Marriage is a complicated motherfarker, isn’t it? I mean, first you have to make sure you pick the right person to marry — and there are so many ways to screw that choice up. Then you have to deal with someone else’s quirks and bathroom habits and bodily functions. Then you have to find a way to keep things interesting and exciting so you don’t die of utter fucking boredom from slapping the same ass night after night after night …
I mean, variety is the spice of life, is it not? And were humans really made to be with one single person forever and ever? And aren’t people living much longer than they used to, so hasn’t “forever” gone from 20 years to about 70 years? And besides, doesn’t monogamous rhyme with monotonous?
Let’s face it, people: Marriage can be a sucky place to be sometimes. When the thought of growing old with someone feels more like a life sentence than a joyous privilege, it can feel like we are all doomed.
That’s when it might be tempting to have a look around to see what else — or who else — is out there …
BUT WAIT! Before you do that — before you let yourself get all swept up in the excitement and novelty of someone new, new, new, I beg you to take a moment.
Take a breath.
And listen to me.
I named this blog According to Trish because I didn’t want to give the impression that I had any sort of credibility about anything, but I’ll tell you this: I know a lot about cheating. No, that doesn’t mean I’ve done it myself and I don’t want to get into details about my own marriage or anyone else’s, but let’s just say this: I’ve seen cheating up close and personal more than I can believe. It has changed my world in drastic ways. I hate to admit this, but it has been a real struggle not to become jaded and suspicious about all relationships. It’s something I wrestle with all the time.
I can’t tell you the number of families I’ve seen that have been torn apart in obvious ways (divorce) and in much quieter ways (as in, everyone silently suffers with the misery of what has happened in order to “save the family”) because of infidelity.
Now, lest I give the impression that I’m going to sit here and rip all the cheaters out there a new one, let me say this: I understand how it can happen sometimes. You feel heartbreakingly lonely, misunderstood, unappreciated and hopeless. You crave connection (emotional and/or physical) in a way that starts to almost hurt. Marriage feels like a life sentence. Relationships, especially those that are meant to be life-long, are complicated places.
But cheating can go down in much less complicated ways, too. Sometimes it looks like the equivalent of stuffing one’s face at an all-you-can-eat buffet. That is, the cheater has the attitude of “What was I supposed to do? It was right in front of my face.”
However it occurs, the aftermath is often devastating. Some things to think about:
1. You’re probably going to get caught. Maybe not right away. Maybe you’re one of those particularly talented liars who can manage to keep up a great front at home. Maybe you’re one of those people who has an irregular work schedule that can help mask your absences. Maybe you can crawl out of someone’s bed and then right back into your marital bed without betraying what you did.
But the truth usually demands to be heard one way or another. And remember: Getting away with an affair isn’t as simple as just telling a few pretty little lies to your partner.
There are bear traps set on “cheater” everywhere. So even if you can lie with a straight face, you’re going to leave a trail. How does that happen? Somebody comments on your Facebook page all the time and your spouse gets suspicious. Somebody texts a little too often or at the wrong time. You all of sudden have a second phone (usually passed off a work thing). Your partner notices that you quickly switch out of your email or facebook page whenever he or she walks into the room.
Once the BS flag goes up and the spouse recon starts, it’s only a matter of time until you’re totally screwed. Because no one … I mean NO ONE is that good at covering their tracks that they can’t be found out within an hour or two of some very low-level snooping. Maybe you deleted all your lover’s emails. But did you remember to delete what’s in your “sent” folder? Do you intercept every credit card statement or does your partner beat you to the mailbox sometimes? Are there any clues in your car, such as receipts or even condoms?
Or maybe it’s more obvious. Maybe you’ve chosen the wrong person to mess around with and he or she just contacts your spouse directly. What would you say then?
Disclaimer: I think everyone is entitled to their privacy. I have always had a thorough anti-snoop policy. But I have come to believe that if someone is betraying you at this level, you have the right to look for verification. You have the right to know if you are being made to live a lie and possibly being exposed to sexually transmitted diseases. If you suspect something is going on, I say snoop away.
2. Life as you knew it is OVER. You can’t unring a bell and you can’t unbang a ho.
(That was a gender-neutral ho, btw. Women cheat, too.)
You might get tossed out of your house immediately. But even if you don’t, things will never be the same again.
Because at that point, your spouse feels so hurt and betrayed that he or she probably feels like they’ll never be able to look you in the eye again. Every single thing you’ve ever said or done from the beginning of your existence with that person will be reviewed from the perspective that you are a person who cheats. No single word that you utter will be believed. It will never be taken for granted that you are where you say you are or that that text really came from your friend and not a lover.
