I feel that I should open this post with an obligatory and painfully obvious statement of fact:
Cheating is wrong.
I know cheating is wrong. You know cheating is wrong. It is safe to assume that every adult in the world knows cheating is wrong. However, because infidelity is the top reason cited behind the 50% divorce rate in America (followed closely by financial reasons); AshleyMadison.com, a website among many others that is dedicated to sponsoring adulterous relationships, has over 400,000 members and counting with extramarital dating largely dictated by women; and many of you reading this very sentence have cheated or have been cheated on by a significant other or spouse; it is also safe to assume that just because cheating is wrong, does not mean that cheating does not occur. I would love to stand (or write) before you today as a moralistic beacon of hope and integrity and say that I have never been a cheater, cheatee or the third leg in a tripod love triangle. But, that would be a lie. At some point in my life, I’ve been all three. Although for today’s purposes, I’ve only been asked to write about being the “other man” to a married woman.
I won’t belittle you with excuses for my actions. There really aren’t any good excuses to offer. When I was younger, I thought I had no obligation in the matter. I wasn’t the one that made a commitment to a spouse. I assumed I was just some guy at the right place, at the right time, with a wronged woman. You see, I’ve never pursued a married woman. I haven’t always turned down the advances of one either. Two wrongs don’t make a right and in this case, I was part of the wrong.
This isn’t to say I seek out married women to date. To the best of my knowledge, the number is relatively low. Although there have been times where I had my suspicions. I noticed that our phone calls usually occurred during prime working hours, like 7am to 5pm before eventually transitioning to text messages in the evening or deafening silence. Other times she might direct us to meet in non-public locations outside the observation of most locals. Some dates were cut short after hushed phone conversations. Remnants of invisible children whose names and ages were never volunteered adorned her backseats in the form of ghostly abandoned child seats, toys, and clothes. I’m not a detective, but I’m also not an idiot.
However, with only her word to act as our “relationships” north star, I merely soaked in these non-verbal clues as some denied their marriage status like a well-known disciple of Jesus. I remember one time in particular, a woman denied having a boyfriend, only after I asked, yet informed me later in the night that she did, in fact, have a husband. Oh? I guess in her mind I didn’t ask the right question. Plus, it wasn’t in her best interest to fully disclose the right answer. Still, not all adulterers are running covert operations.
I recall being on the cusp of my teenage years, no more than 19, when I met a more forward married woman. “We’re separated,” she casually volunteered with seducing eyes. Later, as we were ducking through the club to avoid the husband she was “separated” from, I couldn’t help but wonder how separated they truly were. It would take a few more years of experience in dating before I learned that the term “separated” is as pervasive a phrase in the conversations of semi-happily married people as “I’m not looking for anything serious,” is in the conversations of single men looking to entertain multiple dating options.
I’m not sure how I feel about my participation in these various stages of ambiguous affairs. I didn’t want anything more from these women than they desired from me. This ranged anywhere from simple conversations to physical confirmations. There was never a conversation or even an expectation that “I will leave him for you.” I never asked them to. They never volunteered to do so. On the other hand, I can’t help but wonder how I’d feel if the shoe was on the other foot. Knowing that, for whatever reason, something I was doing at home wasn’t enough to keep the woman I (assume) love from straying. Although I don’t consider myself so uniquely desirable that another man couldn’t have easily taken my place, that doesn’t excuse my personal choices to participate.
Having never been married, I can only empathize with the situation without knowing what it’s truly like to struggle to maintain our marital bliss. I don’t believe in karma, but I am aware of the failure rates of marriage. I wonder where their vision of marriage fell short and if mine will someday meet the same fate. I’ve heard the one-sided confessions of the women: “He knows”; “He wouldn’t care anyway”; or “He’s cheating too.”
One day, will the woman I love with all my heart find casual comfort in the arms of another man who is as passive about his effect on my marriage as I was with these women? Is it even his responsibility to care when she has chosen to be pursue him? How will that make me feel? Will I terminate our marriage because she sought temporary comfort in the arms of another, even if it was never meant to be a permanent fix? I honestly have no idea. For now, I can only hope I won’t have to find out.
Have you ever cheated with a married person or while married? What were your reasons? How did it make you feel being with someone you knew was cheating or being cheated on? Are both parties equally responsible for doing wrong or does the burden of commitment fall on the married person only?
WisdomIsMisery aka WIM provides objective, yet opinionated, qualitative and quantitative analysis on life, love, and everything in between. As a Scorpio, many women wish death on WIM and some have attempted to hasten its arrival. WIM is not a model, a model citizen, or a role model. See more of WIM on his weekly write-ups for SBM and on Twitter @WisdomIsMisery.