As a proud non-cheater, I often wonder how affairs begin. And moreover, how they spiral into the life ruining, soul crushing epics they eventually become. Is it a stolen glance across a crowded room? A far to eager 3rd party who offers themselves as bait to a previously faithful spouse? An intentionally sought after dalliance orchestrated by a soul-less husband and an equally immoral partner?
In the months following my husbands’ affair(s) I frequently obsessed over the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of it all. How could he do this? Why would he do this? As you probably already guessed, the answers to those questions were never found. Until, that is, I found myself in a situation that could have easily been the first moments of an affair.
About a year ago, a year post D-Day, I traveled to the east coast for work. There was nothing particularly eventful about the trip so let’s fast forward to the flight home.
I was traveling with a colleague who was seated several rows ahead of me. I settled into my window seat prepared for a lonely flight on a plane with *gasp* no in flight entertainment. I was prepared to endure the agony of not being able to catch up on a couple of films I had missed by arming myself with a slew of magazines and salty snacks.
Clearly I was not a lady who was presenting her best self as I was sitting in leggings, my hair plopped in a messy bun, surrounded by Vogue, US weekly and potato chips.
I hardly noticed when the occupant of the middle seat arrived. I was far too busy checking emails, texting my husband…and eating chips.
Shortly after take off, I tried plugging my phone into the charger under the seat hoping to get enough battery to listen to some music for the remainder of the flight however, the phone was not charging. I wasn’t sure if it was the outlet or my phone. I noticed that my unnoticeable neighbor had the same phone so I asked him if he could test the charger in his outlet and on his phone.
He was friendly enough and complied with my request. Long story short, I was doomed to endure the flight in silence. A few jokes were exchanged about the lack of entertainment and from there I don’t really know how it happened….
Don’t worry, I didn’t go join the mile high club in that moment. The stranger in the middle seat and I somehow began chatting. It was one of those effortless, feels like we’ve known each other in a past life sort of exchanges.
I learned that we were the same age, down to sharing the same birth day AND year. We both attended private Catholic same-sex high schools, quoted the same movies, shared the same political views and even brought the same male/female magazine equivalents onto the plane. If I had met this guy before my husband, I would have deemed him my soulmate right then and there. I was actually beginning to wonder if I had a long-lost twin who had been hidden from me my entire life. I didn’t even notice that he was actually quite attractive until we were several hours into our new found ‘friendship.’
He told me about his family, his job and his life as a single parent. We had basically covered all the conversations to be had in the first six months of dating during this flight. Was the universe trying to tell me something? Was this a sign that I had made a mistake in staying in my marriage and some higher power was showing me that perhaps there is someone else I am supposed to be with?
I didn’t do anything drastic to withhold my marital status. I was wearing my rings, even if I was subconsciously covering my left hand with magazines. I didn’t mention my marital status, but then again he didn’t ask. At some point in the conversation I got the serious vibe that this guy might possibly want to get to know me in a setting outside of an airplane.
There was an instant when I realized I was at a crossroads. I could easily slip of my rings off, continue to withhold that I am married and see if this ‘sign’ from the universe was worth exploring further. I began to think about my husbands’ affair(s) in that moment. Did he have a moment such as this? A moment when one decision, when one path chosen, could impact the rest of our lives? I knew that if he did, then clearly he made the wrong choice. I also knew that I am not that person. I am the type of person who makes the right choice. The honest choice.
I soon found myself mentioning my husband and using “we” in discussion with this stranger. I could see the shock and confusion upon first mention of this mysterious husband I had failed to disclose for the previous 2-3 hours. I felt his disappointment but, being the nice guy that he was, he continued to chat with me for the remainder of the flight…. albeit visibly let down that this chemistry we both felt would never leave that flight.
In a strange way, that experience gave me the opportunity to empathize with those that have affairs. Even if just for a moment, I felt the temptation and excitement that affairs must ignite. But what I also learned from this encounter is that there is ALWAYS a choice. No one is forced into an affair. No matter the scenario there is always a line to be crossed, a decision to be made, a fork in the road….. there is an instant where one chooses to respect and honor their spouse and their vows over the fleeting spark with a stranger on a plane.