Friday, October 30, 2009

Myth of the Ugly Wife: Why even gorgeous women get cheated on

Stereotypes often exist for a reason. Such as, because they're an accurate assessment of what most (or at least many) believe.
Consider this: There's a good-looking guy who works in your office. He's friendly but not lecherous; intelligent; funny. Then -- thanks to that always-reliable office gossip, you find out he's cheating on his wife, whom you have never met.
What do you imagine? Well, if you're like a large number of people, you assume she's let her looks go. She's bitchy. Or a pathetic doormat. Or too focused on the kids. And you might be right.
But more likely, you're wrong.
That's the thrust of a Globe & Mail article that ran today, in which columnist Sarah Hampson takes society to task for the persistent assumption that if a man cheats, it's because his wife somehow drove him to it.
Yet there's little scientific evidence to back this up.
And certainly little anecdotal evidence. Yet that conviction can lead even further to the shame and pain that betrayed wives feel.
I picked obsessively over what she had that I didn't. In the end, the only conclusion I could reach was that the "slutty" look appealed to my spouse and I took to dressing like some cross between rehab-era Amy Winehouse and breakdown-era Britney Spears. Not exactly my best look.
In the end, I realized that my husband's cheating has nothing to do with me and everything to do with his own insecurities, anxieties and lack of boundaries. Which is what he had been saying to me all along.
But when the world implies that cheating men are upgrading, it's hard to fight the stereotype.
I took some solace in the fact that Elizabeth Hurley was cheated on. Halle Berry was cheated on. Princess Diana was cheated on. Women, arguably, who are gorgeous, accomplished and smart. They did nothing wrong but love men who betrayed them. Hardly reason to be vilified.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ad airs on MSNBC for one-night-stands: How pop culture convinces men they deserve to cheat

Ashley Madison wants your husband to cheat. In fact, Ashley Madison believes that your husband (and you, for that matter) deserve to cheat. "Life's short. Have an affair," is the company's slogan, and it's in the business of helping you do exactly that.
I'm not making this up, though, if you're as naive as I was, you're likely shocked. The company, incidentally one of many, acts as pimp or affair broker, if you will, hooking up those looking for affairs with those offering affairs.
The company tries to look upscale, implying that your affair won't be with some toothless hooker, but with an elegant, gorgeous, brilliant partner who will thrill you in bed...and out. The ads deftly ignore the destruction wrought by affairs – the potential STDs, the dishonesty, the lack of respect for another's feelings.
You don't see the sobbing wife. The confused children. The divorce lawyers drawing up papers. No, Ashley Madison peddles in the currency of entitlement and no regrets.
Sure, cheating would happen without ads on MSNBC encouraging it. But somehow making money off helping married men deceive their spouses seems utterly grotesque.

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.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hiking the Appalachian Trail: The best/worst excuse your cheating spouse ever offered

History is replete with men caught with their pants down. While some manage to come forth with an excuse that's at least possible if not probable (eg. "hiking the Appalachian Trail"), others produce such whoppers that the only appropriate response is unbridled laughter – after pitching a stiletto at their head, of course.
This is your chance to submit the best/worst excuses you've ever heard. Hold nothing back. Bring
'em on...

