“Two weeks ago Ted told me he’s been having an affair with one of our friends! For seven months!” said Hallie, 33, a corporate executive who’s been married for eight years. “Erin and I aren’t close friends, but we’re part of the same social circle and her son plays on the same soccer team as Liza, our 5-year-old. Apparently, plenty of people know the whole sordid story. It doesn’t get more humiliating than that.
“My marriage has become strained in the last year because of all the traveling I do. Still, I never thought Ted would cheat. Three years ago, just after our younger daughter, Marnie, was born, he was laid off from his job in corporate finance at a big company here in Houston. Around the same time I was offered a promotion with a big salary increase but also a lot of travel — every week, in fact. I worried about how I’d juggle work and family, but Ted was all for it. ‘Take it,’ he kept saying. He acted as if being away from my children was no big deal.
“Ultimately, I accepted the job because we didn’t know when or if Ted would find a job comparable to his old one. After a few months Ted invested in a small medical newsletter company, which he’s been running ever since. It has good longterm potential, but his earnings are half what they were. The office is just minutes from our house, though, which makes things easier when I’m away.
“My schedule is insane. I wake up at 4 a.m. Monday, kiss the girls while they’re still asleep, then catch a 7 a.m. flight to wherever I’m posted that week. I don’t get home until 8 or 9 Thursday night. On Friday I work from home. I love my job and I’m proud of my success. But I miss my daughters desperately and I’m swamped with guilt about not being there for those moments that happen only once. When I am home, naturally, the girls are all over me and I want to spend as much time as I can with them. Then Ted gets testy and accuses me of ignoring him. Please. He’s 34; they’re 5 and 3.
“When I’m away I call every night after dinner to check in. Inevitably, the conversation disintegrates into a fight. Ted’s a steady stream of complaints: The kids are driving him crazy; he’s exhausted; he has no time for himself. In the past few months he’s been especially short-tempered. He says I ask too many questions about the kids’ day. Excuse me? I need to know what’s going on! Besides, Ted doesn’t always remember to give them a bath or help them brush their teeth. If I don’t remind him, it won’t get done. Before you know it we’re yelling at each other.
“I always dreamed of having a marriage as terrific as my parents’. My dad owns a sporting goods store and my mom is an account executive for an ad agency. Her ability to combine career and motherhood — I have three younger siblings — has been an inspiration. And in the early years of our marriage it really did seem that I might manage to ‘have it all.’ Ted and I both enjoyed our work and earned nice salaries. We were always meeting friends for dinner or drinks. We were really, really happy.
“Everything changed once we had kids. Ted never changed a diaper or got up in the middle of the night, and he flipped out when our babies cried. He did get more involved as the girls got older. When he feels like making an effort, he’s Mr. Camp Director, organizing outings and teaching the girls to ski and bike ride. But he’s always been rather uncommunicative and, clearly, he’s kept a lot from me.
“It all came to a head last Friday, when I was home. I knew something was wrong the minute Ted walked through the door. Erin’s husband had overheard a phone conversation and confronted her. With word spreading fast, Ted knew he had no choice but to tell me about the affair.
“Ted insists that he’s not in love with Erin and has ended the affair. He claims he loves me and doesn’t want a divorce. I don’t want to be divorced, either, but there’s so much anger and hurt on both sides. I cry all the time and can barely keep from breaking down in meetings. The girls are fine, thank heaven.
They know we’re having a fight, but they’re still very young and I’ve reassured them that we’re okay. Now if only I could believe that.”