since then our sex life had not reduced much but is now art of our normal life. We are now physically and emotionally bonding on an amazing level.
I have removed any “unsafe” friends from my life, these being people who knew about the affairs (and were complicit) or friends who have engaged in similar activities. I have no contact with people I previously worked with. The only exceptions to this being a close colleague who retired and a “safe” friend who no longer works for the business. This to remove any chance of breaking NC through a third party and to avoid triggers. I have removed most female friends from Facebook and contact list on my phone. The only ones I have are either professional (vetted by BS) or close “safe” friends. I’m attempting to give my BS everything I failed to give her in the past. I’m always trying to give 110% and focus my attention on her.
We are both regularly reading and contributing to SI as well as other forums. We are working together through various books (previously discussed) and talk about what happened in the affairs and why. As stated above, I have written a detailed timeline and we are working through this together generating several why questions. We went to MC but found this to be of little use. The councillor seemed to blame my BS for the affair. Before we got a chance to address this issue, it was cut short due to Covid. We will not return but are considering options for another councillor. We have not tried IC as there are very few specialist people in our area. Maybe this is a UK thing?!? It seems the US is more geared up for this.
I have been making mental notes of the triggers my BS suffers and try to either avoid them or be there as support when they happen. I no longer get angry when BS is triggered and understand that they are my fault. We have put in boundaries to ensure safety and to retrain my mindset. I am not having 1:1 meeting with female work colleagues unless this is in an open plan office. I invite at least one other to the meeting should we be discussion confidential matters. Any contact via personal e-mail or text message is shown to BS, all passwords have been handed over, my old mobile phone has been handed over too.
I have such deep regret for all my actions and the extreme damage I have caused my BS. She is an amazing person who is sticking by me despite the huge mount of damage I have done to her and our marriage. I am extremely lucky to still be in a position to work on recovery.
I am open to opinions from both BS's and WS's so no stop sign. I have missed out a lot of information on feelings as these are, currently, be shared with BS only. I may add these to this post in time.