October 16, 2016

16 Ways Women Respond to Cheating.

Wikimedia Commons

Recently, Donald Trump threatened to not hold back on Hillary Clinton’s attitude toward the various women her husband had “affairs” with.

This reminded me of a close friend of mine and her own husband.

One afternoon, 20-some-odd years ago, right around the time Bill Clinton’s behavior hit the media, a friend of mine was sitting across the kitchen table from me telling me that she’d found out her husband had been having an affair.

“I didn’t know that someone could actually have their knees knocked out from under them,” she said, choking back tears. But when she asked her husband if it was true that he was having an affair and he told her yes, that’s what happened—her knees gave way and she crumpled to the floor.

“Oh my God. What am I going to do? What am I going to do,” she sobbed, putting both hands over her eyes.

Marital affairs are visceral. Painful. They are knives in the back that are twisted before they are pulled. They are reality turned inside out. They are the world caving in and a destruction of trust.

I expected my friend to leave her husband.

But that isn’t what happened.

Like Hillary Clinton, my friend is still married to the same husband who had cheated on her all those years ago.

“When deciding whether to go the divorce route or follow the winding roads of marriage-repair, many factors come into play.” ~ Jeanna Brynner 

Over the next year or so my friend seemed to be on a never-ending emotional roller coaster ride, and when I hear the accusations about Hillary Clinton and how “badly she behaved” while she was on her own roller coaster ride during the time of her husband’s cheating, I’m not surprised.

It’s a wonder that Clinton—given how public and high-profile her husband’s behavior was—could keep it together at all. It’s a wonder that her knees didn’t give out from under her at some point, too.

Through my friend’s experience, however, I learned that when we discover our spouse is cheating, there are many different ways we can respond respond, whether we are a stay-at-home mom, a professional or the First Lady of the country.

Some wives divorce their husbands immediately.

Some wives who are economically dependent on their husbands, have children or hold strong religious views, don’t even consider divorce.

Some wives forgive their husbands—or try to.

Some wives who are in the public eye find the public humiliation the most upsetting aspect of the spouse’s infidelity, and when the divorce is played out in the media go through a special kind of “psychological hell.” 

Some wives, even after reconciliation, remain “less happy with their marriages, report more marital conflict, experience elevated levels of psychological distress and increased thoughts of divorce.”

Some wives never fully recover from their feelings of betrayal and anger, even if they stay with their cheating partner.

Some wives experience a flood of anger that doesn’t subside for long after the affair has been discovered.

Some wives obsess about the details of the affair while some deny that it ever happened.

Some retreat physically and emotionally from the relationship,

Some reach out to others outside the marriage for help.

Some get involved in “revenge” relationships of their own.

Some, as Gina Barreca tells us, justify their mate’s infidelity by “turning the problem into their problem, which…at least give[s] them a sense of having some control over their life.”

Some wives want to forget and do what they need to do to put the experience behind them. They “connect with friends, meet new people, join a group, start or revisit a hobby.”

Some wives “move to a new town and start a new life.” 

And, as we have heard so much about Clinton in the media these days, some wives blame the other woman for their partner’s infidelity and vent their rage on them:

“It’s easier to be angry with somebody you don’t know. Even when partners have behaved terribly, there is a history of love and closeness between them that makes anger difficult and complicated. The other woman, though? That can be simple rage and hatred. [Besides], it hurts less and it is easier to think that the other person ‘cast a spell that the cheating partner was helpless to resist’ which is more like being hit by a force of nature, than, ‘My partner didn’t value me enough to stay with me’ or ‘The other person has something I don’t.” ~ Ginny Brown 

In the end, my friend responded to her husband’s cheating in more than one of these different ways.  My guess would be that in private, so too did Hillary Clinton. Tragically for Clinton, however, at a time in her life when she was surely hurting at least as much as was my friend, her responses occurred under the glare of a spotlight.

As Mark D. White, Ph.D., writing in Psychology Today states:

“The only specific advice I would offer is to learn from the experience. By all means, don’t dwell on it, don’t ruminate, and don’t beat yourself up. But after some time has passed, and some of the pain has healed, take a moment to reflect, either by yourself or with the help of a friend, and see what you can take from the past to make your future better, and come out of it a better person.”  


Author: Carmelene Siani

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Editor: Emily Bartran

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