(Part two of I HAD AN AFFAIR )
So...there I was leaving my husband for another man.
Life became complicated after High Point Market. I moved into the guest room and Scott and I told the kids we needed some space for a little bit. I communicated a lot with my new love and we tried to see each other frequently, which was easy because we struck up a business venture together. We traveled quite a bit. I live in the West, he’s on the East Coast.
The first six months were more bliss than heartache. We were forging a path for the business venture so everything felt exciting and new on both sides of our relationship—business and personal.
Little by little, small issues started to arise. Social media was one of them. Robert would ask who this guy was that liked my photo or who that guy was that commented. Clearly, he was feeling unsure about me and I naively thought that because I felt what I did for him, he would understand my love for him was true. I did not take into consideration that we met on social media, which also fueled the fire.
My new love was very open about all activities, which is a good thing considering for years he was seeking love in a lot of places and hid it. He made a point of telling me that this woman or that woman had a crush on him. I wasn’t used that kind of thing. I am not one to call things out like that; I never have been. I don’t take compliments well and I don’t presume people have ulterior motives even when they do. In many ways, I innately try to see the good in everyone and everything all the time. This is a blessing and a curse because sometimes, I don’t see clearly.
Several old friends wrote to me on social media—men who I’d known my whole life—to chat online. One said he wished he knew I was divorcing, he would have stood in line. That’s the way he is and I just laughed and wrote back I was flattered but was madly in love with Richard. I shared what I wrote with my love with the intention of being fully transparent about anything like that, as he was being with me. I was surprised to receive his feedback: “I wish you wouldn’t have said you were flattered.” I honestly didn’t know that was a bad thing to say. I thought it was normal. Sadly, this came up in fights over and over again for three years.
One time, after I had openly shared with Robert any communication with the two men I mentioned above and received less than stellar feedback, another man I barely knew wrote to me. He sent me a photo of myself. It was odd and I immediately panicked, knowing that somehow it would be my fault. I deleted the photo but not the message that followed (I don't really know why I did that, even) and then when Robert asked me if that particular man had ever written to me privately, I lied. I didn't want to deal with feeling like I was somehow to blame. It wasn't right to lie to him, but I did. I didn't know he had looked at my phone while I was out of the room and he saw the message before he asked me the question.
I started feeling really on edge about Facebook all together. We had made our relationship very public which was freeing but at the same time, I was starting to feel scared to post. Who would comment that he might feel strange about? Who would reach out and I would feel like I’m not handling the situation correctly? I started having dreams about Facebook because we would often fight there, in Messenger. If he perceived I was hiding something or doing something that threatened him, like saying I was flattered to my friend, then a fight would ensue.
I would dream we would be fighting on Facebook. I could see the words in my dream. I have had a tendency in my life to sleep walk and do things like that in my sleep. I even went on Facebook on my phone, half asleep one time, thinking we were really fighting and I needed to write back. It was clearly consuming my subconscious. I just kept feeling like no matter what I did, it wasn’t good enough.
As for my interactions with Scott, I never felt like I could do anything right there, either. I'm guessing he felt Scott’s true love for me. Even though I was totally convinced I had found the love of my life in Richard, I still obviously loved and cared for Scott as someone I was married to for 17 years and who is the father of my kids. I found that if I talked too little with him, it was a problem. If I spoke too much to him or about him, that was also a problem. I started to feel like I had to hide all communications with Scott (and delete some, because he might think I’m being too nice) or else I would end up in the dog house. And I never truly knew what would put me there.
About six months into our relationship, we were at a tradeshow together and he mentions that he noticed I make a lot of eye contact with men, particularly strangers as we were walking down the hallways. I was honestly shocked but I’m the kind of person who does question herself, so I did just that. Maybe I really did this type of thing and didn’t know it? It’s not intentional—I’ve never been a flirt. I learned early on in my childhood to make sure I looked people straight in the eye and stood tall and proud. Maybe I was too proud? I apologized and made sure he knew it wasn’t intentional. I was not looking for anyone else and I thought he knew that. Deep down, I remember feeling sad that maybe he misread my pesonality and was still not trusting my love for him. I thought of him as my “twin flame” – the once in a lifetime love that felt like nothing I’d ever experienced before. Why would I be looking for anything else? I wasn’t even looking for him when I met him!
