When we first started dating, my wife was living with another man. She failed to mention this to me over the course of several lunches that got ever-more flirty. So, in some ways she was hedging her bets by staying with the other guy and not telling me about it. She wanted to see how things went before telling the other guy she was unhappy or looking for something else. Hmmm. This is not a good opening.
Then we got married, had two kids and suffered the financial disaster of 9-11. Everything we had imagined was going to be easy, was hard. And it got real hard.
During one of the hard parts she began to have very deep email confession sessions with a younger man from work. She even took him to lunch and showed him our local library. WHAT? Do you think I heard about this little migration? I did not. Another WTF moment. When I discovered the indiscreet emails, by accident (I was cleaning spam off our shared computer) she apologized immediately and cut off the relationship.
But it WAS a relationship. She was confessing and confiding in another man about her husband’s depression, and the hardships of her life at that moment in time. He was recently out of a relationship, and from what I understand, fairly attractive and bit young. < THIS MY FRIENDS IS EMOTIONAL INFIDELITY.
She may not have slept with the guy, but she went a lot deeper than that. Yet, the real betrayal was in NOT telling me what hardships she was experiencing as a result of my depression and the hard times we were in. She was a stoic. She clammed that stuff up and rarely talked about emotions. But it must’ve been easy with this guy, because it wasn’t long before she was revealing my depression and her dissatisfaction with her current life.
That’s when the light bulb goes off, now, looking back on the entire way our divorce went down.
She was unhappy with her life. I got us into marriage/couples therapy. She was not talking about being near divorce, but at the same time she went and met with an attorney to “figure out her options.”
We were spending weekly sessions in couple’s therapy and she was not talking about wanting a divorce? WHAT THE HELL? Why was she agreeing to be in marriage counseling if she was also seeking legal advice about a possible divorce. They say you can’t prepare for war and hope for peace at the same time.
While all this was very shocking to me, as it happened, and even these years later as I’m still unravelling what happened, the illumination I got today was this: she had been lying to me all the time. Several times in our history, her trustworthiness was called into question. Yet in therapy she was hammering me for being untrustworthy. Like the time I didn’t tell her I’d gotten a speeding ticket. (As in avoiding unnecessary conflict with her during a difficult time.) But she was using those minor transgressions to trump of charges of being deceitful, and it was HER that was not coming clean. She was projecting her guilt and lying on me. Saying I was the one with the honesty problem.
There were other little things along the way, during our marriage, that didn’t make sense. She would occasionally go to lunch with her ex-husband and fail to mention it to me. Why? Why should she hide unless she was, again, “checking out her options?”
So I was being raked over the coals about being dishonest and my wife was consulting with an attorney rather than bringing her issues into couples therapy. She was focusing her unhappiness on me and what I was or was not doing for her. That is what killed us. Her lying. Her secrets. And her trying to keep the focus on my issues to keep from revealing or confessing her own. And that’s fucked. We were doomed from the time we started dating, by her distrust and dishonesty. Wow. And I’m just getting this six years after the divorce.
The Off Parent
< back to The Hard Stuff posts
- You Are Ahead by a Century
- The Painful Business of Divorce
- Your Contempt for Me is Hurting All of Us
- The Humans Of Divorce, Dear AG’s Office Special Cases Officer Mr. McK!
- And Just As We Reach A Calm Moment
- What I Still Fail to Understand About My Ex-wife
- When Kids, Money, and Divorce Collide
- Trusting Your Unreliable Ex
image: close up portrait, creative commons usage
True Confessions Of A Cheating Suburban Mom says, ” I am a 40-something woman near the end of my divorce, and I am the one who was unfaithful.” < thus started a popular post on DivorcedMoms.com and Huffington Post’s Divorce section. And just the title irritated me. Sensationalizing cheating seems like a bad idea, sure you might get massive hits and comments, but confessional divorce material needs to have a redeeming quality, if it’s just a tell-all, it’s more of a Hollywood Housewives, rather than material for growth and self-understanding.
