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By Elise G. McIntosh/Staten Island Advance
on September 24, 2013 at 7:27 AM, updated September 24, 2013 at 8:11 AM
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first story in a two-part series on infidelity. Next week in the Relationships section: How to mend a marriage after an affair has been exposed.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The idea of having an affair used to freak out Nicole — not so much the guilt of betraying her husband of 10 years, but the “how to do it” without getting caught.
After years of successfully sneaking around, meeting lovers clandestinely several times a month, the 33-year-old says she’s an “expert” at covering her tracks, that it’s now all “second nature.”
“I thought it’d be harder, but it’s just not in my case,” she confides frankly, explaining, “You get very good at rearranging your life.”
Nicole, who wouldn’t share many personal details other than that she lives upstate and works in accounting, does have it easier than most in hiding her infidelity. Her husband travels a lot for work — the very reason, she says, she strayed in the first place.
Like millions of married folks hunting for extramarital sex, Nicole created a profile on Ashley Madison (AM), a popular dating service for discreet, no-strings-attached encounters. She instantly was inundated with messages from married men, meeting a select few in person….
Mainly, she rendezvous with them when her husband is out of town, though she has sneaked in a few dates when the hubby has a business meeting or a night out with the boys.
“Very regimented” about her cheating routine, Nicole says she never meets any men in her hometown — always at a restaurant or hotel outside of her vicinity, to avoid the risk of bumping into anyone she might know.
She corresponds with them through an anonymous e-mail account and a prepaid cell phone she bought with cash. Never bringing the phone into the house, it remains in her desk drawer at work and only is taken out when scheduling a date.
TECHNOLOGY AS AN ACCOMPLICE
Spouses be warned: Technology is making it much easier to conduct an affair than a couple decades ago, says Noel Biderman, founder of AM.
Forget about when a man had to rely on “the pretense of walking the dog to use the pay phone to call his mistress,” he says. These days, connecting with a secret love is “just a text message away.”
Scared a snooping spouse might find that incriminating text? Use the app Snapchat, which automatically deletes text messages seconds after they’re opened.
Want to leave your paramour a message without raising his/her spouse’s suspicions over a mysterious missed call? The app Slydial can connect you directly to his/her voicemail.
Biderman points out that unlike workplace affairs that usually get messy once the relationship sours, dating sites like AM that cater to married folks add a layer of discretion, as it’s strangers meeting like-minded strangers.
He also notes that all personal details on AM are kept “completely anonymous,” and the billing is discreet.
Nicole herself doesn’t have to worry about bills from AM, as women don’t pay unless they wish to meet other women. But, she does have a secret bank account where her paramours occasionally deposit money for gifts.
NO MONEY TRAIL
Dr. Charley Ferrer, a relationship and intimacy expert, formerly based in West Brighton and now in Manhattan, hears that another trick cheaters use to pay for the costs associated with an affair — motel, dinner, lingerie, gifts and such — is purchasing gift cash cards available at grocery store checkout lines.
Unless a spouse is vigilant about reviewing grocery receipts, “It’s really easy to hide [the purchase],” she says, since it doesn’t leave a record of a peculiar transaction on a bank or credit card statement.
Dr. Ferrer, who counsels many couples trying to repair their relationship after an affair has been exposed, says technology isn’t only enabling cheaters but tempting them, too.
Chat rooms and social networks entice the sexually unsatisfied to fulfill their fantasies online. And once they pull off a small act of infidelity, like flirting with an old flame on Facebook, it becomes easier to up the ante.
“They feel like they are getting away with it,” she explains, so the behavior “continues to escalate.”
On the flip side, Biderman believes that modern-day tools also make cheaters “more lackadaisical.” They see how easy it is and thus become careless about covering up tracks.
Men especially are more prone to getting caught, he says, noting women are “more methodical” and “think it through.”
Biderman notes the average life span of an affair is usually three to six months — that’s about when the infatuation fizzles and the lying gets old. He says cheaters grow tired of “having to compartmentalize everything and creating a secondary persona.”
Nicole believes it’s because she has not created another persona that she’s able to pull off her own infidelity for so long.
“I’m pretty much the same person on the site,” she explains, so “it doesn’t hinder what I’m like at home.”
She says she and her husband rarely fight and continue to have sex, though less frequently than in previous years.
Nicole explains she hasn’t told a soul at work about her extramarital activities, but has confided in a few trusted girlfriends, who occasionally help her with an alibi.
She was nearly caught, just once — when her husband panicked because he couldn’t get a hold of her one night and they got into an argument. Nicole lied and told him she was at the movies with a friend, who really had gone. The next day, she got the ticket stub to use as “evidence.”
“It’s a lesson learned,” Nicole says of the close call, explaining she since has tweaked her strategy.
The thought has crossed her mind that her husband also may be cheating, but she doesn’t dwell on it. If true, she knows, “I can’t really be mad.”
Insisting her husband “knows nothing,” Nicole still is realistic about the fact “there can be just one time” when her web of lies all comes crashing down. But “for now, it works.”