'I had affair with guy 20 years younger': Married cybersex addict

Professional psychologists say that if you don't deal with your issues by the time you are 40, then they will rear up and deal, very emphatically, with you.

It took many hours of counselling, not to mention thousands of dollars, to understand the significance of this, but it cost me so much more than money. 

Of all the men I'd dated, my husband had been the best of the bunch - a kind and generous man, but someone who could also be selfish and unfeeling.

We had agreed, early on in our relationship, that we wouldn't have children, and that suited him fine. 

My husband worked hard at his job and, to alleviate its accompanying pressures, developed an obsession with horse racing, gambling and drinking.

He was out most nights, and many weekends. 

And me? I was lonely. I had a husband and a home, yet I felt I was missing something. This made me sad and depressed. I ignored it until I no longer could. Then, I looked elsewhere.

Harmless flirtations

I turned to social media as a form of escape.

While my husband spent most evenings catching up on the horse racing TV programmes he'd recorded over the weekend, I began perusing chatrooms for harmless flirtation, a little virtual attention. 

I didn't want an affair, nothing grubby, nothing seedy, and certainly not cybersex. I still loved my husband, but I wanted adventure, excitement, a reminder I was still alive. 

So I began chatting with men online in private chat forums. 

I concealed anything that would obviously give away my identity, but talked about my life, problems and thoughts. It all felt harmless and innocent, and fun. 

I got to know a couple of men, with whom I conducted tentative conversations that were thoughtful and sweet, and that only developed into something more suggestive after much respective vetting and, on my part, several glasses of red wine.

The excitement was incomparable. I felt thrillingly alive.

Soon, I was spending wonderfully wide-awake nights in the parallel universe of cyberspace.

I had become addicted to the attention and craved contact with the men I thought I had come to know.

These conversations quickly developed into cybersex, each message becoming more adventurous and racy, and allowing me to live out fantasies I would never contemplate in the real world.

I had never felt more desired in my life. My husband and I became strangers. Guilt set in. I realised I needed to stop. But it wasn't as easy as I had first thought.

It felt like stopping smoking - I had quit decisively at first, then slipped up, then quit again, craving some kind of patch.

I told myself that what I was doing was essentially harmless. When the time was right for both of us, my husband and I would work through our problems. In the meantime, I had nothing to lose.

A full-blown affair

After a while, I shed my chatroom regulars and concentrated on just one - a man younger than me by almost two decades. And it was harmless, until I fell in too deep and wanted more than his messages.

And so our long-nurtured virtual affair became real. He was young and beautiful, and I couldn't believe that he wanted me.

From the very first meeting, the guilt racked through me. We would meet in hotels, have mind-blowing sex, and then the realisation that what I was doing was irrevocably wrong would set in.

Taking my online affair offline was a big mistake, a transgression too far.

What drew me to the online world was the maintenance of fantasy. Bringing it to life brought only complications.

After a couple of months, I had to end it - and it was after I had made this decision that my husband found out: He discovered messages on my phone.

So, I sat him down and poured the whole sorry tale out, feeling I was stamping on his heart with every word.

He left me.

I spent a lonely Christmas at my mother's house, where I did nothing but wonder how I got myself into this situation.

Who had I become? Was it just my marriage problems, or was there something deeper causing me to behave that way?

I started therapy. I began writing everything down, to help make sense of what had happened, fi rst for myself, then for others.

It's taken me a good while to fully come to terms with what I've done, to understand how easily I fell into a fantasy world that I came to prefer to the real one.

Luckily, after only a short time apart, my husband came back to me, willing to try to get back together and realising that he had had a part to play in all this too.

For me, the guilt was profound - and so began the painful but necessary process of erasing the memory of one man and focusing solely on the other; the one that had come fi rst.

Mercifully, the kind and complicated man I was married to focused on saving our relationship too.

I'd always heard that you have to work at a marriage. I was fortunate enough to get another chance, and I'm working at it now. We both are.

DON'T CROSS THE LINE

Watch out: Cyber friendships can easily spiral into affairs. "Online, you're more willing to let go and be more uninhibited," says Daniel Koh, a psychologist with Insights Mind Centre.

This means you get more emotionally invested in your friend than you think you are.

And while the boundaries are more clear-cut in the real world (you'd immediately know something was up if a friend started cuddling you), "they're less obvious or non-existent in cyberspace, partly because you can't see the person".

A healthy cyber friendship should centre on common interests, or provide basic support - like a regular pal would.

It gets dangerous when you start thinking about him constantly and ditch everyone else to rush home to chat with him.

Think about what you're lacking in your marriage and work them through with your hubby instead of "escaping" into the virtual world.

Family Service Centres provide marital counselling.

Visit app.msf.gov.sg/dfcs/ familyservice/default.aspx to find the one nearest to you.

 
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