Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Revenge Is Rarely Sweet

There's plenty of news these days about the various revenge Web sites that allow betrayed partners or even spurned affair partners to "out" cheaters.
On the one hand, I absolutely understand the desire for revenge. When one has been betrayed so deeply and, sometimes, so publicly, it's natural to want the whole world to see what a true bastard your husband is...and what a "slut" the OW is.
And I confess I engaged in some colorful name-calling in the days following discovery of my husband's affair with his office assistant.
But it never made me feel better. Not for more than a fleeting second of self-righteous rage.
On the other hand, revenge can be a dangerous game – and one that stands in the way of actually moving forward with your life.
So let's slow this down just a minute and look at what's to be gained by participating  in revenge...and what's to be lost.
For starters, check your motives.
•Do you want to save others the pain you've gone through by letting them know ahead of time his true character?
While altruistic, there aren't too many women, in the dizzy days of early love, that are likely to be swayed by the warnings on a Web site...or the ranting of a lover spurned. It's too easy to dismiss it as sour grapes. Unfortunately, while I agree that these guys should come with a warning label, most of us have to learn the hard way about someone's true integrity...or lack of.
•Are you motivated by pure anger and a desire to see your husband/ex revealed as the scoundrel he is? Check these sites out. For the most part, they look put together by 14-year-olds with anger issues. All the "slut" this and "asshole" that starts to just seem ridiculous. Frankly there's no-one on these sites – betrayed or betrayer – that seems remotely appealing. It's all too Jersey Shore for me.
•And finally, how much revenge is enough? The thing with revenge is that it's never as satisfying as you think it will be. You think you'll feel vindicated and your spouse's life will fall apart in the wake of everyone seeing what a true jerk he is. But more often than not, once people tire of your drama they'll move back to reality television. Or worse, people won't see things exactly as you do and, rather than sympathy and commiseration, you'll face disagreement. Maybe, people might think, her anger/vindictiveness drove him to cheat. Unfair perhaps...but quite possible for people to draw that conclusion.
Thing is, while I'm a proponent of talking more about cheating and having greater awareness of just how ubiquitous it is, I don't think revenge sites are the way to do it. Easy for me to say, I know. My anger burned itself out a few years I can be more clear-headed about this. But, with the gift of  hindsight, I'm glad I never did engage in publicly flogging my husband. As tempting as it is, I suspect I might just be the one who got hurt the most.

(What do you think of revenge sites? Did you seek revenge? If so, what did you do? Was it satisfying? Would you suggest to others they seek revenge? Share your stories here...we can all learn from each other.)

Monday, April 23, 2012

The World Looks Different After Betrayal

I have a hard time separating the pain of my mother's death and my husband's betrayal because both occurred within a matter of months. And both left me reeling.
My mom was my rock, especially after D-Day #1. She was the first person I called and the only person who, I think, truly understood the depth of my pain.
And then, just a few weeks after D-Day #2, when I learned that my husband's affair wasn't one but many – and over many, many years – I lost my mom. Suddenly.
I felt utterly bereft. I still do much of the time.
And my world looks so different.
There's something about betrayal, however, that's different. That alters your world view in a way that routine death doesn't (and by routine, I simply mean the end of a life by natural means at a time of life when death is, somewhat, anticipated). Betrayal rips the glasses off your face...and replaces them with lenses that change your view of...well...pretty much everything.
On the one hand, you might see beauty in things you didn't much notice before. Your children's faces seem more precious. Your mother's aged hands stronger.
On the other, the world looks so much more sinister. People's smiles might be insincere. Seemingly happy relationships could be hiding treachery.
And there's no way of turning back. Your view is forever altered and it's up to you to determine which direction you want to face.
Though it has been an excruciating lesson, it was one I needed to learn.
These days, I'm far more clear-sighted about many things. I appreciate how fragile life is and understand how crucial it is to cherish every moment with those we love. I also have far lower tolerance for dishonesty and deceit. My friendship comes with the condition that you must treat me with respect and decency. If you don't on any occasion, friendship is withdrawn. As a result, the friendships I've developed post-betrayal are deeper. Gone are the friends whose discourtesy I tolerated and whose dishonesty I shrugged off. I won't bother with anyone I can't respect. It's a boundary I wish I'd had in place years ago...but it's there now.
So yes...the world looks different. Not necessarily better nor worse. But certainly clearer.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Infidelity is Like Amnesia

I overheard an interview on the radio with Anne Enright, the Book-winning author whose most recent book The Forgotten Waltz details an affair by a wife. She made some interesting observations, noting that her character manages to stay in denial about the impact her sexual affair has on her family...until she recognizes that she's severed emotional ties with her husband. At that instant, she realizes the deep impact of her infidelity. She does not, however, regret it.
Infidelity, as so many of us who've tried to piece together details from the outside know, seems to cause amnesia. And that's not entirely a ruse. Enright's character Gail notes that she can't be much bothered with chronology or details as she recounts her story. Why not? An most adulterers would answer if they were capable of self-reflection, it's the details that reveal the depth of their deceit and the tears in their moral fabric. To truly examine the trajectory of an affair, it would likely become clear that the attraction to someone outside the marriage preceded the vilification of the betrayed spouse. In other words, in order to feel better about the affair, the unfaithful spouse rewrites his story with him as victim.
I don't mean to sound all judgemental and nasty (though I suspect that's how I'm sounding) because I wouldn't still be in my marriage if I didn't believe that basically decent people can do cruel, heartbreaking things...and then never do them again.
It's just that part of the fog of adultery is an ability to convince yourself that no-one is really getting hurt. Or that if they are, they kinda sorta deserve it. It's an ability to convince yourself that your wife's exasperated sigh the evening before meant that she thinks you're an idiot who always lets her down. Or that all you are to your family is a paycheque. Your affair partner, however...well, they truly see how wonderful you are. And down the garden path you go.
There seems little we betrayed spouses can do to fight this amnesia, either before or after D-Day. We can insist on details, though don't expect them to be accurate. We can remind our  husband that it was in fact they who pulled away from us, not the other way around. Generally the best thing we can do is sit in our own pain, tend to our own wounds...and, if we're so inclined, wait for them to emerge – remorseful, clear-headed (or at least clearer headed) and willing to be honest about the role they assumed in their adultery.


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