Category Archives: Betrayal

Reasons to stay after betrayal

staying 3Once you find out that your spouse has been unfaithful; has betrayed you and broken your trust in the most despicable manner, you realise that your life will never be the same. Every foundation that you thought you were standing on gets ripped out from under your feet and you have nothing but tumultuous free-fall.  In the midst of this whirlpool of despair which drags you to emotional depths you didn’t imagine you had,  not only do you have to somehow comprehend the horror of it all, you have to make a decision as to whether to remain in your marriage and somehow accept adultery or seek divorce.  Neither option is attractive; and neither option is one that you ever predicted you would have had to face in your lifetime.


For me, the circumstances of the discovery played a role in how I responded and why I chose to remain in the marriage. Prior to D-day, all I was aware of was a kind of distancing from my husband but nothing that caused me any alarm.  We had been together for ten years and I appreciated the natural ebb and flow that occurs in long term intimate relationships.  I thought it was a midlife crisis of sorts for him, related to his work and also his lack of passion for anything in particular.  I would ask what was wrong and would get nothing much back in return.  He would say that he felt differently about me but could not explain it in any comprehensible fashion.  The stance that I took was to allow him the mental space to work things out in the hope that in time it would pass and in the meantime thought it best just to love him and try to understand he was going through a difficult patch.  It makes me weep to write this.  There I was, working on my conviction that I loved him and needed to be kind to him even though I was becoming increasingly frustrated by the shift that I was sensing in his feelings towards me.  I asked if there was someone else.  I asked if he was gay. No, was the reply.


Then, a type of crescendo occurred in his behaviour and attitude. Over a few days, after we had come back from our holiday, I knew he was becoming increasingly troubled.  One night I just held him and we both cried and cried.  I felt that I had reached him in a way that had not been possible for months.  He clung on to me really tightly that night in bed, telling me over and over how much he loved me.  I tried to sooth him.  To sooth myself.  By the morning, any ground that we had made was lost.  I got up and went about my day.  Had lunch with an old friend.  I can’t recall how it was when I returned home, but I do remember him sitting on our couch with his head in his hands repeatedly saying “I don’t want to be here”.  He was ignoring anything I was saying.  I remember that I went to bed first and was reading my book when he opened the bedroom door to inform me that he was going to sleep in the spare room.  This had never happened before under any circumstance.  I was lost for anything more to say.  I let him go into the spare room and then after a couple of hours of uncomfortable restlessness I left the house and went to my brother’s house to stay.


I arranged a meeting with my husband two days later in a neutral location. I told him that I’d heard him clearly and was not prepared to continue as we were.  If he didn’t want to be with me I would accept it but I wanted him to move out, to go and stay with friends because I was finding it all too difficult.  I don’t know how, but I kept my tears held in tightly until I had driven far enough away in order to park in a side road and weep and weep and weep.  He had seemed relieved and I believed that his love for me had somehow disappeared.  That he had fallen out of love with me.  I could not work out for the life of me where it had all gone so dramatically wrong.  From a sense of disconnect to this complete break up between us left me reeling in shock.  In such a short time I had moved from a belief that I was happily married to the understanding that we were separating. How could the marriage have faltered so badly without me knowing? But, I know that you cannot force someone to love you, and honestly, I would not want to. He moved out a couple of days later, saying he appreciated my understanding.  Of course, he did not go to stay with friends, he went to stay with Pig Shit who must have offered him peace and solace between her legs whilst joyously happy basking in her understanding that she had ‘got’ her married man away from his wife.  12 shags over a period of one year and that was enough for her to believe in her ‘romance’ and that they were now going to live together, happy ever after, now that I was out of the picture.  Really, what woman in her right mind would have thought this a possibility?  Didn’t she smell the rat that had entered?


I put our house on the market, visited a solicitor and cried myself to sleep for about two weeks. I consumed a fair amount of red wine too.  We were polite with each other via e-mail and texts; as he works from home I had to deal with some of his work matters that didn’t travel so easy.  I was just getting along with it and I have to say I was exceptionally strong.  This is what has amazed me the most.  When I thought he had stopped loving me, I was able to confront that devastating truth with courage, resilience and acceptance.  But, after ten days of separation I was shocked one morning, when he arrived on the doorstep.  He looked lost, dejected and somewhat vacant.  I invited him in for tea (it’s an English thing) and from then on, the road to his return was laid.  I was not prepared to just have him return.  I needed him to provide some explanations for his behaviour.  Over time he said a few negative things about our relationship but nothing that shocked me and nothing that couldn’t be easily rectified.  He did keep saying it was him and that he had got lost and didn’t understand himself which all fitted into my perception of him having a midlife crisis.  We met with his mother (because she was/is a problem for him and us).  He met with my daughter (his step daughter) and with me on several occasions until I agreed he could come home and we would try to breach the gap between us.  He was over the moon.  I really mean this.  He was absolutely over the moon.  And I, in my naivety, believed that we would be able to get our marital discord sorted with relative ease and that he would ‘find’ himself again and be the man I thought I was married to.  But this feeling didn’t last long.


Two days later Pig Shit decided to text me and the rest is history. Whereas I can confront the possibility of my husband not loving me anymore, I could not for one single solitary second face the reality of him committing adultery and lying to me.  My rage erupted.  I wanted him OUT! OUT! OUT!  I crumbled.  Why didn’t he just stay with Pig Shit?  I had made it so easy for him.  What insane impulse led him to leave me only to return in such a short space of time?  Why didn’t he tell me the truth BEFORE returning?  Well, I know his answer to this and he is probably right.  Whereas I would not have let him return – once back in the home he would have a slim chance of staying.  That slim chance materialised.  It is almost four years later and I have to say that I do not doubt either his determination to make amends for what he did or of his honesty towards me.  Equally, Pig Shit was totally out of the equation so I was not subject to any overlap between us at any time in our recovery.


I think my motives for staying are clear to me. I had had a good past with him, and from day one post D-day he has stepped up to the plate and shown me behaviour that convinces me that he is deeply remorseful and committed to being trustworthy and loyal. I believe our future has every prospect of burying this shed load of toxic waste if he/we continue in the same manner. But each experience of adultery is different and clearly every betrayed spouse faces a unique set of circumstances in which to make the decision of whether to stay or go.  I have not had to engage with the ‘pick-me’ dance that some spouses face and up until recently had not given thought to why anyone would agree to this charade.  However, it’s so easy to think you will do what you say you will do.  Reality is a different playing field.  I didn’t think I would ever accept a husband committing adultery but I have.    Just recently I have read a book which opened my mind to why a woman might agree to the ‘pick-me’ dance.  It made total sense to me and if I were in her shoes, I’d likely do the same.  It was because she had two young children, and this made all the difference.  But I think her strategy makes sense in a number of ways, even if young children are not involved.


You see, it all has to do with the OW. We KNOW that a woman with no scruples about having sex with someone else’s husband is a dirt bag; in fact that’s probably her major attraction to the unfaithful husband. I don’t think it’s what they cultivate between their ears that create the lascivious infatuation.  I’m sure that my husband was craving arousal rather than intimacy from Pig shit.  The OW won’t be any sexier than the wife but I guarantee that she will be sluttier.  And of course, the husband becomes an equal dirt bag by his actions with her, so really the whole thing is a degenerate process enveloped by the stink of betrayal.  In anger, it’s easy to say that he deserves to have the dirt bag OW – lock stock and barrel.  HOWEVER, at the end of the day, he is one woman’s  husband and maybe the father of lovely children too and the OW inveigling herself  fully into the husband’s  life is not necessarily going to be the best idea for the betrayed spouse,  whether she chooses to stay or leave her husband.    My husband is not the man I thought he was, but to be honest he deserves better than Pig Shit.  She would have thought that she had hit gold with my husband.  He would have simply hit rock bottom.  Yes, you could say he deserved it but what if you don’t want to see him punished in such a fashion? And what if you don’t want the OW to have the satisfaction of thinking that she’s had a victory albeit a pyrrhic one?


Staying 2The book ‘Couple Mechanics’ written by Nelly Allard has really got me thinking differently and I am far more sympathetic to betrayed spouses who do their best to pull their spouse away from the OW.

The wife in Allard’s book is not shy of the truth “He’d betrayed her trust, he’d reduced them to a tawdry mediocrity she didn’t want and didn’t deserve” – this certainly sums up how I feel. Her hatred of the OW is, as we all know, something very difficult to acknowledge and then deal with.  In the novel, Juliette, the wife was “disturbed to acknowledge a mounting feeling toward [the OW], a feeling she had recognised as hate.  She loathed what she herself was becoming because of this woman, loathed the violence building inside of her.”  She knew that she should have resented her husband alone and that it was unfair to focus her anger on the OW but it didn’t stop her wanting to “crush her head between two stones”. 


