Ignorant About the Ways of Marriage

Being a single, never-married babe, I admit that there are many things about marriage that I just don’t know or understand. Like how I could have been expected to pick one guy, one, and stay with him for the rest of my life. And this one: why married women stay with their cheating husbands who, by the way, vowed not to do that.

Whenever there’s a public scandal about cheating husbands, I always wait for the news that the wife has left. Usually she doesn’t, though. Elin Nordegren-Woods and Jenny Sanford are my heroes. They packed up their sh** and got the heck out of Dodge when Tiger and Mark behaved badly. I know better than to make a declaration about what I’d do in a situation I’ve never been in but, I swear, I believe I would leave if my (non-existent) husband cheated on me more than once. Maybe even if just once.

But lots of married women don’t leave. And I don’t get it. Which brings me to today’s blog post.  Recently, I briefly dated a newly-divorced guy who puzzles me. In two ways. And our conversations are what remind me of how ignorant I am about the ways of marriage. He told me two things that completely confused me:

  1. That he stayed married for 38 years to a woman he never loved.  
  2. So he cheated in order to feel what he needed to feel (presumably romantic love and I don’t know what else.) 

I have multi-layered befuddlement at these two statements. Why was he married to a woman he didn’t love?  (They have no kids, so there goes that explanation).  Why did he stay so long? Why was cheating a better option than leaving?

And this is where the conversation became even more interesting. He married a woman he didn’t love because his “parents made him.”  He stayed so long because it “would be wrong to leave.”  He cheated because he needed to fill in the gaps of what he wanted but wasn’t getting from his marriage…but leaving would be more wrong. This last line feels upside-down to me.  I think cheating is more disrespectful and the honorable thing to do is to leave. He thinks the exact opposite.

And I wondered what his wife thought. Apparently she was more upset that he (finally) left her than she was at his cheating.  There I go again being all confused.

I’m always disappointed in women who stay with cheating hubbies. Of course, it’s really none of my business…but that doesn’t stop me from having an opinion.

So I had this conversation with a few others –all married– to hear their opinions and  there was no consensus about whether women, in general, should leave or stay in such situations. So then I started to wonder, what is it about the woman who tolerates cheating?  What does she know that I don’t?

Just curious.  Anybody want to help enlighten me?

NOTE: The Spinsterlicious Life: 20 Life Lessons for Living Happily Single and Childfree—  is available here and  here, and on Amazon.


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19 Responses to Ignorant About the Ways of Marriage

  1. Tricia says:

    I was married for one year, and found out after that one year that my ex had been cheating on me the whole time, and had multiple other women, including a woman pregnant with his child. Because I did not know about any of it (he traveled a lot for work.. which was how he was getting away with it), the court actually granted me an anullment because it was fraud (I never would have gone thru with it if I had known what was going on).
    I bolted quicker than you could say 'Hi'.. left the day I found out about everything. No second guessing. I had told him that was my one deal breaker in the beginning, and sure enough, he broke it.
    In the 7+ years since, I have a hard time watching women stay in these horrible situations-especially with children (thankfully I did not have a child with him).. Yes, I get the struggle financially and otherwise, but it is like saying to yourself (and subsequentely sending a message to your kids): 'This is how you deserve to be treated.. watch and observe'.
    And by having the courage to leave.. let me tell you.. Karma is a BITCH.. my ex lost his job, lost his dignity, lost all of his friends, was more or less forced to move out of state because no one wanted to lay eyes on him locally, and even his child died.
    I have seen this Karma occur (sometimes even worse) for other men, when their wives have the courage to leave.

    I once watched a show that said women should always, always get an education- so that they can have a leg to stand on.. to be able to get out, and support themselves.
    And in an era with a 60-80% chance of divorce for any one marriage.. this only make sense.

    One of my biggest beefs too with society, is that there is always some kind of blame too placed on this woman for his cheating.. 'She was such a nag! He had to go out and get his needs met!'
    This crap doesnt help.
    I mean seriously… with a work commitment, would you say, 'My boss is such a nag.. I just had to steal the money from the account!'
    Please… and a marriage is no different.. it is a WORK commitment.. a partnership… you talk that crap out before you go do something morally wrong.

