Sunday, July 24, 2011

Who defines cheating? And should we care?

There was much debate, the wake of Anthony Weiner's resignation, regarding whether what he did was, technically, cheating.
And it's a point that has, occasionally, raged here and in our own lives.
Many of us pre-D-Day, would have said that we were comfortable with our husbands having female friends but that any sex outside of our marriage, even a one-night-stand, was "a deal-breaker." Post D-Day, we've often reversed that view, discovering that it's not the sex that's so troublesome but the lying and the intimacy shared with another. Many of us discover that our husband's emotional affair – sharing dreams, hopes and, often, dissatisfaction with his marriage – is excruciating and hard to handle. Making it harder is sometimes the notion of others that "he didn't have sex", therefore he didn't technically break his marriage vows.
But there's nothing technical about healing from an affair. It's complicated and painful and doesn't follow prescribed rules. Most of us muddle through, hair unwashed and heart broken, until the day we feel a sliver of light shine through the dark and we realize that we just might survive this marital apocalypse.
And then comes the process of sifting through the rubble and trying to make sense of what the hope that if we understand it, we can protect ourselves from it happening to us again.
But I'm not sure, unless we've been tempted ourselves or are capable to truly putting ourselves in our spouse's shoes, we'll ever really understand it. So often I hear the familiar Nancy Reaganesque refrain of the betrayed – "He could have just said 'No'."
Sure he could have. But whether he didn't say "no" to actual sex or didn't say "no" to cyber sex or didn't say "no" to sharing intimate details of his life, all the analysis in the world isn't going to change that. And, oddly, it stops really mattering at some point whether he had actual sex, cyber sex or emotional intimacy. The point is he shared something private – that was supposed to be between you and him – with someone else. And that hurts like hell.
The only people who get caught up in the semantic gymnastics of what cheating really is are those looking for a loophole out of their own guilt...or those who've never had it done to them.


  1. "The point is he shared something private – that was supposed to be between you and him – with someone else. And that hurts like hell."...not only with one but with many in my case.

    Emails after emails after texts after chats, what insults me the most was that he talked about ME, he criticized me, he shared things about me that were PRIVATE and that I thought would never leave the safety of our couple, and mostly he said things that were downright FALSE. One of them ladies even had the bold balls to criticize me after he told her how I abandonned him and the children topursue my career. She goes on and on about what a horrific mother I was (meanwhile I was working my bu** to pay the mortgage and the bills including HIS phone bills, HIS travels to take vacations with these women, his expenses related to all his affairs), what I should have done, etc etc etc...Wow he went far with this one (and she was out of place)! Talk about betrayal. I feel embrassed, humiliated and insulted. What else did he tell them about me that I will never know...Why couldn't he just SHUT UP? Why did he feel the need to spill all these lies about me? What, screwing around was not enough? And why don't I get to know anything about these OWsssss? That would reinstate a certain balance. Nop, THEIR privacy is insured, guaranteed. I will never get to hear about how bad they are...I guess I am on the wrong side of these affairs...

  2. That is a HUGE trust violation and you are, understandably, angry and hurt. There is no excuse for what he did.
    However, though it will likely take you awhile before you can see the situation clearly, the notion of two people engaged in cyber sex and talking about you – and criticizing YOU – is almost comical.
    You know everything you need to know about these women. They lack boundaries, self-respect and basic courtesy toward other human beings. That they think they know YOU is a joke. They don't know you at all... What they THINK they know doesn't even come close to making you as despicable as they are.
    Let them have their fantasy of superiority. You can face yourself in the mirror...can they truly do the same?

  3. You nailed it yet again. It hurts like hell.

  4. He cheated.

    If I were to do something in secret that my wife would consider cheating, it would be cheating.

    It's only not obvious when people are trying to justify what is obviously just... CHEATING.

  5. You are absolutely right! It's a point that even my best friend who fully supported me through the worst days of my life didn't understand. The physical cheating, bad as it was, was nothing to the pain of the emotional cheating. Telling another woman that he loved her. That is the wound that will never totally heal. Although we're together and recommitted I will never be able to forget (and in some ways forgive ) that.

    As for what is cheating, I like the Dr Phil definition. "If you wouldn't do it with your spouse standing next to you then you shouldn't do it with them not there."

  6. See that's interesting to me because, for me, it was the *physical* component that has haunted me most. The image of her... doing that... THAT!... with someone else... it's simply too much to bear.