Did I really need to read this post? Is this “suburban mom” going to give me some advice that will be helpful in my recovery from infidelity and divorce? Is there something educational or illuminating about this confessional, or is it more of a slowing-down-to-gawk-at-the-car-crash-moment? I’m not interested in the later, and I spend a lot of time trying to pull apart my own dysfunctional mistakes as I move forward as a single dad. But again, this headline and first sentence have me forming my response before I’ve heard her “True Confession.” Even that title starts us off on the wrong foot, with a sensational tabloid headline like that, how can this be an introspective or evolutionary post. I will pause here and read her post… Back in a minute… Please stand by…
“I didn’t consider divorce. What I hadn’t realized is that over time I grieved the end of my marriage while I was still in it. I lay awake in bed at night crying, wondering how it was ever going to get better. He was next to me in bed, never a word to me, never wrapped his arms around me, never asked what was wrong.” – ibid
“I threw myself into my children and work and ignored my own needs. I did this for a very long time and continued to put myself last on my own priority list.” – ibid
“A friendship with another man grew into something that was not tawdry sex, but a renewed sense of happiness and hope. It evolved over time and wasn’t based in lust, but conversation, appreciation and understanding.” – ibid
“If I had known what would happen, and was aware of myself enough to understand what it all meant, I would go back and end my marriage before any infidelity took place.” – ibid
She got it. Okay, I’m relieved the popularity was not based on some drive-by sensationalism. In fact, the author, keeps things very clean and honest. And if this were my ex-wife I would have to applaud her for digging in an figuring out how disconnected she had become from her marriage, herself, and finally waking up when another man showed her the respect and care she was starving for.
It’s true, when we marry we have not real idea what’s ahead. When we add children to the mix, all things are changed forever. We’ve got a completely different responsibility at that point. For me, my needs and dreams, took a back seat to supporting and loving my family (both wife and two kids). I was a committed and engaged father. And we experienced some of the moments of joy in our lives that were unimaginable before kids. That will never be lost.
The magic and mystery of your first child is like nothing you can imagine. I can’t begin to tell you what’s going to happen. You have to let it happen, you have to be open to the transformation to take place in your life. But if you dig in deep with your wife and new baby you will find… spirituality unlike anything church can provide. (I’ll leave the religious epiphanies out of this post.) And that awe changes everything you do, and for me, everything I then dreamed of and worked towards. I was transformed even as our son was in the womb being prepared for his journey into my hands at his birth.
The doctor let me catch him as he sprung forth into the light of our lives. AMAZING. I didn’t need to cut the cord, I was already blissed out. And the days and weeks after his arrival passed in a haze of love and bliss and reconstitution. I was blown apart by the arrival of my son. I was father, son, and holy ghost all in one second. And then I had a new mission in life. Be the dad I wanted. And be the father that would nurture and protect this little fella throughout his life.
And that’s not exactly the way it worked out. But that was the plan and the dream and motivation going into the efforts of having a second child. We, as a family, sailed on into the chaos of post 9-11 emotional and economic free fall. And we nested as a new family unit seeking protection and joy. It was a hard and dark time for everyone. And our blissful moments, while still sparkling and plentiful, were also punctuated with depression, stress, financial woes, and eventually relationship strain.
Somewhere in that morass of bliss and brokenness, my then-wife began having lunches with a young work colleague. She wasn’t telling me about these liaisons. And if I look back at how we began our courtship, they too started with lunches. And though I didn’t know it at the time, she was living with a man at the time we began lunching.
So lunching was a gateway thing. And something that she needed to not tell me about. Hmm.
When I was checking the shared computer one afternoon, there was an odd message in the open gmail account. As I was the IT-manager of the family, and this subject line looked like SPAM I clicked on it to delete it with the “filter this type of email” button. But the first sentence was not an offer for New Internet Cable, as I suspected from the subject line. It was a thinly veiled love letter from this young colleague.
