PJ McDowell didn't exactly have the best reasons for getting married ("I was tired of being single and enduring a succession of short-term flings"), so it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that, 20 years into his marriage, he met another woman, fell madly in love, had a baby with her, and kept the whole thing a secret from his family. What does come as a surprise, however—to McDowell, at least—is the fact that the situation imploded, turning from "a romantic dream" into a nightmare, and turning his lover, Lisa, from a "goddess" into "the archetypal American female." (To McDowell, who grew up in the UK, that is not a good thing.)
He recounts the experience in Salon, noting that throughout the whole ordeal, his main concern was not hurting his kids—which is why he didn't leave his wife. "Wasn't I taking the ethical road—putting my desires and dreams second, even if others disapproved, even if it meant Lisa and I only got to see each other a few days during the month?" Surprisingly, the arrangement worked—at least, for the first year of their child's life. Then the financial crisis hit, leaving McDowell unable to pay child support on time. In return, Lisa began demanding more of his time and attention, and the downward spiral began. (One particularly telling line: "Suggestions that she date or find a boyfriend were treated as insults.") Click to read McDowell's entire essay.