How many days or nights have I sat and thought about that word; “infidelity” over the past 20 years since my divorce?
Webster’s Dictionary defines it as the action or state of being unfaithful to a spouse. You never think that word will ever be introduced into your life.
But when it is, it hits you like a ton of bricks.
The Anatomy Of Infidelity
My husband was unfaithful throughout most of my marriage to him. Though I didn’t know until after I finally caught him at year 10 upon which we sought counselling and reconciled and then again at year 13 and by then I had been through quite enough, thank you.
I had just had our second child and 4 weeks into being a mother to our baby girl, I found out that he had been having an affair with a woman for a long time.
Actually, all throughout my pregnancy apparently and earlier. But really, he was having affairs and flings throughout our entire relationship. Even when I was in college.
He drove down to San Diego to tell me that he had been unfaithful. I had been dating him for about a month, so I really didn’t care. I didn’t even really know him. I remember telling my roommates how weird I thought it was that he drove all the way down from LA to tell me this when I didn’t even know him that well.
They thought it was sweet and a sign that he really did care and respected me. I still contended that I thought it was weird, but I pretended that it mattered to me just so he wouldn’t feel completely stupid for driving all the way down on a weeknight to tell me this.
I had met him the summer before I was starting college in San Diego. San Diego State University, a mere smorgasbord of good-looking guys.
I had no intention of focusing solely on him anyway. But he was a triathlete and I was intrigued by him and his self-discipline as he fine-tuned and calibrated his body to perform in competitions throughout the year.
Over time, I did fall in love and I looked forward to our weekends when he would ride his bike down from LA to San Diego. I would pick him up in La Jolla and he would literally fall onto the couch and sleep until he felt recovered enough to go out on a date.
I stopped noticing the amazing looking guys at school and fell hard for him and I transferred back to a school in L.A. so we could see each other more. God, I look back at that and see mistake number one. I should have gone with my gut and not listened to my roommates.
Sometimes your heart needs more time to accept what your mind already knows.
By the time I had graduated from college, we had been dating for over 4 years. My parents gave me a trip to England for graduation and when I came home, I was restless. My three best friends were all getting married, so I put a gun to his head and said that the world was at my fingertips and it was now or never if we were to ever get married.
He looked at me and said with very little energy in his voice, “okay”. That was mistake number two.
The proposal was not initiated from his heart. It was initiated by the imaginary gun I had pointed to his temple. In his obligatory way, he surrendered. I look back at that now and think I was robbed of the proposal I should have gotten from a man who really did love me.
Probably one of the good-looking guys at SDSU! After we were married for about two years, he wanted to go to Croatia with his friend to see where his father was born and meet some of his long-lost relatives.
We couldn’t afford both of us to go and I supported his visit because it was his heritage. Little did I know the trip would be the real beginning of a marriage filled with infidelity right under my nose but because we were married and I had the model of my parents’ marriage in my head, I had no idea what things he was getting into.
Or what I was getting into. The friend he was traveling with was cheating on his wife and so he, being the Yoda to my husband’s Luke Skywalker, had to introduce him to his class of “How to have your cake and eat it too all while seeing Europe in 20 days”.
It wasn’t until after my divorce that I found out that they had been cheating with random women throughout their travels. I also found out that he had a fling with this friend’s sister in law a week before my wedding. And she was an attendee of our wedding! Oh, and that friend?
Well, how ironic that he ended up being the Godfather to our son; our firstborn.
Man, you can’t make this stuff up and some people really can live with themselves after committing crimes of the heart and aiding his Godson’s father to keep on cheating. He was his biggest cheerleader and the two friends had much in common.
I’m sure this noble Godfather looked at himself as a good man through his own lens. Thank God all these years later, he has made no impression whatsoever on my son who is a better man then that guy will ever be. Oh, and his wife? Well, they are still married.
She just still looks the other way as he travels around with other women. I don’t want to make a judgment on her. She has the right to do what she feels is right for her.
I am not of her culture or thinking. When I discovered that my husband had been having a long-term affair at year 13, you could bet that his pal was front and center right there with him. Cheering him on as he conspired to help him deceive his wife and two children. One of which was his Godson.
We’d forgive most things if we knew the facts.”
As you can see infidelity became a way of life for my husband. And slowly but surely it became a way of life for me as well. Only for me, it was by way of ignorance and naivete.
I always hoped to convince myself that he would be faithful to his family. I always hoped that no woman would ever steal him from me; from us. But on both counts, I was dead wrong.
So, what is at the heart of the matter with infidelity?
Why are these people filled with such discontent and dis-ease and insecurities?
And who on earth are “the other” people who accept these frauds into their lives and sometimes, their families?
I have spent time thinking about this because I am wired to want to know the answers. I am wired to seek to know what is behind this.
I want to know the real heart of this issue.
What is at the heart of infidelity?
Does it start in childhood? Does it start at adolescence?
Is it at the beginning of a bad relationship that just had no chance but kept on going all in the name of, “oh well”?
In my ex-husband’s case I think the heart of his matter had been an overbearing mother that developed into disrespect for women. A disdain that was manifested in infidelity.
