I ALMOST HAD AN AFFAIR
The life you want can feel unattainable, for complex reasons. If you are struggling to deal with emotional challenges, past or present, our agony aunt and therapist Lola Borg can help.
I am a happily married woman and a mum of two girls (10 and 12). But I feel trapped. My life revolves around the family and work. I have a really good job working for a charity, but since my new boss started I feel insecure and miserable about my position as he’s been quite critical of me. At a work conference a few weeks ago I got very drunk and almost got off with a man 10 years younger than me. For the first time in a long time I felt attractive and desired. I now feel haunted by what I almost did – I only kissed him and I feel bad enough about that. I love my husband, so this nearly-fling doesn’t make sense at all. I’m now really worried I’m going to have an affair and wreck a perfectly happy marriage. I wish I felt more fulfilled.
It’s a clichéd observation but true for all that – often people have affairs because there is something missing in their relationship. So maybe your first idea is to think about what this might be. You don’t talk much about your husband except to let me know he doesn’t make you feel attractive and desired so this is a pretty hefty clue, but it also suggests something fundamental has got lost along the way. You could feel angry at him or resentful – often, research tells us, a driver for women to consider an affair.
Or this might be nothing to do with him and rather an attempt to reclaim the life or personality you had before it got submerged by the twin duties of work and parenting. Only you can work out the answers to these questions and what else it is you are craving – fun, freedom, a feeling of being alive, whatever. But, considering your guilt, it’s obviously something pretty huge for you to get sloshed as an excuse and then almost hook up with someone else.,/p> You stress how ‘happy’ you are in your marriage and you might be right – people can be content with their partner but still think about being unfaithful (one theory is that people stray ‘because they can’ and of course technology today brings limitless opportunities).
But you are more worried you could easily fall into a full-blown affair, which would throw a hand grenade into your existence. So as much as you’d like to ignore it, this feeling is not going anywhere in a hurry and certainly needs addressing before the next conference. Maybe you could look at this flirting episode as a powerful clue that something badly needs to change and that you were lucky enough to wake up to this idea (ital) before (ital) you were tempted into taking things further.
It’s likely your work situation is connected. Maybe your confidence wobble there was a factor – the idea that if one area of your life is going under, you might as well sabotage another. We know that affairs can follow a major upset, often a death or a loss of some kind – and in your case there has been a massive status dip in an otherwise successful career. If this almost-affair was with an office colleague you’ll realise you risk undermining your work status still further.
So it would be useful – essential even – to think about what might change you from feeling ‘trapped and unfulfilled’. A note of caution here though. The word ‘change’ suggests something sweeping or dramatic, such as flouncing from your job, but it doesn’t have to be.
Often a series of tiny adjustments can give life a totally different complexion. Travel, friends, relationships, taking a day out to do whatever you please, spending time with your husband – if that’s what you want – generally opening up your world a little which at the moment revolves around just ‘family and work’. I’m left wondering, ‘Where is everything else that makes an interesting, well-rounded existence?’ Maybe that’s what you are craving.