Marriage breakdown and divorce are all too common and nothing suggests the trend is likely to reverse any time soon. While the majority of partners filing for divorce are wives, it’s usually following discovery of an affair and/or the husband’s departure from the family home. Statistics are inevitably difficult to interpret when it comes to divorce but it’s safe to say that it’s more common for a man to have an affair, then up and leave, than for a woman. Often, the ex-husband loses no time in marrying his mistress.
Here one man explains why he left, one explains why he left and returned and one why he’s thinking of leaving.
Ben and Claire had been married for 11 years when he left. They have three children. The youngest was a baby when Claire discovered Ben was having an affair with a younger, married colleague.
“Our marriage was pretty good. Claire was very into having babies. She loved little kids. After our son and daughter were born I didn’t want more children. I wanted to get out of that whole dealing with toddlers phase. For a while she seemed to accept that. But when our daughter was seven and our son was three she started grieving that he wasn’t a baby any more. He was starting to grow up and she really wanted a third child. I was dead against it. We were just finally emerging from years of nappies, no sleep and no time for ourselves. Our life was dominated for months by this discussion. In the end I gave in and she got pregnant. But I was hugely resentful. The first two children had been our project. The third, I’m sorry to say, felt like it was hers. I was seething really that she’d got her way. We were heading back into nappy territory. There’d be financial strain and I’d be relegated yet again to husband in the corner while Claire focused on the kids.
I met Tessa when Claire was pregnant. She saw me, not ‘a father’. She had an open marriage and seemed to offer me a life much wider than the ‘nursery’ I had at home. At the start of the affair she gave me a book of poetry. It meant so much. She wanted to talk about it with me. Claire mostly spoke to me about the children. I wasn’t planning to leave home but when Claire found out about Tessa she said ‘Get out’ on impulse – understandable – it was terrible for her – Amy was only a few weeks old – and I went. I was glad to escape at that point. For two years I saw my kids at weekends, on Christmas Eve and during the holidays. Claire hated me. My daughter did too. My son missed me. The baby needed a dad. Tessa was with her husband and sleeping with me too. The strain of it all was nightmarish. I began to realize I’d made really insane choices. Tessa was pretty worthless – she was so selfish, she thought nothing of breaking up a family. And I’d been just as selfish. I was confused and miserable. I’d say I was going through a pretty severe midlife crisis. Eventually I asked Claire if I could come home. She agreed, mostly for the children at that point. We saved our marriage – all that was 19 years ago. But it hasn’t been straightforward. She still sometimes has a go at me. I still deserve it.”
Tom and Carole were married for 40 years. They were renovating a large house in Italy when Tom announced he was leaving.
“The thing about my ex-wife is that she was always right. She just had to be right all the time. She’d argue and argue till I agreed with her. It wore me out. When we first met I thought she was really spirited and I liked it. But it’s that thing Woody Allen once said isn’t it? You end up hating the things you first loved about your partner. She became more and more controlling. We had two kids and family life kind of rolled along even if I became fed up with it. I love my kids and I never would have wanted to lose them. Also, I never really met anyone else I wanted to have a relationship with either. Just one married woman who wasn’t going to leave her family. So I stayed in the marriage. When the kids were grown up we went to live in Italy. I’m an academic, in art history. I continued to work; my ex stopped. We had this huge project to renovate the house and, as usual, she was taking all the decisions. I’d long ago stopped trying to negotiate with her; there was no point.
Then a new secretary joined our department at the university. She was eighteen years younger than me, attractive, and divorced. It was just inevitable we would get together. My ex didn’t even notice I was having an affair. She probably thought I’d never dare. But Aurelia is completely the opposite of her – gentle, accommodating – she listens to me and respects what I say. She was a classic mistress I suppose. I realized quite quickly that I didn’t want to live in the finished house with Carole. I wanted to leave her. When I told her, she couldn’t believe it. She never dreamed she’d face competition from an “other woman”. She couldn’t believe I would do something without her permission! But I did. I told her I had a mistress and I wanted a divorce, I walked out, I went to Aurelia’s place and I’m still there. Not a single regret.”
Craig and Diane have been married for 26 years:
“Our sex drives were always completely incompatible. When Diane was young it wasn’t so noticeable but after we had the kids she more or less switched off. She’s through the pre-menopause now, actually in menopause, and it’s worse – she’s totally disinterested. It’s like I have to beg her for sex and then when she agrees it seems like a chore for her. I know it’s not her fault; we’re just too different on that level. I love her and I like our life together most of the time. She’s a good friend as well as my wife. But I want sex every day and I want to have passionate, adventurous sex at least sometimes. It’s difficult for her, too, because she doesn’t want to be bothered with me pestering her. I really really tried to avoid having an affair but it was impossible. I had a fling with a woman I met through the internet and it was incredible. The physical side of things was amazing. We stopped after three months because we’re both married but having a lover really showed me what I’m missing. I’m going to be 50 this year and I’m pretty sure I’ll want sex for years and years. So what do I do? Suppress my sex drive for another ten or twenty years? I can’t. Have affairs? Potentially disastrous. I don’t like the idea of infidelity; I hate the idea of cheating on Diane. But we’ve discussed this libido question over and over again. She won’t take HRT because she’s scared of side-effects – breast cancer and so on – and we’ve tried alternative medicine. Nothing helped. She doesn’t want a sex life and I do. In the end I think we’ll have to divorce but it’s not the first solution I’d choose.”
READ CATH’S BLOG on daily life in Provence, south of France, at: http://provencesouthoffrance.blogspot.com Cath lives in Provence. In the past she lived in Washington DC., England, Scotland and Italy. Sh… View profile