If your marriage is able to be “saved,” it’s probably going to be the re-animated Pet Sematary version of what it used to be: Dug up from the dead, somewhat resembling what it used to be but always having a certain underlying stench of mistrust and resentment. I suppose some people, after years of work, can overcome this, but even then I imagine that it would only take the tiniest of triggers to open old wounds.
Maybe you were ready to call it quits anyway. Maybe you’re happy to finally have a reason to pull the trigger. But be warned: Some spouses aren’t willing to let the marriage go even after cheating. He or she may not just let you walk away, even if you were caught red-handed.
3. Say goodbye to your kids. Even if your spouse doesn’t give you shit about seeing the kids, you’re going to see them a whole lot less. You are now a single parent. Pack up the car, because you’ve just joined the secret society of families who meet in the parking lot of Barnes & Nobles to pass off kids in the middle of Thanksgiving day.
From now on whenever you’re out with the kids, people will first notice that only one parent is present and will then look to see if you have a wedding ring on. If you’re a dad, people will either assume that you’re a dickhead or they’ll feel sorry for you and will treat you like a hero for taking your kids to the mall alone. Some will wonder if you’re secretly mean at home, if you cheated, or if it was your wife’s fault. If you’re a mom, people will try to figure out if you were high maintenance, if you didn’t put out enough, or if you were a doormat. Some people will assume you’re a victim and will look at you with such pity that it will make you squirm.
Now you get to find out exactly how much your partner was or wasn’t doing. If you haven’t done these things before, you now have to grocery shop and make sure there’s kid food in the house. You have to cut someone else’s food before you eat, break up fights, pack diaper bags and keep people from running in the streets.You have to give baths. Change sheets. Remember to give medicine. Get up in the middle of the night. There’s no other adult in the house, so if you don’t take the trash out, it’s not going out. If you don’t empty the dishwasher and refill it, your counters are going to be full of dirty dishes.
4. You cheated on your spouse, so you cheated on your kids. I think people don’t realize this. You’re not cheating on one person — you’re cheating on the whole family. By disrespecting your spouse, you’re disrespecting the entire family unit. You just took a dump in the middle of the dining room table during Sunday dinner.
It’s hard to see your kids endure even the momentary pain of getting a shot. That’s nothin’ compared to holding your sobbing child after you tell him or her that mommy and daddy are getting a divorce. You’re going to have to answer hard questions — for years — about what happened and why. You’re going to have to wonder if your spouse will tell your kids what you did.
5. Welcome to the bread line. If it’s hard to run one household in this economy, it’s even harder to run two. You’re either going to feel like you’re paying too much or like you’re not getting paid enough.
6. Your relationship with your lover is probably going to fail. First, let’s be honest: It’s probably not the utopia you think it is. You haven’t test driven this relationship in real life yet. You haven’t wiped butts, pulled weeds or paid bills with this person. You haven’t seen him or her pushed to the point of losing their cool.
Then let’s think about this: How many happily-together, long-term couples do you know who have a story that started like this: “Well, we were both still married when we met so we used to park behind the dumpster of the Best Buy so we could do it in my Pathfinder…” (A married woman I met at a New Year’s Eve party years ago actually told me that she was late to the party because she’d just had a rendezvous with her married lover — in her Pathfinder behind a dumpster. I don’t even have to make this stuff up.)
You’re starting your relationship with the idea that you’re both OK with a certain level of deception. Maybe it won’t matter for a while. But eventually it’s going to bite you in the ass.
*** A special note: This is for people who knowingly have affairs with married people: You have blood on your hands. (Imagine that I’m saying that in a booming, Wizard of Oz-like voice.)
You are doing nothing less than contributing to the death of a family. Did your lover tell you how horrible things are at home? Did he or she tell you that things are just about over anyway? Clearly, this person is comfortable with lying — after all, he or she is lying to their spouse about you, right? How do you know you’re not also getting a story so the nookie train doesn’t get derailed?
But he/she really loves you, right? You just know it. It’s magical. You’ve never felt like this before. OK, then. Here’s my suggestion: Step away. Tell your lover that you will be happy to continue the relationship after he/she moves out. AND THEN MAKE SURE THAT YOU CAN VERIFY THAT THE PERSON HAS MOVED OUT because people lie about this all the time. Why? It’s hard to pull the trigger to end your primary relationship and many people are cowards. I think a lot of people would rather just continue cheating than to actually go through the mess of a divorce.
Here’s a bonus for insisting the person move out before you continue the relationship: You’re going to find out real quick if this person is feeling any magic toward you.
Well, this was fun, wasn’t it? I know my last few blogs have been … heavy. But hey, this stuff is real and it’s going on all the time. Maybe we all need to talk about it more.
Would love to hear all of y’alls thoughts on this. Send your comments my way.