It’s been interesting to read the comments on my article on Huffington Post recently.
It’s pretty easy to hate cheaters and I find I have good company in that point of view, judging by the HuffPo comments. But the ones that make me pause are the ones that lay out an argument on how — no REALLY, the betrayed spouse (BS) actually, truly sucked. If the argument is made well, the commentator does not say “They made me cheat,” instead they write something to the effect of, if I had not been with someone so emotionally abusive and sexually withholding, I would not have been the sort of person who stepped out on my marriage.
And that resonates with me. Because I do think being in a bad marriage (I’ve been in two), can bring out the worst in a person. I can sympathize. My first husband was emotionally and sexually withholding. I do not want to be smug. The last year of my marriage with him, as it was all falling apart, if the right person had seduced me, I might well have tipped over to the cheater side. I remember very well thinking about it and skirting dangerously close to that side. A stay at home dad of my acquaintance kept hitting on me. And I felt absolutely desperate for affection. I ran all the traps in my head about cheating. But by the grace of God, I didn’t do it.
When I got close to that edge, what bubbled up in my mind was “I don’t really want an affair. I want to date openly. I want OUT of this marriage.”
I realize, if I had cheated, it could’ve felt like a middle path. Okay, I don’t have to have the messy divorce and the humiliation and expense. I can find an “arrangement” so I can get the sex I so badly want. It was very scary to make the decision to leave. I was a young mother with a pre-schooler and I worked part-time. How much easier to just postpone the divorce decision and cheat.
I felt then, oh I really did, that he deserved it. He truly sucked. He still sucks.
But he didn’t deserve to be cheated on. No one deserves that, not even the most sucktacular of spouses. But that’s not what I thought then. My decision not to cheat on him, I would like to tell you was because of my moral compass and my good values. Perhaps. But it was also based in total self interest. Once I found myself going there in my head, I took it as a sign that I needed to get the HELL OUT. For me.
And I did. I saw a lawyer. Informed him, that all the counseling and marriage saving I had been doing solo for years, was ending. I was divorcing him.
Once I saw that lawyer, drew up papers, and had that It’s Over speech, I never went back. I told him his personal life was his life, and mine was mine. Then I took a trip to London, wrote my family letters informing them of the divorce, and I had a fling with an old friend. And it felt great. Sex aside, I had forgotten what it felt like to have someone hold my hand or be kind.
To this day, I’m grateful I got out first and have a clear conscience about ending that marriage. I deeply sympathize with anyone in an emotionally abusive and sexually withholding marriage. But cheating is NOT going to improve that. It’s a dreadful, hurtful, mutually abusive choice. I understand the impulse to strike back passive aggressively — I’ll show you! Hah! Watch me screw this other person! but if you do that, you need to be honest with yourself — you’re doing it to destroy your spouse. To destroy your marriage, because you’re too gutless to end it. Allowing the resulting drama do the work for you.
If you want to destroy your spouse? You need to realize that you’ve been emotionally out of that marriage for a long time. And then you need to GET out of that marriage honestly. (Assuming you’ve tried the therapy, counseling, etc. already. I do believe in giving it the honest college try, if you have kids, and no one has cheated already.) You cannot cheat on someone you feel emotionally connected with. I don’t believe we “love” people and cheat on them. It’s abuse.
Your spouse might truly suck. Such people exist. But don’t cheat on them. It just drags you down and makes you an abuser too.