To be fair, I don’t think my ex-wife ever slept with this young single male. But she was lunching and exchanging emails with him. As I sat, horrified, I read about the struggles of my marriage, my depression, and my difficulties finding work. These were issues that he was responding to in this email back to my wife. And at the end of the letter, the kicker. “Thanks for showing me the library. It was a great place to talk and get a free cup of coffee. I’m sure I’ll go there often. It was great to see you.”
Boom. I was shot dead at that very moment. The lunches, the sharing of our local library (books and coffee – a huge connection between my wife and myself) and the deep sharing about her husband’s issues. And here was this sympathetic young man, offering his support and future correspondence, as she needed it. And future lunches or coffees in the library down the street in our neighborhood.
I didn’t know how deep this cut me, at the moment. I was suffering through some depressive issues of my own, it’s true, but those hurts and issues should’ve been something my then-wife expressed to me. Or at least in therapy. But not to another man. Not over lunches. And NOT in our local library.
I still visit the library. It’s a wonderful place with coffee by donation, nice books, and comfy chairs. And still, somehow, the ache of that found email that caused our family great heartache and drama. We eventually worked through most of the issues in therapy. She apologized immediately and said she recognized how it could’ve been hurtful to me.
She never quite copped to the fact that it was an emotional infidelity. Or that her actions were an obvious exit from the relationship. And years later she chose to ask for the actual exit. I’m grateful we didn’t split back then, when our kids were 1 and 3. And while we had some wonderful times between then and when we finally split up, the patterns (hidden lunches with another man) were part of her DNA from before we met.
It always surprised me when the secret lunches would come up on random conversations. A comment on her Facebook page from her ex-husband for example. Maybe I should’ve been more diligent. Or more laid back. But the lunches when we started getting reacquainted were quite special and less-than-innocent. If I had known she was living with a man, I probably would’ve cut them off all together. But I didn’t and we continued until she asked me to a Dear John lunch. She said she needed to complete or commit to her relationship with another man before we went any further in our dates.
I always thanked her for that. It seemed honest and clean at the time. But what I didn’t know, was that she was living with him while she was lunching with me. I’m sorry, but that’s an infidelity any way you look at it. Unless she was willing to tell both of us, she was not being honest or giving us the ability to make our own decisions about the nature of our relationship.
The emotional infidelity is probably what signaled the demise of my marriage, but the behavior was evident at the beginning of the relationship. I just didn’t have the sense to ask more questions or probe into the depth of this “other man” relationship she mentioned as she was cutting things off with me. We’d had some lunches and one evening date where we kissed quite a bit.
I might have made a different decision at that point had I been given the truth.
The Off Parent
back to The Hard Stuff
- I Was a Happily Married Man, and Now I’m Not: Tiny Hints of Doom
- My Divorce: A Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory
- Waiting for the Other Person to Change
- Love, War, Divorce: Why I’m Not Fighting My Ex-Wife About Custody
- Divorce is Not About What’s Fair, Let’s Get That Straight
image: budapest dinner cruise, top budapest, creative commons usage
So people are having a lot of affairs. Maybe part of the reason divorce is so high, is we’re just not wired for sex and love with only one person. I mean, we’re not swans. And look how happy they appear! Okay, so men and women are looking for sex outside their primary relationship. Hmmm. There’s even a site all about it, to facilitate your cheating. And it’s no surprise that the same site, AshelyMadison, has plenty of spicy content to keep you titillated.
Let’s dig into some of the data and see what arises, so to speak. Those numbers in the graphic above are pretty wild. 56% of men and 34% of women claim to be in a “happy” or “very happy” marriage, and yet they cheat. WHAT? I don’t get it. I mean, I understand chemistry and lust and unfulfilled sexual desires, but… CHEATING?
