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Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
That's What She Said
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Tuesday
Jan302007

Cheaters Never Prosper. Or Do They?

I've never been jealous of my husband and another woman. That's not to say I've never been a jealous girlfriend, because I have. The tantrum-throwing, pouty-lipped, arms crossed, sulking kind. Although, with the unfortunate exception of this horrific incident, my jealousy has certainly never been on the level of most girls I know.

I've devoted a significant amount of thought to wondering why I don't care. The only conclusion I've come to is the fact that dating the married guy really warped my thought process. When you're dating a man you know is headed home to fuck another woman, well - that tends to scramble your brain a bit.

I remember one morning, a few days after I'd tried to break up with him, AGAIN. As usual, I pulled my car into his driveway to baby-sit while his wife went to the gym. As I exited my vehicle, I observed him kissing his wife goodbye before he climbed into his Jaguar and headed to work. She wanted the kiss. Grabbed his shirt and pulled him playfully back, gave him a kiss then slapped his ass in goodbye. He, aware of my presence, was extremely uncomfortable. He refused to meet my eye and climbed into his car without acknowledging me.

I, of course, knew they'd just had sex. You could read the story of their morning together in her body language; the tilt of her head, the toss of her hair, the way she'd pulled him back for a goodbye kiss. Even though they'd been married for 13 years, she was flirting with him. Usually, they conducted the affairs of their household on auto-pilot. Her tossing a 'see you later' over her shoulder when the jingling of his keys signaled his departure for work. But this? It was a slap in the face of the unintentional homewrecker.

She left for the gym immediately thereafter. Three minutes later my 19-year-old self was gagging into their downstairs toilet. I didn't even want to be with this 41-year-old married man. He had pursued me. So why was I retching into the toilet while his two-year-old son tried to soothe me by zooming a race car along the length of the arm I'd flung over the toilet?

You'd think, that because this man was still 'with' his wife, that it was an acknowledged fact in our relationship, the fear of him 'cheating' would be eliminated. Instead, the specter of him fucking his wife ratcheted my anxiety over the situation to ridiculous levels. I couldn't compete with a wife. Didnt' want to compete with a wife. But this man continuously told me his marriage was over long before I entered the picture, that I was his true love. I liked the me he presented to me. Classy, intelligent, hard-working, independent. He contrasted this with his coddled, money-hungry, privelaged wife. He pitted us against each other. Like a sucker I fell for it. For his view of me, his portrayal of her.

As the years turtled by, I became insane with rage over the situation. I was losing what I considered at the time, the best years of my life. From the age of 19 to 22 I was reduced to waiting around for a married guy to get a divorce. With one year under my belt I can't give up now! With two years under my belt I can't give up now!

While my friends partied, went to clubs, had flings with amateur womanizers and assorted college idiots who provided them an easy road map to dating and mating, I was lost in the maze of a rich, wily, older man's games. I took to abusing sleeping pills to calm live wire nerves, treat anxiety attacks and just help me sleep through the pain. I started talking to myself in the mirror. And then slapping myself. The harder the better.
"I hate you. Slut!"
"You're so fucking stupid! He's not ever going to leave her."
"He's just playing you."

My hair started falling out. I had chronic diarhhea. I lived in constant fear of being discovered, yet a part of me wanted to be found out if only to end the waking nightmare.

I think this relationship produced so much anxiety over 'another woman' and displayed one man's artful ability to lie so beautifully, that I've never again allowed myself to consider the possibilities of someone cheating on me. Slowly but surely I have decided that monogamy is unnatural. Perhaps I'm hedging my bets, in case I do discover betrayal. Or perhaps I am right; monogamy is unnatural. It's a hot button topic, to be sure. Mostly among women. Men, it seems, are more likely to acknowledge infidelity as a part of life.
"Sex and love are not the same thing," a co-worker once told me. "I love my wife."
"But you flirt with me constantly," I replied.
"True. And I'd have sex with you too. But I don't love you, don't want to share my life with you."
"But your wife would leave you if she found out the way you talk to me."
"What she doesn't know, can't hurt her. If I didn't have this release, this flirting and the occasional fucking, I wouldn't be able to be with her 'til death do us part. So, in a way, she wins too."

