Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wanting what's best...

The Redbook article that I cited here continues to weigh on my mind. Though I've known about and have written about it here and here and here, and though I've gained considerable insight into the psyche of cheaters, I nonetheless consoled myself with the belief that these guys were the exception, not the rule.
Now...I'm not so sure.

I've spent a lot of time trying to find the best in myself. When you're raised in a dysfunctional home (alcoholism was the dysfunction of choice in my family....but it, of course, spawns all sorts of others: neglect, abandonment, intimacy issues, for starters), you often feel "bad". As a child you believe that if you were good, then you would be treated well. There's such shame around dysfunction that you grow up convinced that you, too, are shameful.
I tried to get better. I spent years in therapy, struggling to understand what it was about me that made me put up with all manner of neglect, abuse, betrayal.
And then I met my husband. And, for the first time, I felt safe.
And we all know how that turned out for me.

The thing is, we all deserve to feel – indeed to be – safe. When we choose to commit to someone else in this life – whether that commitment looks like marriage or parenthood or friendship – we owe it to that person to provide a basis for their happiness. Not that it's our job to make them happy. But it is our job to want their happiness. And to not stand in the way of that.

Which is why the Redbook story has me feeling so sad. The men featured are themselves sad. And by that I don't mean pathetic, though they're a bit that, too. They feel cheated by life. Their wives aren't who they ultimately feel connected to (though, perhaps, that's because they're trolling sites to hook up with other women rather than actually listening to their wives thoughts and dreams). Their lives haven't measured up to their dreams. So they dip a toe into this fantasy world, where they're sexy and desirable and life is good and exciting.

But where they're so lost is not that they're putting their own happiness before their wives. Indeed, I think we owe it to ourselves to strive for our own happiness. But where they're lost is that they're actively standing in the way of their wives' happiness. How? By not giving their wives the truth about themselves.

We all deserve that truth. We deserve to know who it is we're married to because we deserve to make the choice about whether or not we want to be married to that person. I don't dispute another's right to have sex with whomever will have sex with them. What I object to is the lying and betrayal. If my husband loves me but feels he can't connect intellectually with me and therefore would like to forge a relationship with another woman, fair enough. But let me decide if that's okay with me.

A truly enlightened relationship operates on that level of honesty. I'm not sure I would consider "open marriages" in this category...but perhaps at least some of them are.

As for me, I want a relationship in which my husband wants the best for me. And respects me enough to be honest – which allows me to decide what that "best" is.


  1. I agree totally. Being uninformed, ignorant, trusting and having no choice in this matter was the worst aspect of the marital betrayal.

  2. I agree as well. Isn't talking about your problems part of marriage. Many people talk about their hopes and dreams before marriage, why they don't talk about them during marriage is a mistake that I found out the hard way. Actually what I think the problem is, is not the talking part but rather the listening. When we stop listening to what our spouses are saying (verbally and ??? they're actions)they we are in for a whole lot of trouble. When you act a certain way and we question it, there's the chance to express yourself and let the two adults make choices rather than one who ends up making choices that hurt everyone.

  3. Very true. I think many marriages, whether affected by infidelity or not, suffer from one or both spouses making assumptions about the other's thoughts/behaviour. It can be really valuable to check in and see what the other is thinking/feeling. Of course, that's only as helpful as the other spouse is honest. Too often, a spouse, especially if he's feeling tempted, will hide everything because he's feeling guilty. Ah yes....this infidelity stuff is complicated.

  4. After reading the Redbook article I have to wonder what marriage has a chance. No long term relationship can maintain that new-butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling especially when things like mortgages and children (you know, real life) are involved.

  5. Just read the Red Book article and I am now thoroughly depressed.
    It confirms that no matter how "good" a wife I am, if my husband wants to cheat he will. I already knew this but I guess I hoped for something else. It has nothing to do with brains, age, beauty, social activities or how you treat him. My husband's line was "My needs weren't being met." And that's what I heard in that article.
    I was particularly upset by the guy who said his wife didn't suspect anything because she trusted him completely. That was me!! Really how can you not feel like a complete snake taking advantage like that? How can you not look ahead and see the hurt and damage you're doing when she does find out. This reporter saw someone she knew so there's a good chance someone will also know you personally.
    And do I trust him now? Very cautiously. So he has lost something in our relationship that he will never get back.
    All I can do is try to shake this off and concentrate on making my life as good as I can.

  6. Re. your comment that "It confirms that no matter how "good" a wife I am, if my husband wants to cheat he will"... Yes, that's one way to look at it. But, if you look at it another way, it's incredibly liberating.
    It also then stands to reason that no matter how lousy a wife you are, your husband will either cheat on you...or not. In other words, it isn't about you at all. You can be the greatest wife in the world...and if something inside of him is, for lack of a better word, broken, or perhaps missing altogether, then he will cheat. I'll repeat: IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU AT ALL. The pressure is off. You can just be yourself. Not necessarily the greatest. The prettiest. The sexiest. The insert-superlative-here. You're free to simply be who you are and to take care of yourself. And he's free, now, to either fix what's broken...or carry on hurting the people who care about him.
    Yes, the article was depressing in the sense that it revealed something that's been painful to all of us. But I'm also looking at it as more evidence that men don't cheat because of their wives...but because there's a lack of maturity or honesty or integrity on their part and they're seeking something they think is missing. But, as far too many wives/other women/cheaters know...they're unlikely to find it outside of themselves.

  7. Yes. Thank you. I know you're right.
    I guess as a female though I (we) tend to take on the responsibility for everyone in our lives.
    I think I feel that if it was at partly my fault then I should be able to control it.
    I am still working on the fact that the only person I can control is myself.

  8. That's a tough thing to overcome. Like you, I thought that if I could control everything about my self -- ie. be perfect -- I would never be hurt. So if something went wrong and someone let me know, it was simply a matter of fixing in myself what I thought was wrong...and all would be fine again. It's so much easier to fix ourselves than someone else. Which is true. However, we can never control another's behaviour. Not by being "perfect"; not by being awful. It's frightening to accept that we simply can NEVER control another human being. Nor should we want to. We can try...but that's a recipe for resentment. (Just ask any overly strict parent whose kids have ultimately either gone behind his/her back or gone wild at the first opportunity.)
    The hard part is accepting that fact. We can't control others' behaviour. Living our life after we accept that is far easier than truly understanding it in the first place.

  9. My situation has been very difficult. H thought he wanted out. Then he wanted in. Then he didn't know. He's just since yesterday decided we need to start over. And I have to kind of agree. We are going to keep in mind what happened and work on that. And keep in mind where we went wrong. But right now it just feels so up in the air. All I can do is be 100% open and honest and speak my feelings and truth and hope he does the same and see if shit can go forward, otherwise I can only do my best and he could still leave. Which SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It sucks because like you said it literally DOES NOT MATTER what you do. He will do what he wants. I am only concerned now with keeping myself emotionally safe and doing all I can on my side of the bargain. Stupid men! (I know it isn't all of them but it kinda is or at least it feels that way!)

    1. Anonymous,
      That does sound incredibly difficult. And it sounds as if your husband is the one making all the decisions. What do you want? And what are your conditions for reconciliation? What do you need to see from him in order to even begin to feel safe in your relationship again? Those are all boundaries YOU get to create and insist upon. Whether he's willing to respect those boundaries will also give you information on just how committed he is to rebuilding a marriage with you.
      And no, after betrayal, we realize that we can't "control" anyone but ourselves. But we can certainly have reasonable expectations of trust, honesty and fidelity based on changes we see post-betrayal.



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