I am a 40-something woman near the end of my divorce, and I am the one who was unfaithful.
I have always hated the idea of cheaters. Sleazy, lying scumbags who were only out for themselves. Selfish egocentrics who were mostly men, with the exception of the soap opera vixen type. Certainly not a clean cut suburban mom like me.
As I have come to experience firsthand, sometimes there is more than meets the eye when it comes to infidelity.
I grew up with an unfaithful father. I knew without knowing from the time I was young that my dad was a habitual cheater. The arguments in front of me and my sister stained my childhood and gave me an insecurity that I've finally conquered as an adult. I hated cheating and swore to myself (and my husband) that I would never be unfaithful.
I don't condone cheating. It is toxic to a marriage and a family, immoral and myopic. And yet, I have done what I promised I would not do.
My marriage disintegrated slowly throughout about 15 of its 20 years. Looking back, I now understand the fatal flaws and I know better. But in my 20s when I chose the man I would marry and to be the father of my children, I honestly didn't know what it actually meant to be compatible with someone. I didn't comprehend the factors we'd need to cement our marriage into our twilight years.
I was looking at surface likes and dislikes, political party and our shared preference for Italian food. He was handsome, athletic and had a good job. Unfortunately the facade was all there was. I was in a marriage without a friend. He didn't ask about my work or my friends, sometimes didn't say goodbye when he left the house. He didn't want date nights with me, just the two of us. He'd say I should go with my friends, but when I did, he didn't ask where I was going, who I was going with, and he didn't say I looked pretty. I felt ignored.
I wasn't happy and knew I'd never be. Still, I told myself this was the decision I made. I was married with two young children and I decided I'd make the best of it. 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. Our sex life was rote and obligatory and from a standpoint of true intimacy, completely unfulfilling. I was incredibly lonely.
I talked to him, asked him why, told him what I needed. I tried speaking in a number of different ways, quietly, lovingly, matter-of-fact and angrily. I asked about couples therapy, but he refused. Sometimes he would make an effort and that helped restore my hope that we would be okay. But more often he was defensive and said I imagined all this, said I was overreacting.
So 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.
When I cheated on my husband, it wasn't something I planned. I know that's what they all say but it's true. I certainly wasn't looking for it. 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. Things I hadn't really ever had from my husband. As I told my best friend to help explain it, sometimes you don't realize you're in an abyss until you begin to see daylight.
For those who say I didn't try -- I did, for the better part of a decade and a half. For those who will judge me, I understand and that's your right. Again, I don't condone cheating. 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. But I didn't realize much of anything at the time, even as I was going through it.
For me and my situation, I truly believe it was inevitable and the only way things could have happened.
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