At times in the book I just wanted Juliette to fuck her husband off as he vacillated between her and the OW, but by the end I fully understood that IF she had not thrown down the gauntlet it was likely that in his weakness he would have just been led by the nose (maybe the penis) into a hopeless situation with a disturbed young woman who was desperate to be in his life AND to have a part in his children’s lives. Before this book I hadn’t realised the severity of this scenario.  I am now deeply sympathetic towards betrayed spouses who have to somehow accept that the dirt bag OW will now have intimate contact with her children.  I think the maternal instinct would really kick in here for me.  Irrelevant of whether the long term marital future is secured, at least dragging him away using whatever means available, means the dirt bag gets vanquished whilst the wife gains the emotional space in which to decide upon her own future.


Perhaps deciding to stay need not be a romantic response. Hell, the adultery fed off that myth!  It is difficult for any woman to learn that she has been a cuckquean but we must be cautious about conforming to social expectations.  As Lauren Rosewarne suggested in ‘Cheating on the Sisterhood’ “For many betrayed women, external pressure and cultural perceptions about the significance of infidelity may motivate departure.”   It may also be harder for those of us who consider ourselves to be feminists of some kind.  Rosewarne goes on, “the nature of betrayal by the person you love most in the world, compounded with cultural and political expectations that you leave, may make departing seem like the appropriately feminist response”.


Should we decide to stay, others’ responses to our decision can be quite resolute and this can be a challenge to face along with the challenges already being faced by the trauma of discovery.  But maybe we need to reflect deeply upon this before we make any decision that will dramatically impact our lives. As Juliette notes in ‘Couple Mechanics’, “People have a clear idea of how women who’ve been raped should behave, they also have a very clear idea of how a betrayed woman should behave, what she can and can’t put up with, what she should and shouldn’t accept, and in the name of women’s dignity and integrity, the consensus was that it was their duty to be intransigent, that they were required to choose glorious solitude over flawed love.”  


But Rosewarne offers an alternative perception on staying. “If a woman decides to exit her relationship because of an affair, her actions may be construed as handing victory to the other woman, regardless of whether the man stays with the other woman.  To throw in the towel in this manner, to give up and let the other woman or women – more broadly – partake of the spoils of a relationship breakdown maybe a sufficient deterrent to the betrayed woman walking away.”


“For some betrayed women, while the affair may have been perceived as a relationship threat, her ego, stubbornness and competitive streak may prompt her to decide that it will not RUIN her relationship.” Citing the work done by Shirley Eskapa (Woman v Woman) “women who resist in an unnecessary divorce frequently gained immeasurably in self-respect and in many instances the marriage was stronger”.


Marriage recovery need not be the unicorn that many suggest. Obviously I am not suggesting for one moment that a woman needs to accept any and all acts of adultery, but I am saying that we need to recognise the complexities and contradictions of choosing to stay.  It is a very tough choice to make and as with all choices there are no guarantees, and it may take a lot of time to establish a firm footing with each other after one has betrayed the other, but it’s OK to fight and it’s OK to feel like it’s a battle.  When I look back at my husband’s adultery, I liken it to being placed in a boxing ring with a blindfold and my staying 4hands tied behind my back with a host of collaborators in ring side seats watching  me get hurt by my husband and Pig Shit.  Now, and forever onwards, the blindfold is off and nobody will tie my hands behind my back again.  I will never be able to blindly trust a man again but at least with my husband he understands why, that in itself helps me because he ensures that I never have reason to be suspicious and this offers me a peace that I can bathe in.


“Despair and fear do not disappear overnight when the conditions that wrought them have changed. You can’t change the tale so that you turned left one day instead of right, or didn’t make the mistake that might have saved your life a day later.  We don’t get those choices.  The story is what got you here, and embracing the truth is what makes the outcome bearable”  Gail Caldwell; New life, no instructions.


“But we keep making our way as we have to. We’re all pretty much able to deal even with the worst that life can fire at us, if we simply admit that it is very difficult.  I think that’s the whole of the answer.  We make our way, and effort and time give us cushion and dignity.  And as we age, we’re riding higher in the saddle, seeing more terrain” Darin Strauss: Half a life



Adultery and Its Collaborators

arrowsWe all know that it is our spouses , and ONLY our spouses who are to blame for the adultery.

I personally cannot remember blaming anyone else; ever.  We blame them, and quite rightly so, for individually betraying our trust and throwing us to the dogs of non-considered consequences.  We hold them responsible for their bad choices and our subsequent misery and heartache. The journey to marital recovery after adultery allows for intimate investigation and analysis of the betraying spouse and guilt and shame are the everyday passengers.  I know I have spent years living with what my husband did to me and his idiotic selfish behaviour that prevented him from keeping his ridiculous dick in his pants.  Adultery is not a pretty picture. Ever! But, the balm offered by his genuine remorse along with significant behavioural changes over time helps oil the cogs of the healing progress.  This doesn’t mean I’ve forgiven him or that I trust him.  It means I have chosen to advance our relationship rather than end it, enjoying the benefits of cooperation and support that only a long term relationship can offer.

collaborationHowever, I do not consider his actions in isolation from the situation and context in which the adultery occurred or the people that happily encouraged and facilitated the behaviour. I don’t know why, but whenever I start to take this track in my blog, I get a spluttering of responses which accuse me of not blaming my husband.  Somehow, holding others responsible equates with not blaming my husband.  I get given advice on what I should do.  I’m told to forgive the OW (for a range of reasons not well articulated) and to remorselessly punish my worthless, cheating husband.  It’s like there’s something awry if I hold others responsible for their actions which they knew impacted upon my life, but to be honest I think attempting to excuse others who were directly involved is a bizarre idea. Whilst I fully agree my husband should stand centre stage here, I do not accept that others, involved in one way or another with the adultery, were acting in any way benignly towards me or can be assuaged of the moral turpitude they were willing to engage in just because it’s over.

Alice Vachss who was a brilliantly successful sex crime prosecutor in New York, identified a very interesting aspect of the field that she was working in which went beyond just the acts of the individual being prosecuted:

My first lesson about sex-crimes prosecution was that perpetrators were not the only enemy. There is a large, more or less hidden population of what I later came to call collaborators within the criminal justice system.  Whether it comes from a police officer or a defence attorney, a judge, or a court clerk or a prosecutor, there seems to be a residuum of empathy for rapists that crosses all gender, class and professional barriers. It gets expressed in different ways, from victim bashing to jokes in poor taste and too often results in giving the rapist a break.”

Whilst not suggesting for one moment that adultery is a sex crime, her observations offer insight into the wider social context in which adultery takes place. Whilst my husband was, unknowingly to me, my enemy during the time he was committing adultery he was not my only enemy.  There was a larger population of collaborators.  Of course, the woman (Pig Shit) who knowingly chose to shag my husband and who hoped he would leave me for her is responsible for her choices and actions.  She was happy to collaborate.  She could have insisted that he leave me BEFORE embarking on her intermittent and infrequent shag-fests.  I suspect that she knew that she wouldn’t stand a chance if she asked for this.

The couple who actually introduced Pig Shit to my husband and went on to socialise with them together and who offered their spare bedroom for fornication purposes are responsible for their choices and actions. (My husband and I had been on holiday with this couple and spent many occasions together.)  This couple were content to mix with my husband and Pig Shit and my husband and me; keeping the secret safe.  The female of the couple was Pig Shit’s best friend.  Go figure – would you encourage your best friend to start any kind of relationship with a married man?  This female also gave Pig Shit my mobile telephone number so that that she could text me 48 hours after she realised that she’d been dumped by my husband.  Maybe this so called friend was more my enemy than Pig Shit!

Then the male friends who were happy to sit in the pub and share drinks with the adulterous couple; could they have found another pub to drink in and refused to collaborate?

Then the Dutch business associate who started to avoid me on the telephone and who met Pig Shit and husband on a business trip to Rotterdam. He could have insisted that my husband went on his own or went with me rather than be a collaborator to adultery.

All these collaborators decided that I didn’t need to know that my husband was shagging another woman. All seem to be of the opinion that adulterous behaviour is totally acceptable for my husband. Then I read so much junk about the so called inevitability of adultery.  The supposedly unrealistic expectations of people like me hoping for monogamy.  The academics who intellectualise the sexual antics but obscure any analysis of the pain of betrayal that adultery forces upon the betrayed spouse.  The social surveys that continuously churn out reasons why people are unfaithful without ever addressing moral concerns; as if morality sits outside the topic being investigated. Where is the research on the consequences of adultery?  Where is the research on so-called monogamish marriages that pay lip service to fidelity?  Does the extra marital sex remain a secret?  Is betrayal shrugged off as an unlikely cause for concern? What about honest spouses who decide to inform their spouses that they’re a bit bored and wanting something different? How does their spouse handle their jealousy?

There seems to be a residuum of empathy for adulterers that crosses all gender, class and professional barriers. It gets expressed in different ways, from frigid wife blaming to jokes in poor taste and too often results in giving the adulterer a break. Where can we find empathy for the betrayed spouses?

