Se­crets & Lies – the diary of an af­fair

Five years ago, Sharon* took a dan­ger­ous step into an ex­tra-mar­i­tal re­la­tion­ship…

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Nor­mal. That’s how I’d de­scribe my life. Nor­mal. Hum-drum. Bland, even. I guess, when it comes down to it, that’s why I had an af­fair. I was bored. Clichéd, I know, but things only be­come clichéd be­cause they’re true.

I’ve been mar­ried to my hus­band, Ian*, for 27 years, with him for 30. I’d had boyfriends be­fore him, but we’d met when I was just 20 and he was my first se­ri­ous re­la­tion­ship. I’m sure, back then, I’d have de­scribed him as ex­cit­ing, fun, thrilling… But four chil­dren and a grand­child later, noth­ing was fun any­more.

We never did any­thing, we didn’t go out, we only went on fam­ily hol­i­days and, by 45, I barely knew who I was.

So when This Morn­ing did a fea­ture on Ash­ley Madi­son, in Fe­bru­ary 2014, about mar­ried men and women go­ing on a web­site specif­i­cally to have an af­fair, my in­ter­est was fi­nally piqued.

‘I won­der what that’s all about,’ I thought, in­trigued, reach­ing for my phone. You had to en­ter your de­tails, but I didn’t think twice about up­load­ing a pic­ture and punch­ing in my age and lo­ca­tion. Af­ter all, I was just look­ing…

But it didn’t stop at ‘just look­ing’. It rarely does, does it? All of a sud­den, I started re­ceiv­ing mes­sages. Loads of them, in fact. I hadn’t thought about my looks for so long, I barely knew if I was pretty, but these men thought I was… The un­ex­pected at­ten­tion gave me a high I’d never ex­pe­ri­enced.

Ob­vi­ously, lots of them were just flirty one-lin­ers that I didn’t bother to re­ply to, but af­ter two months, some­one caught my eye. Steven*. His mes­sages were witty, light-hearted and, with his sil­ver hair and sparkly eyes, he was easy on the eye, too.

I didn’t even have to hide the fact I was spend­ing more time on my phone. ‘I’m just tex­ting my friends,’ I’d lie.

I guess I should have felt guilty, but I didn’t. Not when I was mes­sag­ing him and not even when we agreed to meet in April. I didn’t have to lie then, ei­ther. It was one of my days off from my job as a sales as­sis­tant, so I just waited un­til ev­ery­one else had bun­dled out of the door, kiss­ing Ian on the cheek as nor­mal, be­fore head­ing back up­stairs to add on an ex­tra layer of make-up and change into a dressier top, be­fore head­ing to a local pub.

‘If any­one sees us to­gether, I’ll tell them you’re my brother,’ we agreed. As we flirtily found out about each other, I felt like a new woman. At­trac­tive. Sexy. It was like I was back in my 20s.

The next time, we booked a ho­tel. There was no deny­ing we fan­cied each other and

the thrill of know­ing what we were do­ing was for­bid­den just added to the ex­cite­ment. It had been years since I’d been that turned on.

Be­fore long, we were see­ing each other three times a week. Ian didn’t seem to no­tice that I was sud­denly buy­ing new clothes and match­ing un­der­wear. Even when Steven and I de­cided to go * away to York for five nights later that year, he barely ques­tioned my claim that I was meet­ing up with an old school friend. It was all too easy. So easy, we went to Ed­in­burgh for a week the next year, then Not­ting­ham, the year af­ter that. Those days – and nights – away were the hap­pi­est of my life. I knew part of it was the nov­elty of not hav­ing to clean up Steven’s dirty socks from un­der the sofa where he’d care­lessly kicked them off, or get his tea ready for him ev­ery night.

But by that point, we’d also made the mis­take of fall­ing in love. Steven told me first, about seven months in. ‘I know this wasn’t the plan,’ he said, as we’d sat in his car at the end of a date. ‘But I love you.’

I wasn’t sur­prised. As much as I’d tried to ig­nore it, it was get­ting harder to deny that I’d fallen for him, too. Yet, de­spite those feel­ings and that I’d have given up every­thing for him in a heart­beat, I knew there was no chance Steven would leave his wife. He’d al­ready told me he was too old to start again.

Then, the in­evitable hap­pened. Two years af­ter our re­la­tion­ship be­gan, Steven’s wife found the Valen­tines’ Day card I’d sent him. ‘I thought you’d got rid of that,’ I gasped when he furtively called me.

There was no point him both­er­ing to deny it, not when she had the ev­i­dence in hand. In­stead, he did every­thing he could to stop her find­ing out about who I was and we re­duced our meet­ings to just once a month.

By now, the shim­mer and shine of our re­la­tion­ship had def­i­nitely dulled, but I couldn’t give him up, not yet.

At least, not un­til I had to. Which I even­tu­ally did, in March last year. Be­cause, de­spite Steven’s best ef­forts, his wife even­tu­ally found out my name and, in turn, my hus­band’s name.

‘She’s go­ing to call him,’ Steven warned me be­fore­hand. But no amount of prepa­ra­tion could have read­ied me for the look of com­plete dev­as­ta­tion on Ian’s face when he came home from work early a cou­ple of days later. ‘Have you been hav­ing an af­fair?’ he asked, look­ing me deep in the eyes for the first time in years.

And for the first time, I re­alised ex­actly what I could lose. My hus­band, my chil­dren, my life…

Af­ter many long, tear­ful and an­gry con­ver­sa­tions, Ian and I de­cided to stay to­gether. It’s not been easy. We ar­gue, lots, and there’s still a lot of re­sent­ment on his side. And I can’t blame him.

Nearly a year on, I’ve kept my word and I haven’t seen or heard from Steven since. But I have to ad­mit, I’m still on Ash­ley Madi­son…

For more info, visit ash­ley­madi­

‘It had been years since I’d been that turned on’

Sharon felt she had lost her iden­tity

Bore­dom led to Sharon’s in­fi­delity She wanted to spice things up a lit­tle... The thrill of know­ing it was for­bid­den just added to the ex­cite­ment

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