Between the other board I read and a recent blog post I read on WordPress I’ve come to the conclusion that most of the population is fairly stupid and naive when it comes to infidelity.
I was reading not that long ago a post from a woman who made the edgy, “unpopular” proclamation that infidelity was not a deal breaker in her marriage. Both she and her husband agreed it was no reason to divorce (you have to put that “one mistake” up against the entire relationship, dontchaknow?); furthermore, they both agreed they would never confess if they did cheat because confessing was for the cheater and only burdened the betrayed spouse.
Oh, there was plenty of talk about how she wouldn’t be surprised if he had already cheated because the statistics say everyone does it, or at least the majority of people do it. Plus, they’ve been together for more than thirty years so why would she throw that away for one little indiscretion?
On the other board one of the women who had in fact been cheated on (repeatedly) by her current husband made the comment that she realized her husband was a “flawed human being seeking to have basic physical needs met.” That didn’t mean he didn’t love her. He absolutely did. This same person insists that there is an entire cultural attitude that applauds those who kick out the cheater and berate or shame those that try to work it out.
There were a few women who talked about how much work goes into restoring a relationship after it’s been rocked by infidelity. There were many kudos given for those who do the “hard work” of rebuilding trust and working through it.
I was especially shocked by the stance of one poster that I admire. Her husband had cheated on her, purposely got the AP pregnant, and eventually moved in with her. He also had no intentions of ever filing for divorce. In his world he was perfectly content to remain married while shacking up with his AP and love child.. She said this about her own daughters facing infidelity in their marriage: I would want my daughters to think deeply before they get a divorce. There are worse things than a “moment of indiscretion.” If my daughter was convinced that the husband was truly sorry and truly loved her, I could understand why she would give her husband a second chance.
I shake my head as I read all of this. There are several problems with these lines of thinking.
The biggest lie is that affairs are just about sex. No, affairs are about lies and deception. You don’t make a mistake when you cheat on your partner. You make a series of mistakes, generally dozens, when you cheat on your partner. There is the choice to chat up a co-worker or friend. The choice to continue on with all of that when you know you are playing with fire. There are the lies to cover your tracks. There are the lies to explain your absences. Then there is the sexual act itself. That’s followed by all the lies and deception used to cover up what you just did. Followed by more lies so you can do it again.
I would love to ask the writer of the blog who declared infidelity not a deal breaker in her marriage if losing a baby due her spouse’s infidelity might be a deal breaker. How about if you were diagnosed with an incurable STD? There are several readers over on Chump Lady who’ve actually been given HPV which has led to cancer. Would that be a deal breaker or is that another thing you would need to put up against your thirty wonderful years together? How about if you found out your husband and his mistress were slowly poisoning you? Is that a deal breaker or are you still going to try to work things out? What about if you found out your spouse was draining marital accounts to fund the affair? What if they “loaned” money to the affair partner? What if your spouse bought phones for, and then allowed you to get online and pay the cell phone bill for your “in-laws”, only you find out two months later you’ve been paying the cell phone bill for his mistress and her daughter? Are we still overlooking all of this because, you know, it’s just sex? Is the long history together still winning out over all this douche-y behavior?
Unfortunately, many times it’s not a simple matter of some horny person out there fucking whatever moves. Many, many times, if not most of the time, affairs involve financial deception as well. “I’m sending my mom money for groceries! I’ve got a ‘business trip’ next weekend. I’m ‘investing’ in a friend’s company.” They involve gas lighting and mind fucking. “I’m not having an affair. You’re crazy! When you don’t trust me it leads me to want to actually do what you’re accusing me of! I would never cheat on you! You and the kids mean everything to me. I swear on our children’s lives I’m not cheating. Maybe you’re the cheater and you’re projecting on to me.”
Go read the comments sometime on Chump Lady. You will find person after person who has been left financially destitute after being cheated on and left. Accounts drained (hello!). Houses foreclosed on (hello!). Support withheld (hi again!). Businesses devalued. Money given to or spent on the AP. Signatures forged. Credit card debt run up. Money hidden. It’s not just sex. It is a far reaching plan to deceive and destroy another person.
As for this idea that a cheater is simply a “flawed human being seeking to have physical needs met”, well, I sure hope that both the cheater and the affair partner are on the same page in regards to what’s happening here. I’ve heard a few stories where the AP thinks this is the romance of the century and when they find out that’s not the case… they turn into a bunny boiler. Seems such a shame to ruin this beautiful “physical needs being taken care of” romance with stalking and hysteria and threatening phone calls to the spouse.
I also hope a pregnancy does not occur because these physical needs were taken care of outside of the marriage. That would be a little awkward, huh? According to ID TV that’s usually when the cheater kills the AP. Of course, if the cheater is a woman and she’s the one who gets pregnant… again, might be a little awkward, but totally not out of the realm of possibility that she might try to pass it off as her husband’s child. Nothing like a paternity test to spice up a marriage! But hey, it’s just sex, right?
