… written by one who did… and damnit, still does…
If this statement surprises you, trust me, it surprises me that I’m sharing it with you. It would be expected for me to feel some shame over this, I suppose, but I don’t really feel shame. I never thought of myself as a homewrecker, in fact, was never interested in stealing a man away from a woman to whom he was married. I didn’t look to only be involved with a married man, and I had plenty of relationships with single men as well. Also, I’ve been married and divorced twice, and at no time did I ever cheat on either of my spouses. I wasn’t the one breaking vows to another, so I had no guilt I felt I needed to carry.
In a recent conversation with my brother, while I don’t remember exactly what it was we were conversing about other than romantic relationships, I remember opening my mouth and that I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop any time I was in a relationship. In other words, I always believed that the relationship would end. While I’ve probably always known this about myself, it was never as a conscious thought. The truth is, I have always felt unworthy of having anyone love me, of having anyone in my life willing to accept my bads, which far outweigh my goods. I honestly believed that, if I was in the relationship long enough, that person would begin to find out all of the ‘unlovable’ things there were to know about me and decide that they were too much to handle and end the relationship. Looking back, I realize clearly now all of the ways I chose to act to sabotage the relationship, so that I could, in essence, have some control over when it would end, because I 100% believed that it would, indeed, end.
I’m writing this and find myself feeling so sad for the person who is writing these words. How awful it must be to have such a low opinion of oneself to feel unworthy of being loved. Logical me questions what had to happen in that person’s life to make him/her feel that way, and logical me has no answer to that question.
From that, I begin to understand that, while I didn’t seek out married people to be in a relationship with, being in a relationship with a married person allowed me to be “let off the hook”. In essence, this person was choosing, consciously, to cheat on his vows to another, and so whatever ugly stuff I brought to the table in the relationship, I wasn’t the only one with ugly stuff in the relationship. I also understand now that, when involved with a married man, it wasn’t going to be a relationship in which we spent a lot of time together, and I could be at my best for periods of time – in other words, wear the infamous mask over my authentic self because it wasn’t going to be a permanent fixture. In exchange for my companionship at times, I would receive enough affection and attention to fill my loneliness at that moment, and those happy moments would play over and over again in my head so that they could sustain me in the times when he couldn’t be available to me.
I won’t count how many married men I’ve been in some kind of a relationship with. (I’m not sure I know an accurate count, so let’s just settle on ‘quite a few’.) Some were nothing more than the ‘friends with benefits’ type of relationships. Some were with more local men, some were with men who lived away from the area but traveled through the area on a regular basis. And, oddly enough, even though logic told me I had every right to have multiple relationships like this at the same time, I was always monogamous.
I have not loved every married man I’ve known in a more intimate mental and physical nature. I have truly liked each and every one of them. These were not the “one-night stand” kind of events. Some were shorter-term relationships; some went on for a year or more. A few of them went on for several years, and with two I thought I was in love and with the last one, I deeply loved this man, and I was truly broken emotionally when it ended. So broken that I have never dated or became ‘friends with benefits’ with anyone since then, because even though we’ve been apart for about 16 years, and even though I don’t even know if he’s alive or not, he holds my heart and will do so until the day I die.
I feel like I want to explain my behavior, as I know that it’s not a behavior that society smiles upon. Obviously, my lack of ego, lack of feeling worthy enough, always, in its own subtle ways, caused me to need validation from outside myself that I was worth caring about. But I also know that, in both of my marriages, I lost myself trying to please my spouse and be everything he wanted me to be. The logistics of having an affair and having to work through schedules to be together gave me the time to be supported and cared for that I needed, but as it wasn’t permanent and there would be times between seeing each other, I had time alone to be my own person – that is, I wasn’t with that person so much that I lost myself in trying to please him.
Look, I am in no way suggesting that it’s okay, much less a good thing to be involved with a married person. When we think of the word “affair”, we automatically think of it as being a primarily sexual relationship. I was in the “early prime” of my life, so certainly, I enjoyed the sex. But in truth, I traded off the sex in exchange for getting attention and feeling cared for. And based on my experiences, I’m not sure we should automatically assume that all men who cheat are looking for only sex as well. I’ve never been intimate with a man with whom I hadn’t had many conversations about a variety of topics, and some of our meetups were specifically for that reason. I never ‘measured’ how good the relationship was by how good the sex was, but by how good the communication was.
I could probably keep writing for a long time about this subject, because I experienced a lot of this kind of relationship over quite a few years. And, to be honest, I don’t have a whole lot of regret. Those years were also the years in which I truly got to experience who I was when I wasn’t sacrificing myself to please someone else. I got the caring, attention and affection that had been absent while I was a child, absent in my first marriage, and absent in the last year of my second marriage (he would not talk to me about the dysfunction he was experiencing, and he would not touch me in any way, even a hug, for fear I might assume that his touch meant we were going to be having sex – just an FYI).
There is one other thing that I feel needs pointed out. There were, in my parent’s generation and perhaps even today, women who somehow knew their husbands were having affairs and looked the other way on purpose, women who felt that, as long as he wasn’t bringing it into their house or family, they were fine if he found it elsewhere instead of insisting them to provide.
To quote my mother, whose only advice to me, as her daughter, was “Sex is a man’s pleasure and a woman’s work.” And sadly, that was exactly what she thought and felt. If nothing else (and there was so much more), the men I chose to be intimate with taught me how to have a healthy relationship with sex.
So, I’m embarrassed suspecting how many of you may change your view of me after reading this blog post, but remember, you were warned that my genuine and authentic self was going to start having a voice. These happenings, over perhaps 10 years between husband #1 and husband #2, and a few after husband #2, had a heavy hand in shaping who I have become today. And for that, I can have no regrets.