Found myself and had an affair

I have tried to write this letter many times. I usually give up because I feel it’s impossible to describe the full story. Bottom line is I had an affair and fell in love with a woman I used to work with. We are both married and she has since moved out of state (previously planned). Our affair began in the same way I have read many affairs do. We were both missing things we needed from our marriages and filled that void for each other.

Well before the affair began, I started seeing a therapist for stress, but eventually started a journey of self-discovery. A little over a year later, I have realized that I went to therapy because I wanted to learn how to love myself. Throughout my entire life, I have hidden aspects of personality from others or withheld parts of the truth because I am so worried about what others will think of me. This includes my parents, friends, and wife. What has made this affair so difficult to end is that I was finally able to bear my soul to someone. I have never been as honest and truthful about myself as I was with her. I revealed things about my past and present that I have never been able to share with anyone.

When I was with her, I was able to love myself because I knew I could fully be myself. We have recently decided to stop talking (again) for a variety of reasons but the most important for me is that I wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving my marriage without giving my wife a chance to understand the real me. My hope is to find a balance between explaining who I truly am and a confessional. Per usual, I am in a lot of pain but now I finally understand where the pain comes from. I have a million questions but it basically boils down to, what do I do?

- Now what

Self-exploration doesn't entitle you to betray your spouse. You did this wrong, and you need to own that.

You seem to be self-aware about the fact that your interest in this other woman is more about liking yourself when you're with her. You also seem to know that you should give your wife the chance to understand who you want to be.

Ask your therapist for recommendations for couples counselors, and tell your wife that you'd like to navigate some marital issues with a professional. Also talk to your therapist about how to be a partner right now, and how to make the most of couples counseling. There are so many references to "myself" and "me" in your letter – but your wife is experiencing her own pain, right? Get ready to hear about it, because it's real and it matters just as much.

That should be what you repeat out loud to yourself right now: "My wife matters just as much."

Readers? How can the letter writer deal with the affair and the marriage? Yes, there was a cheat, but what’s supposed to happen now?

– Meredith