"He Cheats on Me During Business Trips"
"I don't know why I did what I did," said Jack, 42. "I adore Pam and this isn't her fault. After working a 12-hour day on my trips I'd go out to dinner with colleagues or maybe someone I met on the plane. A little too much wine, some flattery.... It's not like I have a mistress; I was not in love with these women. They were one-night stands. I knew it was wrong but I just pushed those thoughts away. It sounds absurd now, but I never worried about getting caught. Being so removed from 'real' life gave me a false sense of anonymity. When Pam found out, it was almost a relief. I've been on a collision course with disaster for a long time.
"I was a Navy brat, the oldest of five kids. I had a hard time making friends when I was a kid since we'd move every two or three years. My dad was very strict, a 'yes sir, no sir' kind of guy. He'd go out to sea for months at a time, so I grew close to my mother. Like Pam's mom, she was an alcoholic who was often out of commission. I pretty much raised my siblings -- changed a lot of diapers, heated up a lot of TV dinners. I was wild in high school, running around with girls and getting mediocre grades. My dad was not pleased and said so in long, disapproving letters.
"I got it together in college. A freshman economics seminar lit a fire in me, and I wound up graduating at the top of my class. I met Pam my junior year. In my family I'd been the odds-on favorite to never get married. But I knew right away that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. She's beautiful, smart, and feisty. It didn't matter at all that she had a child -- I'd been around young kids my whole life and Zoe and I hit it off immediately. Pam and I got married a month after I graduated. Suddenly I was a new dad with a new job. It was intense. But we found a terrific house in a nice neighborhood and life was good. By the time the twins were born I'd risen to an executive position. That's when I started traveling almost every week.
"Maybe it's because I'm away so much, but Pam often treats me like an outsider. She's a wonderful mother, yet it's clear I come last. She makes the rules and I'm expected to stick to them. Only rarely do I get to voice an opinion, whether about bedtimes or curfews. She criticizes me for not spending enough time with the kids or not getting to the long list of chores she wants me to do. I hate to argue, so I tune her out and plow back into work.
"Now I'm filled with regret. The thrill of having a prestigious job faded long ago, and the constant travel has turned me into the same kind of absentee father I had. I'm drained and frustrated, and now I'm in danger of losing the love of my life. I just hope Pam can find a way to forgive me -- though I'm not sure I'll ever forgive myself."