Why isn’t the truth out there? Adultery is a wasteland and it diminishes everyone it touches.  How on the one hand can we have people chanting ‘once a cheater, always a cheater’ whilst at the same time have women knowingly shagging a married man in the hope that she will have a ‘proper’ relationship with him one day?  It doesn’t make sense?  Where are the men with their heads in their hands, filled with despair at what they’ve lost?  All for what?  The selfish motivation and belief that you can have your cake and eat it too.  Well, you can’t and that’s the truth!

There are some serious issues here for all of us. We have to make our distaste for adultery explicit.  If we socialise with a spouse and they bring along their bit on the side what should we do?  Refuse to be a collaborator.  But, would we, should we tell the spouse who is being betrayed?  Would we want to be told if it was our spouse betraying us? If we choose not to tell the betrayed spouse do we become a collaborator?

If people knew that there was a strong likelihood that someone would break the secret, would this change their behaviour?

Image Credits: Man And Arrows by renjith krishnanTeam;  Unity Concept by pakorn via

Why My Husband Committed Adultery

searchLike all of us, I thought that the answers would eventually come from my husband. The truth is, they may do but in three and a half years since D-day I’ve been unable to obtain satisfactory responses to the why he behaved as he did.  The three major responses have been: ‘I was a f**king idiot’ (accurate yes, helpful, no!); ‘I don’t remember’; and ‘It was just sex’.  It’s difficult to buy the memory answer. I suspect that he does remember, but I’m inclined to think that the motivation was so banal and basic that there aren’t the words for him to offer any meaningful comprehension.  I also don’t buy that it was just sex.  I do think that, probably, sex was all it was after a few initial shags over a few months but in the beginning I believe it was more than just sex but he’s not prepared to admit it.  Obviously I have discussed my disbeliefs with husband but it doesn’t get me very far.  He thinks I’m looking too deep and there aren’t any deep answers.  She was available for dirty sex, he couldn’t keep his dick in his pants and thought he could have his cake and eat it too.


Another big obstacle in moving through the whys is that I really cannot understand how he could do this to me.    However, I realise now that this is because I cannot imagine doing this to him.  My thinking cannot encapsulate the overwhelming idea of betraying him.  I can’t possibly understand the how because for me it would be impossible to cheat and then lie to him.  I know that I would be unable to, without immeasurable discomfort and heartache to look into his eyes, have sex with him, and tell him I loved him when behind his back I was sharing my intimacies with another man.  So, I’ve started to think along the lines that my husband might simply possess a character I had not understood fully prior to the adultery and that this character possesses a dysfunctional way of thinking not aligned to my values at all in regards to fidelity.


My own take on why husband committed adultery, without information to the contrary, has become very basic and incredibly unpleasant. Clearly, he did it because he LIKED it.  More than that, he thought Pig Shit was fan-fucking-tastic for a while.  What other reason would explain a man in a happy marriage driving over 100 miles for a first night in a hotel with a new woman, albeit a middle aged woman who I would consider to be a desperate dirt bag. There was no gun to his head.  Here was an available middle aged woman desperately seeking a man in her life.  She had gone to the same school as him and I can just imagine the “I used to really fancy you at school” dialogue.  Can’t you?  Her, looking into his eyes and smiling sweetly!  He says he doesn’t remember her at school because she was about three years below but I don’t know if I can believe this.  Pig Shit was introduced by husband’s other friends from school days – so it must have been quite a comfortable social setting.  Equally, she grew up in the same area. Husband has described her as ‘thick as two planks’!  But they got on didn’t they?  I remember him saying this in one of our very early trauma fests when I asked how he could spend a night with her.  But now, when I remind him of this, he shrugs, lifts his eyebrows and doesn’t agree with the sentiment.  He has settled into the ‘only for sex’ rationalisation.  I do think that he’s convinced himself of this but I reckon this was after a year of having her pushing into his life and her starting to want more time from him towards the latter months.


Her attraction? He says that she made it explicitly clear that she was up for sex.  I’d say it was her mediocrity.  It made him feel wonderful.  I believe that in the early days he would have even thought that she might be part of his future.  He ABSOLUTELY denies this.  I mean, it would have all been so much easier with Pig Shit wouldn’t it.  She told me that she considered him to be an ‘alpha-male’.  Go figure, that’s not how I have ever seen him. He felt entitled to this ‘adoration’ and I consider it to be an important aspect of the attraction. He says it was all about sex but he took a photograph of them both (set up his camera on timer) on a bench outside the first hotel that they shagged in.  This was a few hours BEFORE they shagged.  He kept this photo unbeknownst to me on his computer and actually got it printed off nine months later to put in a frame and give to her for her fiftieth birthday.  (Granted, it’s a shitty present but by this time he was very close to melt down).  Taking this photo means that his decision to commit adultery was more than just sex. He cannot explain why he wanted the photo but suggests that he considered her a catch!  Proof that he could still ‘do it’! Also, before arriving at this first hotel Pig Shit invited him to visit her house.  He agreed.  He thought it was for a bit of early sex.  Tell me, here is a married man en-route to a hotel he has arranged for sex, agreeing to visit her house; does this make any sense to you?


Once there, sex was not on the menu. Instead she sat him down with a cup of tea and introduced him to her two teenage kids.  My idiot husband sat there, drank his tea and obviously made himself out to be Mr Special.  I can just imagine Pig Shit telling her kids that this man was her childhood sweetheart blah, blah, blah.  Such a nice man.  Guess what, he can’t remember what they discussed.  Do you think she told her kids that he was married?  I asked husband he said he had no idea.  Then the two of them left (he says in separate cars) to go to the hotel.  But not to shag straight away.  They went for a swim and sauna.  They went for dinner (which she paid for – she paid for every meal they had because she wanted to pay her way – I guess she felt it made it a ‘proper’ relationship somehow).  My husband was doing all this on business expenses because apart from once, every time they shagged it was linked to a real work commitment.  Pig Shit is a single mother with two teenage children.  I asked why he let her pay and he just shrugs.  Then they fucked.  Husband would have had to text me during this time.  He was having a fucking ball wasn’t he?  That’s why he doesn’t want to remember.  He didn’t give a shit about any consequences.  He didn’t feel guilty or ashamed because it was all overwritten by his feeling marvellous and of his feeling of entitlement.  Nothing was going to stop husband having a shag-fest least of all any little voices of conscience.  He didn’t have any!


You think I don’t know what that newness feels like with a new person? The excitement? The physical tingling? You think husband and I didn’t have it ourselves?  We had it BIG time and that newness feeling lasted for many years. So, I know the feelings, I just wouldn’t trade my rectitude to experience it all again with someone else whilst married.  Not only do I view my marriage as something to protect and honour, the lies and deception would be too much to ask of me.  So immediately you can see I think differently.


Then, the next time, a couple of months later another hotel room but after this it was just cheap motel rooms or friends’ spare bedroom. It is clear that her expectations were low.  She must have been so easy to please.  My husband only had to text her the magic words ‘I love you’ and hey presto Pig Shit couldn’t keep her knickers on.  It was always at husband’s convenience and always linked to an overnight stay for a genuine work commitment.  This is why I never suspected what was going on.  It would be unreasonable to think that over 12 months, his staying overnight to be nearer his work on 12 occasions, signalled him being up to no good.  If he had work in Oxford, he would go up the night before, Pig Shit would drive to the location, they would eat in a pub, shag, spend the night and then both go to work.  Some relationship.  Really what do these other women say about women?  That we will accept anything as long as you say you love me and I want to believe it.  Would his actions actually demonstrate an undying love?  No, I don’t think so, but it was enough for Pig Shit!  How great for a married man?  Minimum effort – maximum gain.  Not like with me.


However, over time, he must have tired of her. Then he was trapped.  He knew how to start the adultery but he didn’t know how to stop it.  However, now Pig Shit wanted to cash in on her chips.  He had promised undying love and a future together, she had let him do all sorts of things to her genitals.  Now it was pay time for her.  But it became melt down time for husband.  Too pathetic to come clean to me and own up, too weak to break it off with Pig Shit.  You see, what do we have here?  I have to admit in the cold light of reality, this is not a nice man.  This man, who I married and thought had boyish charm was a liar, a manipulator and a coward.  He was playing me and he was playing Pig Shit which led him to become engulfed in a shitty mess of his own making.  Then things were to get even worse because of his emotional immaturity and inadequacy to deal with the problems that were a direct result of his pathetic choices.


