When my ex-husband and I first separated years ago, lots of friends and family told us we should go to counseling and try to work things out. Mostly, it was his family’s suggestion. They knew he’d cheated on me already, but they still had hope for our marriage. If I had been more observant, I would have noticed that he’d checked out of our marriage a long time before he slept with his receptionist. I just didn’t understand why.
We drove separate cars to the therapist’s office and met in the lobby. I sat in a chair and looked at the floor while my ex stood next to a bookshelf pretending to read all the book titles. For the first time in our lives, we had nothing to say to each other in person. I actually did have a lot to say, but I was saving it for the therapist. Maybe he was, too.
Our therapist’s name was Tom, and he ushered us into his office with a warm smile. My ex sat on a big couch, but instead of sitting next to him, I picked a little chair across the room. It seemed so odd that we were strangers now as if we barely knew each other after 19 years of marriage. I just had a feeling he didn’t want me to sit next to him. My self-esteem was so low that I’d break out in tears if anyone even looked at me funny. My confidence and trust in myself and others had been broken.
My ex got to talk first. Tom asked him what was happening in his mind that he felt the need to cheat. I leaned forward, anxious to hear the answer.
“Well,” my ex began, “It’s just that Glenna isn’t interested in having fun or doing new things. She’s practically a joyless human being. I felt I had no alternative.”
His litany of complaints went on and on about me. He said I didn’t seem to care how I looked anymore. He said I always fall apart at the tiniest criticism. I’ll never forget what he looked like as he spoke, a combination of half-bored and smug. It was clear he didn’t want to be there. After he finished, I didn’t want to be there either.
Tom asked to speak to me separately for a few minutes. When we were alone, he asked me how I felt hearing my husband say all those terrible things. I had been crying before, but my tears had stopped and were replaced by anger and frustration.
“I wanted to run across your desk and punch him hard in the face,” I answered, surprising the therapist. “How dare he blame me for this, like I made him cheat like he had no other choice. He was the poor long-suffering husband who had to put up with his joyless, mousy wife.” There wasn’t one thing in the world I’d ever refused him in all our years together, but suddenly I refused to let him be the victim of his own cheating.
My ex came back to me twice after moving in with his parents. He clearly did it out of a sense of duty to me and our two young boys. He was trying to play the martyr, but it was the last thing I wanted. Why would I stay married to a man who didn’t even like me? I filed for divorce the day after he told me he wasn’t ready to give up his “relationship” with the receptionist but wanted to stay married to me. When I made him choose, he got really angry. I sure didn’t sign up to be part of a three-way relationship. Talk about having your cake and eating it, too.
The following list contains reasons that are acceptable for cheating on your spouse:
Yep, it’s blank, because there IS never an excuse to cheat. I would say to the cheaters out there to try a little humility. They cheat and hurt people rather than being honest about how they felt about the relationship. It’s going to hurt them in the long run. Couples should have the chance for the opportunity to listen to how each other feels and then work together. I know I would have preferred it over getting blindsided by my ex announcing his cheating in the middle of our living room. He kept saying how unhappy he was with me. By that time, I wished he would leave and never come back.
Full disclosure: When my spouse and I were the same age at 29 and wanted children, I went through a traumatic birth with my first baby. I could barely walk or eat afterward, but the most horrifying part was how I slammed straight down into postpartum depression for the first time. My doctor started me on medication that seemed to work, but my panic attacks and depression kept coming back every few weeks. I was hospitalized a few times, and I got a final diagnosis of bipolar disorder, type 2. My doctor told me I’d probably have episodes here and there for the rest of my life, and if I stopped my medication I’d likely attempt suicide.
It was a lot to deal with, but at first, my ex seemed to understand the way mental illness worked. It’s ironic that he later used it against me to call me crazy and excuse his cheating. I had never done anything to hurt him or cause trouble, but apparently saying your wife is “crazy” went far enough to get him dates and high-fives from his buddies once he dumped me. I really tried to hide my symptoms as much as possible so they wouldn’t affect our family. Does having a wife he could call crazy excuse him from cheating and shattering my heart into a million pieces?