For the most part, I couldn't disagree with him. They were a lovely couple. Three cute children, nice home. She enjoyed being a stay-at-home-mom. He was a good husband, good provider, so who was he hurting with his occasional dalliances?

Oh I hear you alright. Shouting about integrity and honesty and all that shit that idealistic folks love to pay lip service to. But it isn't that simple. When you're in the thick of it; a marriage, responsibility, depression, stress, anxiety... when you're going through a rough time with your spouse - the most bitter shit life can heap onto your plate - if a co-worker flirtation helps you stay married, gives you the ego boost everyone so desperately needs, helps you have hotter sex with your spouse as opposed to fighting and maybe, ultimately divorcing.. is it harmful or helpful? I know, I know - co-worker flirtation is a slippery slope. But is a sexual one-off really that bad? I'm not talking long-term love affair here. That's an obvious deal-breaker. But, if a sexual one-off helps, if only to remind you how much you love your significant other.. well, I know some folks who might still be married had they engaged in a sexual one-off. Instead, they divorced and discovered the single life wasn't as great as it appeared to be from their married vantage point. Something needs to change. Marriage, as it is, doesn't seem to be working. Is a zero cheating policy realistic? Is monogamy unnatural?

Time and time again, friends, acquaintances, co-workers all prove my monogamy theory right with various dalliances; extreme flirtations, random make-outs, even just late nights clubbing with the opposite sex. Looks exchanged, lingering caresses. I've seen it all. I've watched women who claim to be madly in love work bars like hookers. I witnessed a guy take my friend home, fuck her, I was later told and then sit with his girlfriend at a gathering the next day, not ten feet in front of my friend. In the past, I've had married men at work make passes, sometimes successfully, at me.

I wonder if all of this, combined with my unfortunate experience with the married guy, has led to my current shoulder-shrugging state in regard to The Surge and women. It maddens him, my perspective on cheating. He thinks, perhaps, that because I'm so cavalier in my regard to monogamy that I am considering cheating. It's funny, actually, the role reversal in this relationship. You'd think the little lady waiting at home for the rock guy on tour would be the jealous one. But maybe this rhetoric is more of my deep-seated fear of being betrayed. Maybe I'm not so cavalier and would rip a bitch's heart out and use it to play fetch with Max just as soon as let her near my husband..

Quite honestly, it turns me on to think about a woman wanting my husband. Why wouldn't it? Shallowly, it increases his value and it's a compliment to me, isn't it, that I was able to land a man other women find desirable? The Surge doesn't feel the same way. My free-spirited (or dysfunctional) nature about relationships makes him uncomfortable. Several times in our marriage we've had the discussion about whether monogamy is natural. He emphatically despises married people who cheat. Zero tolerance policy. Me? I'm not so sure and am more willing to make judgements on a case-by-case basis. It's not black and white. Never is. But he thinks so. You either cheat, or you don't, he says. It's an emphatic chest-thumping sentiment laced with integrity and I adore him for it. But I'm just not so sure how realistic it all is in the long run.

Before you pelt me with emails of righteous indignation, consider the following infidelity statistics culled from the internet:
* Up to 37% of men and 22% of women admit to having affairs.
* Recent studies reveal that 45-55% of married women and 60% of married men engage in extramarital sex at some time or another during their relationship (Atwood & Schwartz, 2002 - Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy)
*Researchers think the vast majority of the millions of people who visit chat rooms, have multiple "special friends”.
* Only 46% of men believe that online affairs are adultery. DivorceMag
* Affairs affect one of every 2.7 couples, according to counselor Janis Abrahms Spring, author of After the Affair,as reported by the Washington Post on March 30, 1999.
* Ten percent of extramarital affairs last one day, 10 percent last more than one day but less than a month, 50 percent last more than a month but less than a year, but 40 percent last two or more years. Few extramarital affairs last more than four years.
* Very few men who have affairs divorce their wife and marry their lovers. Only 3 percent of the 4,100 successful men surveyed eventually married their lovers.
* Sociologist Frank Pittman has found that the divorce rate among those who married their lovers was 75 percent. The reasons for the high divorce rate include: intervention of reality, guilt, expectations, a general distrust of marriage, and a distrust of the affairee.


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