The topic of eye contact came up many times over three years. At some point, I started to go from feeling like he had a point to feeling like maybe this was actually projection on his part. Maybe he used to make eye contact in a flirtatious way with lots of women and that’s the core of this. I would start to defend myself and plead with him but that just escalated things.
Towards the end of the three years, I casually waved to a guy at a tradeshow who had taken our photo the day before. I was caught off guard and noticed that he was looking in my direction so I gave a quick wave. We fought for five hours that night in the hotel room. I was crying uncontrollably and shaking because I felt like I was being accused of doing something wrong. At one point, he said, “Way to make him feel good, Kiersten.” This statement brought up so much shame in me that I didn’t even realize I was carrying. Shame from my childhood abuse. I clearly, subconsciously, thought I was to blame for my relative raping me and it was now playing itself out 40 years later.
What had I done? Why did this love hurt so much? Why did I keep going back even though I knew what I was in for? When I was being yelled at, I’d go back for more. I remember being screamed at on the phone and he would hang up and I would call him back. Who does that? Why would I put myself in the position of enduring more pain?
My rational brain was fighting so hard to understand. Eventually, through therapy, I came to understand two things:
Ultimately, I learned that I unknowingly created a wounded attachment to him. Our wounded parts literally drew themselves to one another and then we triggered each other over and over again. This article, along with therapy sessions, made all the puzzle pieces fit:
From the article: “As a child, depending on when the assault occurred and the developmental stage in which it occurred, the person seeks to please the adult and gain affection, attention, nurturing, love, trust, etc. A child who has been sexually assaulted blurs that idea of love, nurturing, trust, attention, and affection, and begins to believe that the only way to receive love, attention, etc., is to please the “assaulter.” This remains in effect as the child matures into adulthood.”
Sure, I was a people pleaser in my marriage with Scott, but there wasn’t any kind of abuse within the marriage at all. I felt respected and loved, even smothered with love at times. This relationship was showing me that subconsciously I indeed blurred the idea of love when faced with abuse. I was in a constant state of “please the abuser” and I wasn’t getting out of it anytime soon because the feeling of “love” was so strong.
My family and friends watched me go from a confident, social woman to someone they didn’t really know anymore who was on edge most of the time.
In PART 3, I’ll talk about the physical effects of living in this eggshell world that included literally pulling my hair out and enduring panic attacks.
I had an affair.
For lack of a better term, affair fits the bill given where I am now in my life, and the fact we were both married when we entered into the relationshiip . I truly thought I was heading into a partnership with the love of my life but it didn't turn out that way.
Even though this is hard to pen, I want to write about it for myself and to help others who may have gone through something like this or will in the future. Let’s start at the beginning.
In March 2014, I had been married for 17 years. People thought of us as one of those couples that would never break. We rarely fought and we had a lot in common. Sure, we had moments of wondering about old exes and normal life stressors that come with wedding bands but overall, we had a good marriage.
With that said, we had been through a lot of financial strife, moves across the country, and some medical scares. We moved seven times in 10 years and had to declare bankruptcy at one point due to multiple layoffs. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had stuffed a lot of emotions (and resentment) about life in general. I hid my feelings a lot. My role was more as a fixer. Job loss? No problem. Let me teach myself to build furniture and build a company that will help sustain us. I was good at fixing stuff outside of me, but inside I felt a hole I didn’t know how to fill.
To add insult to injury, I found out I was sexually abused from the ages of 3 to 6 at the same time our dog of 19 years passed away. It was a rough December of 2013. I was kind of a mess but still convincing myself I was holding it together. I always held it together. Ever since I was a kid, I was a perfectionistic, over-achiever who was super responsible. I honestly thought I was just going to think my way through everything like I always did. I had no idea what was bubbling under the surface.
Now, back to March of 2014. I had just inked a spokesperson deal with Stanley Furniture and was about to sign a licensing deal as well. A friend of mine introduced me to the man I had the affair with on Facebook named Robert. She shared a post about my new gig with Stanley and he saw it and, poof—we were connected.
