Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Law of the Sisterhood: "Don't sleep with my husband and I won't sleep with yours."

I've always subscribed to the "law of the sisterhood" as I called it. Though I had a friend (I use the term loosely) who slept with a boyfriend of mine, I never wanted to be complicit in the suffering of another woman, whether I knew her or not.
In the course of healing from my husband's cheating, I've learned that there are many women like me – but obviously, many are not. The woman my husband cheated with knew me. She had eaten dinner with my family, been to our parties. But even if she hadn't, would that have made sleeping with a married man (he never made it a secret!) any less wrong?
Or am I being moralistic by implying that sex among two consenting adults can be wrong?
Frankly, I'm uninterested in getting into a debate about social mores and cultural wrongs. Infidelity hurts -- and it generally hurts everyone. I've yet to see a case where the end justified the means and I've long asserted that if you want out of your marriage, then get out. "Exit affairs" are often just a coward's way of forcing his own hand.
That said, I've had enough time and distance from the infidelity bomb that fell into my life to be able to muster some level of empathy for Other Women.
I don't think they're necessarily scheming, deviant whores; but usually lacking in something – esteem, attention – that they think they can achieve through a relationship with a married man. Sure some convince themselves that it's just sex. That they're just using each other and no-one is getting hurt.
A newly released book takes aim at how women compete with each other and how this undermines feminism. Cheating on the Sisterhood takes the stance that society convinces us there is no sisterhood; that women are in competition with each other. The author, an "other woman" who makes no apologies for the role she took though she's loathe to assume it again, recognizes that no-one wins when women compete with each other for men. She acknowledges that, even if she didn't know the other woman, she owed her some respect for the role she had.
Which is essentially how I feel.
We do owe each other respect, whether or husbands are showing it to us or not. There might not be a law of the sisterhood, but what about The Golden Rule (don't snicker; it's a good rule!!).
I applaud the author for her candor and for bringing to the table an important part of infidelity -- the role feminism plays or does not play. The more voices discussing this common but commonly overlooked issue, the better.


  1. This really chimes with me. My husband strictly speaking didn't have an affair, he waited three weeks after separating to jump into bed with another woman during his Mid life crisis. Just when my three kids really needed both parents to help them through the hardest time of their lives he was giving his energy and time to a relative stranger. I obviously felt betrayed by him, but also by this woman. I was shocked that another woman would have no regard or respect for my family. Now after 7 months of a relationship my husband has had a 360 around, desperately wants to reconcile and is ashamed of his behaviour. He feels it was a rebound relationship. Whilst I place plenty of responsibility on my husbands shoulders, I feel this 46 year old woman should have known to keep her pants on. I find it hard to believe that she didn't realise everyone needs time to process the end of a relationship and that a family can't just cease to be in a matter of weeks. I'm certain she has something lacking in her life and has been hurt by all this. However, she is much better equipped to cope than my babies. An aspect of this feminist discussion should be that these men are often fathers. They are unfaithful to their children by giving their time, attention and love to someone new. I feel betrayed by this woman for colluding with my husband in the illusion that as a man he could just step out of his role as a father. She was happy to compete for him even if it meant taking a father away from his kids (literally, they emigrated). I'm happy to say I know many woman who would not go there, but am sad that there are women out there who think very differently from me.

  2. Wow, this is everything that I tried to tell the OW. My husband had dated her for 3 months prior to our marriage...we would separate, get back together, and separate...this led to him being with her in our times of separation...(you get the picture). After all of this...things had stopped and we got married. Yes of course there were secret phone calls, meetings (i assume), and e-mails. As I have tried to reach her even in our initial encounter as the "sisterhood" I asked was she going to continue a relationship with him knowing he has not been honest she said forward to our marriage...i again reiterated we are now married and women should stick together and she lives by this "golden rule" yet it does not apply to me.

    Basically I am saying that as a woman...having had the option to date a married man (prior to marriage) I chose not to engage in that activity and hurt his wife...I guess I hoped the OW in my own situation thought the same. She actually seems to feel I am the OW...I broke them up...(eventhough we dated before her and are married now). She feels it is ok to engage in communication eventhough it disrespects my role as his wife. Not every OW is considerate or thoughtful enough to feel this way. Because of this I hurt...deeply.

    1. I've learned it's crazy to expect that others abide by the same moral code that we do. In your case, your husband needs to make it clear that he (finally!) made his choice and it's not her. He needs to state clearly to her that she is not to contact him again and that he will not contact her. And he needs to copy you on this communication in a way that she can see you're privy to it.
      Perhaps then she'll move on.


  3. A man who is a very good friend of mine and lives a few states away married a woman that was really not his type and I hate to say I was not too fond of her. No reason really, but she and I never clicked. A few years into his marraige he confessed to me that he was having sexual feelings towards someone (who I had really just met two weeks before) he wanted to come visit my husband and I and bring the fling, to consummate the affair and get it "out of his system" I told him "no effing way" and my husband agreed. Now I had no allegiance to his wife, didn't even like her, but she had had me in her home (the OW too) and I could think of nothing much more scummy than being "host" to this affair. How flummoxed was I 10 years later when my husband....the same one abhor to hosting this thing, went and had an affair of his own. I will never understand women who betray other women. I did it when I was 18 and ridiculously stupid and I was never caught, but knew I did not ever want to do that again and moved 1000 miles from that situation before I screwed up anyone's life. Maybe this is my belated karma, I don't know. I am just glad I have a place to air this out. Really...forever blessings and thanks Elle,



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