It’s taken a while to really confront this awful truth but the truth has helped me to understand him, understand myself and understand the measures I need to take if our marriage is to recover.   At first, I was confused because his behaviour had led him to melt down.  When his melt down first started I’m not sure (he did crazy things like fill up his diesel car with petrol) but he fluctuated between on the one hand crying with desperate hugs, saying how much he loved me and on the other, making comments that he didn’t want to be here.  He would repeat his head in his hands “I don’t want to be here” “I don’t want to be here”.  Now I think the ‘here’ that he was referring to wasn’t our house or me it was his head.  He was in a living nightmare of his own making.  In the end I asked him to leave and the idiot respected my wish BUT WENT TO ACTUALLY LIVE WITH PIG SHIT!  By this time I do believe he wanted it over but he was too weak to tell her.  He has told me that his intention was to go and live with her to break it off gradually so that she didn’t get angry and tell me.  Don’t laugh, but I actually believe this.  His fucked up thinking has a lot to answer for.


His plan misfired. He didn’t expect me to move so quickly to seek a divorce immediately and explore selling our house.  He didn’t like living with Pig Shit – it wasn’t what he had intended or wanted.  Of that I am sure.  As I didn’t know he was with another woman, how he looked and behaved made me feel sorry for him.  After a few weeks I agreed to a trial reconciliation and he could not wait to return.  He just wanted it all swept away – to awaken from his nightmare, but his unceremonious dumping of Pig Shit was surprisingly ingenuous. It provoked the adulterous hornet and she set out to sting me in the worst way possible.  My husband, what a coward!  He couldn’t even protect me from Pig Shit’s revelation.  How could he think, for one minute, that it was all going to right itself?  I don’t know about you but this is even more fucked up thinking.


My husband behaved appallingly towards me. Both during the adultery and the lead up to the horrendous revelation.  We have not entertained therapy of any kind because I am quite cynical about the blooming counselling industry (that’s not to say I appreciate that for many it has proved invaluable) and have been determined to not involve anyone who may suggest that the ‘why’ of his adultery was somehow prompted by problems in our marriage.  That somehow it was our relationship and faults within that, that led to his adultery.  My husband, struggling to find answers to my questions would have been provided with the perfect rationale.  Then it would be a shared focus – not just on him and his choice to commit adultery but on me and what I might have done to make him vulnerable to having extra marital sex.  As far as I’m concerned, too much of the general understanding of adultery is based upon findings of what the adulterers themselves say. This is only one side and allows for pathetic rationalisations that get aired in public talks.  They were bored, felt empty, not alive, and/or had a longing.  Quite frankly who hasn’t felt like this at times in their lives.  But, why would betrayal of your spouse be considered a potential solution to these feelings?  It’s just too selfish and cruel for words!


SimonA book that has helped me considerably in this area is one written by George K Simon entitled ‘Character Disturbance; the Phenomenon of Our Age’. Interestingly, I came across it via Tracy Schorn’s blog Chump Lady so was late in coming across it because it took a while for me to become strong enough to accept the other side of the consequences of adultery – continued deception and manipulation until separation and divorce.  Chump Lady’s view that reconciliation is a unicorn  was troublesome whilst I had doubts about my own marital recovery but over the years I have become more confident in my choice to stay and have enjoyed reading about spouses who have got their life back on track by leaving their unfaithful partners.  Equally, I support any platform that gives voice to the trauma of infidelity and betrayal.


You see, for such a long time I was saying to husband ‘you’re thinking is fucked up’. I have already blogged about the behavioural psychology that suggests we are not rational thinkers, even though we are adamant that we are. This went some way to help me but Simon’s analysis has hit the spot in many more ways.  Although I am deeply reluctant to agree to a diagnostic label of DC to pin to my husband, (or anyone else for that matter) some of the symptoms that Simon discusses I have found in my husband and this has created another dimension in which to think about what he did to me and what needs to be considered to ensure it doesn’t happen again.  So, it’s a bit pick and mix, but not only does it describe some of my husband’s character or personality it goes someway to understanding why there is such widespread infidelity.  Fundamentally, for Simon, modern society is dominated by a ‘just do it’ culture which has produced increasing numbers of individuals who are not ‘hung-up’ enough about the things they allow themselves to do.  Adultery would fit this bill wouldn’t it? Stemming from an underdeveloped conscience these individuals end up with problems related to their dysfunctional attitudes and thinking patterns. These he calls disturbances of character.


Simon, whose experience is not in the field of relationship counselling or infidelity but in the study of manipulators and other disturbed characters, makes a distinct break from traditional Freudian understandings of behaviour. Considered out of date and based on understanding the neurosis of mainly upper middleclass women, he suggests that the modern demands of psychology now require a completely different perspective in order to understand this ‘just do it’ culture that divorces itself from consequences.  For Simon, neurosis is still with us but rather than being pathological as earlier thought, it now serves as an important psychological function.  We need to ensure that we possess it in a healthy measure.  It allows us to experience enough guilt or shame to restrain impulses.  “It’s what makes society work”.  With this analysis I think I would say that I am healthily neurotic! However, for some individuals, where there is a lack of healthy neurosis it can lead to an underdeveloped conscience.  And this has become widespread.


Character disturbance results in individuals “whose problems are related to their dysfunctional attitudes and thinking patterns, their shallow, self-centred relationships, their moral immaturity and social irresponsibility, and their habitual, dysfunctional behaviour patterns.” I believe that before we met, my husband was the epitome of this description but I never saw it.  Did he hide it or did his relationship with me foster better character traits? We spent nine years together in a good relationship but something seemed to have triggered off a return to his past behaviour patterns that he developed with all his ex-school friends.  Interestingly, when one of these friends (who had socialised with H and Pig Shit) rang me to find out why my H was not communicating with any of them he informed me that what I had experienced (infidelity) was what H always did.


As well as our personality, our distinctive way of relating to people and the choices that we make about how to cope best with life’s challenges also play a role. For Simon, character is an individual’s positive personality aspects – those that are socially desirable; self–control, ethics, loyalty and fortitude.   Characters that don’t develop such aspects often fail to experience the potential pangs of guilt or shame upon their decisions and are therefore able to act in socially irresponsible ways. “Anxiety is minimally present or plays a negligible role in the Disturbed Character’s problems”.  I would say this sums up my husband’s character in the early stages of his adultery.  It is clear from what he has told me that initially he felt no anxiety whatsoever about what he was doing!


“The DC’s conscience is remarkably under-developed and impaired. DCs don’t hear that little voice that urges most of us to do right, or admonishes us when we’re contemplating doing wrong.  Or, if they do hear it, they can easily ignore it, or put it in a lock box (i.e. compartmentalise it)”.


“Shame is the emotional state we experience when we feel badly about who we are. Guilt is when we feel badly about what we’ve done.”  For my husband, both of these emotions were absent until it all started to go terribly wrong for him and he could no longer continue with his behaviour.  However these two emotions are fundamental to him being able to change his character.  From his experience, Simon states “I’ve known many individuals who made significant changes in their characters.  But when they did so, it was not only because they regretted their irresponsible behaviours, but also because they became unsettled enough with the person they had allowed themselves to become (I.e. became too ashamed of themselves) that they decided to change course.  So it appears that one must have the capacity to experience both guilt and shame in order to forge a sound character.”  He goes on to point out that “being embarrassed at being uncovered or found out is not the same as genuine shame.”  So it is clear, from this perspective that any recovery from adultery will demand both guilt and shame to be experienced by the betrayer if change in them is what is required


I have blogged elsewhere about why and how people lie.  Lying it seems is one of the more common problem behaviours of DCs.  “Sometimes this lying is done so automatically that the DC finds himself lying without thinking much about it and even when the truth would have done just fine.”  I experienced this with husband and it’s something I am now conscious of all the time and regularly make checks about the most simplest of statements.  Just to ensure that there is no slippage.


DCs, in keeping with my husband’s responses, say ‘I don’t know’ a lot but for Simon this probably means one of the following.

I never really think about it that much.

I don’t like to think about it.

I don’t want to talk to you about it.

I know very well why I did it but I certainly don’t want you to know.

I hope you’ll buy the notion that I’m basically a good person whose intentions were benign.


Sounds about right!


In traditional counselling or therapy it is believed that there is a different reality undermining the façade that we see; a pitiable reality i.e. low self-esteem. The therapy acts to dig deep into someone’s emotions in order to access this reality.  However, whilst this might be true for someone with neurosis this is not the case for a DC.  Instead, what you see is what you get.  “No feelings of inferiority.  But a deeply rooted sense of entitlement”.  In fact DCs have an inflated sense of self-worth and often feel entitled to use and exploit others as they see fit.  They often ignore the reality of their circumstances and act indifferently to the truth about themselves and their behaviours.  This was my H’s behaviour during the time of the adultery.  He made my life very difficult. “For the most part DCs act first and think later and when a person lacks apprehension about what he’s about to do, he’s less likely to engage in any meaningful contemplation before he acts”.  Sums up H.  “This impulsive thinking promotes a devil may care, lackadaisical attitude and attitudes of indifference, uncaring or nonchalance”.  This was my experience of my husband whilst he was engaged in adultery.