Surviving Infidelity: The best advice you never heard

Mention cheating and you'll inspire some strong reactions, often along the lines of "castrate him!" and "homewrecking whore". While self-righteous fury is occasionally cathartic, it rarely serves the cheatee very well, who may well still love the potentially castrated man (though she's likely less fond of the homewrecker).
The result is that few of us are offered particularly healthy advice from our friends and family, even -- sometimes especially -- if they've gone through it themselves. My friend Annie, with whom I confided because she'd had a similar situation and, I thought, could support me, responded to my comment that I didn't want to lose my marriage with a dismissive, "well, I wouldn't stay". End of conversation.
Sadly, this leaves so many of us feeling doubly injured. We've suffered this grievous injustice, we think, and yet talking about it leaves us open to poorly thought out opinions, self-serving advice or gossip. I learned very quickly to confide in very few people and only those whom I felt sure would simply support me.
Fortunately, I did come across a wonderful Web site – Surviving Infidelity – that allowed me to discuss my situation anonymously and candidly, without fear or judgement. If I did receive unwarranted advice, I simply dismissed what didn't work for me and took what did. Because it was from strangers, it was so much easier to do.
It also inspired me to create this site -- to create a sense of community around the issue of infidelity and to invite other women to join the conversation. Betrayal changes who you are. Never again will you look at the world through the same eyes. It helps to share this new you with others as you figure out where you go from here.
What are some of the Web sites that have helped you? Please post them here for others to try.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Emotional affair: cheating? Or not quite...

Betrayal is in the eye of the beholder. For some, cheating is full-on, clothes-off sexual intercourse. For others, a flirtatious e-mail.
Before I experienced betrayal (yes, it the was the full-on type...), I considered flirting to be harmless and fun. A way of getting an ego boost without actually doing anything wrong.
Now, however, that I've been walked through the hell of betrayal and come out the other side, it's easy for me to see that flirtations aren't quite so harmless. Why? It's kinda like opening the cookie jar to get a whiff...while promising yourself that you won't actually take a bite. (It's almost lunch time and I'm hungry – hence the cookie analogy.) We all know that, once that jar is opened, a bite – while perhaps not inevitable – is highly likely.
And that's much of the danger which what are frequently termed "emotional affairs". We dismiss them as harmless, which allows them to go on – and those engaging in them to rationalize what they're doing – for long enough that the line becomes blurrier and blurrier until it's gone altogether.
I've known of women who've been completely torn apart by a spouse's emotional affair – something I would have considered harmless. For some women, a strictly physical affair (ie. no-strings-attached sex) is easier to overcome than anything that involves emotional attachment.
The truth is ANY betrayal – indeed any allegiance – that takes a spouse's emotional and/or physical presence away from the marriage is dangerous.
In a healthy marriage, there shouldn't be secrets. If a spouse can't discuss a "friendship" with their partner, share the conversations/e-mails/etc, then chances are that relationship violates fidelity. My advice?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Do men and women cheat for different reasons?

I was recently contacted by a reporter researching an article for why men cheat. And in answering her question, I got thinking myself about why men cheat and whether or not the reason(s) can be distilled to one or two. Having heard the stories of literally hundreds of betrayed wives, it seems the main reason men cheat is that they like the reflection of themselves they see in another's eyes. Most – not all, but most – men don't want to lose their marriages and wives. They simply get lured in by the heady sensation of being desired, sexy, interesting...all those feelings we all felt at the beginning of a relationship, but which eventually gave way to feeling loved, respected, and, perhaps too often, taken for granted.
Rather than spice up their own marriages, they take the easy route offered by women who are frequently looking for the same thing: the chance to feel special again.
I know it's not that simple and, of course, there are all sorts of mitigating factors, often going right back to childhood.
But if I had to simplify the reason, there it is.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Is Marriage Itself Outdated?

I recently read an article that argues against with-holding marriage rights to lesbian/gay couples, but points out that marriage -- in and of itself -- is not the panacea we're often led to believe it is. Consider this quote:

So what are we to make of marriage? It is both a deeply personal relationship for which people will make almost unthinkable sacrifices, and it is a declining social institution offering little security for most who enter it.

Those of us who've endured infidelity often find our eyes opened to the reality of marriage -- the truth that the person who promised to love, honor and cherish just might not live up to that promise. I often hear betrayed wives note that they "lost their innocence". Sadly, life is messy. And often painful. But if we can use our painful experiences -- indeed all experiences -- to reconsider our convictions and recreate our boundaries (or in some cases, create boundaries in the first place!), then it's an important lesson learned.

