April 20, 2019
I remember once I asked Jeff what his wife would do if she found out.
“Instant divorce,” he said without the slightest hesitation. “I haven’t always been good.”
“You’ve had affairs?”
“No, no. But she found some phone numbers a few years ago. I was flirting, but I didn’t do anything. But she found out.”
I wanted to ask more, but I never asked much. It shut him down. Plus, it’s simply not my place. And again, it was after, he was rushing to dress and go.
I’ve never been a wife. But I know how to keep a man interested. My longest relationship was seven years. But we didn’t split because of sex, or lack of sex. That was never an issue in any of my relationships. We split because we simply weren’t right for each other. So I can pretty candidly claim I am good at the sex part. I’ve always been good at keeping the passion and the anticipation going, so my partner was engaged and fulfilled. I’ve always loved experimenting. I make it a priority to get away with my partner. Sex in a new place is always hot sex. Sex in a forbidden place is incredibly thrilling, beyond thrilling.
I know what it’s like to have my partner be unfaithful. I didn’t catch him, I figured it out from the clues he dropped. I think he wanted me to find out, because I think he wanted me to invest more of myself into him and into the relationship. His act was one of rebellion. Because he wasn’t getting anything outside of us I wasn’t willing to give him, freely and often. But I was engrossed in my career, spending weeks away on business. And he didn’t like not being the center of my life.
It was a dying relationship. We were woefully wrong for one another. He was abusive. I loved him, but it wasn’t a good thing. It wasn’t sustainable, and I knew that for a very long time before I was finally able to walk away.
Years later, my friend remarked, “You really fought for Dean.”
“Why?” I asked.
I was perplexed, had been for many years. She knew the intimate details of the abuse. She did what she could, but she really had no power to change my mind about him. I was committed, against everything I knew to be true. I lied to myself and I fought very hard for many years to make it work.
“I don’t know why you fought so hard for Dean. I don’t know why you stayed,” she replied. “But you did.”
At the time his infidelity was discovered, I just wanted Dean to tell me the truth. I say this again and again, it is one of my core beliefs. I can always handle the truth. Tell me what you’ve done. I’d rather hear the truth from you than a lie. Even if the truth is devastating, it’s far more devastating to be deceived.
What if I had been a wife, a wife of thirty years? What if I had been consistently loving, connected to my husband emotionally, made certain I was available to him and remained playful and experimental and always open? What if I was all the things I have always been in relationship, and I was consistently attentive throughout the marriage? Unwavering in my desire for him, continually willing to work on the novelty of sex to keep it fresh. Would he cheat? And if he did cheat, how would I react?
If I had been a wife for thirty years, I would not have led the life I’ve led as a single person. I would not have had all the opportunities to be with different men, sexually and otherwise. I would not know nearly as much about myself, men, relationships and sexuality as I do now. I would not understand that cheating isn’t the worst thing that can happen in a relationship. In fact, knowing what I know now, it’s a lesser betrayal. There are so many ways a man can hurt me more than to have sex with someone else.
In my experience with Dean, I stayed. Nothing changed about us sexually. I was still as open to him, as responsive to him as I had ever been. I know no other way to be in an intimate relationship. Anything less is simply not acceptable to me. Anything else is simply not possible for me.
I didn’t dwell on him being with another woman. I didn’t picture it in my mind, torturing myself with the knowing of it. There was no need. But it was confirmation the relationship had to end. Because it was evidence of a lack of respect. And it was evidence of a pattern of behavior. When the going got tough, Dean fucked another woman. Or he got drunk and hit me. Which was a far more serious betrayal. Which was far more damaging to me psychologically.
I knew early on our relationship wouldn’t work for me. I stayed with him, for longer than I should have. Eventually it did end. I had to move away to sever ties. And we remain in contact, friends after a fashion. I cannot hate once I have loved so deeply.
The sum of all this is I have no idea what it’s like to be a wife of three decades who discovers her husband’s infidelity. And I have absolutely no idea how I would react. But I know I would be unlikely to categorically end a marriage over it. I’d want to know why he went outside. I’d want him to be honest. I’d want as much information as I could get to make the best decision I could. Because marriages are worth fighting for. I believe that to my core.