I'm sorry I had an affair with your husband: the other woman writes a letter to her lover's wife

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Deception was at the heart of the two-year affair. (PHOTO: Gallo Images / Getty Images)
Deception was at the heart of the two-year affair. (PHOTO: Gallo Images / Getty Images)

It’s a story as old as the hills: woman falls for married man and then spends years of her life sneaking around in the hope that he’ll eventually leave his wife.

But although we often hear from the person who’s been cheated on, we seldom get the perspective of the third party – or “the other woman”, as she’s known.

Having spent two years living on lies and empty promises, Ingrid* from Centurion, Gauteng, believes it’s a story that deserves to be heard. And that’s why she’s writing this open letter to Estelle*, her lover André’s* wife, in the hope it will serve as cautionary tale to save other women a whole lot of needless heartache.

‘Dear Estelle

If I could turn back time, I’d never have joined your husband for a drink that first time he invited me. I’d never have opened my front door the first time he knocked on it.

But by that point I was already besotted with him.

We work together. One morning, he was in a meeting in the conference room. I was at the coffee machine. Our eyes locked . . .

Estelle, I didn’t know he was married. Back then, I didn’t even know what his name was. But later we started chatting via email and one Wednesday afternoon he invited me for a drink after work.

I had butterflies in my tummy. It felt like when I was a student, when my boyfriend and I could talk all night into the early hours of the morning. That’s the way your husband and I started talking. Seven hours felt like one hour.

cheating, affair, side chick,
Ingrid* didn't know her lover was married at first. (PHOTO: Gallo Images / Getty Images)

Several emails later, we went for drinks a second time. That Friday afternoon was when he casually mentioned that he was married.

It felt as if I’d been punched in the gut, as if a bucket of ice water had been thrown in my face.

I instantly looked down at his left hand, looking for a wedding band. But there wasn’t one. I was so naïve – many people don’t wear their wedding bands but that doesn’t mean they’re any less married.

The thing is, Estelle, from that time I knew you existed and that you and his two children were waiting at home for him.

I should’ve walked away right then because I would’ve avoided being in deep pain for two years. But I’m sorry, I didn’t. I stayed.

I listened as he told me how unhappy his marriage was. While he stared at me over his glass of red wine, he told me how deeply miserable he was. He claimed you hadn’t had sex in a year, that you were just staying together for the children’s sake.

Then he told me how his heart skipped a beat that first day he saw me. He told me how he’d felt alive for the first time in years and that he believed we had a soul connection.

I lapped up every word.

My boyfriend and I had had split up eight months before and I’d moved from Cape Town to Pretoria, where I didn’t know anyone. I was terribly lonely, struggling to adjust to the new city, and then I met your husband and my world was turned upside-down.

'That night, he kissed me for the first time. And I let him. The hand that should’ve been wearing his wedding band crept under my blouse. But the moment was fleeting because his phone rang. He answered, breathless. You were the one calling.'

You asked where he was and could he buy pizza for you and the kids on his way home. He said he was having a drink with a friend and was on his way. That was the first of hundreds of lies I heard him tell you.

He had to go, he told me. His family were waiting at home.

I wish I could tell you I came to my senses, Estelle. That somewhere along the line I made an about-turn from the destructive path we were on.

But I didn’t. Both of us tried ending things so many times. Days or even weeks would go by with no contact. Then we’d run into each other at work and before I knew it, he’d show up at my front door again. He’d bring wine, a bag of ice and a fresh set of clothes so he could jump in the shower and return to you without smelling of my perfume.

He never wanted to take me out in public, not even to a coffee shop. One weekend he bought me a plane ticket to Cape Town (I had to travel on a separate flight) and I had to stay in the hotel room all weekend while he attended business meetings. He paid for all our room service meals in cash so you wouldn’t get suspicious about his credit card statements.

You called him several times to ask him how things were going. I kept quiet as I lay in bed next to him while he was talking to you.

Throughout the affair, there was no one I could confide in. I was the one who was truly alone because I had to avoid my friends and family in order to protect our secrets.

The affair took over my entire life and diminished all my other relationships. For the first time in my life I turned into a liar, because of him.

The few times I went on dates with other men, he’d incessantly call me at night when you were already in bed. Or he’d WhatsApp me with you sitting on the couch next to him – he couldn’t stand the thought of me with another man.

I started loathing myself. I lost weight, started drinking alone and I fell into a dark depression. I couldn’t stand looking at myself in the mirror.

Divorce was never an option for him because he didn’t want to break up his family. But whenever I tried ending things, he’d tell me he couldn’t live without me. He wanted to keep going on stolen time – and I had to be ready and waiting whenever he decided to come over.

I was tangled in a web of lies and sex.

Estelle, I’m truly sorry I couldn’t end it sooner. But two years later there was a watershed moment when I looked in his eyes and realised: he’s lying to me just as much as he’s lying to you.

The cracks had started to show, and he was struggling to keep his house of cards from falling apart.

Your 21st wedding anniversary is in a few months. Though we now no longer have any contact, I’m still trying to pick up the pieces of my heart. I’m scared of being in a relationship again because I know all the shady tricks of someone who’s cheating.

Estelle, I want you to know I’m paying the price for the part I played in the affair. And I’ll do so for the rest of my life.

Please forgive me, because I’m struggling to forgive myself.

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