I whispered to my friend Tina, who wore a smile on her face while sitting next to her husband, “I’m so glad you guys are doing better now.” She looked at me with the saddest look on her face, whispering, “Nothing changed… I’m just kind of dead inside.” Tina has been married for ten years during which she caught her husband cheating –twice.
Naturally, she went through the classical cycle: Rage and disbelief, demanding a divorce, her family warning her she’s wrecking her home if she gets a divorce, resisting from her side. All this while her husband’s tearful promises interrupted her thoughts: “I am sorry, it won’t ever happen again.”
Absolute exhaustion and denial kicked in and, finally, Tina gave in and started to pick up what’s left of her marriage. Her reasons varied between staying married for her kids’ sake, being too old to start over and –the ultimate one– convincing oneself that a cheater she knows is better than another she doesn’t!
When I first heard her story, I was torn by a wide range of emotions: anger, disgust and heartache. She asked for my opinion. I just wanted to scream saying, “You caught him cheating twice. What are you waiting for?” Yet, I tried to control myself and replied that this wasn’t about my opinion; it was about hers. I added that whatever she ends up deciding, she shouldn’t underestimate the psychological effects of that hefty experience. “You should seek professional help” were my exact words.
Yesterday, Tina let me in on another secret –which made my heart ache even more. She decided to stay in the relationship, but she would cheat on her husband “emotionally”. I didn’t even know what that meant. She explained that her husband insisted he only cheated for physical, sexual needs –yet, there are no feelings involved. So, she thought she would cheat for emotional needs, without actually physically cheating on him. “What? Why? How?” were the words I had in mind. She expressed her feelings of worthlessness –how she felt more like a corpse. I asked her, “But what if you had feelings for this other guy; will you still be able to live with your husband?” Tina responded calmly that her husband is more of a brother to her: they no longer share any sexual or emotional connection; he just helps around the house, and they talk about the kids.
“Basically, he isn’t really my husband anymore. However, I don’t want to leave him because I’m so used to having him around,” she added. I was speechless. I know that relationships are super complex –and that society isn’t helping by always putting social pressure on us as women– but is cheating just physical?
Should women get even by playing the same game? Is this the kind of life we want for ourselves and for our kids? I guess when you accept one wrongdoing after the other for such a long time, you no longer judge what’s right from wrong; you wake up one day to find yourself in a mess –messier and more complex than what you had anticipated.