Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Judgement Day: When betrayed wives attack betrayed wives

Okay, so my title sounds like some sort of B-movie.
But just glance at the covers of tabloid magazines or newspapers for a quick education in how our culture views infidelity. "Cheater!" they scream. Or "It's over!" Or the straightforward "Betrayed!"
The betrayed wives are divided into two categories. Those women who dump the cheater? Brave. Strong. Those who forgive? Delusional. Wimpy.
What's particularly surprising, however, is that much of this scorn heaped on betrayed wives comes from...betrayed wives.
Forgiving a cheater and rebuilding a marriage seems a disappointment to our take-the-gloves-off culture. We want revenge. We want retribution. After all, the adage goes, "once a cheater..."
No matter that evidence doesn't back this cliché up. No matter that the majority (80% says a recent study) of marriages will experience infidelity. No matter that of those who divorce following infidelity, more than three-quarters later regretted it.
Our culture's judgement of infidelity – and those of us navigating it – is why so many of us choose silence even as we're experiencing the worst pain of our lives. It's why we hesitate to trust even our closest friends to support us.
It's why we find comfort in anonymous blogs where we can share our story without fear.
Betrayal creates deep wounds and triggers strong emotions. It's confusing to learn that the one person you trusted most has betrayed you. My immediate reaction upon learning about my husband's infidelity was to wander my house, wringing my hands and asking, out loud to myself, "what am I going to do?"
And it's perhaps that question that's central to this issue of judgement. What was I going to do? Sure I'd always said that cheating was a deal-breaker. But that was when it was a hypothetical. Things are always clear when they're hypothetical.
But now I had to figure out what, among my various options, I was going to do. And of course, I – like all of you – was making that choice with absolutely no understanding of infidelity and without a crystal ball.
It's into that uncertainty about our future, our deep pain at the betrayal and our recognition that other people are impacted by our choice (something our husbands neglected to note) that others cast their judgement.
"Well, I could never do what you're doing," one friend told me, just weeks after my D-Day. Within that comment was her deeper point that, really, I was a bit of an idiot. She'd left own marriage a few years earlier because of her then-husband's infidelity and she had no room for any alternative but to leave. I was stung by her dismissal of my choice. I struck her off my confidantes list, which was already pretty short.
And yet, a few years later, after this friend had been in a happy long-term relationship with another man, she wistfully told me that she thinks she and her ex could have actually made it work. But...who knows? My friend is now happily remarried. She made her choice.
And that's my point: We each get to make our choice. It's an excruciating one. Some of us will regret our choice to stay at which point we're allowed to change our minds. Some will regret our choice to leave at which point we're generally stuck with the consequences. Life isn't an exact science.
What we can do, however, is support each other in whatever choice we make. We can encourage each other to get as much information as we can and then make the best choice you can under the circumstances at the time. And we can then acknowledge that your choice doesn't make mine any less valid.
To those of us who've experienced that judgement, especially from other betrayed wives? Recognize that another's inability to tolerate your different choice speaks to her deep fear that she's making a mistake. We are frightened by those whose actions call into mind that there is another possibility. Seeing the world in black and white makes moralistic judgement so much easier...but it makes the world much less beautiful.
See her judgement as evidence of her own deep pain. And offer her compassion.


  1. I agree completely and your point about her judgement being about her insecurity so true

  2. I relate to this post, but mostly for the the fact that sharing my husband's infidelity with the few friends I felt safe doing so with wasn't necessarily such great idea. It opened us up to judgements about him (bastard cheater) and about me and my decision to stay in the marriage and make it work (are you crazy?!?).

    Of the three friends I shared with, only two were supportive, and even those two seem to have distanced themselves from me to a certain extent. My most supportive friend was working on repairing her marriage after infidelity as well. As you can imagine, she was my safe harbor and I could tell her anything without judgement. Friend number two was supportive to a point…I realized early on that the subject of the affair made her uncomfortable so it isn't something I even bring up with her any more. She is still my friend, and is basically friendly with my very remorseful husband, but I definitely sense a more reserved tone, which is fine. I also sense that these two women are giving us the space and privacy to be a couple again. While he was involved with the OW we tended to be much more social with other couples, most likely because we weren't paying proper attention to each other. We traveled with our couple-friends and got together to socialize with other couples most weekends. But post DDay, we are spending more time alone together, enjoying each other and rebuilding the friendship and intimacy that we had let languish after more than 35 years of marriage.