The clarity for me, of the difference between my H’s thinking and mine can be summed up by this; “DCs are largely unaffected and undeterred by adverse consequences. Typically not unnerved by situations that would upset the neurotic.” So, my H, in the context of our marriage and his blatant disregard for my feelings, needs not help and insight to discover more about his feelings about himself but firm benign confrontation, limit setting and most especially correction.


“They need an encounter which directly confronts and challenges their dysfunctional beliefs, destructive attitudes and distorted ways of thinking which stymies their typical attempts at manipulation and impression management.” Whilst Simon is suggesting a particular type of therapy here (and this is in direct opposition to traditional psychology’s belief that personality and character disorders are untreatable) I feel that my H experienced an encounter of this kind when he left me without any acceptable reason and went to live secretly with Pig Shit.   He was absolutely lost, exhausted by the manipulation and impression management, with nobody to turn to.  Except, he wanted to return to me.  He DESPERATELY wanted to come home and have everything ‘back to normal’.


The way I responded to the knowledge of his adultery once I had agreed to a possible reconciliation matches (without my prior knowing) Simon’s suggestion of firm limits set on maladaptive behaviour, and a structuring of the terms of our engagement in a manner that prompts him to try out alternative, more pro-social ways of interrelating that I can reinforce.   Once we identified his problem behaviours and got them out into the open, our attention could be paid to the erroneous ways of thinking that had led to those behaviours.  For H to experience genuine empathy-based remorse for the injury he caused, rather than just regret, two things needed to occur.  1.  He needed to feel genuinely bad about what he’d done (guilt) – he does.  2. He must be internally unnerved about the kind of person he became (shame) through acting so irresponsibly – he is.  It is his shame and guilt which can propel him to make amends to the best of his ability and work very hard not to engage in the same misconduct again – he is working hard – to want to make himself a better person – he says this himself!


“When people have true contrition, their greatest pain is for the injury they caused someone else, and their actions reflect a sincere effort, not only to repair the damage, but also change their ways.”


“None of us is born civilised. We are not naturally predisposed to be socially conscientious or responsible beings.  No matter how one is biologically predisposed and regardless of one’s environment, certain crucial lessons must be learned at various stages if one is to develop a balanced personality and healthy character.”  We have to be “ever mindful of man’s incredible capacity to deceive himself as well as others and the temptation we all face to secure what we want and avoid what we don’t want through deception, cheating and conniving.”


Unfortunately, society doesn’t really recognise or reward those who display integrity of character. It has always been easier to cheat, lie and steal rather than take the honest path.  For most part, lying is simply easier than accepting and dealing with the truth.  And truth is a cornerstone here.  We know it as betrayed spouses and Simon knows about it through his work with DCs.  He has found “incredible power in the truth.  It’s the basis of the genuine human connection that can facilitate positive change.  “The truth is rarely pretty but it is almost always redemptive and transformative”  Don’t we just know it!


An additional understanding for me of H’s behaviour when it all got out of control has been provided by Simon and his suggestion of circumstantial thinking – the belief that one thing leads to another.  “They see their behaviour and its consequences as the inevitable result of a snowball rolling out of control and becoming too massive to stop.  Not as a result of their choices.  Circumstantial thinking means not thinking about one’s motives for engaging in behaviour, one’s internal decision-making process, and the consequences of one’s choices, but rather telling oneself that things simply happen.  That is the thinking error most responsible for the development of a socially irresponsible attitude”


Finally, returning to me and the difficulties that I have experienced in trying to understand H’s motives for what he did I’d like to return to Simon’s suggestion that I am healthily neurotic . “Neurotic individuals’ main vulnerability is that they simply can’t imagine that everyone isn’t at least to some degree like them.  They also can’t imagine that people aren’t motivated in their actions by the same kinds of issues that motivate them”.


The bottom line is our recovery from H’s adultery is all about H and how he values his own efforts to be a better person. Like it or not, for me, character matters.  You cannot legislate for morality.  H’s behaviour might not have been illegal but it was reprehensible.


Image Credit: Online Search by renjith Krishnan

Adultery: Socially Tolerated – Individually Unbearable

It seems to me that adultery has become socially tolerated (the Ashley Madison hack provided a brilliant but missed opportunity to explore this phenomenon) whilst at the same time, at an individual level it remains unbearable.

Oscar Wilde wrote in his essay – The Critic as Artist – “As long as war is regarded as wicked it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular.” Could something similar be said of adultery?  As long as adultery is viewed as erotic it will always have its fascination.  When it is looked upon as betrayal, it will cease to be popular.

Currently, the social tolerance of adultery rests on two complimentary assumptions. Firstly, the view that certain groups of people are able to comfortably commit adultery; educated, middle class married people who have the ability to hop into bed with other people and feel free of guilt and free of consequences.  Groups such as the London Bloomsbury set of the last century or the French for example.  We are led to believe that infidelity, for certain people, can be accepted and tolerated as a recognised aspect of their relationship.   These individuals, if it is to be believed, who experience painless sexual infidelity must have some kind of inoculation to protect them from the torment that I am enduring as a consequence of my husband’s adultery.  I wonder, does living amongst people who are blasé about adultery soften the blow of cheating in some way? Or, and more likely I suspect, is it a case of simply downplaying the jealousy, hurt, insecurity and anger felt by the betrayed spouses in order to justify the betrayer’s behaviour? Are the betrayed spouses coerced into censoring their emotions?  Made to pretend their pain does not exist?

Added to this pernicious perspective is a second common assumption, shared by Esther Perel, that adultery is everywhere, and as it has always been the case historically we need to get real and lighten up on our views about it and responses to it. Perhaps be more like the London Bloomsbury set or the French. She says her research has shown that people in happy marriages cheat so this suggests that “marriage is an imperfect arrangement”.  (But maybe it’s only imperfect for one member of that marriage; the one who wants to have their cake and eat it too!)  Along with Dan Savage, who believes marriages should be non-monogamous, Perel believes that there needs to be “new negotiations” around monogamy. No doubt these views will be espoused more expansively in her proposed new book ‘Affairs in the Age of Transparency’.  Perel suggests that an affair is an erotic experience and not just about sex.  It’s about desire, attention, reconnecting with parts of yourself.  About longing and loss.  She contrasts this with what she says is the American discourse which is framed around betrayal and trauma.  But you see, she’s getting confused with her discourses here.  What she is doing is creating a discourse of adultery from the perspective of the adulterer and choosing to juxtapose this not with an American discourse but with what in fact is the universal discourse of the betrayed spouse.  This is nonsense.  It is all part of the same discourse.  There can be no separation. The deceived spouse is essential to the act of adultery, and their perspective is as pertinent as any.  Betrayal and trauma is what the betrayed spouse gets smashed between the eyes with and this is NOT an erotic experience.  Betrayal and trauma is NOT about desire, attention and reconnecting with parts of yourself long forgotten.  But, without betrayal there can be no adultery! This is the symbiotic but toxic reality.

These two assumptions; that certain people are able to ‘successfully’ navigate adultery and that adultery will always be with us deny two important human aspects. One; the aching human desire for an enduring loving and trusting relationship, and two; the trauma that I believe is ALWAYS experienced by the deceived spouse as a direct consequence of the adultery. Michela Marzano in ‘Fidelity: Loving on the edge’ writes “Humans are happier when they accept boundaries, even though boundaries limit their behaviour and oblige them to give up short-term pleasures such as extra-marital sex.” Don Juan was not free. He was a slave to his drives and was unable to construct his life. Our desire for commitment is hardly discussed except as a cursory nod towards the romantic myth of the ‘one-and-only-soul-mate-for-me-on-the-planet’ which often culminates in a frothy and champagne flowing  wedding ceremony where everybody celebrates the loving couple’s commitment to each other.  Then waits.  Statistics tell us the unsavoury news.  Percentages are thrown around like late confetti, all suggesting that adultery is inevitable, divorce likely.  These data are highly flawed, as any close inspection will reveal.  There is no definitive research that indicates how prevalent adultery is or how often it leads to divorce.  Really, would we expect otherwise?

As for a possible inoculation against the torment of being betrayed – I just don’t believe it. If you love someone dearly and that person opts to remove you from being the central person in your life, how is it humanely possible to shrug this off?

Pamela Druckerman in her book ‘Lust in Translation’ provides an interesting window into how different cultures respond to adultery. From gay communities with men who trade a few minutes of pleasure for an agonising death from AIDS to the French President François Mitterrand and his mistress and illegitimate daughter, adultery is presented as a kaleidoscope of different activities, but “there are universals, of course.  Even in countries where people supposedly tolerate cheating, almost everyone is heartbroken to discover infidelity.” Married people the world over are devastated to discover their partners have been cheating.  As for the French, Druckerman states “French women are startled when I tell them about their international reputation for being laissez-faire on infidelity. ‘Would you want your husband to cheat on you’ one woman relied.”