I hope that poster is right and she doesn’t find her husband leaving her for someone else a few years down the road. It’s not that unusual for men to trade in their spouse when she gets into her 40s or 50s. Gray divorce is a huge topic these days. Why keep the middle aged wife with her stretch marks and muffin top when he’s got a hot, toned, child free twenty something offering him blow jobs and fun times? My jaded philosophy is something along these lines: Even if it’s not a hot, younger woman, if your husband fucks around on you often enough eventually he’s going to find a replacement for you.
As for this idea that there is a cultural trend to shame those that remain with their husbands I have to say, “Oh please!” Aside from Chump Lady’s blog I can’t think of another blog that encourages leaving the cheater. There is, in fact, an entire industry devoted to helping you “affair-proof” your marriage, teaching you all about the 180, promising you that the affair will be “the best thing to ever happen to your marriage”, and otherwise encouraging you to work through the infidelity and to reconcile. They sell programs and constantly promise to tell you how to win back a wandering spouse. And as always, they promise that your marriage will be “better and stronger than before!”
Look at all the kudos for the people who choose to stay and work through the infidelity. They are “applauded”. They are lifted up in praise because they did the “hard work” it took to work through all of that. People are cautioned to “think carefully” before divorcing a cheating spouse because surely there are worse things than a “momentary lapse in judgement”.
Meanwhile, those who do divorce are judged as being unforgiving. They lack compassion and think they are superior. We foolishly base our decision on one small, insignificant mistake instead of thinking rationally and taking into account the entire relationship.
If we’re not judged as being unforgiving and lacking compassion then we’re judged as being moral failures. Hell, there was a blogger that thought there should be a divorce tax and who advocated shunning those who divorce! Obviously we didn’t value marriage; we’re tossing aside our solemn vows because we’re not “happy.”
We’re accused of taking the “easy way out”. <Snort> Please. Like working entry level jobs, moving in with your mom, losing your home and everything in it, being forced to move out of the state, and sleeping on the couch is so much easier than remaining a stay at a home mom who lives on over $200,000 a year, lives in a nice big house she calls her own, complete with a pool and a hot tub, and has all the time in the world to visit friends and go on vacation. Oh hell yes. Getting up at 3:30 in the morning and working at Target before dropping off my kid at school and then going to my regular full-time job was so much easier than getting up at 7:00, making my kids breakfast, dropping them off at school, and then spending the rest of the day doing whatever I wanted.
Not to mention that some of us didn’t get the “opportunity” to do the so-called hard work of rebuilding our marriage. Some of us got dumped. Some of us were blindsided. For some of us our husbands or wives had our replacements lined up long before we knew we were headed for divorce.
It didn’t take a genius to see the writing on the wall. I did give some thought to approaching CF with “an arrangement.” He could have his cousin on the side, but we would stay together until both kids had graduated from high school. He would not be allowed to financially support her; the kids and I would be the beneficiaries of his paycheck and bonus. However, it became quickly apparent that such an arrangement had less than a snowball’s chance in hell of working. He was lying. He was giving her huge sums of money already. They had a bank account together. He was interviewing for jobs out of state. I was certain he was not planning on taking me and the kids with him. It was going to be a solo move. So I bit the bullet. I lawyered up. I protected myself. I filed for divorce.
Here is another very important part to consider. Most of the people over on Chump Lady have tried reconciliation. I don’t have statistics but my guess, from what I’ve read over the years and through various sources, is that the majority of people who find out their spouse is cheating on them, try to reconcile. I truly believe very few people follow through with kicking the cheater to the curb without a second thought. I think most of us at least try. There may be some who try and decide they can’t get over this, but they do at least try to make it work. This is where that important part comes in.
I’ve read way too many stories over there about people who opted to forgive and rebuild trust, who chose reconciliation, who decided it was worth it to do the hard work and not let one little mistake define their entire relationship, who forgave the cheater and welcomed them back home, only to have the cheater do it all over again years later. In some cases it was years between affairs, and in other cases the cheater took it deeper underground and lived a double life for ten to twenty years before cruelly discarding their spouse. I can’t think of a single one of them who says, “I have no regrets; I cherish every single extra year I got with my cheating spouse. Though the marriage may be dead I will comfort myself with the many wonderful memories we created.” No, what they all say, almost without fail, is that they wish they had left the first time and that they regret wasting all of those years with that person. There are a few who say they are glad they tried marriage counseling, they’re glad they tried to fix it, because they know they did everything they possibly could to make it work so they leave with a clean conscience. But I can’t think of anyone who says they are glad for the extra years with their cheater. There is only regret for wasting a single minute more on that person who chose to turn around and betray them again.