The marriage that survived HIS affair but was destroyed by HERS: Sarah and Tony both cheated. But their break-up proves the sexes have very different attitudes to infidelity

I came to the realisation (not the hard way) long ago that tit for tat never solves anything and certainly not relationship blunders. Regardless who it is trying to take revenge, ironically the person who drew fist blood always takes it far more personal when they get to be on the receiving end of the same treatment they freely mete out to their so-called loved one.

Take this case for instance, the man cheated not once but twice. Perhaps that’s why he also summoned the courage to forgive her when she strayed albeit in revenge. It was the lady in question who could not forgive herself and get on with the business of trying to rebuild the marriage. Hmmm.

In my view, if your partner cheats and you can’t handle it, walk away. Don’t cheat back. Not only is it childish, it tends to backfire every time even if your partner does not know. The fact that you know what you have done can give you sleepless nights (if you have a conscience) and take all pleasure out of the so called fling. In the end is it really worth the trouble ? No.


  • Sarah and Tony met and married in their  earlier twenties
  • He cheated after they had a  baby
  • He said fatherhood was ‘more oppressive’  than he realised
  • When Sarah discovered his affair she  forgave him
  • But years later he cheated  again
  • She sought a fling to pay him  back
  • Now the trust is gone on both sides  they’ve split up
  • Experts agree emotional turmoil caused by  a wife cheating can be greater
  • Both admit the thrill of an affair wasn’t  worth what they have lost

By  Antonia Hoyle

When Sarah and Tony Fulcher talk about the  end of their marriage, their regret is palpable. She says that she still loves  him, which reduces him to painful sobbing.

‘I still love Sarah and will never get over  throwing away the life we shared,’ he says.

So, if the emotional ties are intact, what  drove this couple apart? Superficially, the answer seems to be depressingly  commonplace: infidelity. Recent research shows cheating occurs in over 40 per  cent of marriages.

Broken marriage: Sarah and Tony Fulcher still love each other, but all trust has been lostBroken marriage: Sarah and Tony Fulcher still love each  other, but all trust has been lost


What makes this couple different, however, is  that it wasn’t Tony’s two flings, but Sarah’s ‘revenge affair’ that finally  ended their relationship.

What their sorry story highlights is that  while many believe a man can cheat and think it ‘means nothing’, as Tony himself  says, when a woman strays there is often a more powerful motive behind it.

The emotional turmoil caused by a wife  cheating can be far greater and, as many experts agree, it is harder to save the  marriage.

Sarah and Tony, who are both single three  years after their split, have been left with nothing but bitter regret and a  profound sense of loss. Their sons, Jake, 13, and Ashton, six, have had to  adjust to being brought up in a broken home.

Young love: The couple met when they were both 22Young love: The couple met when they were both  22


The couple started dating in November 1998  when they were both 22 after meeting through friends.

Sarah was drawn to Tony’s sense of humour and  the fact he was ‘endearingly shy’ when he was with her.

The relationship progressed quickly, with  Tony moving into Sarah’s two-bedroom home in Reading, Berks, within months.

‘Not only did I fancy him like mad, but I  felt far more relaxed with him than I had with previous boyfriends,’ says  Sarah.

‘I started staying late at  work and went out more as a means of escape. I found myself flirting with female  friends. I just wanted to feel like myself again’

She proposed the following spring, with two  dozen red roses and a note asking: ‘Will you marry me?

She insists Tony wasn’t rushed into marriage:  he got down on one knee in front of their family and friends at their engagement  party.

‘My parents have been happily married for 38  years and I wanted the same,’ says Sarah, now 37. ‘I’d been brought up to think  marriage was for life and I took the commitment incredibly  seriously.’

Tony says: ‘Sarah was the love of my life. I  was besotted by her ditsy charm and beauty, and had no intention of being with  another woman.

‘Nor could I cope with the idea of her with  another man. I told her at the start of our relationship that if either of us  cheated then it would be over.’

They planned to have a baby and within months  Sarah was pregnant. They married a month before Jake was born.

Commitment: After Sarah initially proposed, Tony went down on one knee at their engagement partyCommitment: After Sarah initially proposed, Tony went  down on one knee at their engagement party


Perfect start: They tied the knot and had their first babyPerfect start: They tied the knot and had their first  baby


For the first few weeks, everything was  perfect. They left love notes to each other around the house. Tony ran Sarah  candlelit baths and made her ice-cream.

‘I was exhausted by the demands of looking  after a newborn, but I still tried to be the perfect wife,’ says Sarah.

‘Tony was working for a building company and  every evening I’d greet him, carefully made-up, with a home-cooked meal on the  table. I didn’t want to be one of those wives who let themselves  go.’