Dig a bit deeper into any marriage where love still lives and if adultery has occurred then the trauma will soon become apparent. Even though Mitterrand’s affair has the French outward appearance of him appearing as a cultivated person, in reality it is far more complicated. It was a state secret for two decades.  His illegitimate daughter was publicly disclosed only fourteen months before his funeral.  In her autobiography ‘Mouth Sewn Shut’ she says that she was so traumatised by the need to ‘stay invisible’ she went into psychotherapy.  Her father’s adulterous relationship with her mother forced her to fabricate a counterfeit life.  Really, how can this be truly tolerated?  What emotional tyranny was employed here in the name of love?

In the Sunday Telegraph last week it was announced that Nelson’s spurned wife took love for him to the grave. “She was humiliated by her husband in the most public of ways, endured the scandal of one of history’s best documented affairs and weathered the indignity of being estranged.  But Viscountess Nelson, known as Fanny, was so devoted to Lord Nelson she wore a miniature of him until she died, a newly found work suggests.”

“Fanny has not been treated well by posterity, and suffered badly at the hands of her attention seeking usurper Emma Hamilton. She was not the icy wife as depicted but a woman of deep and highly charged emotion.”

Another sad tragedy of adultery can be found in the life of the American artist Georgia O’Keeffe. From reading her detailed biography by Roxana Robinson it is clear that she was a remarkable woman; talented and independent she would epitomise what would have been considered the bohemian lifestyle of the last century.  Yet she had no inoculation against the tormentGeorgia of her husband Alfred’s infidelity.

Alfred Stieglitz was married to Emmy when he met Georgia.  Apparently this marriage was not a happy one and had become sexless.  They had one daughter.  However, how their marriage was and how it was perceived by husband and wife can be speculated upon.  Emmy returned one day to find her husband taking explicit photographs of Georgia in their apartment.  She ordered them out and gave an ultimatum to Alfred to either  stop seeing her or stop coming home.  He chose to leave.  Emmy broke down and repealed her ultimatum but to no avail.  Alfred took his road to freedom and had the nerve to display traces of injury to friends and colleagues along the lines of he felt ‘kicked-out’!

The night he left he sent Emmy a note of apology which she kept all her life. She was enraged and humiliated and the divorce took six years.  So Emmy WAS tormented by Alfred’s infidelities.  This no doubt had a devastating effect on their daughter. A very difficult and distant relationship with her father and later, insanity.

However, and with a certain predictability, Alfred after marrying Georgia began a relationship with a woman who ensconced herself firstly in his studio and then in his love life. Georgia became aware of the daily letters and telephone calls that became a pattern between her husband and Dorothy Norman.  She wrote “The vision ahead may seem a bit bleak but my feeling about life is a curious kind of triumphant feeling about – seeing it bleak – knowing it so and walking into it fearlessly because one has no choice.” However, Stieglitz’s public betrayal of Georgia with Dorothy was a constant unspoken sub text between Alfred and Georgia and produced difficult emotional choices.  Georgia chose not to leave him but to accept his infidelity and respond to it by leading her own independent life as much as she could. Outwardly it may have appeared that the infidelity had no impact upon Georgia’s and Alfred’s marriage.

For Alfred and Dorothy, who was also married, the folie á deux developed over familiar lines. Dorothy wrote “I want to hurt or tear apart nothing”.  Her self-image was one of kindness and generosity and it did not allow her to admit that her behaviour might be damaging to others.  She professed bewilderment at her husband’s jealousy! “We never think of breaking up our marriages.  We are nourished by and nourish them.” Equally Alfred’s skewed logic of infatuation convinced him that his involvement with Dorothy was a benefit to everyone around him, including Georgia!

Georgia’s self-confidence waned as she watched herself replaced by Dorothy Norman. I wonder if it caused her to think about Emmy, Alfred’s first wife. Georgia’s subsequent mental breakdown caused Alfred both grief and guilt and he returned her to the centre of his emotional life.  His romantic involvement with Dorothy diminished from this time onwards.  Although she had seemed to stoically accept her husband’s infidelity, the price she paid was high.  Georgia was tormented by her husband’s infidelity. She was 46 when she acknowledged her need for reciprocated love.  She wrote “If the past year or two has taught me anything it is that my plot of earth must be tended with absurd care – by myself first – and if second by someone else, it must be with absolute trust – their thinking carefully and knowing what they do – it seems it would be very difficult for me to live if it were wrecked again just now”.

After Alfred’s death Georgia unleashed her rage at Dorothy at last. She informed her that her relationship with her husband was “absolutely disgusting”.

Adultery is a travesty of marriage. If one person favours infidelity as a way of improving their selfish life whilst the other favours monogamy and the sacrifices it requires, the only consequence can be torment of one kind or another unless the differences can be reconciled.  But, I consider them to be irreconcilable.  I don’t think, not for me anyway, that there can be a re-working of monogamy.  Social tolerance of adultery cannot be translated into individual tolerance.  People’s feelings are valuable things that should not be trampled upon.  I don’t know anything worse than betrayal for trampling upon people’s feelings.  There is no pain free adultery.

Responses To Betrayal

crying faceI discovered that I had been betrayed by my husband on August 3rd 2012.  That’s just over three years ago.  So, for over three years (1,095 days) I have been navigating my way through a marriage that I have no map for.  I never imagined for one minute, that my lovely husband, with all his boyish charm, would commit adultery.  But he did.  And I have had to accept this because, what other options are there?  “Loving you was like going to war, I never came back the same” (Warsan Shire)

Having my husband commit adultery was worse than I would ever have imagined, and to poach some prose from the acerbic and eloquent PJ O’Rourke, I would say that I have felt like I have confronted an enormous piece of machinery that I can’t comprehend and don’t know how to operate. In fact, I feel like I’m being run through that machinery.  I am wheat, rice and corn being delivered to the Nabisco factory, and I’m going to come out the other end definitely toasted, possibly shredded, and if I believe my husband’s affair can become the best thing that ever happened to me, then maybe even coated with sugar!

As Joan Didion notes in her wonderful book, The Year of Magical Thinking, “Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant.”  My life changed fast when I read the words on my mobile phone which my husband’s slut decided to send me when he dumped her.  Up until this instant, I had thought that my husband’s increasingly bizarre behaviour was due to some kind of mental breakdown.  A mid-life crisis of sorts.  Once the truth came out, everything that I thought I’d figured out about life unravelled and there I stood, alone, isolated and broken.  How I wish I had known then, what I know now.  Betrayal hurts like hell and it hurts the betrayed spouse more than anyone who hasn’t experienced it can imagine.  The response is visceral.  It is as incapacitating as physical illness and I am sure that it has damaging effects on our health.  The anxiety that arises from the loss of one’s ability to trust or feel safe is all encompassing and impacts upon every aspect of our life. “The ache for home lives inside all of us, to be able to return to our safe place and not to be stressed and burdened by the world.  Home.” (José N Harris)

My response to my husband’s betrayal has been to stay together and work towards a recovery of sorts. My marriage is recovering but it is quite different now.  It would have to be wouldn’t it; I’ve changed and so has my husband so our relationship follows suit.  I’m tougher than I was (I don’t believe that life gets easier or more forgiving, it’s just that we get stronger and more resilient) and husband has joined the ranks of the grown-ups.  I mostly now grieve; for what we both lost by his decision to betray me.  When I realised I’d been deeply betrayed, grief was not part of the initial landscape.  It’s only over time that the fear, anger and frustration have given way to disappointment and disillusionment. We are now a marriage that includes adultery and this will never, never, never change and it will always hurt.  Even though we are growing roots around it, as Byron lyricises “’Tis but as ivy-leaves around the ruined turret wreath,  All green and wildly fresh without, but worn and grey beneath.” 

I do not regret my decision to stay with my husband. From his actions over the past three years I am acutely aware of his remorse for what he did.  His remorse along with his acceptance of responsibility to help me to heal has been the golden glue that has held us together.  I’ve learned that my husband is a flawed human being but this has not stopped me from loving him.  As strange as this may sound I now know that he really loves me.  When I look back at our relationship before any adultery took place he never showed his love in this way.  I guess I wasn’t looking for it and he didn’t feel the need to demonstrate his love.  Or maybe, just maybe, he had no idea just how much he loved me and how his world needed me in it.  The real threat of losing me seems to have removed an emotional blockage in him.  We are not out of the woods yet by any means but I reckon that even with the adultery that we’re dealing with, we may possess a stronger and happier marriage than many, with or without adultery.  But my loss of trust and safety, hopes and dreams must be acknowledged and mourned.    But I share these losses with so many of you.

Here in the blogging world of betrayed wives I have discovered a private cemetery that contains a secret mass grave of shared hopes and dreams and a seemingly worldwide refusal to acknowledge its existence. I read repeatedly of the pain of betrayal both from wives who stay with their betrayer and wives who don’t.  The pain is the same although the responses and remedies as varied as the personalities involved.  Adultery is a tragedy not a sexual activity.

