Dear Wendy: “I’m Depressed, So I Want To Cheat On My Wife”

I am a 41-year-old professional man married to a beautiful woman. For the past few years I have felt that there has to be more to life than what I’ve been living as it’s been the same thing day in and day out for the past 10 years. I’ve never cheated on my wife, but I just need something more, and I think that could be it. My wife doesn’t like to have sex that often, but I need it every day, and although I would love to talk to her, I’m the type of person who doesn’t speak up or say anything. I have just been so depressed and I feel like I have given up on things. I did take medication, but it made me feel empty and very tired every day, so I gave it up and now I’m so depressed I’m not sure what to do. I just feel like if I could have another woman just one time that I would feel better, but the guilt would eat me up. Not sure why I feel like another woman would help, but I’m just drawn in that direction. I know you would say don’t do it—even though I feel like I need to—but what if I don’t do it, what can I do to feel better? — Married and Unhappy

I’m not going to ask why you feel drawn to sleep with another woman. What straight man doesn’t fantasize, at least from time to time, about sleeping with a woman other than his partner? And fantasy, if nothing else, can be a wonderful escape from our reality, can’t it? And right now, you want nothing more than to escape your reality—escape the hum-drumness of your daily life, the same, expected routine you’ve lived day in and day out for the past 10 years, the ability to say you’ve never cheated—that you’ve never once given into temptation, surrendered to passion, thrown caution to the wind and risked it all for the pleasure of new skin on yours. But for you, the desire is not so much to touch and be touched by another woman, but to defy the rules, and to finally feel something again—excitement, guilt, whatever—and ignite some inertia in your life, to push it in some direction—any direction—even if it isn’t the right one.

And while I don’t deny that cheating has the potential to add another layer to your single-dimensional life, there are far better ways to “create drama” than betraying your wife. You could start, for example, with stepping outside your comfort zone, doing the unexpected and actually expressing your feelings to your wife. You could talk to her for once. You could tell her how lonely and depressed you feel. You could be vulnerable and show her your heart. You could tell her you’re 41 years old and you don’t know what the meaning of your life is and you’re living but not really living—you’re simply existing—and if you keep existing exactly how you have been you’ll be wasting what could be the happiest, most productive years of your life. She may not know how reply to you—she may not have the words you need to hear—but at least you will have done something different, finally. At least you will have begun to move your life in some direction—one that has to be better than where cheating would lead you.

Finally, you need to talk to a professional. You alone or you with your wife would benefit greatly from talking to a therapist and getting at the root of your depression and figuring out a way to treat it. Until you address your depression, it’s going to remain with you, no matter how many different escapes you try. It may change its name from time to time—from depression to guilt or anger or desperation—but regardless of incarnation, its spirit will be the same one haunting you. So, hunt it down—with the help of your wife and a trained professional—and fight it. If you want to summon the courage to attempt a daring act, do that; don’t cheat on your wife. That’s just cowardly.

Four months into my long-distance relationship I cheated on my boyfriend with a guy that I dated before him. During that time our relationship was really rocky as we were coming to find out the woes of being involved long-distance. I went out, had too much to drink, and cheated. I felt horrible after and knew in my heart that I had done something terribly wrong. My boyfriend and I had a conversation shortly after the incident where he came out of nowhere and asked if he could trust me. I told him that he couldn’t and that I found myself attracted to other people, specifically the guy I dated before. He was upset but it opened the lines of communication for what was going wrong in our relationship. He asked if I had done anything with the ex since we’ve been together and I lied and said “no.” Since then we’ve worked out the issues that compelled me to cheat and decided to make our distance work. Now, months later, I’ve been completely honest and open with him and things have been great, except this. I know in my heart that no matter how difficult the relationship gets in the future that I will never cheat again and instead will address the issues. I am so guilt ridden that I couldn’t live with another mistake. Recently, I was offered a position near his city and we’ve made plans to move in together. I’m worried that I don’t deserve this relationship because of my past indiscretion and dishonesty. I just can’t bring myself to tell him. Does this mean that I have to let him go? Is it fair to live with the incident, continue the relationship, and move? — Guilty Girl

Look, you made a mistake. You’re human, you’re imperfect and mistakes happen. You need forgiveness to move on and allow yourself to be happy, but that forgiveness has to come from you. You have to forgive yourself for being imperfect. You have to forgive yourself for making a mistake and acknowledge how that mistake led to your growth as a person and a partner. But don’t let that mistake lead to another mistake, which is exactly what would happen if you confessed your cheating to your boyfriend. You wouldn’t be telling him for his sake; you’d be telling for your own—to alleviate your guilt—and that would be wrong. Think of all the months he’s invested to create the healthy, happy relationship you have today. Think of all the work you’ve both done to get where you are today. Why undo that work in an effort to undo what can’t be undone. Instead, learn from your mistake—which it seems you have—and avoid making the same mistake in the future. As long as you commit to that, and commit to maintaining an honest, transparent relationship, there’s no reason you don’t deserve to be happy.

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