But within three months of Jake’s birth in  July 2000, Tony was struggling to adjust to life as a father.

‘Fatherhood was far more oppressive than I’d  envisaged,’ he says. ‘We felt more like co-workers than husband and wife.

‘I started staying late at work and went out  more as a means of escape. I found myself flirting with female friends. I just  wanted to feel like myself again.’

‘A slim brunette sidled up  to me in the bar and asked me to dance. I was too flattered to  refuse’

One Saturday in September 2001, Tony didn’t  return home after a night out until 4am.

‘I lay awake until I heard his key in the  lock. As he got into bed, I could smell his breath was heavy with alcohol and I  knew there was no point in trying to talk to him,’ says Sarah.

‘The next morning, before he left for  football training, he kissed me with an urgency I’d never felt before. I was hit  with the awful, instinctive realisation that he’d cheated on me.’

The wife of one of Tony’s friends phoned  Sarah to tell her he’d met a woman in a bar and had ‘been all over  her’.

‘I felt stupid, angry and confused,’ says  Sarah. ‘I confronted him straight away and he admitted he’d kissed her, but said  nothing else had happened.’

It is only now, 12 years on, that Tony  finally admits the truth.

‘A slim brunette sidled up to me in the bar  and asked me to dance. I was too flattered to refuse. To my great shame, we  started kissing and went on to have sex.’

He insists it ‘meant nothing and I didn’t  particularly enjoy it’.

Marital therapist Andrew G. Marshall, the  author of How Can I Ever Trust You Again?, says husbands straying after their  wife has had a baby is not unusual.

Shock to the system: Tony admits fatherhood was tougher than he expected and he and Sarah became more like 'co-workers' than man and wifeShock to the system: Tony admits fatherhood was tougher  than he expected and he and Sarah became more like ‘co-workers’ than man and  wife


‘Men tend to feel isolated at this point, but  they don’t air their feelings,’ he says.

‘When another woman shows them the attention  they crave, one thing can lead to another. They don’t set out to cheat: it’s a  knee-jerk reaction.’

Though she stormed out of the house after  Tony’s confession, Sarah thought twice about ending their marriage.

‘Common sense took hold. We had a  14-month-old baby, so I had to try to make it work,’ she says. ‘When I returned home, Tony was full of apologies and  told me he still loved me.’

Sarah tried to forgive and forget, but  admits: ‘I felt too disgusted to have sex with him – the thought of another  woman’s hands on his body made me feel sick.’

 ‘When we made love I  was sure he was  thinking of someone else. I drove him to and from work. I  confiscated  his phone. I hated the way I was behaving, but couldn’t help  it’

This lack of physical intimacy compounded the  marriage crisis. Within five years, Tony had slipped up again, blaming his  wife’s continued rejection.

‘It boils down to feeling desired again for  the first time in years,’ he says. ‘A woman at work started flirting with me and  though I didn’t find her attractive it was a thrill after having been rebuffed  by Sarah for so long.’

Again, Andrew G. Marshall says this isn’t  unusual: ‘Men equate love with sex. If they aren’t having sex, they don’t feel  loved, so they’re less likely to feel that they want to be in the relationship.’

Tony swears the betrayal was confined to  explicit text messages – ‘I sent them when Sarah was asleep or I was in a  meeting; any time I needed a boost to my battered self-esteem’ – but he couldn’t  convince his wife it had not gone any further.

Her suspicions having been alerted by him  wearing a new aftershave and insisting on keeping his mobile in his pocket, she  had managed to get hold of his phone and so discovered the texts.

‘There was a message from someone describing  how wonderful kissing Tony felt. Stunned, I called the number. A well-spoken  woman answered. I hung up, furious.’

She confronted Tony and though he admitted to  flirting, he insisted nothing physical had happened.

Sarah didn’t believe him. She kicked him out,  bundled his clothes into bin bags and flung them in a skip.

Thrill: He couldn't resist when women flirted with him but Sarah forgave his two affairsThrill: He couldn’t resist when women flirted with him  but Sarah forgave his two affairs


‘On the way home from throwing away his stuff  I tore off my diamond engagement ring and hurled it out of the car window.  I stamped on his phone and threw it down  the toilet. I was furious, but utterly numb with shock.’

Tony says being thrown out was a wake-up  call: ‘For the first time I was filled with remorse for the way I’d behaved  since we married.

‘All I could do was obsess over Sarah, Jake  and the family life I hadn’t realised I would miss until it was too late. I was  overwhelmed by a sense of failure.’

He begged Sarah to take him back.

‘I was torn,’ says Sarah. ‘Tony seemed to be  making an effort to sort himself out. He appeared to be genuinely sorry. But how  could I be sure he wouldn’t do it again?’