Tragedy in life normally comes with betrayal and compromise – by trading in our integrity and failing to treat life and others in our life with respect and dignity. That’s really where the truest and the most tragic failures in life come from.  They come from making the choice to betray another soul, and in turn, giving up a piece of your own. (José N Harris)

In all of the blogs I read, written by betrayed wives, clear threads of thought link them all together. They all recognise and share the tsunami of the experience of betrayal and irrelevant of whether they’ve stayed or left their husband they all categorically view adultery as WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! They empathise and sympathise with other betrayed wives, knowing the familiar pain first hand.  By being betrayed, we have joined a club and we are all on the same side and all trying to make sense of the non-sense of adultery.  But, are we in a bubble?  I imagined that we were just the women at the top of the iceberg.  I suspected that many many more women were like us, just not writing about it.  But might I be wrong?

You see, I now can’t bear to hear about adultery.  I’m currently reading a biography about an artist I like Georgia O’Keeffe.  Love her work.  Value her individuality and the grace in which she aged.  However, I find out today that her husband was married to someone else whilst embarking on a relationship with her.  Granted it was an unhappy marriage and they were not together as such, but it got me thinking.  Trust me, before I experienced betrayal I would never have given a second thought to his unhappy first wife – but now, it’s become a mental marker for me.  I started to wonder if all betrayed wives would be as sympathetic as me and I found a contradiction immediately.  On my very own adultery doorstep!

You see, Pig Shit is a betrayed wife!!!  She is a woman who has had a husband commit adultery including the time whilst she was giving birth.  They were later divorced.  She has also had a two year relationship with a man end because he ran off with her best friend.  So please, could someone explain why she would CHOOSE to have relationships with married men, hoping that they will leave their wives?  Explain why she would want to text me as soon as my husband dumped her?

What type of response to adultery is this?

Did she not feel the pain that we feel?  Is she one of a few or part of an army of betrayed wives NOT like us who respond to betrayal by making matters worse for others?

Image Credit:  Cry Face by holohololand

Adultery is a private matter between the adulterer and his or her spouse

frameWhat values are framing the debate around adultery?

Ever since I’ve come out of the tail spin of adultery I have been seeking the answer to this question. Of course, initially, my focus of attention was narrowly focused; i.e. my husband’s behaviour and all the myriads of questions that I sought answers to from him. From here my attention widened to a broader range of resources; other personal experiences, books written by ‘experts’, literature etc., but this has all been a result of me digging to find ‘stuff’. Information has come in from many directions but it has been, in the main a very private matter.  Bottom line – the causes and explanations have remained elusive and have not assuaged my gnawing need to comprehend the world I live in. I really do feel as if I have fallen into a rabbit hole and entered a ‘Nastyland’ where betrayal and deceit continuously and consistently devastate married lives.

Why is there not more of an outrage?

I find myself, once again, returning to a favourite of mine; George Lakoff, an American cognitive linguist who studies the way words influence people politically. I consider his style of analysis a useful tool to consider the words used when adultery is discussed publicly. Might it be possible that the words we read/hear set a trap to draw people into a particular worldview of adultery? A world view that suggests its inevitability?  A very private and personal matter? An aspect of the human condition? For Lakoff, the process of trapping via language is termed ‘framing’. “Framing is about getting language that fits your worldview. It is not just language. The ideas are primary – and the language carries those ideas, evokes those ideas.”

So what are the ideas being carried and evoked within the wider public discourse of adultery?

Well first, we have the statistics, the bloody statistics. We seem to be bombarded by this ‘scientific evidence’. Perel refers to a range of them in her TED talk, reminding us that it depends on the definition of infidelity. The stats spit out a varying array of percentages which cannot be confirmed but suggest that up to 75 % of men and 60% of women have committed adultery. Who commissions this research? Who participates? What type of questions get asked?

Adultery leading to divorce might provide a more accurate set of data. Interestingly, in the UK, adultery as a reason cited for divorce is actually dropping.  “Warring couples are only half as likely to cite adultery as the cause of a marriage breakdown than they were 40 years ago, but claims of unreasonable behaviour have rocketed, analysis of more than 5m divorce cases has shown.” Research that The Guardian looked at “found that while in the 70s, 29% of marriages ended because of adultery, the latest figures show only 15% of divorces were down to infidelity.” Perel didn’t mention this. The truth is, we will never really know how often people commit adultery or under what circumstances. Equally, we can never know how faithful people are either.

However, I am anxious that these data are used to help frame the debate around adultery by implying that monogamy is unnatural and that vast numbers of married people habitually cheat on their spouses. This frame can then be used to justify adulterous behaviour both for the adulterer and for all the money spinning businesses that feed off of adultery,eg web sites like Ashley Madison. This belief prompts the suggestion that we betrayed spouses should ‘lighten up’ and take a more continental approach to our husbands having a mistress; we should just get off their backs and let them screw around a bit!  With no data that I’m aware of that concerns itself with the pain and trauma for these continental betrayed spouses are we to suppose that they either accept their partner’s infidelity with a certain panache or stoically accept the natural Mediterranean order of things?

Anyway, the statistics are a smoke screen. Even IF every other person in the world is committing adultery it remains a dishonourable act, engendering rotten behaviour rooted in a morass of secrecy and shame that unquestionably wounds everybody.

Like most things, adultery does not occur in a vacuum. It is a social phenomenon. But until the recent Ashley Madison hack there wasn’t really a public debate to explore how adultery is framed in a socio-political context.  It’s almost as if, up until this event, unless it was tabloid headings of celebrity infidelity or head numbing statistics, adultery was off the public radar. Which is what makes the AM hack so interesting. Words are powerful instruments and I guess nobody understands this as much as the media. An examination of the choice of words used can offer a window into the dominant understandings or world views.

I want to take a closer look at Glenn Greenwald’s article about the AM hacking which appeared in the online publication (which he helps edit), The Intercept on August 20th 2015. Greenwald is no lightweight in media circles. He is an American lawyer, journalist and author and was named by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2013. Four of the five books he has written have been on The New York Times Best Sellers list.

The Ashley Madison hack is very interesting in as much as the topic of adultery is a side dish to the main news event which is the on-going concern with digital privacy (although you wouldn’t necessarily privacythink so). We live in a world which keeps a digital trace on us all. How safe is that data and who should have access to it needs to concern us all. Hacking is theft of data. When someone steals valuable gems from a jewellery shop there is no investigation into the jewellery business or the people involved in it. However, the people who stole the gems are thieves as are the people who knowingly bought the stolen gems. We understand the crime and have designed a penal system (not to mention insurance business) that addresses it. However, with theft of information and that information being stolen just to be given away for nothing presents a whole new set of scenarios. Old and new chestnuts to chew over! But Greenwald chose to wade in with a different aspect and it is this which is so informative and provides clues to the public frame of adultery. He chose to attack the ‘puritanical glee’ which he identified as the reaction to the hack. The puritanical glee produced because of the topic of the website in question; adultery, not the invasion of privacy per se.

For Greenwald, it would appear that if we object to adultery we object to the private, sexual acts of other adults. He says “that the cheating scoundrels of Ashley Madison got what they deserved was a widespread sentiment yesterday. Despite how common both infidelity and online pornography are, tweets expressing moralistic glee were legion.” Firstly, let’s explore the language ‘cheating scoundrels’. This is a euphemistic expression to define people prepared to betray their spouses. The only proper term for them is an adulterer. A cheating scoundrel sounds childish and less harmful. I can cheat playing monopoly – ooh, I’m such a scoundrel! Secondly, let’s explore the language ‘despite how common both infidelity and online pornography are’. This is using the same set of assumptions that the stats try to convey. Because there’s so much infidelity and pornography it is normal, acceptable human behaviour and if we don’t approve we become guilty of being puritanical.

He goes on: “It’s hard to overstate the devastation to some people’s lives from having their names published as part of this hack: not only to their relationships with their spouses and children but to their careers, reputations, and — depending on where they live — possibly their liberty or even life.” Hello! Someone has disappeared from view here? What about the devastation caused TO the betrayed spouse and family? What about their hurt? Nothing, instead we are encouraged to think about the adulterers’ devastation at being found out and the consequences of this. Consequences that they should have been well aware of at the time of making the choice to be adulterous.

For Dan Savage, an American political activist, author, media pundit and journalist who cared to join the debate, it was clear; Ashley Madison clients need to stop hanging their heads in shame and start fighting back—e.g., telling their truths and defending themselves. The implications here?  No two adulteries are the same.  Some adulteries are positively beneficial.  These are the infidelities that save marriages, that are mutually agreed to within marriages [I get a bit lost here, seems like an oxymoron ‘mutually-agreed adultery’] and where there is no easily identifiable victim or the victimization was mutual [More than lost here, I’m afraid!].