Read the entire article here and weigh in with your thoughts. Is marriage outdated? Is it becoming meaningless? I can't wait to share your thoughts...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Definitely a law created by a betrayed wife

Get this: According to, in Hong Kong, a betrayed wife is allowed to kill her husband. The catch? She has to use her bare hands. She is, however, allowed to kill her husband's lover in any manner she sees fit.
How many of you wish you lived in Hong Kong right now??

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Why do men cheat? The media tells us why...

Of course, it's not just the media who blames wives: for getting fat, for getting old, for nagging at their husbands to pick up their dirty underwear, for any number of reasons that others tell themselves (and the world) in order to delude themselves into thinking this particular hell couldn't possibly happen to them.
Problem is, they're almost always wrong. Even if the husbands themselves believe they're cheating because their wife isn't as sexy as she used to be, or as fun as she used to be, or as (fill in blank here) as she used to be, the reality is that he's cheating because something is missing in him. Something he thinks he'll find in another relationship or in a distraction.
But whatever he thinks he's doing -- or why -- don't fall into the trap of taking responsibility. If you want to make changes to feel better about yourself, that's great. But far too many of us change out of some misguided belief that if we were smarter/prettier/skinnier/fill in adjective here, then he wouldn't have cheated.
Me? I started dressing like a geriatric Britney Spears in a misguided attempt to feel sexy. Some even go so far as to undergo plastic surgery -- neither cheap nor painless. But when the scars healed, they were still themselves (albeit not quite so tired looking) and they still had to heal their hearts.
My advice: Focus on getting strong. Being kind to yourself. And treating yourself with respect.
It might be harder than surgery. But the effects will last a lifetime.

Your wedding ring...keep it or toss it?

I took my wedding ring off about two years, not long after I learned of my husband's affair. I don't plan on putting it back on, in spite of the fact that I remain married and we're working hard at rebuilding a relationship based on honesty, commitment and love.
But my ring? It was, to me, a symbol of commitment. And when that commitment was violated, the ring felt like a constant reminder. Instead of a silver circle of endless love, it resembled for me a noose around my neck. Taking it off was an act of reclaiming my power. Of indicating that while I was willing to create a new marriage, the old one, as far as I was concerned, was dead.
There is, like most reactions to a husband's infidelity, no right or wrong reactions (well, except perhaps anything listed in the Criminal Code or the Mental Health Disorders Sourcebook). For some women, their ring remains something that signifies an enduring commitment. For others,'s tarnished and broken, figuratively speaking, and it needs to go.
What do you think? Is yours a ring...or a noose?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Love among the ruins: Healing yourself from betrayal

One friend swam. Each day for an hour, she would pour her heartache into her front crawl, growing stronger each day. Looking back at her daily cleansing, she realizes that she instinctively sought out something that helped her heal from her husband's affair.
Another wrote in her journal, great long entries detailing her agony, her disbelief, her fear of where she would go from here.
I ran. Though I'd given it up for a few years, I suddenly found myself lacing up my runners each night after the kids were in bed. In part because the darkness hid my tears. In part because I just didn't know what else to do with the pent-up anger (well, I had a few ideas, but most of them would have landed me in prison!). And in part because running has always been a form of meditation for me thanks to the rhythmic pounding of feet on pavement.
These rituals of healing can be, quite literally, lifesavers. We re-discover our strength. Or our passion. We work out our boundaries, or devise our plan.
What have you done? Share your stories in the comments section...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Why Women Stay with Men Who Cheat