    It is sad that 85% of married men will cheat on their wives at least once…. really wondering where that 15% is hiding? Under a pumpkin patch somewhere?

  2. Anonymous says:

    My husband descended into some pretty serious mental illness, with associated crazy behaviour that included infidelity. I stayed because I loved him & kept hoping we could find the combination of therapy & meds that would bring him back to me & the kids. Ends up he died young from a stroke, so I got a reprieve. Probably should have left long before, but I don't regret the choices I made.

  3. Anonymous says:

    My spouse cheated on me twice in 6 years, both times with a woman that reminded him of his first wife. The first time I was floored, it came out of left field at me, completely unexpected, and I stayed and tried to repair things. He tried too and I figured it was a one time thing. I think that's what happens for many women, it's so freakishly unexpected that you don't know what to do at first and so you work on things and staym you are supposed to be committed to one another. It's probably the second time that really defines what you're going to do. In my case time two came around and I packed up and left. He wanted to work on it again and such, but 'fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me' and I wasn't in the mood for another round of his BS related to why he just had to do this. With no kids and with my own financial independence I could take off with no major links remaining between us. That's when I suspect the major decision has to go down for many women. He did it again, are you in a situation or at a point where you can ford a new river on your own, or are you going to have to take this crap for a bit longer while you get to that point? For women who stay long term with a cheating spouse it may become a case of staying with the devil you know as opposed to dealing with the one you don't.

  4. Smokie says:

    Sandy, what do you mean “women marry for financial security”? This isn't 1952! Most families are two income families now!

  5. Smokie says:

    I'm married and I'm baffled too. (I LOVE Ms. Sanford and Elin by the way.) I don't know how people can spend their lives with someone they don't love. I don't know how you stay when the trust is gone and it MUST leave when he cheats. I've never understood that kind of marriage or wife. I am of the opinion that you only get ONE life and you better make sure it's a happy one. How can you be happy living with a cheater or someone you don't love…EVERYDAY? Marriage is supposed to INCREASE your happiness, not make it void. Baffling. I can do bad by myself. marr

  6. Peter says:

    Infidelity is devastating to most of us… as is the lack of intimacy. I stayed in a marriage for 22 years where the sex eventually dwindled to quarterly and intimacy really never existed. In those 22 years I never cheated. I didn't want to be the cliche, and frankly with two kids (now in college) I wasn't going to be that guy.
    I had plenty of opportunities to stray… I'm a decent enough looking guy with money and manners, but to me cheating is a weakness. I made the decision to get married and have kids.
    Once the kids were old enough to be on their own, I sat down with them and their mom (after long discussions with her) and let them know I would be seeing other women… but still supportive of them and their mom. I would have a hard time living with myself if I was not upfront and honest. I'll never get married again, don't need the paper. I'm very happy about not having to lie or be misleading to my family and sleep well at night…
    Don't cheat, do the right thing and move on or fix what you have. good luck