Imagine a cheater who reconciles with his partner again and pretends like nothing ever happened. He probably wasn’t sad about the pain he caused, just sorry he got caught. There are some people who can rebuild their relationships after an affair, and I give them all the credit in the world. The cheater who cannot see beyond his own nose will never give you the closure you need after the hell you’ve been through. Statistics also favor that a cheater will cheat again and keep cheating. It becomes an addiction to looking elsewhere for pleasure rather than seeing the beautiful family right under their nose. I pity those people who will never appreciate what they have. A quick fix in bed is not going to solve your problems but instead, it will make them ten times worse.
Seriously, if you are in a committed relationship and think you want to cheat, do everyone a favor and break up with your significant other first. Otherwise, you are going to drag your entire family down with you. When it happened to me, my sons were ages six and two. They begged me to stay married to their dad because they didn’t much like the receptionist. They shook their heads and wondered why we got a divorce, but that’s a story for another lifetime. They just don’t need the burden right now, if ever. They think their father is a saint, and I’m the last one who should tell them he isn’t. The truth would have shaken them to their core and left them unsure of what they should believe.
Many people cheat to feed their egos and to feel young and exciting again. It might seem like sneaking around is fun. Unfortunately for cheaters, the truth will always catch up and ruin everybody’s lives. Wouldn’t it be better to have conversations with your spouse to try to fix things rather than jumping into the first warm bed you see? It’s the only way that makes any of this admirable because you have exhausted the possibilities and have divorced or broken up as a result. Now you’re free to see whoever you want without breaking a single marriage vow.
If you are not happy with your spouse and want to leave, at least tell them so they have a chance to find their happiness, too, whether with or without you. It’s sad when people break up, but nobody needs all the extra trauma. Give them the space they need to heal instead, and someday you might even have a pleasant conversation when you run into them out and about. Don’t rush around to all your friends to disparage your partner just to feel like the better person. Most people see right through it.
Even though my marriage broke up, I never gave up on love. At first, I tried to force it with men I had nothing in common with except that they paid attention to me. After my divorce, I truly believed no man would ever want me based on that therapy session where my ex pointed out all my faults. It took a long time to stop believing they were true, and I acted accordingly. I never want to feel like I “have” to find somebody to replace my ex-husband. I tried living alone for a long while in my co-worker’s trailer not even looking for the opposite sex. That’s when he found me.
I’m thrilled to say I’m remarried today. My husband has always had my back, and I definitely have had his. This relationship seems to work better based on communication and not stuffing things under the rug until one of us explodes in anger. My ex-husband and I never fought, maybe once or twice, but we were both super sensitive about insults or accusations. I don’t want to wonder what it might have been like if we had talked more about things. Sometimes when you look too far into the past, you’re ignoring the here and now where the good stuff happens.
I still haven’t thought of a “get-out-of-jail” free card excuse one could use to cheat. When you marry your spouse, you owe each other something. That’s part of the deal. You owe each other kindness, being trustworthy, honoring each other with your speech, and taking care of each other. One broken vow doesn’t always mean the world is coming to an end, but move the broken vow away and see how everything comes crashing down behind it. Live your life so you don’t have to confess to your family and friends that you cheated and messed everything up.
Just because my ex said I was joyless doesn’t mean it’s true. I laugh, make jokes, have fun, and do new things. I wore “joyless” like a moniker because I thought I was whatever my ex-husband said I was. I’m living a much better life now, moving forward, and it’s his loss that he won’t get to be part of it.
It’s been several years, and my self-esteem is back. I’ve forgiven my ex-husband, not for him but for myself. He no longer rents any space in my head, and that is the way I want it. Because I’m not who somebody says I am. I’m Glenna, and I’m happy.