    Friend number 3 was someone with whom I considered myself to be very close. I was her support during a painful and messy divorce, even going to family court with her a few times. But our friendship is basically dead now. She told me that she didn't think she could ever look at my husband the same way again (she used to think he was the greatest thing since sliced bread!) She said that respected my decision to work on my marriage, but she was "uncomfortable" in his presence so she wouldn't be coming over any more. I think infidelity makes people uncomfortable, as it should. But it occurred to me that as her friend, I had to listen to every detail of her divorce, her newfound sex life after her divorce, even her bragging about the size of her new boyfriend's penis!! Talk about TMI !!!! And two people working on their 35 year marriage makes her uncomfortable?…so be it.

    I think women, whether they are betrayed wives or not, come with a preconceived idea of what a post-affair relationship is supposed to look like. Kick the bum to the curb. But I am dealing with a husband who is deliriously happy to be free. Free of the lies and the guilt and the pressure of leading a duplicitous life. Free from the nagging and pleading of an OW who wanted more, more, more as he spiraled into the lowest place of self-loathing over who he had become while involved with her.

    The gratitude that he displays to me on a daily, even hourly basis for letting him remain my husband is what has sustained me…he is beyond grateful that I didn't kick him out. I value the bumps and bends and humorous recollections of our long history, the comfortable cadence of our almost 40 years together, and of course our beautiful family. And the path that we started on together, all those years ago, is sweeter and more appreciated than ever these days.

    As my counselor advised, think long and hard about who you share affair information with, especially if you are looking for love and support. Good advice, I think, very good advice.

    Love and blessings to all that find themselves here... you have MY love and support.


    1. I could have written every single word of your response!!

  3. I appreciate this article today!! I would like to add that my husband has said more times than I can count that he wishes he could turn back the clock. Take it back. He never thought he could be THAT GUY. I have learned that life is so NOT black and white...again elle thanks for this place...we never wanted to be here and yet it is a safe haven for us!

  4. I personally think a lot of the pressure for throwing out a cheater comes from the current American culture of disposability. When I first got a cell phone it was from verizon wireless which advertised "new every 2". Nobody asked if the old is still ok do I really NEED a new every 2. Nowadays everything is disposable, & while some are improvements like diapers thank goodness, it seems too easy to say well this husband made a mistake so ill trade him in for a new one. & what if the new one cheats too, esp since recent studies show 60% of married men cheat. That means more likely than not the new one will cheat too. Then what-- get rid of him too?


    1. Sam,
      That's a really interesting take on this. It's so true. We're so quick to just say "out with the old..." There doesn't seem to be the same recognition that a longtime relationship brings certain gifts that a series of relationships never can.


  5. Dear BetterEveryDay and Elle,
    I sometimes think that our friends have a certain amount of fear when we reveal infidelity and our decision to stay and work on things. We have mutual friends who have had affairs and one of them said to me that she was disgusted this woman had stayed, she felt it was giving her husband Carte Blanche to have an affair seeing this other couple repair! I said what on earth makes you think you're husband will now go and have an affair because of this? She replied, well, our friend has welcomed her husband back as if nothing has happened. I did try and explain that we know nothing of the sleepless nights, arguments, tears and heartbreak they have gone through to still be together. But, it was her worry/fear that wouldn't allow some compassion or understanding.

    My mother gave me the best advice, don't run, don't tell anyone yet just stay safe and try and work through things. Its going to be a hard ride, but its between you and him. ( all contact with o/w was cut) If a year down the line you feel that you cannot stay with him, make your decision then, but not now. You have too much to give up on.

    I too said it would be a deal breaker for me. My husband has not had an easy time staying, I have made his life hell on occasions, but I also made it easy for him to leave, no worry about seeing the kids, I wouldn't mention the affair as the break up, financially we would be fine, I would be cordial. He chose to stay .

    Thank you BetterEveryDay for your love and support and all the others. We haven't given up, we've moved through some difficult times and it would have been easy to walk away, but I'm made of tougher stuff. To all the other women who say " I wouldn't put up with that" then don't, but you could just be missing out on something.