It felt good to know this man thought highly of my work. I, too, admired what he had built for himself career-wise. He would reach out on occasion over the month of March and I would write back. He sent me music a couple of times. Truly, I was just trying to keep my head above water with my new job and prepping for the big tradeshow in April where I would sign the deal and perform some of my first spokesperson duties. And I would be lying if I said I wasn’t curious about him.
He reached out asking if we could have dinner when I was in High Point, North Carolina for the tradeshow. Feeling like that was not appropriate because I was married but also still wanting to meet him, I suggested I stop by the showroom where he was showing his furniture and we also made group dinner plans with two mutual friends.
It’s time to head down for Market, the furniture industry’s largest tradeshow in the America. I flew in on a Tuesday to prep for a sales meeting prior to when the normal trade show event opened. I left Flagstaff with such promise and excitement. I had finally done it! After so many years of hardship and struggle (and countless hours of building everything by hand), I was finally going to scale my furniture company. I get off the plane in North Carolina and turn my phone on. Texts messages are flooding in. “Did you see the press release?” I reached out to my husband immediately after landing and he said, “Kiers, Stanley Furniture just put out a release saying they are shutting down production of their youth furniture division.” My head was spinning. Did I just lose my job and licensing deal and I’m now stuck in North Carolina? In a nutshell, yes. They confirmed they couldn’t tell me what was happening because they are a publicly traded company.
Needless to say, I’m a wreck at this point. I was so angry. The deal that had taken seven months to solidify was now in ashes. They offered to fly me back to Arizona immediately but I realized the gravity of the situation. I was, at the time, the main breadwinner of my family; therefore, I need to make something happen in North Carolina during the tradeshow. They agreed to pay all of my expenses and understood they owed me at least that much.
I cried while getting my rental car. The drive from Charlotte to Greensboro felt especially long. I couldn’t stop crying. I was scared to death. We had been struggling financially already and now this? I still had some hope maybe they would keep me on as a spokesperson for the other lines of furniture they owned. I clung to that ultimately foolish thought.
I spent Wednesday waiting to hear from the CEO and senior executives at Stanley. Mostly, I cried in my hotel room and reached out to everyone I knew who might be able to help me meet with other big brands. So many wonderful people made connections for me—I truly saw the heart and soul of those I had met in the industry thus far.
I remember getting a Facebook message from Robert. He was so supportive saying he knew I would make something else happen—that Stanley would be crazy to lose me. It felt good. He had also mentioned previously that we should talk about collaborating on a kids’ furniture collection. I liked the idea of that.
Thursday was filled with more tears and meetings and Friday, the day we were supposed to meet at the showroom, had arrived. I met him in his showroom and he was charming, supportive, and really so respectful. I could feel a soul level connection between us but I wasn’t sure why. I just felt like he was someone I’d known for a very long time.
He helped me find a spot to charge my phone and we talked more before he left to go back to the showroom. It was time for me to get ready for an industry event for women. I was happy to be going with a girlfriend of mine.
While at the party, I received a Facebook message from him. It was a confession letter—he said he felt an instant connection in March, the moment he watched one of my online videos. He also said he thought I was a beautiful soul and he “would be loving me from a far” and if I didn’t feel comfortable, he would not attend the group dinner scheduled for the next night. I remember reading the letter in the center of a cocktail party and feeling everything around me stop. I was taken aback but flattered at the same time. I told him not to worry, there would be no weirdness and that dinner with our friends was still on for the next night.
It was time for the group dinner. He arrived and was very charming, as usual. We all laughed and talked about the industry and what was happening in our lives. Everyone rallied around me knowing how worried I was about my future. I remember hearing my text message alert going off at dinner. It was him. He was sitting next to me but texted me two things: 1.) You look beautiful tonight and 2.) I wish I could hold your hand under the table. A rush of adrenaline went through me. It felt like a drug, honestly. I was surprised he was writing those things but at the same time, not surprised based on his letter to me. I was still spinning from his use of the word love in the letter but his directness was both shocking and intriguing. And let’s face it, that kind of energy felt a lot better than what I was facing in my real life.