    I have easily forgiven the emotional affair, even though it was carried on clandestinely while we were still arguably "together", and have struggled hard with the knowledge that she was physically intimate with another man, even though she told me when it happened, with tears in her eyes... even though it happened while we were "separated."

    Now we're back "together" and... it's just very hard. You understand, I can tell :/

  7. There are certain generalizations about men and women and how they respond to affairs: men, generally, find the physical aspect of their wife's affair harder to get over; women find the emotional aspect tougher.
    In any case, intimacy with another, whether physical or emotional, is a huge violation of trust and that, too, is a huge hurdle to clear. It takes a long time to regain a semblance of trust and I don't think any former "blind trust" ever comes back.

  8. Great post. I need some input. My spouse and I are working through the emotional affair. However, in conversing about these things he has stated that
    1. He didn't feel the relationship took anything (time/energy/etc) away from the family.
    2. He doesn't consider it lying -- he kept the relationship hidden/secret. He agrees it was deception but does not consider himself to have ever lied.
    3. He has expressed a great deal of remorse, yet I have not noticed a lot of empathy in that him noticing what it has done to damage my esteem, my faith, etc.

    PLEASE someone, give me some advice. I see these rationalizations and feelings he has, but I am seeing that they may be the breaking point for me. I just cannot seem to get on board to agree with his viewpoints.

    I could really use some advice. Thank you.

  9. I find it all just as bad as the next. The fiscal, the trying to pick up, the porn, the strip clubs, the lying, the trying to walk out on me and the children when I found out. The whole thing is just one massive painful living thing I can't get rid of.

  10. Hi Marti,
    Sorry you're still in such a lousy place. Do you feel any further along? Plans to leave eventually? I hate to think that this is devouring your soul...

  11. Anonymous,
    I'm so sorry – I just found your comment. Of course, you can't "get on board with his viewpoints" because his viewpoint doesn't treat you or your marriage with respect. He's splitting hairs and creating technicalities in order to minimize his responsibility in betraying you and your marriage. Lying by omission/deception/hiding a relationship is lying. If he didn't think what he was doing was wrong, he wouldn't have hidden it. Or, as Dr. Phil puts it bluntly, "you shouldn't be doing anything behind your spouse's back that you wouldn't do in front of them".
    Unfortunately your husband is engaging in classic cheater's behaviour. Don't even get into the arguments with him about whether what he did was cheating or lying or deception or whatever else. YOU perceive it as betrayal and that's what he should be concerned about -- not whether some judge in a court of law would find him guilty. But that YOU do. And for that, he needs to make amends. If he doesn't take FULL responsibility for the pain he's caused then it leaves him vulnerable to allowing it to happen again. He needs to truly understand the depth of your pain (whether or not he thinks you should feel as hurt as you do or not) and understand why/how he allowed himself to think that what he was doing was okay. If it was truly okay...he wouldn't have needed to hide it. He wanted what he was getting from the affair and knew that you wouldn't be okay with he hid it. And that dishonesty is the real problem.
    Trust your instincts. They're clearly telling you not to allow yourself to be talked out of your feelings.

  12. I tried for many months to comfort myself with the fact that he didn't go actually through with it. That he stopped it because he came to his senses and realized he was horrified with what he was doing. But I realize that I was invalidating myself. The point is, he looked outside of our marriage for another sexual partner. He lied to my face over and over about the fact that he was using porn again. That's cheating.

    It doesn't matter that he didn't have actual intercourse with another woman. He shattered my trust. If what he was doing wasn't wrong, then he wouldn't have hidden it.

    The only reason this hasn't been a deal-breaker for me is that he has taken full responsibility and is willing to do whatever it takes to make this work. I always said before that any cheating would be a deal-breaker, but I'm now realizing that's something people should stop saying. You can't know how you will react until you are actually there. And having told myself all along that cheating was a deal-breaker, I then had to deal with a lot of undeserved shame that I had sold out my own principles. That I was a liar as well for saying it was a deal-breaker and then not following through on it. I used to always think that any woman who stayed was a doormat. Now I realize that's not true.


    1. No, Gee. That is most definitely not true. The strongest women I know are on this site, trying mightily to rebuild their families.

  13. I have to say that when you say cheating is a deal breaker it probably is because you think only of what you know and experienced to that point which for many is a dating relationship. However once you build a life of multiple years with someone, property, children, etc. things change because of your new perspective. If we do end up divorced and I ever date again cheating would absolutely be a deal breaker. A combined life is nothing easy to just throw away. However someone that cheats when you aren't legally and financially committed, good riddance! (At least for me!)



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