Unless It's Angelina Jolie or Matthew McConaughey - Then We Totally Get a Free Pass

First off, I have the best readers ever. The end.

Second, as I feared, the subject of this post has produced some fallout in my personal life and while I have much to say on this topic, I will be keeping my personal experience out of it. Not because I don't think my experience is mine to share, but because I realize that this is the internet and I cannot control who is reading what I write and further, I cannot control their reaction. It is more important to me that my blog does not affect my husband and my daughter's relationship with my in-laws than it is that I be able to purge here.

So. Having said that, this is what I think about cheating IN GENERAL.

I think men cheat because they stay in denial that these good physical feelings they're having about another woman are dangerous until it's too late. They give themselves too much credit to stop it before it goes too far.

I think women cheat because they feel neglected, either by themselves or their husband. With women, I think it is more of a conscious choice to cheat to feel better emotionally.

Someone commented in reference to a recent study that showed women are more likely to be forgiving of a physical affair and men are more likely to be forgiving of an emotional one. While, personally, a physical affair would devastate me more than an emotional one, I can see why this statistically may be the case.

Women recognize that men require constant stimulation. Men want to feel like men. And you know what? I am okay with that. When Chris and I were first dating, I would go cry in the bathroom if he looked twice at another woman. But, I've been in a relationship with this man for almost ten years now and in that time I have learned something shocking. Chris is his own person! Men are people too. And it doesn't mean he doesn't love me! Who knew?

We are all naturally drawn to beauty and there is nothing wrong with that. As long as it stays visual and superficial and natural. Once it crosses the line to flirting or constant porn or strip clubs or something that bleeds over into your marriage, that is when you have gone too far. That is when "a guy just being a guy" turns into "a guy just being a selfish ass".

As far as the claim that a man wanders because he's not getting enough attention at home, I say bullshit. A man wanders for the same reason a woman wanders: ego. You go from being young and in love with constant attention from your spouse to kids and diapers and m*rtgages and stretch marks and gray hairs.

When you are committed to each other - truly committed - these challenges enhance your marriage. When you're selfish, then it becomes all about "what has changed" and "how I'm not being treated". Couples get lazy - they get lazy in their love for each other. They start arguing more and more, apologizing less and less, and then when you introduce someone new! and exciting! into the picture, someone is going to go towards the pleasure. And away from the pain.

How many women do you know who have spent decades being a wife and a mother, possibly sacrificing education and career and body, just to be left in their 40's, 50's and 60's?

We want to believe it's possible. We want to believe that this is 2007 and we're strong confident women and we're all adults and no one should be off-limits to anyone else blah blah blah. Yet, you have to be realistic. Not everyone has the best intentions.

Can I tell you what her response was to me when I confronted her about her emails to my boyfriend? That she did nothing wrong and for me to get over it.

Get over it.

So, my answer is no. Except in rare instances, no, I do not believe men and women can be friends. Because marital happiness ebbs and flows. And it is just too easy to come off of an argument with your husband and into a pleasant email exchange with another man. It's too confusing to leave a wife at home who is maybe battling depression and then have a good time lunch with another woman.

And that's when the doubts set in. The what if's start. And I am sure that many a "harmless lunch" and a "simple email" has morphed into a broken heart and home.

The bottom line is respect. Respect for yourself to demand more from those around you. And respect for your marriage to demand more from yourself.


SilvrPanthr said...

Marriage is very demanding, but worth it. If we don't put forth the effort, we just set ourselves up for heartbreak.

I do have to say you are a very wise and intelligent woman.

Keep demanding more from yourself and from your marriage. It will be one that lasts.

Schnozz said...

If two people discover through unfortunate circumstances that they don't agree on what constitutes cheating, that sounds to me like more of a communication issue than a fidelity issue. I agree that couples have to define for themselves what cheating means, and perhaps some couples have made incorrect assumptions about the mutual definition of cheating.

My husband e-mails his ex, and several people have seemed astonished that I don't care. First of all, the fact that I even know about it tells me that it probably isn't a big deal. Second of all, he's a pilot who is gone five or six days a week. If he wanted to cheat, he certainly has ample opportunity, complete with company-provided hotel room and admiring flight attendants. He looks damn fine in that uniform and he knows it.

