How Dora’s Affair Started

I am going to see Every Other Couple at the Hot Docs Festival today. This documentary from Finland profiles couples who vowed to be together forever but are now picking up the pieces after their divorce. A number of years ago, I interviewed Dora (not her real name) for some research I was doing.  It is another case study of the harsh realities of too many marriages.


Dora (not her real name) came to Canada a decade ago from Spain. She married Steven when she was 22 and he was 26. They separated six years later. She had two affairs during their marriage. She is now in her early 30’s, divorced and living with a much younger partner. They have “theoretically” agreed to an open relationship.

My Interview

You married Steven quite young, at 22. What did you expect your faithfulness deal to be?
My intention was to be monogamous. I believe that having an affair is betraying someone. Trust and also honour were important for my husband. He had lived with another woman before me, and was cheated on.

Were you happy in your faithfulness deal?
I hadn’t had much sexual experience before Steven. I always thought of marriage as a union, and being able to explore sex together. But my sex life wasn’t great. Steven always found an excuse not to have sex. We were only having sex once a month even though we were both in our 20’s. He was very athletic—he worked construction, was a really good snowboarder and worked out at the gym a lot—but never made time for me. I was always wanting it. I eventually told him that if he continued to neglect me that I might cheat on him. But he didn’t think I was serious.

How did this make you feel?
I would feel bitter and insecure. I was always asking him, “Why?” I told him that it wasn’t normal and that this wasn’t right. But he would just laugh it off, and think it wasn’t such a big deal. He actually denied that we were having sex so infrequently. I became very confused. I was pretty young so I didn’t know how it was supposed to be, but I knew that I was horny. I would listen to my friends talk about how their husbands wouldn’t leave them alone and I thought, “Damn, I wish that would happen to me.”

How long did you remain faithful?
We started to fight a lot. Our bad sex life started to affect other parts of our relationship. In our fourth year of marriage I went on a holiday by myself back to Spain. I had an affair. It was random. I wouldn’t have had an affair in Canada behind his back, but it was far away and the opportunity was there. I just wanted to have sex.

What happened when you got back?
I got home and Steven surprised me with new furniture! It looked like he was making an effort. I thought things were getting better but they got worse. I went on holidays again without him a couple years later, and had another affair. After that I just couldn’t have sex with my husband. I couldn’t picture myself continuing to lie.

Do you regret not disclosing your affairs?
Looking back, I wouldn’t tell him unless he asked me. If he had asked, I would have been honest. Steven is egocentric and I never wanted to hurt his ego. I don’t feel guilty about cheating because I forewarned him. I had to lie to cover it up, but I never felt good about that.

Are you in a relationship now?
I was single for four years after Steven and I split up. I did a lot of self-discovery, yoga, and Kabbalah. I wanted to become a centered human being before I committed to someone else. I turned 30, got a job and felt stronger. I have now been living with someone for two years. Ben is 12 years younger than me—I’m now 34 and he is 22.

Do you have a different relationship deal with Ben than you had with Steven?
We had a discussion at the beginning of our relationship about faithfulness. He is very open-minded. He is ok with me having sex with someone else as long as I tell him first. And I told him that I also wouldn’t mind if he had sex with someone else if he was away, or if I was away. I told him that I would prefer not to know though about any affair.

Do you have any rules in the event of an affair?
Sex with anyone else has to be protected sex. We don’t share the money we earn right now, but if we did share our income in the future I wouldn’t be ok if it went to his mistress, especially if we have kids.

Now that you have been together a couple years, have your expectations changed?
At the beginning I was more open. I actually never thought our relationship would go far. I just thought it would be a long-term affair. Now that we are more serious, I feel more attached. I feel suspicious all the time. I always ask him who he is texting and check his phone. Ben has never given me a reason to be suspicious; I’m just being crazy. Even though I said at the beginning that I wouldn’t want to know about an affair, I would expect him to tell me now. It’s confusing.

Do you think Ben would be jealous if you actually did sleep with someone else?
We were at a party a while ago and I pointed out a guy who I found attractive. Ben suggested we should have a threesome. This made me feel good. I know I have my freedom to be with other people, but I don’t need to take advantage of it because I get everything I want at home.

But it doesn’t sound like you are ok with Ben sleeping with someone else?
It matters to me that he is not cheating. I know I am being selfish, and it is an ego thing. I know I would be very emotional if I found out. If I found out he was having an affair it would make me stressed and paranoid. I would wonder whether I was good enough. He tells me that he has never been with anyone else. Like I said, I told him I would be ok with him having an affair when we started to date but now I have more feelings. If I did find out that he was cheating I would confront him, and decide where to from here. It’s a dead-end situation because while I say I am ok with him being with someone else I don’t think I could handle it.

Where do you see this relationship going?
Ben is really young. He’s only 22 so isn’t ready to think about children. He can’t afford a family. But my bio clock is different and I want a child. He thinks maybe I should find a partner who can give me that rather than keeping me hanging. I don’t want to lose a good relationship to find someone with whom to have a child. I would love to have a family with him but maybe that’s not realistic. If we did decide to get married I would re-negotiate our “open” relationship. I don’t want to think that far into the future.

Photo credit: Adriana Velasquez – (

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