“In My Marriage, Having Affairs Works” Source Reveals All


An affair can really harm family wellness, but could it also – under the right circumstances – make your marriage stronger? Stephanie (not her real name) believes the don’t-ask-don’t-tell rule is the secret to her marital bliss.


Stephanie details, ‘It’s a Wednesday night, and my boyfriend and I are drinking wine and making out in the back booth of a dimly lit bar. It feels like nothing else in the world exists… until my phone vibrates. “It’s my husband. The kids are in bed,” I say, then put my phone in my purse and pull my boyfriend toward me. I spend half a second staring at the diamond on my engagement ring before hiding my hand from my sight line. It’s not a secret that I’m married, but it’s also not something I want to think about right now. Am I a horrible person? Without context, I know I sound horrible. But in my marriage, having affairs works. My husband and I don’t talk about it. But I’m certain our don’t-ask-don’t-tell rule is what has allowed our marriage to last as long as it has.’


She points out, ‘Notice that I didn’t say we’re in an open marriage—we’re not. An open marriage is transparent, with agreed-upon rules and an understanding of what both parties will and will not do with others. My marriage is opaque. I recognise what Frank and Claire Underwood have in House of Cards, although I like to think my husband and I aren’t as soulless as their characters. But there are similarities: We know the other has secrets, but we don’t care to find out more. It’s an attitude people think of as very French—the idea that you can have an affair and a healthy marriage. Quite honestly, it works. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.’


So how did this marriage come about? ‘When Dave* and I met in our late 20s, I knew that he was a player,’ Stephanie recalls. ‘So was I. We also had chemistry beyond anything else I’d ever experienced. We just got each other…After about six months of late-night booty calls, Dave and I settled into a proper relationship and started calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend. At first, it was incredibly volatile. After not hearing from him for an evening, I’d go ballistic. He’d refuse to engage, saying he had nothing to apologise for. We yelled about cheating—he’d do it, I’d do it, we’d be furious with each other. But eventually, I realised this dynamic wouldn’t change. One of us would always act out if cheating was against the rules.’


Stephanie asks, ‘But what if it wasn’t? What if we both admitted that, yes, we were sometimes tempted, and that sometimes we acted on that temptation? I think I was the one who brought it up over dinner one night, just after we’d moved in together. I told him that I’d no longer ask questions, that I didn’t want to know. He said he’d do the same. We reaffirmed that we loved each other, and that wouldn’t change. And then, without drawing up any official rules, we embarked on our anything-but-traditional relationship.’


‘I don’t keep my marriage a secret from the guys I date,’ says Stephanie. ‘I don’t take off my rings and I mention my husband and kids in front of them—but I also don’t make it an issue. Often, they’re cheating as well, and I feel there’s an unspoken code about what we do and don’t discuss. Right now, I’m 40 and my husband is 38, and I do wonder how long we can keep this up. I don’t want to actively seek out affairs. I feel like my work, thanks to all those business trips, has made it easy to fall into them without doing much damage to my everyday life. I haven’t said “I love you” to anyone else since I met my husband, and I do sometimes wonder how my husband feels toward the women he meets. I know—and hope he knows—that very few women would put up with a similar type of relationship, and I think that understanding is part of the bedrock of our bond.’


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