About a year ago, my younger sister (L) called me with some disturbing news. She told me that my older sister, H, would likely be calling me to tell me about an affair she’d been having. L had just hung up from listening to H tell her about an affair she’d been carrying on for months with a guy in her running club, a guy she was now in love with. She went on and on to L about how in love she was, how happy she was, etc. and all L could do was keep herself from throwing up.
I didn’t wait for H to call me. I called her immediately and asked what she had to tell me.
Same story, same enthusiasm, same nauseating love story about how her husband no longer “gets her” and that this new guys does (of course he does). She had no shame. She wanted me to be… happy for her. After all, “I supported you when you got messed up with that guy 14 years ago who was married.” A – he said he was in the middle of a divorce (a lie), B – I was 24 and it was 14 YEARS ago and I was in a rather severe bout of depression, and C – “you should never have supported me in that.” Just because she supported me 14 years ago in the biggest mistake of my life (when I had no husband, no kids of my own) did not mean I had to support her tearing her own family apart.
Her husband knew about it because he’s a web security professional and knew how to intercept her emails when he suspected something was going on, and she was INFURIATED by his betrayal. HIS BETRAYAL. How dare he betray HER like that! Holy hell, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She was ready to move out and leave the kids with him, and a few weeks later, that’s exactly what she did.
My sister left her children to be with a man who then denied the affair to his own wife. He denied it at first, but then blamed my sister for it because she “pushed him into it” (of course she did. Good god, man!). My BIL got involved and shared the emails with the other wife and to prove that they were both very willing, active participants in the affair. What a hot mess.
My sister eventually moved back home because life without my BIL was rough (that’s what we all think, anyway. He filed legal docs to prepare for divorce and locked her out of his inheritance, his life insurance, his retirement from that moment forward, etc.). My BIL did the right thing – he kept the house (on my dad’s legal advice) and the kids and kept life going for everyone while she got her shit together and figured out where she wanted to be. He’s a patient man, my BIL. I don’t know that I could have done what he did. I always say that people make mistakes and I’d do anything to save my marriage, but man alive, that man paid dearly to keep his marriage.
During this entire time, my sister kept saying, “I deserve to be happy. I deserve to have the life I want.”
My next door neighbors are newly separated. She kicked him out after lots of counseling and when he said the one thing he needed from her was to stop putting him down. She kicked him out almost immediately after that marriage counseling session. Now, we don’t know what all goes on in their marriage, but we do know that she’s frosty and always acts annoyed by everyone around her, including our kids. We do know that her husband would do anything for anybody (and has helped us out quite a bit in a pinch) and is a friendly, genuine guy.
We didn’t know about the separation until our other neighbor told us, but I did wonder what in the world was going on over there. He would swing by during the day quickly to mow the lawn, which made no sense, or stop by to let the dogs out and then go back to work. I didn’t think anything of it beyond the fleeting thought that it was strange and I certainly didn’t mention it to Hottie. But I did see something from her that made me raise an eyebrow, but then I dismissed it because I figured I had to be wrong.
Hottie came home a couple of months ago from visiting with the neighbor across the street. “Have you heard about W and A?” he asked. I said no, because I hadn’t. He filled me in on the separation and asked if I had any clue. I told him that I saw something from her just one week earlier that raised suspicions, but I wrote it off because it wasn’t my business and I could easily be reading into things. I had seen her come home in some guy’s car, into her garage, and unload her bike from his bike trailer and flirt back and forth with him a bit. I figured it could be a coworker or something perfectly innocent, so I brushed it off. I didn’t even tell Hottie about it until he asked me that night. He was stunned that I had seen this and not mentioned it, and that I’d seen her husband stop by to mow and let the dogs out during the days, but never said anything to him about it. I know he doesn’t like it when I gossip and I figured he wouldn’t want to know about it, so I didn’t mention it.
Since then, she has had this man, and other men, coming and going from her house in the broad daylight. She sometimes acts weird when we’re outside and they come and go, but mostly, she acts like it’s OK. Our neighbor across the street keeps in touch with her husband and said that he does know about the guy(s) and is devastated by everything. While W lives with his parents, devastated by his ending marriage, his wife A is out and about dating very openly. She is bringing men into her husband’s house. It is so strange to me.
