What my online affair taught me about my marriage
"As I caressed my naked body I made sure not to make a sound. Why? Because my husband and kids were in the next room, completely oblivious."
I was in the shower soaping my naked summer brown skin. My phone was propped on a stool in front of me, a FaceTime call open on the screen.
A man's face lit the screen as he watched my silent performance. My husband was in the kitchen with our kids only metres away.
I was thrilled at how shockingly brazen I was being. This is not my normal MO. I'm a stay-at-home-mum, with two small children and a white picket fence, not a carnal seductress.
Enter the old flame
It had been going on for a month or so. Hours spent texting sexual stories we'd build upon for days. The occasional call, but mostly we shared sensual images (I have artistic standards) and so much sex talk.
He was someone I once knew, who lived on the other side of the world with his wife and family.
We met again one night at a work function and when he asked if I was happy in my marriage, I knew I was opening a dangerous door when I answered: "Not really."
He asked if we still had sex, and I answered honestly. It had been months, almost a year. And before that one time, there'd been no action for almost another year.
We were happy once, and when we got married I thought it would be forever.
Something changed when we had kids
We discovered that my husband did not find pregnancy or breastfeeding sexy. In fact, all too late we discovered that my husband did not find family life sexy at all.
Two small kids, a mortgage, responsibilities, these are not traditionally sexy things but they can be if you work at keeping your passion alive.
I was so lonely. He took up sports and was gone most mornings and weekends and I was just so lonely.
We tried counselling together and I tried alone. I told myself that I had had plenty of wild sex in my 20s and marriage is about something different. Sex is not important. Stability, partnership, two parents for kids - that's important.
When this man who lived far away brushed my hair from my cheek that night and told me what a shame it was that I wasn't adored, my heart cracked a little. When I let him kiss me I knew I was breaking all of the rules.
Would I roll the dice?
A day later he was gone, but he called me and said he wanted to "roll the dice".
"What dice?" I replied. "There are no dice. We don't even have a table to play them on."
He was a successful businessman in his country, and I was a stay-at-home mum in mine. What could we possibly do in this situation?
We both had too much to lose, I said. It was madness, I said.
And yet … I did it.
After about six weeks, my husband suspected something was up. Late night texts, always keeping my phone close - it was text-book incriminating behaviour.
We had been sleeping in separate rooms for a few months so he didn't realise how late I was staying awake glued to my phone, completely absorbed in someone in another time zone. I was constantly tired, but also elated and alive.
I was still with the children, at home, the whole time. My husband was out living his life, and he just couldn't work out how I could possibly be unfaithful. I didn't have the time or the freedom.
Was I unfaithful? Of course, I was. I was deeply and profoundly unfaithful. Never consummating in the flesh makes it no less of a betrayal. I let someone else into our failing marriage because it made me feel good when my husband did not.
Someone desiring me and cracking open my sexuality after years of being a baby factory made me realise that a part of me had been dying. A primal, sensual part of me that I cherished.
I finally confessed to my mum. I couldn't keep it secret anymore and as I sat in my parked in the car in the rain, I spilled all of my guilt into her ear. I explained my sadness and loneliness and told her I thought I loved this other man.
She's a smart woman, my mother. She knew it was not love she was listening too. It was the desperate cry of a woman who was shedding a skin and emerging as someone new.
She suggested I get myself a job so I could support my kids because she predicted the marriage would not last another year.
She was right of course, as mothers so often are. It was over in a matter of weeks, as was the affair.
I walked away from both men in the end because both compromised the person I know myself to be.