I was recently interviewed for an article on Why Women Stay with Men Who Cheat. You can read it here.
Of course, the article offers up arguments for both sides -- why a women would simply walk out (for starters, if he plans to carry on the affair) or why she might stay.
The fact that we're asking the question why is indication that society – those who haven't necessarily been in our shoes – are still a bit baffled. Admittedly, I was, too. I've met many many women who've been cheated on and without fail all of them (and me!) had always maintained that infidelity was a deal-breaker. Now?? Not so much...
Damned if I do, and damned if I don't is how many women feel in the wake of discovering their husband's infidelity. If they stay, they fear looking – and feeling – like a doormat, implicitly suggesting that their husband's actions were acceptable. If they leave, they often wonder if they're giving up too soon, or if their kids will be okay (or, perhaps, blame Mom). Either way, they risk regret.
The conventional wisdom is to try to avoid making any big decisions for anywhere from six months to a year, assuming your husband has broken it off (honestly!) and willing to work it out. And assuming you'd like it to work, too. That gives your traumatized brain a chance to start thinking clearly. It gives both of you the chance to take a proverbial deep breath. It doesn't necessarily mean you need to BE together. In some cases, a physical separation can give both of you the space you need. It just means that making the lifelong decision to divorce can be held off until you're absolutely sure.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Good Wife? The Smart Wife? Or the Just-Trying-To-Figure-It-Out Wife...

It's likely no coincidence that a fall season pilot, CBS's The Good Wife, features the wife of a politician, who's been exposed (ha!) for adultery on YouTube. Certainly a case of art imitating life. However, the notion that those who stand by their man (thanks Loretta!) are doormats, political props or worse may not be even close to the truth. As most of us have learned the hard way, we don't really know what's going on in other people's lives, even those close to us.
There's a wonderful, intelligent discussion of this going on at, a site for women that boasts such heavy-hitters as Lesley Stahl (60 Minutes) and gossip columnist Liz Smith. Check it out, then weigh in: Do you think these women are being used? Or is it more complicated than that? Would you assess their situation differently if you hadn't experienced infidelity in your own life? Let us know....

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Finally, an infidelity expert who make sense!

I was recently interviewed for, a sassy site that treats women like the smart, fun, interesting people we are. While checking out the site, I came across an article on how to survive adultery. Inwardly, I groaned. In the three years since gaining membership to the betrayed wive's club (not that I was actively seeking membership. I was just minding my own business when...well, you know what happened), I've read some pretty lousy advice from so-called experts whom, I'm sure, have never actually gone through infidelity. And no, listening to others that have is not the same thing.
Still, with this site, I feel I have an obligation to read everything I can in case it might be good and pass it along to you. See? You can always count on a BWC member to have your back. it is.
And in days to come, I'll expand on each particular point and outline how, exactly, you can apply this advice. Stay tuned.
And, if you have advice, ideas or thoughts about the site, please join the conversation. It's your club, too.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Can a cheater truly empathize?

You could be forgiven for thinking that just about any married man is it seems...ummm....less than commited to his wife. While Hollywood is notorious for its short-lived marriages, it would be nice to see evidence that there are some good guys out there.
Alas, the latest to reveal his extracurriculars is David Letterman. Apologizing to his wife on-air, he notes that she's been "terribly hurt"...not to mention, I assume, humiliated, betrayed, devastated, etc. etc.
But his primary focus – indeed the catalyst for his public admission – was because of the extortion attempt against him. And it brings to the fore an issue that most betrayed wives face: the betrayer rarely really "gets" it. Sure they know in the abstract that we've been hurt by their actions. They see the tears. They dodge our nasty remarks. The remorseful ones do their best to empathize; the cads tell themselves it's no wonder they cheated given how emotional and unstable we are. But few will ever know what it really feels like.
Which makes recovering from betrayal doubly lonely. I've often heard people experiencing cancer describe it in similar terms. Sure, we can all imagine what it might be like to be given that diagnosis. But until we've actually heard it, we'll never really know the terror, the incredulity, the evaporation of a future we thought we could count on.
For many of the Betrayed Wive's Club, we've found comfort in being with those who truly do know what it's like. Who remember cringing at thoughtless jokes about adultery. Who've walked out of movies that made them trigger about their own pain. Who've...been there.
In the next few weeks, I'll be introducing the rest of the "team". I hope, like we have, you'll find solace in our community. That you'll share your experience and trust that you won't be judged. This is a safe place to let down your guard and begin to heal. And, I promise, no-one's betrayal will become late-night TV fodder. Another wife forced to publicly wear her pain...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

After the affair: Should you stay or go?

