Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Betrayed wife as collateral damage: Why his affair had nothing to do with you

In the days following discovery of a partner’s infidelity, we betrayed wives often read from the same script. We weep, we beg, we scream.  “How could you do this to me?” we wail. “I’ve been a good wife,” we protest. “What does she have that I don’t have?” we demand. Etcetera, etcetera.
We contemplate our options, but rarely with a clear head. (On the advice of my lawyer, I’m leaving out the part where I plotted running my husband over with my car…but homicide, too, is a common thought! For now, though, let’s keep revenge fantasies just that – fantasies. I don’t want to have to post bail for any of you.)
Suicide can also be a far-too-common consideration. If you’re in such pain that you can’t possibly see a way out, please call a crisis line, family member or good friend. You will find your way into the sunlight again. I promise.
Our emotions tend to center on feeling like this horrible miscarriage was done TO us. But the bizarre thing about infidelity is that it likely – honestly! – had nothing to do with us. We’re just collateral damage. And if you start from that point – accepting that the affair was HIS choice (regardless of how good or bad your marriage was) and that HE needs to take responsibility for his choice, you’ll save yourself a lot of agonizing and self-flagellation.
When I was scrutinizing myself for what possibly I was lacking (too old? Too thin? Too fat? Too blonde? Too smart? Too dumb? You get the idea…), I took solace in the fact that Elizabeth Hurley was cheated on (sorry, Elizabeth). So was Sienna Miller. And Téa Leoni. And a zillion other gorgeous, accomplished, smart women. Now, honestly, if Elizabeth Hurley gets cheated on, do you really think it has anything to do with looks or success or sophistication or whatever else you think you lack?
Clearly not. Cheaters have cheated because…well…because they clearly have boundary issues and, sadly, because the’re missing something that they think they can get from an affair partner…or at least distract themselves from its lack by the ego-stroking that an affair provides. But, while you can sympathize that they’re missing something – a good job? Good health? A perfect childhood? A red sportscar? – the problem is theirs.
And – guess what? – if they’re unhappy with the marriage, it’s up to them to tell us so. And for the two of us, if we so choose, to fix it. Or separate. If affairs were a reasonable solution, they wouldn’t have to be secret. 

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