Thus, I decided a long time ago that it is in no way my job to make sure my husband doesn't cheat on me. It is his job. If he fails at that job, I don't want him anyway. I want a husband, not a babysitting charge, and whatever he does is simply what he was going to do. It's a fatalistic perspective, but it feels right to me. I think that a lot of women try to control everything, and I don't want someone that I have to monitor in the first place.

If he does end up cheating, it's not my fault just because I didn't check up on his e-mails. It's his fault. Period. He's a big boy and he knows what he promised me.

Brillig said...

I think you've summed up "the bottom line" excellently. I'm sorry for the mess that these posts may have caused you, but I'm also glad that you brought it up. It's so interesting to see how others feel on this subject! I find myself agreeing with you completely. Well done.

Sarah said...

I read your original post on the emailsituaion and I'd been quietly mulling it over when my boyfriend approached me after a weekend apart and getting caught up in a situation where he felt he crossed a line (I personally didn't feel he crossed any lines, but that's another story). After much apologizing on his part (I also have to admit I let him believe that I thought it was a bigger issue than I really did) we had a great converation about what we would each consider crossing a line. Thanks to this blog and his encounter we were really able to lay everything out there. So for that I totally owe you one.

And also, today's post was dead on I couldn't have said it better myself!

Butrfly4404 said...

That, was Excellent.

Amy said...

i totally agree with you, lena. i just broke off an engagement and am living alone for the first time because my ex found someone "new and exciting" who stroked his ego and i found out he cheated (whole other story). he was texting a lot and needing a lot of time "out with the guys" and believe me, she's not a guy! but i digress, i agree with you...that was the point!

Stephanie in kansas city mo said...

Delurking after several weeks to say this...well said! The fact that "her" attitude was that you needed to get over it just confirms YOUR instinct, and shows that she has no respect for her "friend" and his marriage. Good for you - I think you and Chris have a solid and honest marriage (for what it's worth). You are a smart and very funny chick - I really enjoy reading your take on things. Good luck with the potential job/house changes on the horizon for your family.

Lena said...

Schnozz - I too feel like it is not our responsibility to run around "babysitting" our husbands. But, we also need to NOT IGNORE the signs we get from them.

Just like it's not my job to babysit my friends. But, if they're treating me or themselves poorly - not returning my calls, being rude, or not taking care of themselves - I would address the situation out of RESPECT for the relationship.

Love doesn't mean being ignorant. (As in, ignoring.)

claire in cali said...

Great post, I relate to 100% of what you're saying here. I do wish we could hear more about this particular situation, and not "in general" though.

We've been working on issues for the last 2 years stemming from a situation similar to what you're describing. Only in my case, my husband works with this woman and they were emailing and phoning (yes, I snooped) and he had taken extraordinary measures to cover his tracks. Then when confronted, lied like a rug. So, unlike you, I really don't think I'll ever know the truth. It's just really hard to trust again when their behavior proves they're not who you thought they were.

Beth said...

"Get over it!"

I'm assuming you hid the body where it will never be found...

blog Portland said...

Does it count as cheating if I'm sitting in a dark corner, watching and smoking a cigarette?

Anonymous Boxer said...

ahmen, Lena. Ahmen.

Schnozz said...

Oh, my comment was more my two cents. Some people would read your words and get your exact meaning. Other people would be like "AMEN! Honey, Cheeky Lotus says that it's OK for me to demand to read your e-mail." The distinction seemed important. Noticing warning signs and acting on them is appropriate. Spying just because you're constantly anxious about what your husband is doing is not.

But yeah, of course warning signs shouldn't be ignored. I most certainly would not ignore them, especially in my position!

Queen of the Run-on Sentence said...

Trust me it sucks. I just found out a few weeks ago that my husband was unfaithful after 15 years. We are now getting a divorce because he wants to stay with his whore....she is married also.

Kim said...

I am in the same boat as "Queen of the Run On Sentence" only we aren't divorced. I recently read two books. One is called "Emotional Infidelity" by M. Gary Neuman and it states that very clearly any time that you turn your attention away from your spouse and toward another relationship with a person of the opposite sex then you are cheating. I also read "The Monogamy Myth" by Peggy Vaughn. Oh my God. THAT was an enlightening book. Apparently this kind of thing happens to about 80 percent of couples in one way or another. If I had known that, I'm not sure I would have married at all.

And the quote from Howard Stern that someone left in your comments? That said it all for me. Ouch. Talk about a reality check....boredom can happen to anyone. It doesn't matter how hard you try to keep the flame burning.

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