There’s been a lot of cheating going on around me in the last 1-2 years. People I know being badly hurt by it, the cheaters expecting me to keep their secrets, kids losing the family life they grew up with. I don’t understand it. Every single time, it’s cheating that is justified by the cheater because, “they deserve to be happy.” My question to my sister was, “what makes you so entitled to your fleeting definition of happiness, but your kids and husband don’t deserve that same entitlement?” My own MIL defended my sister with, “she deserves to be happy in the way she wants to be happy.” (My MIL is a man-hater, by the way. I’m not sure I’ve mentioned that before. If I would cheat on Hottie, we’re pretty certain she’d probably say that I deserved to be happy and it was his failures that drove me to do it.)
Why are people so shameless with their cheating these days, when it wasn’t like this 10, 20, 30 years ago? Why is the quest for individual happiness more important than family happiness? When did people become so selfish, willing to risk their family’s embarrassment and humiliation for their own open happiness?
I just don’t get it.
June 22, 2015 at 4:09 pm
You know this hits close to home. Yes, I believe people deserve their happiness, but those that strive for this elusive happiness never stop to think about the “carnage” they leave behind. My BFF said those exact words to Chris when he told her his side of the story. Here’s how it ends, one person is happy & the other is crushed & left behind like trash. I will never understand why he chose to leave us, but he is very happy in his new life. I however am still struggling. And most people would slap the shit out of me for saying this, but if he came back tomorrow I would welcome him with open arms….cheaters suck!
June 22, 2015 at 10:19 pm
You are amazing Sarah and deserve so much better than Chris. You are such a strong woman and mother. You are right, cheaters suck. It’s such an incredibly selfish decision to do that. Hugs girl!
June 22, 2015 at 5:01 pm
I don’t think things are that different now than 10, 20 or 30 years ago. You are just in the age group now when people are most likely to cheat so you’re aware of it happening. 30 years ago my dad cheated on my mom with my stepmom, left his family, etc. I doubt they were that rare a case compared to what happens now. The difference is probably more women cheating as there are more “equal opportunity” marriages now and most women in marriage can provide for themselves if they wanted to leave.
June 22, 2015 at 5:44 pm
You know, I think you’re right. I am noticing a lot more women being the cheaters. I almost wrote that in my post, but didn’t want to generalize. But even my other neighbor down the street, a dear friend of mine, talks about cheating if the opportunity presented itself.
June 23, 2015 at 8:16 am
Wait. What?? Your friend talks about cheating in advance? Now THAT needs to be dealt with. Wow.
June 22, 2015 at 6:15 pm
I can’t even imagine. What a terrible space to be in.
My philosophy: If you don’t want to be married, don’t be.
June 22, 2015 at 11:17 pm
Simply because some people are selfish arseholes
June 23, 2015 at 7:38 am
Wow, this is hard. I have known of a few acquaintances recently also who got caught up in an affair and it scares the hell out of me. What seems to be a perfect family on the outside can be torn apart on the inside by infidelity. The odds of successful marriages in this country is discouraging, but I agree with the comment above that if you don’t want to be married, don’t be.
June 23, 2015 at 8:18 am
Marriage is work. And in so many ways our generation grew up “having it all.” So people are capricious and selfish and perfectionists, even though a truly “perfect” marriage or relationship doesn’t exist, and when things get tough, lots of people just try to “escape.”
June 23, 2015 at 8:24 am
I was just thinking about this some more, and re-read what you wrote about the cheaters justifying the affairs. That makes my blood boil. I can almost understand cheating when the relationship is on the ropes, etc., but only if the cheater is then apologetic and remorseful (because, seriously, even if you plan on ending things, WAIT until you’re actually single. Sex is not that hard to come by.). But for people to then try to justify what they’ve done? THAT I simply cannot and do not understand. Ever. Think before you act. End things in advance. Don’t be an asshole.