His mother was a good woman in her own way. The culture my ex-husband was raised in was one that men are exalted, and women are an annoyance. But when he left his family which included his 4-week-old daughter, another telltale sign of disrespect for women, it was his mother that welcomed him home with open arms.
It was almost as if she was celebrating his arrival back to her womb. He returned to the woman who had no expectations on him. She didn’t expect him to be a man and deal with being a grown-up.
She was just happy to have her little boy home again.
So, did this feeling of dis-ease start with the mother? If so, did she know of her aiding and abetting? I know she never meant to hurt me.
I believed she always loved me, but her obligations to her son outweighed her sense of decency and compassion towards me. Thus, infidelity was introduced as an unwelcome word in her life too.
Maybe the genesis of a person committing infidelity is just due to living a life of want. Always wanting what someone else has. Maybe he saw freedom outside the picket fence of our home and that was a pull far stronger than any 4-week-old baby and 4-year-old boy inside the fence.
Or maybe his hatred for me was what drove him to this.
Maybe he didn’t like that I was a woman with a career that demanded periodic travel throughout the year. I was seeing the world as he was going to the same job every day that didn’t offer him any variety. The lure of a woman who didn’t work and who was a homemaker is what he knew. His mother never worked. My mother was dedicated to her career, a career my father supported totally, so my model was much different than his.
So maybe one, all, or none of these reasons is at the nucleus of the offense. It is fascinating to be outside of the eye of the hurricane 20 years later and breathe through the possible reasons why this word was so prominent in my life and remains prominent in our society with such a high divorce rate.
The national divorce rate is 40%. The divorce rate in California is 60%, so basically, as residents of California, we are a roll of the dice here in these parts!
Grace means that all of your mistakes now serve a purpose instead of serving shame.
Since my divorce 20 years ago, I have wondered if the cheaters who introduce infidelity into our lives live with any shame? Or do the victims of the infidelity take it and carry it on only to now fully reside into their lives.
Those of us who have been a victim to spousal cheating find ourselves living with an intensely painful feeling that we are now unworthy of love and commitment from someone and we are left to contend with the deeper meanings of it all. The result is the shame you feel by being unlovable and your husband being “steal-able”.
I think it’s funny that the people who are unfaithful by committing the acts of infidelity on their spouses and children are proficient in living their daily lives with a huge secret. But on the day that the secret finally sees the light the day, they are emancipated in their openness only for the secret to now be quietly handed to the victims of the infidelity to carry.
The remaining family members are now consumed with shame and embarrassment that our husband and father betrayed us. As the wronged wife, you don’t want anyone to know this has happened, so they don’t judge you by thinking you were blind or ignorant.
I had many people say to me. “How did you not know!?” My response was, “It happens when you’re a full-time working mother who just had a baby. I was a little busy.”
But the saddest thing is that our children are also asked to carry their secret too. Because the last thing they want to face is that their dad left their mom and thus, left them too and they do not want their friends to know this truth about him.
So, they just don’t talk about it. And when someone asks them, they play it down as much as possible. My children are now 20 and 24 and I notice they still do this.
Compulsive Desire + Excuses and Rationalization + Willingness to Deceive + Opportunity = AFFAIR!
You may have noticed that I didn’t title this article, “Anatomy of an Adulterer”. I hate that word. It is a cop-out me. It also is an oxymoron in my opinion.
“Adult”- ery. Think about it. A real adult person who can decipher between right and wrong, good and bad, faithful and unfaithful is not given a permission slip to be an adulterer.
And the usual suspect is someone who can’t grow up, face responsibly and wants to run away from home! And the usual co-conspirator in the equation is a woman who wants to save him and be the mother they always wanted.
Good grief! They are meant for each other! But they are far from acting like adults! Enough said on that.
When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
So, what is the last lesson in all of this for me?
What do I know now that I didn’t know while I was in the storm, married to a man capable of deep infidelities?
Did I subconsciously deny what was happening all along?
Did I miss a million clues that presented themselves to me in the 14 years I was married to him and the 19 years I knew him?
After all, he did show me who he was when he showed up at my apartment door in college to tell me he had cheated on me well before we had even started our relationship.
How long had I been sleeping?
And as I asked earlier, what kind of woman accepts a man who leaves an infant?
Well, here is what I have concluded. The last lesson is that it was never about me. It was always him and his demons. And I would assume it was about her and her demons as well. I look at them now as two lost souls who came together under the shroud of secrecy and at the expense of three people that did love him unconditionally.
But I am not burdened with that task any longer. Our children are his most valuable parting gift from me because they do continue to love him unconditionally. I don’t know if that kind of love is inside of the second marriage, he now finds himself in.
He married the woman and they have been together longer than he was with me now. Maybe he grew or just grew up. Maybe he sees the value of family and the sacredness of a wife now.
Or maybe he has never rehabilitated himself and she is his new easy target. I somewhat doubt it because she went into that relationship with a lot of information. I only hope that he has indeed improved his situation of “dis-ease” or “discontent” because we three were a high price to pay and he still has two young adults watching him and his actions still make impressions on them.
So, I suppose the closing arguments for the case of infidelity is that two people who had differing ways of approaching commitment had two very different relationships with each other. And he will never know what I loved in him and I will never know what he loved in me. And that will have to be the last piece on the definition of Infidelity as far as I am concerned.