    1. Your friend's fear that her husband would have carte blanche speaks to my own conviction that we need to really see the fallout of affairs. Our culture doesn't want to look too hard at the emotional cost of affairs. They're still considered titillating. Sexy. The truth is much different. The stress. The anxiety. The incredible pain it puts a family through. The remorse so many men feel once they realize what they've done...and often lost as a consequence.
      Your mother sounds like a wise soul. Mine gave almost the same advice. And it was exactly what I needed to hear. To have permission to take time to make the best choice for me.


  6. I've not been judged by friends, luckily. Most of them were very supportive of us working hard to try and make it work. Only a couple were angry with my husband. Most of them were very forgiving and loving.

    I had a little bit of drama today with getting my middle one to school. I went home crying. That's when I know that I'm emotionally very fragile. And I was stupid enough to look the OW up on Facebook. She doesn't really upset me anymore, but she's still on my mind every day. There are days where I'm so tired of this whole process (we've also been through a couple of other life changing events in the last two years (moved country twice to name one) that I just sit on the sofa and hardly do anything (except for exercising).

    And sometimes I just don't know where to go. I can imagine some people are really fed up with me talking about the affair and my sadness. Just writing this helps.....

    Mara x

    1. Mara,
      I'm glad your friends have been supportive. Please be as gentle with yourself. I had plenty of days when I would wind up in tears because of some tiny incident that at the time seemed further evidence that I wasn't valued in this world.
      You've had a lot to deal with in a short span of time. But I do urge you to find something to get you off your couch. I'm a big advocate of volunteering. It has offered me many of my most gratifying experiences (I currently volunteer at a soup kitchen and the gratitude I'm offered by these cold hungry people warms my own soul; but I've also volunteered at my kids' school, with environmental groups and other charities that pique my interest). What about a book club? A mom's group? A part-time job? Give yourself this time to figure out what makes you lose yourself -- hiking? A craft? And then set about making it happen, even for a half-hour a day. Getting outside of your own pain will do wonders.


    2. Or Mara...given that you said that writing this helps: Why not start your own blog??


    3. I've got a family blog :-). I'm not sure if I want to have a blog like you have. I think there are some great blogs out there like yours. I like to comment from time to time. That seems enough at the moment....

      It's the days where I feel crap (fewer days like this luckily!!) where I don't seem to be able to (literally) move and I panic. I am working freelance and I'm in the process of setting up an other business. Some days are really busy, some days are not. Finding the balance (again) is an ongoing process for me at the moment. I find it hard to have the right balance.

      My counsellor told me that I have to remind myself that I'm still recovering. I wish I was completely healed and ok, but I'm not. I just wish I could give things 100 or 110% like I used to do, but I can't. Really frustrating and hard to accept ;-(.

      Mara x

    4. Hi Mara,
      I think you're doing better than perhaps you think you are. This takes far longer than any of us could have imagined. I remember reading "3 - 5 years" to heal around my first D-Day and that seemed like an eternity. I couldn't imagine feeling so awful for so long. But we don't feel "so awful". It begins to ebb and flow. We have fewer awful days and more better days. And then, for me around 5 years, I finally realized that chapter was well and truly over.
      As for balance? Something made up to sell women's magazines. Settle for balance over years, rather than hours or days.


  7. Thank you so much Elle- and to the other responses. This is for a lack of better words one of the most earth shattering experiences I have ever dealt with. I hate that I do waste time thinking about the OW- I hate that I no longer feel grounded in my own home-I hate that I do not trust my husband. I HATE ALL OF THIS! Just the other night I told my husband because I discovered a different user name on his email led me on a downward tailspin of crazy- re reading old emails from the OW to me about all of my wrongs and how I hurt her. I told him he caused this. I told him I didn't think we could make it but he asked me to not make any rash decisions - (it has been 1 1/2 years since this all began) but sometimes I think emotionally, mentally I can't stay- or why did I fight so hard to save this? For our kids? for our lengthy time married? For the good memories? I love my friends so much and they have been there for me and even retaliated in my defense to the OW(she tends to harass me from time to time-she keeps creating new email addresses and I do not have the time or energy to try and keep up to continue to block her- and she gets me at work sometimes too). I hate that at my age I feel more insecure about me and who I am. That 17, 21 year old me is screaming at this middle aged mother of "how could you stay?!?!" Thank you for this site Elle.

