I can think of no better way to describe my experience of adultery than of opening a can of slimy worms and having to live with them. My advice to anyone who has yet to have had the bad fortune of adultery in their lives is NOT to venture near this can and certainly NOT to open it. If you do, you’re gonna regret it, so you better forget it!!!! Trust me.
You see, it’s not just my idiot husband’s behaviour that is in this can. It’s also the skank of the other woman and all the other individuals who conspired with their adulterous behaviour. It is also all the issues that the experience dregs up from the bottom of the emotional barrel for me. It is also the societal values that I seem to notice more and more which romanticises adultery at the expense of the pain incurred by everyone. It is also about how women behave to other women and whether I am wrong to expect more from my own gender.
I do not condone any woman who willingly has an intimate relationship with a man she knows to be married. I don’t condone it but over the last few years I have explored the motives. Basically it is either utter selfishness or utter desperation or a mixture of both. If a woman has no concerns about the impact of her behaviour on another woman and her children then she will happily behave in a way that hurts another. Whether this in itself gives her some form of joy I wouldn’t like to guess. Whatever it is, it’s an aggressive form of behaviour. Equally, if a woman has no life of her own to speak of and desperately wants a man in her life then maybe once a month or whenever, a bit of sex dressed up as love and intimacy is better than nothing at all. Better than the lonely feeling of being on the shelf, undesirable and untaken. Does her cruel behaviour stem from envy of those women who do have a partner, who have what she feels she deserves. Envy and aggression are not often linked directly to female behaviour because I suspect it is because they are hugely undesirable traits for a woman to have. There’s probably a lot of denial going on.
Whilst the behaviour of the other woman might be well documented in various places, I have sought a more comprehensive understanding of difficult and shameful female to female relationships. This is because as well as exploring Pig Shit’s behaviour towards my husband and towards me, I have been trying to come to terms with the behaviour of a woman who I thought was a friend, of sorts. This woman (Reptile) was the girlfriend of one of my husband’s old school chums (Dork). We saw each other at couple’s events and actually went on holiday together as a foursome, travelling around France. I had no reason to believe that she did not like me in any way and I had no reason to think that I might have offended her in any way. She always seemed most pleasant. However, it was she who introduced her friend Pig Shit to my husband on a night when I was at home in London. After drinks in a bar they all went back to Reptile and Dork’s house. When my husband left he tells me that Pig Shit followed him to the door and they had a snogging session. (classy eh?)
Now, what was the Reptile’s response to this? (I probably need to point out here that both Pig Shit and Reptile had a husband betray them and leave them for another woman) Did she tell her friend not to go there because he was married and it might all end up a terrible mess? Clearly not! Instead she and her boyfriend ‘normalised’ the adultery in a most perverse manner. They not only actively encouraged it, they facilitated it by allowing them both to stay overnight and shag in their spare room. I now know that there were times when I sat talking to Reptile, being nice to her and socialising, when she had the knowledge that my husband was shagging her friend. Did she enjoy this? Why did she choose to stab me in the back in such a manner? She could have made her excuses and not come along, but then she would not have been able to gloat.
The irony of all this is that whilst the Reptile and Dork were encouraging and facilitating the adultery of my husband with Pig Shit they were making arrangements for their own wedding!!! Surely, this must make bad karma for their marriage. I had made a grand fuss when I found out about the proposal, squealing with delight and wanting to know how it all occurred. The thought of my enthusiastic response now makes me feel sick.
On one occasion, we were at a restaurant and an announcement was made that my husband was to be their best man. This was not done quietly. Dork did not approach my husband and ask if it would be possible bearing in mind his two timing situation. No, in the middle of the evening, Reptile stood up with Dork and announced their plan. I applauded the idea and was very happy for everyone. When I look back now, I wonder what she was thinking. Was she expecting my husband to take me to the wedding and have Pig Shit there as well? Was she hoping that my husband and I would have separated? Was it all a cruel game? The thought just horrifies me. Husband says that he could feel the noose tightening and was going to arrange for us to be on holiday as soon as he knew what date was going to be set for the marriage. Further lies and deceit to hide the mess he’d gotten himself into.