So the framing of adultery begins to get more nuanced.  Greenwald wants us to recognise that just because someone’s name appears in the Ashley Madison database does not mean they have engaged in marital infidelity. “Some may use the site as pornography because it titillates them, or because they are tempted to cheat but are resisting the urge, or because they’re married but in a relationship where monogamy is not demanded.”


Using the site as pornography? Please, I’m not really expected to believe this am I? But also, can you see how this language makes pornography acceptable? ‘Tempted to cheat, but resisting the urge’; how I love the myth of heroic self-control. Sex is not a need, food is a need. Sex is a want. Get over it! Now, what about if they are in a marriage where ‘monogamy is not demanded’? If monogamy is not required why on earth would there be any problem in being open about sexual relations with others? Agreed, your data should have been better protected, but the information that you are on the site should not pose a problem for either you or your spouse. Should it? But here we have a further framing of adultery as something that some couples are perfectly OK with.  The truth is, adultery wounds even in an open marriage because of the betrayal, not because of the sexual activity.

We get to find out that Greenwald, like Savage, believes that there can be good reasons for adultery. “There are a lot of people out there who have good [my emphasis] cause to cheat. Men and women trapped in sexless marriages, men and women trapped in loveless marriages, men and women who have essentially been abandoned sexually and/or emotionally by spouses they aren’t in a position to leave—either because their spouses are economically dependent on them (or vice versa) or because they may have children who are dependent on both partners.” Greenwald’s adulterers are ‘trapped’,’ abandoned sexually and emotionally’ – only remaining in their marriage because of financial reasons. Poor souls! It’s clear where Greenwald’s sympathies lie and it’s not with the betrayed spouse.

Then we get a real life example of the person with every ‘entitlement’ to commit adultery. Bring on the violins. No doubt he received hundreds of e-mails but we only get the details of one. “An e-mail from a woman who has two children with special needs, who has been out of the workforce for 15 years, and who is financially dependent on a husband who decided five years into their marriage that he was “done with sex” but refuses to allow her to have sex with anyone else. The marriage is good otherwise, [Sorry, how can the marriage be good OTHERWISE, this doesn’t logically follow through for me] she and her husband have an affectionate, low-conflict relationship, their kids are happy and well cared for, but sexual deprivation is driving her out of her mind and threatening both her marriage and her children’s health and security.” Same old, same old – sexual deprivation. Animal needs. Can’t be contained. Need expression. Greenwald says he would have given her AM’s website details if it was before the hack! What if she wasn’t in any kind of relationship? Tinder?

He goes on to pose a question “if cheating is your only form of sexual fulfilment , is it clearly morally wrong?” So again we have the euphemism, ‘cheating’ but now linked to animal sexual urges that can’t be controlled. When can it ever be morally correct to betray someone, to lie to them and take away their reality so that you can get your rocks off?

He places all his cards on the deck when he says “but whatever else is true, adultery is a private matter between the adulterer and his or her spouse.”

But it isn’t is it?

That’s just the point that he appears to have totally missed. It’s not a private matter between the adulterer and spouse. It is a private matter between the adulterer and other person they are having sex with. It’s a private matter between the adulterer, the other person and all the others who are complicit with and collude in the activity.

This notion of adultery being a private matter is a huge part of the public framing of adultery.  Firstly it separates the act from the public and social-political sphere and secondly it is shorthand for ‘back off’ – the idea is that it has nothing to do with anyone else.

Wasn’t there a time when domestic violence was considered a private matter between the spouses? Didn’t this rhetoric help to silence the victims of domestic abuse for years?

For me adultery is morally wrong whichever way it’s looked at. Does this make me puritanical? I wouldn’t think so. I don’t much care what consenting adults get up to sexually. I’m very broad minded and have what I consider to be a personal healthy appetite. However, whether it is an orgy of twenty plus people or a fumble in the back seat of a car, if it involves lying to a spouse I have deep moral objections. The public debate needs to move away from the adulterer and the eroticisation of their activities to the trauma experienced via the adultery by the betrayed spouse.

The truth is, Mr Greenwald, (who clearly does not ‘get it’) adultery only becomes something of a private matter between spouses when the adultery is discovered! Then, it is a private tsunami of shock, anger, grief and shame. To apply the words of Nancy Mairs when discovering that her husband was with another woman: “This sense of my own extinction will prove the most tenacious and terrifying of my responses, the one that keeps me flat on my back in the night, staring into the dark, gasping for breath, as though I’ve been buried alive.” Mairs had previously committed adultery and betrayed her husband, but it wasn’t until she experienced her husband’s betrayal of her that the devastating effects of adultery hit home.  It is a pity that Greenwald did not consider the AM hacking and subsequent leaks from the betrayed spouses and children’s point of views. This would go some small way to extend the frame of the debate.

Image Credits: Think Outside The Frame by winnond; Privacy Magnifier Represents Secret Confidentially And Magnification by Stuart Miles

Adultery: 100% pure fiction cake!

cakeFiction Cake; What a lovely title for a book about adultery. 

I came across the term ‘fiction cake’ last week. Firstly it made me chuckle as it’s such a neat way to describe someone or something that is blatantly fake but then I stopped chuckling when I realised it could be used to define adultery and infidelity. I started to think about all the fiction that is ‘out there’.  What better place than to start with the fiction of my husband’s adultery?

Fiction: literature that describes imaginary events and people. Something that is invented or untrue. I’m stretching the definition here for my own purpose because it is not really literature it is actions and feelings and thoughts that are fictional here.

Imaginary events

I had a marriage that was ‘affair proof’.  Clearly not!

The ‘dates’ between my husband and Pig Shit. They were never dates.  They were simply meet’n shag events.  One night stands in hotel rooms in the main.

They fell in love. No, they fell into a lust pit. Intimacy was not developed over time, sex was practiced with gusto! Pig Shit brought along all her sex toys to their first meet’n shag and in the period of one year she and my husband had 12 meet’n shag events.

My husband left me for Pig Shit. No, my husband told her this but the truth was  I asked him to leave the family home.

My husband was living happily with Pig Shit. No, she thought this.  Wanted desperately to believe this as true but my husband was at my front door in ten days begging to come home. We met on several occasions before I agreed he could come home.

Imaginary people:

My husband. He was presenting a representation of himself for the few hours that he was with Pig Shit. She thought he was loving and kind and that they had a future together. He was betraying his wife. He was lying and cheating to a woman who loved him dearly and who he had been in a relationship with for over ten years.

Pig Shit. She was presenting a representation of herself for the few hours that she was with my husband. She was clearly desperate to have any man and would bend to fit my husband’s limited availability. She acted all kind towards him. In truth she was a vindictive cow who showed her true colours when he unceremoniously dumped her.

Me. The wife who won’t get hurt if she doesn’t find out. I may not have known about the adultery per se but I was experiencing the pain of suspicion which hurt like a creeping cancer. My husband and Pig Shit were delusional to think that a) not knowing wouldn’t hurt me; and b) his dishonesty and deceit would not manifest itself within our relationship.

Something that is invented or untrue.

My husband loved her because he said so and sent texts which said the same thing. All a crock of shit. He never loved her, said he did to keep the sex sweet and never stopped loving me, his wife.

It’s a love affair. Never. He dropped her like a ton of hot bricks as soon as I said he could come home. Never spoke to her again.

Single women date married men because they don’t want commitment. Rubbish. There is no shortage of single men who run a mile from commitment. Pig Shit thought she was in a committed relationship with a married man. Go figure!

Something was wrong with our marriage. Er, no! We had been getting along just fine. A few weeks earlier had had a wonderful romantic holiday. The adultery caused problems in our marriage.

My husband left me to be with Pig Shit permanently. Er, no. Not permanently, and to be honest even if I didn’t take him back he wouldn’t want to be with Pig Shit as his permanent partner. Not his type outside the bed sheets.  My husband enjoys what’s between my ears as well as the physical stuff.

Adultery is harmless fun. I have written elsewhere about adultery being a wasteland, and about it being a fantasy land. Adultery breaks people.

Monogamy is easy. No monogamy is dead difficult and it cannot be taken for granted.

Marriage is happy ever after. No, living with and loving someone long-term is a challenge for everybody. It takes courage, determination and continued commitment.

Adultery breaks up the marriage. No it doesn’t. An entire marriage is not flawed if an affair comes to light, rather it is inappropriate behaviour by one party. The truth is, many marriages survive and become stronger following adultery

The BS gets all the pleasure. Some may, but others are wracked by the consequences of their actions.  An affair can be devastating emotionally, not just for the spouse who has been betrayed but also for the tortured soul who is doing the straying.

Try again but with someone new rather than with the partner who has fallen from the paradigm of virtue. Why?  If I had a great marriage before the adultery and I think I have a chance of happiness in the future, why not work to restore our marriage.  Not give up on him or us.

Image Credit: Piece Of Delicious Cake,isolated On White Background by kdshutterman via