    1. Hey middle-aged mother,
      We've all been there. Is this a bad day or is this the way you feel most days? One-and-a-half years is still surprisingly I ask: Is it getting better? Or worse? If it's getting better, then trust that it will continue to get better. Are you and your husband rebuilding a marriage? Do you see evidence that he's a better husband? A better father? If it's getting worse, do you know why? There's no doubt that the OW's consistent interruptions are keeping you somewhat off-balanced. I'd be inclined to look into a restraining order. Has she been told, in no uncertain terms, that there is to be No Contact? Have you threatened legal action if she doesn't comply? You don't deserve this from her.
      Take control of the things you can and do your best to let go of what you can't. You'll never really know if you can trust your husband. Truth is, we never really know if we can ever trust another person. But you can ask yourself, honestly, whether you think he's continuing to cheat or if that's fear talking.


  8. It's nothing like the movies, is it! Not that I can even watch them now, anything hits on the subject or has a women in that looks like his OW!
    I don't think I can go on knowing I've got years in front of me. Years of painful feelings, this roller coaster ride.
    I'm half the person that I was. Can't function let alone go out and find a job. I know I should and I know it would make me feel better. Have problems doing normal tasks. Let alone go and sell myself to new people! Sell my life to them!
    We had another row last night. My husband says that I should not read 'this stuff' that its 'frying my mind' I need to move on, forget and stop asking questions. Draw a line under it. Think he means act like it didn't never happen? is that possible.
    Hes angry with me at the moment cos he has been trying really hard and I keep throwing it back. Through my anger and questions. He does not want to speak about it anymore.

    I have no one to talk to. 2 couples that I told are fine we go out as couples and its good. Never gets spoken about.
    Another friend that I thought would be there for me and had been through her husbands affair six years ago, is no longer friends with me. She didn't want to talk about it after the first couple of weeks. And then when I had a wobbly and had a 'mad woman' moment in a restaurant she wrote me a letter! which is sitting in the drawer unopened. After being friends for over 30 years (or maybe not really) you would expect a phone call the next day. 'what was that all about' 'you have to control your anger' etc etc but no a letter, getting things of her chest
    She also went and told people who I did not want to know.
    They have stayed together and seem like they have a more loving relationship. Which is my concern. Did my husband think it was going to be an easy ride. That their marriage survived. Her husband was in the group of men that was away when my husband meet the OW. My husband lied when I found out and said he meet her in a petrol station. (I found out though from OW husband) Makes you wonder what they where up to every year.
    Also makes you wonder if that is the reason people stay away, feel uncomfortable. It can all so easily happen to them!

    1. Jane,
      Have you considered that your clinically depressed? While I think much of what you're going through is "normal", I nonetheless think it sounds as if you're stuck. And isolated. And angry. All normal but having that level of stress in your life over the longer term can trigger clinical depression and anxiety. Have you talked to your doctor? I hate hearing how down you are. And when your sadness/anger gets in the way of things you could be doing to move you forward, then I think it's time to ask the medical profession to help.


  9. Although my first reaction when my husband FINALLY admitted his guilt, was to scream it from the highest rooftop, telling everyone what a rat bastard he is, and how much he has hurt me, along with letting everyone that knows the OW that she is not the Saint she makes out to be, (she works for the Red Cross, what an angel) I believed it would bring me some peace and vengeance.
    When I realized that my first reaction was not to throw him to the curb, I knew I had to be very circumspect who I confided in for various reasons. Everyone will have an opinion, and they will tell you what that is if you want to hear it or not, but once that initial period of condolence is over, they would not only be judging his actions but mine also. Did I want to go through this process of getting stronger and figuring out what I wanted always worrying about what other people would think? NO, I realized that I was too fragile and could not take criticism on top of my self-loathing, poor self-esteem etc.
    My first confidant was a work friend, who has been through all my stories in the past of the OW trying to tell me, anonymous phone calls everything, until the OW had had enough I guess and just emailed me the details. This was many years after their affair was over but my weak husband stayed “friends” with her as she always hinted that I should know. Wow she is a real piece of work and he was spineless. She is the least judgmental person I know, and has always been there for me, listening to my craziness in the early days.
    The 2nd friend was my best friend from high school, who has lead had a colorful love life to say the least, whilst never being the OW herself, she recently found out that her husband was having an affair at the same time she was, yikes, but that was a wakeup call for her and made her realize she did want to stay married, and has been working it out, and as such a true support, although we now live 3500 miles apart.
    My 3rd friend and her husband are close friends of both myself and my husband, couples friends I guess, I thought long and hard over telling her, but she has always been there for me and knew something was wrong the first time I saw her post DD. All she said was “whatever you decide to do I will support you” and she has since then, without judgment of either myself or hubby.
    So whilst we are still fairly new into this painful process, 8 months today, I now know after counseling that I am strong enough to make my own decisions and try and stay focused on the road ahead, and not that slippery slope behind me, with the help of my friends and the much needed help of this blog, to keep me from going to crazy town again, or at least not staying there long, thanks for that Elle, and to all the contributors here , ladies stay strong, stay focused and make a decision you can live with whatever that may be,