When my husband chose to dump Pig Shit the Reptile gave her my mobile telephone number so that she could inform me of their adultery. I also know that a couple of days were spent trying to find out from others where my husband was. Dork was not involved in this but the Reptile was. I suspect that she was the one who wanted me to know exactly what had been going on in the hope that I would not stay with him. I felt that there was a panic between my husband dumping her and the text two days later to spill the beans. It was as if they were terrified that he was going to remain with me. I get a sense that Reptile was very instrumental in the adultery and later disclosure. Clearly she wanted me to know that my husband had been unfaithful. She was not prepared to act as if nothing had happened once my husband dumped Pig Shit. She could play nice when she knew I was being silently betrayed but could not play nice if it meant that my husband and I were to carry on ‘as normal’.
Once the truth came out and the shit hit the fan my husband severed all contact not only with Pig Shit but with Dork as well. As he is part of a big group of old school chums all the blokes in this group have been wiped out of our joint lives. Two of them were happy to sit and have drinks with my husband and Pig Shit, Dork and Reptile, further normalising their behaviour. The rest of them probably knew but did not have any involvement. They are collateral damage. I never want to see the Reptile again as long as I live. Now she has to live with the consequence of her choices.
What makes women so hostile to other women? Why is it done so secretly and spitefully? Is there not enough misogyny in our world for women to try to behave better to each other?
I think some of these answers need a very deep analysis. Phyllis Chester an American writer, psychotherapist, and professor emerita of psychology and women’s studies at the College of Staten Island wrote a book in 2001 entitled ‘Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman’. It’s a troubling book but it raises a lot of uncomfortable issues that I think we as women need to consider. She makes a number of interesting observations. Firstly, we need to realise that women are sexist. We have “internalised the prevailing misogynistic ideology which we uphold both in order to survive and in order to improve our own individual positions vis-à-vis all other women”.
Secondly women can be aggressive. Whereas men are often openly aggressive in direct and dramatic ways, women are seldom physically violent, instead they act indirectly and the targets of their aggression are not men but other women and children. Indirect aggression is anonymous aggression. Girls learn from a young age that a safe way to attack someone else is behind her back, so that she will not know who is responsible. However, aggression in females is a taboo subject and often suppressed by being systematically ignored. Labelled as irrational, hysterical or bitchy. Girls also view aggression more negatively than boys do and so tend to deny it even to themselves. But the danger is that if girls are trained to say that aggression is wrong even whilst continuing to be aggressive then they may be learning to disassociate themselves from their negative behaviour. This capacity might prove resistant to the acknowledgement that is required before recognition and change can occur. If a woman pretends to herself that she is kind to other women when she is not, she will have no reason to learn how to resist her aggressive inclinations.
Pleasingly Chesler reports that most women do not hate women; only some do. “The data indicate that women who are hostile toward other women don’t feel good about themselves. They have lower personal self-esteem, optimism, sense of self-efficacy, life satisfaction, and higher objectified body consciousness compared to women who are not hostile to other women.” Sums up most Other Women, no?
Thirdly we need to acknowledge all aspects of female behaviour. The book argues that we must free ourselves from the bonds of ‘inauthentic niceness’. Recognise that we have real power over each other. Women are not innocent of the betrayals they commit but their ignorance of what’s going on and why robs them of the power to act otherwise. However, it is impossible to change one’s behaviour if it is not named first. We need to acknowledge the shadow side of female to female relationships to each other, not only the sunny side. If a woman treats another woman inhumanely, cruelly or sadistically, she needs to understand how powerful, painful and paralysing the effect is. Naming and acknowledging this is the first step. It has got to become easier for women to talk about how other women have hurt them and how they might have mistreated other women themselves.
We are competitive but we deny even to ourselves that we envy or compete. We cannot insist that we are all sisters or that we are the kinder gender, this would be foolish and self-destructive. We need to understand the process required in order to respect and not violate another woman’s boundaries. It begins with being able to maintain our own boundaries first.
I have been hurt by two women and although I recognise it was my husband’s choice to betray me I must be able to hold them accountable for the harm they did me.
Image Credits: First Time In School by Vlado; Aggression by Sujin Jetkasettakorn; Wedding Ring by Boykung; Malice” by rattigon all via freedigitalphotos.net