Okay, so maybe I’m wired more like a swan, or maybe I’m clinging to more sexually conservative times. Maybe the modern relationships are about being open and okay with multiple partners. Recently, I heard a first-date talk about “her lover Jim and her lover Eric.” I was like… What? And she was sexy as hell, mind you, but I didn’t compute. I mean, of course I did, but… (Okay, enough about me, let’s keep digging in the dirt of the data.)
I’m pretty sure this holds true for me, as well. A sexual affair would be unforgivable. And an emotional one, which I experienced being on the losing end of, might be forgivable. (see: Cheating Hearts, Cheating Minds) But it wasn’t easy. And now I see that the emotional affair was even more deep for her than for me. Ouch! Is kissing or texting cheating? In my book, absolutely. What do you think? Okay, so let’s say you’re into cheating, what’s that look like? Let’s see what the cheating site to end all cheating sites says.
Having a fuck buddy is the thing that dreams are made of for a lot of men. A woman who doesn’t expect commitments and is willing to put out is a wet dream that many men have been chasing for years. The fallacy to this is that men think that women aren’t interested in this kind of relationship which is dead wrong. Women, especially the high-powered women of today, are interested in saving time and many of them have put aside their relationship goals in order to focus on their career. Having a sex friend allows them to achieve the release that they need without having to jump through the same relationship hoops that men loathe jumping through when they just want a good time. – AshleyMadison
If you’re going to do it, get down to it. But don’t spend too much time and energy on it. And don’t worry too much about becoming friends. That’s not what it’s about.
The most important rule being that this relationship is about sex and nothing else. While you can be friendly, the whole point of this arrangement is to not have to spend too much time on it. – AshleyMadison
So there you have it. If you want sex outside of your marriage, for whatever reason. If you think you want to keep your “happy” marriage and still get a little on the side… Well, not to pass judgement, but, I think you’re a bit insane. However, that decision is up to you. And when your partner finds out, up to the two of you to determine just how “open” your marriage will be.
Remember that you don’t have any claim on them and they don’t have any claim on you. The less intimacy you have with a fuck buddy, the better. You don’t want any emotional intimacy in this relationship as that leads to the development of feelings. Instead, focus on that physical intimacy that you’ve been craving. — AshleyMadison
Ack. This isn’t for me. The emotional slip caused me irreparable damage. While she admitted she was wrong and promised not to contact this person again, I was wounded. I don’t know how deeply it went, but often my dreams were about her being plundered by some other dude. And she wasn’t giving it to me. My logic said she was getting it somewhere. I know that’s not necessarily so, and with our sexless/touchless period, I’m sure she wasn’t looking for anything sexual. And I certainly wasn’t getting any.
I wasn’t looking outside the marriage for anything. I was committed up until the point that the divorce was finalized. I was unhappy. I could’ve used AshleyMadison, perhaps, to stave off my sexual cravings. But in my book, my marriage was about the trust and bond between the two of us. Emotional infidelity or sexual infidelity was like murder to me. And it eventually killed our marriage.
[Note: I’m not providing links to AshleyMadison, although I’m sure I could derive some affiliate marketing bucks from them, but I don’t agree with their idea of cheating as fun. Ever.]
The Off Parent
- Zen and the Art of Lovemaking – Won’t Save Your Marriage
- Negotiating Love and Desire
- Negativity and Isolation: Branching Out To Avoid Breaking Up
- Easier To Be Quiet
- Cheating Hearts, Cheating Minds
- Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex: But Were Afraid to Ask – David Reuben MD.
- She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman – Ian Kerner
- Joy of Sex – Alex Comfort (you want the old version, the drawings are stunning)
- Hot Sex – Traci Cox
- The 5 Love Languages (a book on love styles by Gary Chapman)
- The Cold, Hard Truth About Cheating, Based On Science – HuffPo
- How To Get and Keep a Fuck Buddy – Ashley Madison