June 23, 2015 at 11:19 pm
Marriage is work. fucking hard ass work too. some people just aren’t able to put forth the effort. I also believe so many in society think of marriage as temporary and as divorces have become less of a stigma, but more commonly accepted, people just opt for the easy way out. Now in my experience, Chris says it was the hardest decision he’d ever had to make, but since it took all of 45 minutes to move out of my house and jump into bed with his girlfriend(though he says they were fully clothed)and take pictures, I’m guessing it wasn’t all that challenging of a decision for him. all relationship take work and effort. All relationships have ebbs and flows. And you’re right, there is no perfect relationship/marriage. Everyone has issues.
June 23, 2015 at 11:29 am
I agree with commenter A above. I don’t know if it’s actually that much more prevalent than it was in the past, but just that (1) we are in the age group where it tends to start happening so we hear of it more, and (2) we have social media (everything from HuffPo to blogging) to see/hear about it more often than our predecessors did. Charlie and I just got into “Mad Men” (holy hell we love it – it’s so interesting to see a piece of life in that day and age), but the cheating is crazy prevalent in that show, and yes, part of that is for “good TV” – but part of that is b/c that was just the reality of the time.
I also think people tend to be a little more open about it b/c of the internet now, so in that way you also hear more about it. Like my comment to S the other day about my experience with this 8 years ago – that’s not a comment I have EVER shared in casual conversation (or even deep conversation) with my girlfriends around here. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, and b/c you’re a close URL friend, you now know that about me. Though it makes me a bit nervous because some people will judge away without knowing the full circumstances, I still decided the benefit of me writing that comment of support to S was worth it for me to put it out there & risk judgement from others, because really, others’ judgement doesn’t matter to me. It’s between my husband and myself what happened and how we worked through it all those years ago. I can’t speak for everyone, but cheaters don’t all set out to cheat – they’re not all wishing they weren’t married (we weren’t even married at the time!) or wanting to be assholes. I’m sure some do (and cheating is horrible and I don’t condone it – to be clear!), but I’d hazard a guess that we have all done shitty things in our marriages in one way, shape or form at some point (I’m not just talking about infidelity here). Nobody is perfect, and that’s not me making excuses for our particular situation years ago, that’s just fact. We all just struggle in different ways and some marriages make it through those hard times and some don’t. I pray every day that mine will be one of those love stories that ends with us being married for 60 healthy, happy years and dying peacefully in our sleep together. We shall see. 🙂
June 23, 2015 at 12:50 pm
Very different… You weren’t married, you didn’t have kids, and you fixed it! You put in the work. Like I said, I would do anything to keep my marriage and would be willing to work through anything, but I’d expect the same of him. Forgiveness is great, I’m just so sad to see so many people not wanting to even try.
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June 23, 2015 at 11:24 pm
Jos, I also think, some people think it’s just common. It’s no big deal. I know in my home state, as far as the marriage/divorce goes, infidelity has no bearing unless a partner is infected with a disease, and even then it’s kind of swept under the rug like, eh. Shit happens. The judge is actually more pissed at me for filing for divorce(after finding pictures mentioned above) because what mother of 2 young children would break up her marriage. Um? What? he moved out. He told me there was no chance of reconciliation(because he tried…he really tried…not sure what he tried, but he thinks he did) and in order for him to be happy he wanted a divorce, but didn’t want to file right away. So in the eyes of the state, and even in Chris’s eyes, I’m the one who ended the marriage. GO figure.
June 26, 2015 at 5:37 pm
I have a few thoughts on cheating. I think in a marriage cheating is generally a symptom and not the disease, i.e., the person cheating is doing so for some reason — either a personal issue or a problem in the marriage itself — and the cheating itself isn’t necessarily the root of the problem.
Having said that, I don’t condone cheating, and I think that if you are unhappy in your marriage, you should work on your relationship and/or on yourself, if that’s what needs to be done. And if you want to be with someone else, end your marriage first before jumping into another relationship.
If you aren’t ready to take the step of leaving your marriage, then you shouldn’t be with another person, IMO. Once you introduce a third person into whatever situation you were in, you’ve just made it ten times more complicated to try and resolve that situation.