We continued to get to know each other over the next three days. Each night, we would gather in a hotel room and drink wine—the four of us—and talk about life and love. I could feel myself really being drawn to him. One night, after driving back from another group dinner, he sent me the text, “I wish I could spend the night with you.” This text made my heart stop for a second. Wait, what was this? Was he trying to woo me to get me in bed? Was that what this was because it felt very different to me—deeper—and I thought it felt different to him? I can’t remember exactly what I said but something to the lines of maybe in another life, that would be nice. I felt so drawn to him yet to scared, too. I knew what I was doing was wrong. I could feel myself pulling closer to him. He later clarified that "spend the night with you" meant just spend as much time with me as possible, not necessarily make love. I believed him.
We continued to hang out and I continued to feel his love for me. I even was so bold as to ask him to accompany me to an industry dinner four nights after meeting him. We eventually ended up having a full-on affair that week. I just gave in to my feelings. It was a rush like I’d never felt before. Even my personality changed a bit—I was becoming more direct, less “responsible,” silly, and adventurous. Looking back, I felt like I was sliding down a hill and I couldn’t stop myself and I didn’t want to, either. He shared intimate details about his marriage to the mother of his kids as well as a woman he’d fallen in love with online five years prior but that was waning for him and he admitted he came to the conclusion she wasn’t “the one.” He reiterated I was the one he’d been searching for all over the world.
He told me he loved me and I told him I loved him. He was very “take charge,” as in he was super motivated to not just show me that he had fallen in love with me but show me he cared about my company. He volunteered to help my furniture brand, which was now in limbo. It felt really good to have someone just want to help take over, especially when I was so tired of feeling like it was all on my shoulders. If there was such a thing as magic on all fronts, this is what it felt like. I kept moving my return flight to stay longer. At one point, Scott, my husband, asked on text if I was having an affair. He's quite intuitive and the sheer fact I kept delaying my return was a big sign. I denied it. I was used to denying things to myself, although I felt horrible for doing it and hurting him.
Seven days after heading to High Point Market, I was on my way home thinking about this man that seemed to float into my life like an angel. I knew I didn’t want to lose him but my head was also spinning with what had just happened.
I returned home and acted like everything was normal while I frantically tried to figure out how to handle it all, but Scott could tell it was not OK. Everything had changed overnight, so it seemed to him. I was so scared to turn my life upside down on top of what had already happened career-wise in High Point but I also thought I was in love with another man.
Like most husbands whose wives were gone for a week, after a couple of days of me back home, he wanted to be intimate. I was struggling so much with it but was not ready to tell him what had happened in High Point so I went into smoothing and accommodating mode and gave in. I thought of it as something I just had to do to give me more time. It had been a whirlwind week and my life had just turned upside down. About a week after I got home, I finally mustered the courage to talk to him and tell him I wanted out. It was like I had blinders on; like I was under a spell even. He was in shock and devastated. I felt horrible for him but I couldn’t see anything but moving towards a life with my new love.
I eventually told Robert that I slept with my husband because I just wasn’t ready to blow up his world yet but it had nothing to do with wanting to be with Scott anymore, I reiterated. Robert was not happy—he ultimately felt I had cheated on him with my husband. I carried that with me for three years and it was a source of constant conflict and shaming.
Robert also told his wife that he wanted a divorce—that he had met me—and he also revealed to her his affair with the woman overseas that, up until then, she didn’t know about. He told me she knew he was looking around but that was it. Robert also told the woman overseas about me after we got back from North Carolina. To many, this would have been an obvious red flag, but to me, I believed what he said to me. He truly was looking for me all over the world so his infidelity made sense in a weird way.
We felt like we’d found one another because we were supposed to—it felt written in the stars. This feeling was more powerful than anything I’d ever experienced. We’d found the fairytale.
In actuality, we found three years of extreme highs and extreme lows. Two people who, I believe, truly loved each other but carried wounds from their childhood that were making it impossible to sustain an emotionally stable relationship for long stretches. He felt I had cheated on him with my husband after I came home from Market and couldn’t trust my love was true for him and I was starting to feel controlled and judged, like no matter what I did, it wasn’t good enough.
