The Affair

Un divorce, roman de Paul Bourget
Un divorce, roman de Paul Bourget (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She expected judgment. Now I know it wasn’t just low self-worth – she judged everyone else.

I was struggling with graduate school, isolation, a marriage that disappointed rather than enriched. I failed to notice how little I heard from her. She often skipped communication for months, even years at a time, saying that she did not have time to write, that she didn’t like to, and since we both worked for less than living wage, phone calls did not happen often if at all. She did struggle to verbalize, and I did not think about it. When I did work in a call, she told me of circumstances stark, but common to our age: a boyfriend become roommate, dropping out of college because of a family illness, and the frustrations and loneliness that come from living in an area of the country with little opportunity.

After my divorce I emailed her my new address. She called me within a day: she had a new boyfriend she wanted me to meet. When I called her back, she said “He knows about my past, and he doesn’t care.”

That was strange. “What past?”

“Oh… I had an affair.”

I wasn’t shocked she had one. I was shocked she didn’t tell me. I said so.

“Well, you were married at the time, and I figured you would be mad.”

She thought I would judge her because she would judge herself. She didn’t understand that I cared about her first.

The man had kids. The wife knew. As usually happens in these situations, my former friend wound up the final sacrifice on that couple’s altar to whatever meanings they attached to marriage. The man, having explored what he needed, went back to his wife and kids. The wife used her for a free babysitter for a little while, then dropped her.

When she learned of my divorce she judged me like she would judge herself. It had to be my fault somehow. We were “only divorced on paper.” I had to be taking advantage of him.

Clearly, something was wrong with me. I couldn’t make a marriage work.

She couldn’t break one up.