The profile read, simply: ‘Mike S, 45’. It took me a moment to realise that the screenshot of a Tinder dating profile that my friend Emma* had sent me showed my husband, Mike*. There he was, standing with his pride-and-joy Jaguar saloon, looking for a date. Stunned and shaking, I ran out of my office into the toilets, just as my phone pinged again. It was Emma. ‘Sorry for the shock, but is this your Mike?’ I slumped to the cubicle floor and threw up.
Mike and I were very much still together, with two beautiful children, aged nine and 12. We’d been happily married for 16 years, or so I thought.
We first met in our late 20s through mutual friends, in the days before Tinder and ‘hook-up’ culture. Our first date was in a pub with a few beers and two years later we were engaged. We were happy enough – no grand gestures but no blazing rows, either – and Mike made me laugh.
I always thought I was lucky to have found him. While a single friend dated cheater after cheater, Mike was one of the decent ones. Granted, our relationship came under strain when our youngest arrived.
Suddenly, life turned into a carousel of packed lunches and school kits, with Mike, a recruiter, logging back on to work emails after the kids were in bed. With our finances stretched, we couldn’t afford our usual exotic holidays. Meanwhile, our sex life became almost non-existent; Mike joked that we were having our own ‘sex recession’.
In the days after I received the text from Emma, I said nothing about it to Mike; in fact, we barely spoke at all. We’d dance around each other performing our nightly chores and when he asked why I was quiet, I’d mutter ‘it’s nothing’. But inside I was furious. Why would he risk signing up to Tinder? Our kids used his phone, I paid bills on his internet banking app.
Did he secretly hope to be found out? It made me feel angry and worthless yet I was too scared to confront him. What if he’d met someone?
Things came to a head a week later when Mike spontaneously bought a bike for our son, taking us into our overdraft. ‘There’s no bloody surprise you don’t talk to me about anything when you’re fishing for women online,’ I screamed that night when the kids were in bed, throwing my phone at him.
He burbled apologies, immediately admitting he’d downloaded the Tinder app hoping for an ego boost, after we’d rowed about money. He explained he’d started creating a ‘profile’ but swore he’d never finished it, nor sent messages to any women. He’d forgotten it was even on his phone. ‘I’m a bloody idiot,’ he pleaded. I believed him. He handed over his phone for me to delete the app.
For the first time, Mike also told me how he really felt in our marriage: invisible. ‘Like a lump who empties the dishwasher and brings in a wage.’ When I calmed down, I realised I felt the same. Trapped by the work-housework cycle, we’d lost sight of each other and ourselves.
It took a while to fully trust him again but in the six months since, we’ve been on ‘date nights’, we went to Barcelona as a couple, and we’ve become more honest about our insecurities and hopes. Plus, we’re more touchy-feely (to our kids’ dismay).
The downside is that I’ve fallen out with Emma and another friend who told me I’d be ‘a fool’ to stay with Mike. I am a fool – but not for sticking it out in my marriage. I’m a fool for almost letting the everyday grind wreck the love Mike and I once had.
As told to Sally Howard. Getty Images. *Names have been changed. Photo posed by model
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