Hello, I'm new to iVillage and new to posting on online boards in general, but here is my story.
I am a 40 year old woman, married to my husband for 12 years. I met him when I was 22. He was my first serious boyfriend and the first man I ever had sex with. We have two children in elementary school.
We lived together for a couple years before we got married, and even before we got married, our sex life had lost steam. At the time we were married, we were having sex probably about once or twice a month. We never were able to talk comfortably with each other about our sexual needs and desires. Speaking for myself, I was shy about discussing sex, inexperienced and a bit insecure. As for him, he never opened up about his sexual needs either, we were just never comfortable doing so. As a result sex was rarely mutually satisfying for us. Despite this, we had a sweet relationship. Never truly and intimately passionate but sweet and comforting in its own way.
In the beginning of our marriage and through the early years, we had some major power struggles with his family due to their religious beliefs and their inability to accept mine. My husband was never fully able to put his foot down and assert our independence as a couple and our own decision makers, and this contributed to some resentment and distance between us.
When our kids were born we fell into the obsessive mindset of putting them first always. They became the major focus in our lives and we devoted little time to each other as a couple. We rarely went out for date nights (maybe twice total in the first 5 years?) and our sex life became almost non-existent (about 2 times a year). This has pretty much continued for the 10 years since our first was born. That said, our life together has been "happy", we have worked hard to make a happy family life for our children and we work well together as parents.
About 5 years ago, I read about Second Life and tried it on a whim. I was immediately hooked, the opportunity to engage anonymously with others online in a sexual manner was exciting and eye-opening. I had several online "flings" with men that lasted anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. I saw these experiences as a way for me to experiment and grow sexually without actually having a physical affair. I kept my identity a secret from them, but sometimes engaged in voice sex. My husband and I began to have sex more frequently, maybe once a month, so ironically it actually seemed to help our sex life.
I kept all of this a secret from my husband but he became suspicious of my lengthy hours on the computer, never really asking me directly about it, but I could tell he had a feeling that something was going on. I do believe at one point, he accidentally came across some chat on my computer between me and a virtual lover but stopped short of confronting me about it directly. We never openly discussed this discovery but mutually seemed to prefer to ignore it, and carry on as usual...
I was active in Second Life in this way for 3 years and eventually it lost its appeal for me, it just wasn't fun anymore. I felt more confident in myself as a woman, mother and sexual being and decided I would soon stop logging on. I felt I could be satisfied enough with my marriage and had gotten these online affairs out of my system. Exactly one week after this, I met someone in Second Life out of the blue and we quickly connected like no one else had before. As we got to know each other, we discovered we were compatible on so many levels, (intellect, personality, sexual chemistry etc) and we became very close. I worked from home at the time, and over the next year, we continued to meet almost every day, either during the day for a couple hours, late at night or both. Often having sex but mostly just talking and growing closer day by day. My AP is my age but single and childless.
My AP and I gradually progressed to Skype for video chat and our connection and attraction became stronger. I learned to balance seeing him and my family life. I became very good at concealing evidence and I doubt my husband was aware of my AP specifically. I helped my AP with big decisions in his life and he ceased to date anyone in his real life. We continued to meet in this manner for 2.5 years. Our connection became insurmountable, we both realized we had a love, intimacy and sexual chemistry with each other that we had never experienced before in our lives. Although I had felt guilty at times with previous online "relationships", with this one I rarely did; I came to feel we were meant to be.
In the meantime my husband and I again retreated to having sex maybe twice a year. We continued to get along as partners (more like roommates) and our family life was happy. He began to go out a lot after work on his own. Since about 6 months ago, I discovered by looking at his mobile that he is regularly viewing websites like Ashley Madison and escort ads. I found a text message that appears to be from an escort, asking when he would come see her again. I also discovered that he was going out with a woman once or twice a month to dinner and concerts, and although their text messages look friendly and not romantic or sexual, I know his type and I am sure he is attracted to her. I have not yet confronted him about this.
Recently, my AP and I made the decision that it was finally time to meet in real life. Our real life meeting was exciting and unforgettable. Our transition to real life was seamless and natural. We fell deeper in love and became even closer than before. We made love. All of our time, effort and emotion previously spent towards each other felt validated once we met. Before, we would often talk about "someday", but now we regulary talk about making a real future happen for us. Marriage and growing old together. We deeply desire this to happen. And that is where I am today... I find myself truly in a real life affair.
Do I feel guilty for betraying my husband? Absolutely. But meeting my online AP was an experience I decided I needed to have. So now I find myself at a crossroads. I do still love my husband but at this point that I realize I am staying with him out of habit and for our kids. We have 10 years until our youngest leaves for college and we have talked about starting a "new phase" in our lives then, but I can't possibly expect my AP to wait that long for me, though he would surely wait half that time. And how is it fair to my husband to stay with him now when I am in love with someone else? He is a kind person, I will always care for him, he has been a good partner, a wonderful father and a good provider. I would be happy to see him meet someone in the future and be able to experience a really fulfilling, intimate relationship. I'm not sure if he knows what he is missing.
At this point I am know I am deeply in love with my AP. If I considered ending my affair and forced myself to focus on my marriage, I know the only way my marriage could survive would be to come clean with my husband, and if he was willing (I imagine yes), we would have a long and hard journey rebuilding our trust and building our intimacy. It would also require a major overhaul of how we have structured our life - we would need to start caring for our needs as a couple for once. I have serious doubts however, that my husband and I could ever acheive the kind of deep, natural and effortless intimacy that my AP and I have always had. Even without my infidelity, I strongly doubt this could have been possible. In addition, I know it would take a very long time for me to get over my AP, if ever.
I know that although my husband and I both failed to devote time and energy towards our marriage, I did allow myself to focus and make connections with men outside my marriage and this was wrong. Should we divorce, I realize it would break apart the happy family life that we have worked so hard to create. I have never discussed divorce with my husband though I am certain the possibility has crossed his mind. I doubt he would initiate a divorce on his own, and I am not sure if he would even want one. He tends to avoid confrontations and I wouldn't be surprised if he intended to carry on like this forever. He seems to be happy enough. Despite seeming aware of my online infidelity, he might even be completely blindsided by my wanting a divorce. My AP is committed to me and ready to help me through this journey. He will wait to move closer to me only when I am ready, and should I divorce, he is willing to live separately for a couple years until I feel that my children can accept that I have a new man in my life.
I know I cannot live between two men like this for very long. I am curious about your advice, I have no friends besides my lover that know about this situation. Thanks for taking the time to read this lengthy post and thanks for any advice.