  10. After carrying the burden of his cheating for 3 1/2 months by myself (other than this blog) I got to a very low point this Sunday and called a friend. She lives in another state so was basically a safe person as she doesn't interact with us often. That was ok, except, I immediately felt her disgust for my husband and I know she doesn't understand why I am not out of here.
    The big mistake I made then and I am blaming the fact that Sunday I was into the wine a little heavy, was calling one of my children, my oldest daughter. BIG MISTAKE! She has told me to throw him out, he is a SA (?to me), I cannot stay, etc.
    She is now also trying to control my life, how/when we should do counseling, etc.
    It has now created a huge rift between me and her, she doesn't want to see my husband or let the grandchildren around him. addition to everything else now I have problems with an adult child. I am sicker. I wish I had remained silent.

    1. J. I too made the mistake of insisting my husband call our 2 grown children to let them know what he had done. He had always been the perfect dad…coaching, camping and always loving and communicative. They were as shocked as I had been, and both of them told him off and said they didn't want any contact with him until they were ready. In turn, they had not much contact with me either, calling or texting my cell occasionally, but both refused to call the home phone in case he were to pick up. He felt lower than low, and I suffered the loss of us as a family. Insult to injury.

      I let them cool their heels for a good 6 months, but as Christmas approached I felt the need to try to get some sort of resolution. It was bad enough that I had been betrayed by my husband, but to lose our family life too? That was more than I could bear. So with the help of my IC, I reached out to them and asked them to remember the dad that raised them, the one who had loved them through thick and thin. He wrote them both sincere letters of apology and begged their forgiveness. And I also explained to them that I was not giving up on my 35 year marriage just because some gold-digging business associate of his decided that he would make a better husband than the one she already had!!!

      Give your daughter a little time. If your husband is truly sorry, and if you two are earnestly working on your marriage and plan to stay together, you may just have to wait it out. And I would also encourage your husband to fall on his sword and write a heartfelt apology to her. We are approaching 3 years since DDay and thank God we are a family again. They have forgiven their dad, but I know that it will always affect the way they look at him. Another sad and inevitable bit of fallout from the selfish act of his affair.

      Much love to you…

  11. J
    I am sorry for your pain. This is why we suffer alone and in silence. As far as your daughter goes maybe you can tell her the stats..marriages DO survive this! Its really rather character building!!! And your marriage can be stronger and be happier than the 'status quo '....this blog is proof!! I read a book last year during Lent called RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL SON. It really helped me with the whole forgiveness thing. It really made me think about ALL the characters in that gospel...and the movie PHILOMENA is all about forgiveness...beautiful message and a true story. I wish you peace...

  12. A lot of times my husband says he feels bad that almost no one knows apart from a few trusted friends. He says he feels like he deserves to be publically disgraced for what he did. I told him that's not productive when we're trying to save our marriage. And not only that--he's not the only one who will end up disgraced. The idea that only doormats stay with a wayward spouse is so ingrained in our culture. I couldn't stand to be pitied as a pathetic fool who stayed with her cheating husband.

    Thank you for your blog. It's a lifeline for me. It shows me that not only am I not alone, I am not a pathetic loser for trying to save my marriage. And that others have done it successfully.


    1. Gee,
      I have faith that the stereotype of the doormat of a wife is changing. I think that as more people speak openly about infidelity -- and the incredible damage it wreaks -- we'll have an increased understanding of the courage and integrity it takes to give someone a second chance.



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