There’s A LOT more to the story of how we moved forward, triggering one another and opening up old wounds for over three years. Wounds I didn’t even know I had! Our perfect relationship was turning on its head and I know he felt the same way. Little did I know, Little Kiersten—the young child in me who had been abused by her a distant male relative at such a young age—was literally in the driver’s seat, clinging to what she thought felt like love. My adult brain was pushing back, standing up for myself, and saying wait a minute, this doesn’t feel like unconditional love.
The struggle was real—hard times brought pain and confusion and the sense that I needed to suck it up. I had made my bed, right? Plus, I loved him. I loved the man the public sees, and the one that I saw fifty percent of the time behind closed doors. Surely, it could go back to the way it was in the beginning when everything was perfect? I also thought many times that maybe he was right about me. Maybe I do look at men with extended eye contact and I don’t realize it. Maybe I am preying on grieving parents. Maybe I am sick in head. Maybe I don’t work hard enough. Maybe I’ve always been this way but didn’t know it. Maybe there’s a lot I needed to fix that I didn’t see before I met him.
Now, fast forward to a couple weeks ago. I published my blog post talking about the demise of our relationship in response to what he was sharing publicly on social media. He shared a lot with his ‘friends’ that put him in a beautiful, caring, loving light. He's not been shy about sharing his love for me and his disdain for me and how I wrecked the relationship. It’s smart, really. Most of his Facebook fans are women and the last two relationships he’s had with married women, while married, started on Facebook. He looks like the saint, and I was and apparently still am painted as the only sinner. It's ironic because all of the posts cast me as being a liar and insinuate 100% honesty from him.
The post I published on July 2nd hit home with several women Richard had been with and they reached out to me. I quickly realized that the letter he sent and the things he said to me were almost identical to what he had shared with each of them. The same lines and the same songs were shared. I wasn’t the only woman who made him “feel like a teenager.” I wasn’t his only “baby” that he loved #TNF (then, now and forever). And it turns out, the tantric massage he’d talked about with me wasn’t brought up because he’d finally found his true love and he wanted to experience that with me. Nope. It was something he said to women before and after me. And something he professed that he was doing as a side business: tantric massage. Unbeknownst to me, he was already diving head first into dating sites going after other women with the same lines while he was still telling me he loved me and was solely focusing on his children, and he was hoping I would come to my senses and come back to him with apologies and truth. He was waiting for me to change, he said, but he wouldn't wait forever.
Learning all of this was a dagger to the heart, no doubt, but also what I needed to finally let go of hope that what we had was unique and meant for eternity. For the first time since I met him, I truly didn’t know who he was. I was so hurt that what I believed wasn't true. I wanted to believe I was different from the other women.
While I definitely believe that we were supposed to meet and experience all of this together, I now fully recognize that it was for a different purpose than spending our lives together as a couple.
I struggle with balancing knowing the big picture of it all and the purpose behind it and feeling the real emotions of losing someone I loved and more importantly, I thought was real and true.
Through this relationship, I’ve come to learn that the true gift is finally knowing without a doubt what unconditional love feels like from my husband. I have always felt loved for who I am by Scott but it truly took experiencing the opposite of that to help heal Little Kiersten and Big Kiersten. I was finally able to recognize and release the shame I carried my whole life from the abuse I suffered as a child. I wasn’t to blame for what my relative did to me as a young child, and I’m not to blame for 100% everything going pear-shaped with my relationship with Richard or the pitfalls in his life. It turns out, dealing with repression and subconscious programming in my brain is something I was NOT prepared for at all. The programming just stays with you whether you recognize it or not, until you’re triggered. This is something I want to speak about going forward.
So, there you have it. I had an affair. In my mind, it never felt like that because I thought I was moving towards my forever but nonetheless, it was an affair. I truly never thought I would be the woman who goes through something like this, but I most certainly was one. I'm not alone. I'm overwhelmed by how many women I know are coming out of the woodwork with similar stories.
Life is messy. Life is complicated. Life is beautiful. I am grateful for the gifts of love, friendship, and learning and I can't wait to see what this next phase holds for me as a woman who has finally healed from her past.
P.S. I have come to grips with the "whys" of all of this and explained it in a recent blog post: There Are No Coincidences. And I did read this to Scott last night and he's in full support of me telling my truth despite the fact it's so revealing. He's quite an amazing man.
*** PART TWO of this blog is here.
Kiersten Parsons Hathcock