As if discovering your husband's affair(s) isn't enough, now you feel you're expected to do something about it. At a time when brushing your teeth seems like a Herculean task, determining whether to fight for your marriage or show him the door is a decision that might be best left for now.
Pre-adultery, when we're still thinking of infidelity in the theoretical sense, most of us consider it a "deal-breaker". Yet, in the cold light of day following the discovery, the situation doesn't always seem so black and white. Karen was willing to give her husband a chance...until he kept saying he "couldn't make up his mind" between the two women and Karen decided her dignity was worth more than her wishy-washy husband. Ericka, a successful lawyer, had the resources to leave, but knew that she wanted to at least try and salvage her marriage. Others – like me, for example – spend months vascillating between the two choices.
What some of us can forgive or at least work at forgiving, others can't. Elizabeth Edwards reportedly believes that serial cheating is worse than a long-term affair.
The thing about betrayal is that, suddenly everything we think we know, we don't.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Is Elizabeth Edwards' bashing the Other Woman in HuffPo blog posts?

The blogosphere is abuzz with rumors that cancer-stricken, kicked-when-she-was-down yet highly resilient Elizabeth Edwards has taken to blog-bashing her husband's former Other Woman. She's reputedly blogging under the name Cherubim, a "friend" reported.
Whether or not this is true (highly unlikely given that Cherubim has posted passionately about being a Michael Jackson fan, and I find it hard to believe Elizabeth Edwards has a whole lot of time on her hands to wax poetic about the King of Pop), it reflects our culture's fascination with adultery...and the drama that frequently ensues.
The Edwards' saga has all the elements the public loves – a handsome, powerful husband; a sick, loyal wife; a manipulative "other woman"...even an enabling assistant.
We sit back with a bowl of popcorn and watch the drama unfold.
Unless you've lived it.
To those of us who know all too intimately Elizabeth Edwards' pain, there's nothing compelling about their story. It's heart-wrenching. We know how excruciating it is to endure such betrayal in relative privacy. To have it played out on the world stage -- when battling cancer -- seems cruel beyond words.

And baby explosive secret!

It's rare for me to read an advice column in which adultery is discussed and actually agree with the columnist. More often, the advice seems to come from a 1950s "How to be a Housewife" manual, in which women are chastised for not looking pretty enough when their husband comes home from a tough day at the office to keep his eye from straying to his perky secretary.
Dear Prudence is an exception, particularly in dealing with an especially messy situation: when the affair produces a child.
The advice-seeker relays a situation in which her father had an affair, which produced a son. The family stayed together, mother knew of the other child but never acknowledged him, and the children were never told a thing.
Bet you can see where this is going...
Years later, the children are adults, the father has developed a relationship with his son, the mother is angry and dad finally 'fesses up to his kids that he "broke his marriage vows." (Interesting how clinical adulterers get when describing what they did!)
The advice-seeker was justifiably confused and questioning whether her whole childhood was a lie.
And therein lies the power of secrets.
I get that some things need to be secret -- such as my PIN number for my bank card. But trying to keep the lid on other secrets inevitably blows up, leaving nothing but pain and destruction in its wake. Just ask John Edwards.
The damage wrought by an affair creates enough to overcome; and dealing with a child -- a constant reminder of the betrayal -- compounds that pain, at least initially. However, there are times -- and this is one -- where we're called upon to be Bigger People. Where the life of an innocent child trumps anyone else's agony.
It sucks.
But, as my grandfather often said, the right thing is rarely the easy thing.
I know of a situation in which the betrayed wife sought custody of the twins her husband had with his affair partner, a drug addict. I have nothing but respect -- and awe -- for such a choice, yet the wife would be the first to tell you her life has been enriched enormously by the children. We can't all be Mother Theresa, but we can be honest with our own children (at an age when it's appropriate) and our families in order to ensure that an innocent child has the best possible chance in life. After all, surely by now, we've figured out that secrets slowly poison the soul.


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