The Client List
Your Husband Has Been Leading a Secret Life—What Would YOU Do?
My husband has to travel to another city about once a month. (It's on the opposite coast.) And for a while, I used to goof around with him about his "other family" he must be going to visit. I made up a whole silly narrative, complete with absurdly cheesy names, a passel of towheaded kids, improbable careers...the whole shebang. I felt comfortable making this rather dark running-joke because, well, I feel very confident that my husband has just one family: US.
And yet, I've stopped making this joke. No, my confidence in him hasn't changed, but a recent shocking revelation by my best friend made it just a bit less funny. And here's why.
First: Imagine if this happened to you:
You're married, for nearly 10 years, to a man who fits the definition of devoted husband to a T: Sweet, simple, kind, unpretentious, caring and solid. Not shy with his affection, he dotes on you and your three kids. He's a fabulous dad and a great husband. But you notice that your husband has been acting a bit "off", and come to think about it, he's been really distracted lately. Curious, you indulge in a bit of cyber-snooping and BAM, there on his left-open laptop—you uncover a whole other life. Another email account, with hundreds of racy emails to women he's been dating, or has dated over the last few years. You find out about a secret cell phone, full of numbers for women you've never heard of. Day-trips for work and for his hobby (baseball-card collecting) had concealed meet-ups of a less wholesome variety. He was even signed up for a special website that caters to philandering men. While there were dozens of women, there were also one or two particular women with whom he seemed to have a real "love" connection.
Sounds like something from a soap opera, no?
It recently happened to my best friend, and if you dig around even a little bit amongst friends and acquaintances these days, you can find out that such betrayal happens more than you'd think—right under your nose.
She told him she'd uncovered his secrets and demanded more information. He confessed to all these indiscretions, to a "problematic" relationship to pornography...to everything. He begged for forgiveness. He immediately entered into intensive, four-days-a-week therapy (saying that he felt it wasn't something he could control) and together, they went to couples therapy.
And now, a year later...she's still with him, every day and every night. (I have no idea about their sex life, or lack thereof. But they are still in the same house.) He's still in therapy. They've stopped their joint sessions—she simply said she was 'sick of it'—and life goes on, in this sort of stunted, still-frame existence. I don't think they are miserable together but I don't know how happy they are either, but I think as a FAMILY, they are happy. I guess I think my friend has taken her own desire for a romantic partnership, and put it on the back burner—in the service of a well-functioning family life for everyone.
It's funny, I used to hear the phrase "she's staying for the kids" and didn't really get it....but now I see how it REALLY happens. When I recently I asked my friend what was her "plan", she responded with this matter-of-fact evaluation: "This time in my life is pretty much about taking care of my kids and helping them grow up. I don't even really have the space or time to think about sex, romance, and fulfillment in that way. Maybe when they're older, I will. And I'll be one of those women who rediscovers awesome sex and breathtaking romance and all that jazz, later in life...But for now, I think this is what I'm doing."
I haven't walked a mile in her shoes, so frankly, I can't judge. But that doesn't make it any less fascinating to me.
And I wonder, what would YOU do if you found out your partner was cheating in such a way? Would it be worse if it was with one person, who he claimed to have fallen in love (i.e. a real "emotional" affair), or does a dizzying raft of indiscretions over a long period of time cut even deeper? WOULD YOU STAY OR WOULD YOU GO?