‘Any satisfaction that I’d  given Tony a taste of his medicine was over-ridden by revulsion at my own  behaviour’

Six months later, she decided to take him  back. Within two months, she was pregnant with Ashton.

This time Tony worked hard to be a better  father, making sure he was home for bath and bedtime. But Sarah found it hard to  trust him.

‘If Tony came home late I’d panic,’ she says.  ‘When we made love I was sure he was thinking of someone else. I drove him to  and from work. I confiscated his phone. I hated the way I was behaving, but  couldn’t help it.’

Then she says that something inside her  snapped: she found herself longing to pay back Tony.

‘I wanted to feel the excitement he’d got  from other women,’ she says. ‘And I wanted him to suffer as I  had.’

So, she set out to have an affair – which  would prove to be the final straw for their marriage.

It started with Sarah responding to flirty  messages on Facebook in early 2008.

‘James and I met through mutual friends,’  says Sarah. ‘He’d moved away from Reading a few years earlier, so the distance  made flirting feel safe.

‘I confided in him about my problems with  Tony. He built up my confidence and soon every time I went online and saw a  message from him my stomach flipped.’

Weeks later the inevitable happened when  Sarah ‘bumped into’ James on a rare night out with friends. She insists she  hadn’t known he would be in town.

They ended up going for dinner and, as she  says, ’emboldened by drink’, Sarah agreed to go back with him to his friend’s  house.

No going back: The mother believes her revenge affair was the final nail in the coffin to end their relationshipNo going back: The mother believes her revenge affair  was the final nail in the coffin to end their relationship

Echoing her husband’s words when he described  his affairs, she says: ‘For a fleeting moment I felt vibrant and free.’ But she  adds: ‘In bed, the feel of another man’s skin on my own was wrong. As soon as it  was over I fled. I wept the whole taxi journey home.

‘The next morning I didn’t feel powerful;  just dirty and ashamed. When Tony asked me where I’d been, I lied. I said I’d  fallen asleep on my friend’s sofa. But I could tell he didn’t believe  me.’

Later that afternoon, Sarah logged onto  Facebook at her mother’s house to warn James that Tony was suspicious. As she  did so, her mobile rang.

‘It was Tony,’ she says. ‘He’d logged on to  my Facebook page using my name and password and had accessed all my messages to  James.’

Back home, there was yet another  confrontation. This time it was Sarah apologising, but she still threw in the  jibe: ‘At least now you know how I felt.’

But far from enjoying her revenge, all she  felt was distress. ‘Any satisfaction that I’d given Tony a taste of his medicine  was over-ridden by revulsion at my own behaviour,’ she says.

Andrew G. Marshall says female infidelity  tends to seem more calculated because women don’t act on impulse as much as men  do.

‘Women tend to flag up their unhappiness over  and over before doing anything drastic,’ he says. ‘When  they’re repeatedly ignored, they reach a point of desperation and that’s when  they might cheat. Essentially, men and women cheat for the same reason: they  feel undervalued.’

Marshall says much of his work involves  trying to help victims of infidelity not to have revenge affairs like Sarah’s.

‘Soldiering on without examining your  feelings is the worst thing you can do. People try to bury their resentment, but  it only explodes later on,’ he says.

‘They then tend to feel so bad they’ll do  anything to make themselves feel better – someone else wanting you feels like  the answer.’

Angry as he was at his wife’s cheating, Tony  was keen to give their ailing marriage yet another try, but Sarah couldn’t  forgive herself. Her fling proved to be the death knell for their relationship  and they split for good in April 2010.

Tony moved out, finding a home nearby where  he could look after their sons three days a week.

According to Andrew G. Marshall, one reason  why it’s harder for a marriage to survive a wife’s affair is because men give up  more easily.

Paying the  price

After an affair has been  discovered, just one in three marriages will survive, according to relationship  experts

‘Generally, if a man says he’s not  interested, but the wife wants to continue, she will fight to persuade him. If  the reverse happens, the husband tends to take his wife at her word and walk  away.

‘Interestingly, in this case, Sarah couldn’t  forgive herself, but her husband could. Considering they have children together  and say they still love each other, perhaps they should ask each other how they  could do it differently.’

But three years on, neither has moved on.  While Sarah has been on a few dates, she says she feels ‘too bruised and  distrustful’ to embark on another relationship.

Tony says: ‘Any momentary excitement my  affairs afforded me were simply not worth it. If  I hadn’t done what I did there’s no way Sarah would have cheated on me and we’d  still be together.’

Sarah says that though they are friends there  is no chance of reconciliation and they plan to divorce when Ashton is old  enough to understand.

‘We are proof that no marriage can survive  when the trust has been broken both ways,’ she says. ‘After I cheated, there was  just no going back.’

Some names have been  changed.

Culled from

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