September 22, 2006

Surviving infidelity

Sept. 22, 2006

ONE of the most frequent areas of discussions I have with my friends regarding relationships is infidelity, adultery, or cheating on one’s spouse or lover.

Sometimes it would be just innocent gossip where we trade stories about how so and so celebrity is now making out with another actor other than his or her own usual partner (more often than not, also another celebrity). Remember how the rumor mill didn’t stop grinding out gossip about the turbulent relationship of Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt, after the latter was rumored to be enjoying the company of Angelina Jolie? Jennifer and Brad kept on denying they had problems and said things were fine in their marriage. Of course, the celebrity couple eventually split up and the acting-challenged Brad immediately shacked up with the talented Angelina, who was already pregnant with their baby, and adopted her Rainbow Coalition of kids as his own.

Then sometimes our gossip would revolve around our own friends, perhaps someone in our close circle whose spouse we have probably seen with another woman in public.

Moments like this can be depressing as we grapple with the question of whether we should tell our friend or not about it. Most often we just keep quiet, confident that our friend isn’t stupid and knows exactly what her husband is doing. This, however, doesn’t ease our discomfort from seeing something illicit and feeling like a traitor for not reporting what we’ve witnessed to our friend.

(My very wise married mader Marianne says that a husband and wife’s relationship is no one else’s business except their own. And as such, people outside the relationship should hold their tongue about allegations of adultery. I partly agree. Sure, who wants to be the bearer of bad news? However, if I were such an aggrieved party, I would appreciate honesty from my friends. I mean, who else can you count on to tell you the truth except your friends, right? In our desire to protect our ego, we sometimes delude ourselves that everything is still all right in our relationship with our significant other, despite our nagging suspicions. And sometimes only our friends can slap our faces really hard by telling us the truth.)

Infidelity strikes at the core of our very being. We all want to be loved exclusively by our significant other. We want to be the only one. Perhaps, human beings are really territorial by nature and such a code has been imprinted in our DNA and passed on to us from the days our ancestors lived in caves and hunted for food amid the preying dinosaurs. Our territorial feelings don’t just relate to material objects but people as well—our friends, lovers, family members, etc.

There is little risk when your cheater is just a boyfriend. You can break it off and walk away from the relationship, cry your heart out to friends who are only too willing to find a new man for you. If your boyfriend tries to get back with you, run in the opposite direction as fast as you can. Don’t be an idiot and fall all over again for his sweet words. I know, I know…it’s easier said than done.

But think about how more difficult it would be if you were married to the idiot and had kids with him? It would hurt immensely because you had been building a life together and, hey, “I thought we were happy….” After all, you had pledged to love each other—how does it go again?—“for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, ‘til death do you part”? Then here you are, finding out that he’s been messing around.

Maybe there was no sign at all that there was any problem in the marriage. So maybe you blame yourself for doing some unimaginable deed to have pushed your husband to stray. Or you blame the other woman for tempting your poor little defenseless husband. Rarely would wives think that the problem really is their horny husband.

You confront him about his cheating and he at first denies it. Then when caught again, he would probably say, “She doesn’t mean anything. I love you,” or some crap like that. Would you accept your husband’s explanations and stay together “for the sake of the children”? Or do you walk away and shut the miserable shit out of your life? Can you?

The growing number of women filing for annulments or legal separations, claiming their husband’s “psychological incapacity,” shows that Filipinas are no longer Maria Claras who will suffer in silence until their husbands wizen up.

Because the reality is, there is no assurance that your cheating husband will ever reform, despite his promises. I know a lot of men who’ve cheated on their wives, and even after they’ve been caught and given ultimatums by their wives, or threatened by their kids that they’d quit school if they did it again, they still go around hopping from one woman’s bed to another. Ick.

If you decide to stick it out in the marriage, how do you keep yourself from thinking that when he’s late he isn’t really in a meeting with his boss but probably romancing another woman? Once committed, adultery is like a dead child that parents can’t ever forget. It is intensely difficult to get over. With this hanging over your heads, there will always be an unpleasant and uncomfortable dynamic in your relationship with your husband.

But many wives still have their reasons for staying. I know one who spends her husband’s money like there was no tomorrow, just to get back at him. Another just keeps getting pregnant to make sure her cheating husband always comes home to her. Still another sticks with her husband to the end, through sickness, and until his death, accepting even his other wives, his other children.

No matter what path the wife takes to “cure” the situation, it will be strange and unfamiliar territory. And your only hope is that your ego will be able to handle it—and that you finally emerge stronger from the whole ordeal.

(My column Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Business Mirror. Xavier Cortada, 'Adultery,' 36" x 36," Acrylic on canvas, 1995. From


Ruby Gan said...

hello stella! very well said! i enjoy reading your blog!

Stella Arnaldo said...

Hi Ruby! Thanks for visiting my blog. I like your web site/blog as well. Great schus! :-)

guile said...

a very well-written and insightful entry..

Stella Arnaldo said...

Thanks Guile. Your blogspot is interesting.