My husband worked hard at his job and, to alleviate its accompanying pressures, developed his obsession with horseracing, gambling and drinking. These conversations quickly developed into cyber-sex, each message becoming more adventurous and racy and allowing me to live out fantasies I would never contemplate doing in the real world. My husband and I became strangers, our lives by now distinct entities. I told myself that what I was doing was essentially harmless.When the time was right for both of us, we would work through our problems and come back to one another. I shed my regulars and concentrated on just one, a man younger than me by almost two decades.And for a while at least, it all felt harmless and innocent, and fun. My father leaving didn't help, and for the first six months of my life I was placed with a notional "auntie", a family friend who became my surrogate mother throughout my childhood.
And I did, pretty much, and I was perfectly fine - until suddenly I wasn't.
There were redundancy problems at work; my marriage was showing strains; and there was something large and unnameable missing from my life.
I told no one, immersed and isolated in my secret life. In moments of fleeting clarity, I wanted to understand what was happening to me. Was it just my marriage problems, or was there something deeper causing me to behave that way?
I met all sorts of people, from all over the world, older and younger, and each seemingly as desperate for a true connection as I. Should I be blaming my mother, or my – mostly absent – father for feeling that something was eternally missing? I was born to a woman that didn't much want children, and who fell foul to postnatal depression a good couple of decades before the term was even coined.
After a couple of months I had to end it – and it was after I had made this decision that my husband found out.
He discovered messages on my phone and so I sat him down and poured the whole sorry tale out to him, feeling I was stamping on his heart with every word. I spent a lonely Christmas at my mother's house with nothing to do but wonder how I had got myself into this situation. I started therapy, and learned just how dysfunctional my life had been, and so little wonder I kept making new problems for myself.While my husband spent most evenings catching up on the horse racing he'd recorded over the weekend, I began perusing chatrooms – not in pursuit of cybersex necessarily, but initially more for harmless flirtation, a little virtual attention.Soon, I was spending hours in the parallel universe of cyberspace, often through wonderfully wide-awake nights, uninhibited in a way I never could be in reality.We would meet in hotels, have sex – mindblowing sex - and then the realisation that what I was doing was irrevocably wrong would set in.Taking my online affair offline was my big mistake, a transgression too far.I failed – the guilt was profound – and so began the painful but necessary process of erasing one and focusing solely on the other, the one that had come first.