I left my husband and kids at home to go on hot dates in Costa Rica

It was 2am in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle.

I had no phone reception or internet, and the night’s jilted Tinder date was banging on the door of my cabin. I wondered how I managed to get here – as a 40-something married mum-of-two.

‘Please, please, let me in!’ a man hollered outside in Spanish.

A thin glass pane was the only thing separating me from Pablo, 37, a foodie who liked hiking that I’d met just hours before, and the tangled jungle beyond.

Our date had started harmlessly enough. We had a beer in town, and then went back to my cabin to smoke.

We had a laugh, but I wasn’t interested in taking it further. It got late, and I told him to leave. He tried to kiss me, and I demurred. He begged to sleep over. I said no, so he tried to kiss me again. I quickly slid inside the cabin, locking the door behind me, in an attempt to escape.

Here, I’d pinned my hopes on an exotic dating adventure in Costa Rica. Instead, I felt unsafe. I curled tighter in the fetal position in my bed and cursed the heavy rain that had brought down the internet earlier in the day. And I also cursed Tinder.

The previous night, I’d had another bad date with a man named Javier. Handsome and 10 years younger than me, he easily lured me into bed after a beer at the bar.

The experience left me feeling disgusting. Not only was the sex horrible — rushed and focused only on him — but when it was over, he sheepishly admitted he had a girlfriend.

‘Oh, yeah?’ I said. ‘I have a husband.’ 

He gaped at me like I was the sleazy one. ‘We’re separated,’ I said in defense. ‘We’ve agreed to see other people.’

The whole encounter was gross – but in my humiliated state, I decided to blame it all on Tinder. But the truth was, I was the problem. 

I’d come to Costa Rica to figure out my life. I should have been spending the time alone, trying to decide if I wanted to stay married or not. I’d left my two young sons at home so I could spend the summer in Costa Rica, dating men who weren’t my husband in efforts to find the strength to leave my marriage for good.

I know this makes me sound like a terrible person, but I needed to divorce my husband. I was desperately unhappy. 

In a fit of despair, I booked a trip to Costa Rica to get away from him for the summer. Our children would stay with their grandparents while I traveled alone. I was uncomfortable about spending three months away from my kids, but my situation at home was untenable. 

I needed a break, to figure out my life. My seeming act of ‘selfishness’ was really one of self-preservation. I’d sacrificed my needs for the good of the family for far too long. 

I thought I was doing the right thing by my children by staying with my husband. I just ended up miserable with low self-esteem, and traveling to Costa Rica alone was my way of saving myself. That, at least, had been the intent. 

But now I’d found myself in this dangerous situation with Pablo in the aftermath of a depressing hook-up with Javier. Luckily, after 15 minutes, Pablo eventually stopped banging on the cabin’s front door. 

At first, I thought it was exciting to be talking to men in the wake of separating from my husband. I was getting back in the game. Even better, I was getting back in the game in Costa Rica. It sounded like paradise.

But the experience with Pablo was a wake-up call. I ditched Tinder and spent the next few days hiking the jungle, pretending I was in my twenties again. That was how old I was when I started traveling the world by myself. 

It wasn’t long though before I remembered I was 42 and felt like I’d ruined my life. Soon, I was horny, and bored  again. I got back on Tinder.

I had mindless conversations with Costa Rican men who mostly just wanted to sext. We could hardly get through ‘hello, how are you?’ before they would admit they had a hard-on and ask what I was wearing. The experience left me feeling pathetic, but I was lonely.

A couple of days later, my luck changed. I matched with a pharmacist named Francisco. He drove me to a gated community and we snuck in through a hole in the fence. We walked through a park to a lake where we canoodled, listening to the squawks of exotic birds. 

For the first time since I arrived in Costa Rica, I felt grateful for Tinder. I never would have seen this place had Francisco not brought me.

Francisco and I had a nice time, but I knew I’d never see him again. We didn’t really click, but that was OK.

The following day, I met with another man named Alberto who drove me to a swanky part of San Jose. We had coffee, and once again I felt thankful for the experience. I never would have visited that part of town had this man not taken me there. 

If Tindering in Costa Rica wasn’t panning out to be hot and sexy, at least it could be informative. 

Soon, I had a massive stroke of luck that made me glad I hadn’t given up on trying to meet men on the app. I matched with a man my age named Rafael who would ultimately become my summer boyfriend. As soon as we met, we were smitten and spent every waking moment together. 

We had wonderful conversations over delicious meals he cooked. Through him, I met all kinds of people I otherwise never would’ve crossed paths with – directors, artists, writers, and dancers. We attended parties and went to nightclubs in San Jose together. When my return date neared, he asked me to bring my children back to San Jose so we could live with him. 

As inviting as that sounded, it just wasn’t practical. I was married. Besides, I knew that even if I did get a divorce, my husband would never let me take our children to live abroad. 

It was nice to dream, though. It was exciting to feel like somebody loved me enough to want to be with me forever. I promised Rafael I’d return to Costa Rica soon to visit him, but I knew that would be difficult. I was a mom. I had duties. I’d probably never see him again. 

When I finally returned home, I arrived refreshed with a renewed understanding of myself. I finally felt strong enough to confront the problems in my life and told my husband I wanted a divorce.

Within days of leaving my husband and setting up my own separate household, I became happier. As a result, my children became happier, too. 

Only by ‘selfishly’ putting myself first could I become a better mum and a happier person. And I can thank my summer of dating abroad for helping me get there – both the Pablos, and the Rafaels.

So, How Did It Go?

So, How Did It Go? is a weekly Metro.co.uk series that will make you cringe with second-hand embarrassment or ooze with jealousy as people share their worst and best date stories.

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