I Had an Exit Affair to End My Abusive Marriage

His narcissism forced me to make an impossible choice.

Photo by The Phope on Unsplash

I had tried to leave multiple times in the early months and years of our marriage but he told me he would ‘never let me leave’ and took steps to ensure that I couldn’t.

In the latter years, after I had become a human doormat for him, everything about me repulsed him and he was looking elsewhere for adoration and attention to feed his needy narcissism. I began to think that if I started looking for someone else, it would be fitting that his unreasonable jealousy and paranoia would suddenly now have a reason.

I tried one last time to leave and he used our children to persuade me to come back home.

I knew that the only way our relationship could ever end would be if it was somehow my fault. If he could blame me and play the victim, I would have my means of escape.

I had found a website called Make Friends Online. At first I started chatting to women and men, because I wanted an outlet to express my feelings and not have them silenced or shot down. My husband’s favorite phrase was ‘this conversation is over’, which he played on repeat.

After a while I started really connecting with a guy I was chatting to online, this soon developed into an attraction. He was understanding, rather than dismissive. He listened to what I had to say. He didn’t seem to have an agenda that was self-serving.

We agreed to meet and see where it led.

I told him pretty quickly that whatever happened, he would be the catalyst for the implosion of my marriage.

I was so certain that this was how it was going to end that at first I felt unutterably calm.

On our ‘date’ we held hands as we toured an art gallery, muttering few words but enjoying every moment with a mutual understanding that this date was a single entity.

We ate together and took our seats in the theater for Vanity Fair, a raucous and titillating performance that somehow succeeded in calming my ever-increasing nerves.

I remember all of the details as if it were yesterday, so momentous was the occasion, so heightened the tension.

The stakes were high. I was gambling my future on a single roll.

‘We don’t need to have sex’, he said later as we stood nervously by the shuttered window in our anonymous hotel room. I had almost laughed as he signed us in as Mr and Mrs. It felt naughty and terrifying simultaneously.

I hadn’t had sex with another man apart from my husband since I was 18. We had continued to have a physical relationship strictly on his terms, until he had unilaterally decided it was distasteful after he turned the ripe old age of 40.

When I stood in the hotel room with this practical stranger, I couldn’t recall the last time I had had sex but it was something I wanted. Just not with my husband any more.

Not ever.

Because of my lack of body confidence, I spent a long time in the shower convincing myself that I could go through with it before slipping into something more uncomfortable and making my way to the bedroom somewhat like Mary Queen of Scots to the chopping block.

It was more than perfunctory, but not mind-blowing. I don’t know what I was expecting as the climax to my marriage.

I kept my bra on and it was obvious how nervous I was. When it was over I felt nothing, but relief.

I waited until the following morning to phone my husband who was away on a trip and tell him that I had spent the night with another man.

Do I regret the actions I took to end my marriage? Sometimes. That was more than ten years ago now. I don’t know the amount of detail other people are aware of, or how they view the outcome, and usually I don’t care. I live in a small town and was certainly the subject of gossip for a while.

The main thing I know is I got out, I survived. I had to turn myself into the cheater to do it, but I can still live with my conscience.

If you can relate to this I hope you have no real regrets either. We know that survival instincts can make us do things that go against our character.

Did this experience change me? Yes. I am stronger because of the actions he drove me to.

The years of abuse changed me far more. I am colder because I know the cruelty people are capable of. Perhaps my skin is too thick sometimes in that I am reluctant to let people in. At the first sign of anger, belittling or bullying I will cut you out of my heart and my life with barely a second thought about your feelings.

I have become numb to the needs of others because my own needs were unmet for so long. Don’t come looking for that naive 18-year-old. She doesn’t live here any more.

Would I do it again, knowing what I do now? No, not if I could see another way. I didn’t just want to be recognized as the victim instead of him, I wanted to escape, but it might have been better for my sanity not to give him such powerful ammunition against me.

I should have taken professional advice like this, or this.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda. It does nobody any good to question the wisdom of an act of desperation.

My alternative was to go to friends for help. Bundle up my belongings and my four children and turn up on someone else’s doorstep? Or do something so unforgivable that my husband left us and left the country without even telling us a couple of months later.

But too many times I had faced an unbelieving audience when I had tried to tell people what was really going on behind closed doors.

Why would anyone believe me now? There were no black eyes, no mysterious fractures. Only pain etched into my soul. And hopelessness.

After he moved out his journey was a predictable one. He moved on fast to a new relationship he had had on the back burner while we were still married. He mistreated her, from what my kids told me. He’s with someone else now and I hope he treats her better, but to be honest I doubt he ultimately will.

Our relationship is something I still mourn and grieve for. Not for its passing but for the losses we all suffered. Everybody loses when a relationship is so torturous that it must inevitably end one way or another.

As for me, I’m currently single and still licking my healing wounds. I am gaining strength, recovery is slow when your sense of self has been systematically destroyed. Writing is a cathartic but painful process so it’s been with much trepidation that I have started recounting my experiences.

I could highly recommend seeking help from a therapist who you can really talk to, whatever stage you are at in your escape or recovery.

Know that whatever place you’re at, if you feel trapped and alone, even if you are with a narcissist as I was, there is a healthy way out.

This too shall pass. And I promise you the grass IS greener on the other side.

If this resonated with you, follow me and look out for more stories on surviving abusive relationships, healing and living your best life.

No holds barred discussion of relationships in all their glorious unholiness. Buy me a coffee here: https://ko-fi.com/daisychains

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