(As told to Avantika Debnath)
(Names changed to protect identities)
Love is perhaps not the beautiful and absolute thing they show in the movies, or we show on our Facebook page, for not a single one of all those 2073 pictures Jia and I have on our profiles would give you a hint of what I am putting up with. None of those pictures would have any suggestion of Sheily, whom I called several times over the vacation I took with my wife, Jia. Don’t get me wrong, all those calls were strictly professional, she was my backup at work while I travelled to hill stations and deserts with Jia. And yet, I awaited her calls restlessly.
Jia and I celebrate our 7th anniversary this year, blessed with the prettiest daughter and the most charming son one could ever wish for. Jia is a perfect wife; I couldn’t have dreamt of anyone better. We dated for over 5 years before tying the knot.
We used to be crazy about each other, I hope we still are, but somewhere deep down I know it’s not the same. I don’t find comfort in her presence anymore.
She chooses to stay unaware of the struggles I put up with all day; I’m quite guilty of being unaware of the details of the life she spends at home too. The little time we get together, we invest in updating each other about the groceries that have run out, the times the boy was being a brat, and how the girl stood first in her class. We know about everything, except each other.
The person who knows me better is my co-worker, Sheily. What she and I have is innocently emotional. The nine hours we share empower us; we take each other through the regular struggles of a regular life, we see through each other, while staying opaque to our respective partners.
I often find myself wondering, if given an opportunity would I go back in time to undo my marriage with Jia, would I pick Sheily instead? No, I wouldn’t, I’m confident. I can’t envision that scene, it’s utter degeneracy. But then what I’ve gotten into isn’t anything better either. Clearly, I’m cheating on my wife – not physically, but emotionally. Is emotional adultery explicable? I don’t think I’d have overlooked if Jia had an ‘emotional affair’. I don’t want to come off as a d**k, and claim that what’s not good for Jia is okay for me, on account of me being the man and the breadwinner.
“Jia, do you have a minute? I have something I want to talk about.”
“Not now Dheeraj, I am cooking.”
I ask her to sit with me again after dinner.
“Not now Dheeraj, I have to cut veggies for breakfast.”
I follow her to the kitchen like a psycho stalker. “I can stand here and talk, right?”
“No, I am watching Balika Vadhu on my phone.”
Related reading: No infidelity, no domestic abuse and yet am lonely in my marriage
I really wanted to speak to her. One of my subordinates was getting promoted, chances were I’d have to report to him. This was killing my male ego. I was debating if I should continue in the firm or take the other offer that placed me on a higher designation, with a salary less than my current one by a few thousands. It was a decision I needed help to arrive at. And so, I called Sheily. It was 10:30 in the night. We spoke for an hour, only about my career choice, nothing else. And still I feel guilt-ridden.
I’ve found in Sheily the woman Jia once used to be, the one who would hear me out, let me vent when I wanted to, and understand me. In these few years, I have witnessed how we have outgrown each other. I miss the old Jia, and I miss the old ‘us’.
I know my wife will never be able to turn herself back into the woman I had once fallen madly in love with. And yet, she’s my wife, the mother of my precious little children and the most wonderful human being I’ve met.
I never want to see her hurt, but I also want this emotional shelter that I’ve found in Sheily, which I’m confident will always be within its limits. Sheily is a moral woman, loyal to her husband, she doesn’t think of me like that – I know. What we have is different, it’s complicated.
I’m in a fix now. Am I being an asshole of a husband? Am I the only one who is suffering this dilemma?