Ryan Giggs agreed he “wanted to have his cake and eat it” as he continued to live at the family home while he was having an affair with PR executive Kate Greville.
Giving evidence at Manchester Crown on Tuesday, the ex-Manchester United footballer said he met his now ex-wife Stacey at a barbecue when he was 18.
They started a relationship in his late 20s and moved to Worsley and had a daughter and a son.
As he got to know Ms Greville – who he is accused of assaulting and using controlling and coercive behaviour against – he said she began to open up about how unhappy she was with her marriage.
Mr Giggs (48) said at that stage he was not as happy as he had been with his marriage.
Ms Greville (38) went on to leave her husband, Mr Giggs said, but he stayed at home with Stacey and the children.
His barrister, Chris Daw QC, asked: “Was there any discussions about your intentions as far as your marriage?”
Mr Giggs said: “By this time the relationship had got more and more serious. We were falling in love with each other.
“I had spoken to Kate of moving out of the house and us being together.”
Mr Daw said: “Did you move out of the family house immediately after?”
Mr Giggs said: “It was some time later. I would say it was about a year after Kate left.”
Mr Daw asked: “Why was it that you did not leave your wife straight away?”
Mr Giggs said: “Me and my ex-wife, we had problems. I cheated on my ex-wife which was quite a public affair.
“We got over that and things were good.
“It was a point in my life where I was just finishing football and going into a coaching career. Longer hours. More time away from Stacey. More time away from the family.
“I was not giving Stacey the attention she deserved. Gradually we were getting more and more unhappy.
“Together with Kate it was becoming more and more difficult.”
Mr Daw said: “Cutting to the chase, did you, in a sense, want to have your cake and eat it?”
Mr Giggs replied: “Yes.”
Mr Daw said: “You then finally brought the relationship with Stacey to an end?”
Mr Giggs said: “It was a press article where I was linked with Kate. She (Stacey) questioned me about it. I denied it.”
He said it was “hard” to leave the family home as he first went to live nearby with his mother before he stayed in an apartment in Salford Quays with a friend.
Mr Daw asked: “Was it an amicable situation with Stacey or was it challenging?”
Mr Giggs said: “No, I would say challenging.”