Rula Lenski is an experienced writer on the topics of women's self-esteem and self-defense.
Thinking About It?
I thought I was an awful person when at age 24 and married for two years I got a crush on a co-worker. But thinking about having an affair became reasoning about it, and I reasoned that I should hang out with this co-worker a little too long in the lunchroom, catch his eye when I could, and obsess about him. Go out with the crowd on Fridays and pay attention to him, turn on the charm. Let him know I was exciting and daring and at home I was bored.
Before I knew it I was involved with a guy nowhere as near as good and handsome as my husband, and cringe to think about it now. After about a month of "working late" at his crummy apartment and then me walking in the cold three miles home, reality set in. I was already bored with the sex -- he had a problem, maybe because I was some other guy's wife -- and bored with the lying and secrecy that had first seemed so fun to get away with. Then I broke it off and vowed to myself not to do it again.
Should You Keep the Ring On?
My Hormones and His Family Made Me Do It
Today I excuse myself by saying I was young then and had hormones (which I think played a big part) and poor judgement, and that is true, but I cheated on my husband maybe five more times and always felt justified.
My husband didn't pay attention to me as he once did. We both had soul-wrecking minimum-wage jobs. A blown tire could set us back for weeks. There was no money for nice outings or the "dates" that are supposed to keep a marriage healthy. If we went out, it was to get intoxicated with friends in shabby apartments. His parents visited our litterbox every Sunday morning before church, ruining our prime sex time, and of course I couldn't object to his parents. And I started hating being married because I felt as if I had been sentenced for life to pick up after some guy and do his laundry, at the ripe old age of 24.
My husband was also immature. I complained to a friend, "I didn't marry a man. I married a boy. I'm not his wife; I'm his mother." He also had a huge (and boring) extended family. I wrote and sent all our Christmas cards, maybe 50 to his family. Then one year I tired of this two-day job and said, "I'll send cards to my side of the family; you send cards to yours." Well, his side of the family got no cards -- I wasn't experienced enough to know that most men don't send their relatives Christmas cards, especially 50 at a time. And who did his relatives whisper about and cut their eyes at? Me. I didn't sign on for this crap. I resented it.
But It Was Fun, Right?
The other guys used me. I didn't intend to "use" them -- I liked them and wished they would like me romantically -- but I learned a cheater is powerless and has no defenders. Why not use somebody who's already a liar and cheat? Why respect the feelings, or fulfill the hopes, of a liar and cheat? They might not have been thinking about me at all. But if they did they probably thought I was like a prostitute except free. They felt entitled to any sex they could get and nobody would think less of them. But they knew I had no standards, and they'd never respect a woman like that.
Life got worse and worse. I'm not religious, not at all, but I can sense when I'm really doing wrong because then my whole life turns to crap. Of course that marriage ended in divorce. He remarried. I remained single for 17 years with plenty of time to think:
- Cheating can be casual, but adultery is never casual.
- You are never in the right when you commit adultery.
- Adultery makes your life worse, not better.
- If the marriage is boring, painful, or bad, like a toothache, it needs treatment. Either fix it, get help to fix it, or break it off; don't let it slowly rot, because a troubled marriage is the most painful thing in the world to live with, and you will do stupid things to try to forget about the pain.
- You might think you are getting revenge by committing adultery, but there is no satisfaction in it.
- When it comes down to the wire, nobody will defend or protect an adulterer; he or she has given up all chances at sympathy or credibility.
- In adultery, your lover has a severe psychological problem, and so do you.
- Adultery is fun for 10 minutes. After that it's just trouble.
When I remarried I did not cheat or even ogle any male eye candy. I wasn't interested. I'd learned my lesson the hard way and matured and truly changed. Yes, cheaters can change if they know right from wrong.
© 2011 Rula Lenski