Thursday, October 4, 2012

Infidelity and the Married Woman

The vet handed Maggie Baxter a plastic specimen bag containing a pair of size-tiny lavender thong panties extracted from her dog; but they were not hers. Or rather, they were hers now since she'd just paid $734 to have Dr. Carter surgically remove them from Kona's gut.

This is the opening to Jackie Bouchard’s honest, wrenching tale, What the Dog Ate. Her tale of a husband’s infidelity and betrayal and how Maggie deals with it, hits us where we feel it most. It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s heartbreakingly real.

If one of my friends were to ask, “What is your deepest, darkest, scariest fear?”, I’d have to say (excluding the safety of all family members), infidelity.

That might sound weird because I have the most wonderful marriage, but all around us are stories, movies, TV shows, songs, and friends’ stories about a straying spouse. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sordid, seemingly clueless tale is just the latest. If it can happen to Maria Shriver--beautiful, accomplished, talented Maria--couldn’t it happen to any of us? Shiver!

DH and I will be watching a show in which one spouse, typically male, wanders. He is contrite. He begs for forgiveness. He claims temporary lapse in sanity. He wants to move on and put it behind them.

I snort. “No way,” I advise the injured wife. “Don’t believe him.”

“That’s pretty harsh, isn’t it?” DH suggests cautiously. “Isn’t there ever room for forgiveness?”

Hmm. Is there? And why would he ask that question???

Yes, in theory, there can be forgiveness. I admired that Hilary Clinton chose to work on her marriage instead of tossing Bill aside (as I was inclined to proffer were she to ask me). Yet, could I be so magnanimous?  Would I be a patsy setting myself up for future hurts? Could I every truly “forgive and forget”? Would I ever trust him again or would I always be looking for the next slip?

Here is an interesting take on whether women make men cheat. Check out the video at Interestingly, one expert contends that untrusting women precipitate the behavior.

Here is a link to a woman’s story of how she got beyond infidelity to an even better life and learned to trust again.

And that’s what it comes down to for me--trust. Trust is the most precious part of a relationship. If trust is broken, what is left? “Love”? Right!

Love is an undefinable, maybe even just chemical, if you believe some reports. But trust is foundational. Trust allows us to be in love, one of the riskiest ventures we ever undertake.

Trust is what lets you, dog-like, expose your vulnerable underbelly. Once kicked there--by infidelity, abuse, or another trust-breaker--you are much less likely to expose the underbelly again. Something is missing from the relationship.

What about you? Could you “forgive and forget”?  Would you “stand by your man”? Or would you say, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice . . .?


  1. Thanks, Angelica, for the shout out for my book. I have to say, it's one of my hubby's fears that people will think he cheated on me, and that I wrote the book from experience. (Poor guy!).

    Those are some tough questions. I think the answer would depend - if it was one foolish night, I might be able to (EVENTUALLY, after a LOTTA TIME and EFFORT on his part) forgive. Probably wouldn't forget though, and that might be just as bad for the relationship.

    Anyway, I know the hubby won't cheat on me, because we have a deal - whoever cheats/tries to leave, the wounded party gets the dog. He doesn't want to lose the dog! LOL :)

    Thanks again!

    1. I had to laugh at your DH's fears! Mine is afraid people will think I live a libertine life style because of my Streetwalker books (still searching for a home).

      We also had a deal (when the kids were little): whoever brought up divorce had to take the kids! (I know that sounds awful--think of it as one of those little jokes Maggie and her husband shared.)

      I am really enjoying your book. Can't wait to finish it so I can leave an eval at Amazon. I hope you come back to visit this site.

    2. Hehehehehe. Love your deal - it's sort of the opposite of our dog-deal! It's good to be able to laugh about these things!

      Glad you are enjoying the book. :)

      I'll be back! :)

  2. A very thought-provoking post, Sharon! I've never been married, but I have plenty of girlfriends who've dealt with infidelity and it's so hard to know what to advise in those situations. Oddly enough, most of the women I know who've had a cheating husband have stayed in the marriage, mostly because there were children involved or they were just plain scared to be alone. Sometimes, it works out. Sometimes, it doesn't.

  3. Thanks for coming by, Tracie. I, too, know lots who have compromised their own happiness/trust for security and other aspects. Being afraid to be alone and being economically insecure can really do a number on a woman's self-confidence. If you haven't read Jackie's book, you should. It's good. I am so buried in TBRs that I don't know when I'll get to INOT, but I will, be assured. Please come bay again some time.

  4. I'm married, but I have to say it's not something (not right now anyway) that I worry about with my husband. I guess that's because he's not good at juggling more than one thing at a time. :-)

    Forgive and forget? It'd have to depend on the situation. All couples go through difficult times and we never really know how we'll react until we're in middle of it.

    I've had guy and girl friends who've cheated on their spouses and I've lectured them both.

  5. Good for you, Elke! There is personal responsibility to accept. How rare is it that only one party is fully responsible for any of the relationship bumps we encounter? DH and I have talked about infidelity and how we feel in the abstract, and I do think that is a great preventative. I hope you will come by again.