  7. Anonymous says:

    I am that wife who tried to stay after several years (19) of cheating, lies, etc… Turned a blind eye.. became a step ford wife and tried to follow his instructions his rules – typical of the military lifestyle which states affairs are illegal but let me assure they do protect their own and will not help the spouse nor the children we are the property of the military person we mean nothing… case in point, they new of all his affairs the most recent one during deployment withthe co worker of course you are talking about a command that all engages in cheating swaps wives and to gain rank sleep your way up, also condones abuse, they allowed him to continue do as he saw fit leave back and forth not give me a dime, i was ordered to shut up or loose my house well took a special friend to call in what they call the outsiders cps and they did not let up it came down to a choice your children or your spouse guess what chose my kids no brainer and it has been pure hell, the judge knows he is lying i lost everything, my house home material things even went homeless with all our children one being special needs and there is not any program readily available for severe cases and he broke every restraining order because he did not want to be labelled after learning that he would stop isf the orders were dropped they were and now he refuses to engage with the kids at all it is too much to call them see them alienates one completly blames cps everyone else nothing is his fault has the cars money everything and what do i have my children i literally went homeless for two months with them scariest thing in my life, i gave up my job education for him to succeed and to be a stay at homemom and lost my self supporting skills i am literally starting over with nothing I do not fight for anything – it keeps me safer and unhurt he barely gives anything but yet he still will not sign the divorce papers it took a huge village of people to get me to see how bad it really was and crazy as this sounds i am not mad at him i can't i even stood up for him trying to get him to be a dad but he chooses not to i just want to do right by our kids and i just learned to work on myself i cannot help him but he doesn't engage will not sign the papers asks for a continuous everytime will not pay debts yet is living this really great lifestyle he always said he wanted well i gave it to him and want out now he just turns a blind eye to it lays blame refuses to do anything it is sad, but most people stay because the thought of loosing everything is frientening I did loose everything except my children and it still frientening because i am barely making it and I am doing all i can, but I now know that I am worth more and did not deserve that nor deserve to put through that for all those years and all he says is well i had to take care of the kids and you when you had surgery wow really that is what you do when you are married and love someone there is no excuse. Yet I understand why women stay and know why you should leave and why some go back – I guess all that is left to be said is it up to the person and it is really hard and you are essentionally alone and you have to be prepared for that- there is no book on how to go homeless with kids no book that guides when you caught off guard what i will tell any of you is start your own account, always no matter what put away money no matter how little every chance you get keep this statement sent to a po box and private and get your education so that God forbid you find yourself in a situation or you want to leave you are prepared and you have something to fall back on because it is hard always be but the best thing to remember it is better to be forgiving not forget because then you loose focus on what you need to do and – always be very aware of everything… trust your gut, I knew just refused to face it til it was no longer my choice and this journey is not over it never will be but you must ensure you are able to support yourself at the end of the day nothing is guarenteed.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I left after 2 years. Gambling, drinking and probably cheating. He fleeced me out of thousands, even after I thought I was protected by having him sign IOUs. He filed for bankruptcy, his second one, and listed me as a creditor. Unfortunately, our government protects people that use the system, not the people who legitimately deserve it.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Marriage is complicated but its made out of two people who love each other and are willing to make it work…I've been married for 11 years and we have our rough times…neither of us has cheated and we both work and are raising our kids…our biggest problems are about money…we never have enough but we always make it through and I'm ok with that….I didnt get married for financial matters; im married because i'm in love… i am not a stay home mom, i dont cook often and he does the cleaning when he gets home from work…I have two jobs and we both understand that we have to put our part in order for it to work out…

  10. eleanore says:

    @Anonymous: he was Jewish, though I don't know how much of a factor that was. It seemed to have more to do with his inheritance, which would be threatened if he didn't marry the right girl.
    Eleanore

  11. Anonymous says:

    Just curious if the man in your blog had a family with strong religious affiliations. Was he jewish? for example? I think its more common for religious parents to push their children into marriage (and / or ARRANGE for the marriage).

  12. Sandy says:

    Don't mean to be insulting, but I have frequently thought that marriage was basically prostitution in disguise. Women marry for financial security and in return, the man gets sex at home (and all the beneficial stuff that goes along with it – a housekeeper, social secretary, has his children, etc.). I don't think too many women will admit that they get married to have someone take care of them. And, after many years of staying at home, they are pretty much stuck – because they don't have any marketable skills any longer. It's very difficult – and when you have children with the guy, it is even harder.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Being single for 20 years after a 17 year marriage, I agree to all of the above. It's far easier to stay then brave the world alone and like Michael Ann mentioned you have to share custody with the jerk. It's no fun to lose control of your kids to his visitation (or lack of), etc. Ater 2 affairs in the last 10 years of the marriage, my husband said to me, “I'm almost 40 and I have nothing.” We had just helped our friends bury all of their children in one casket due to a house fire as well as my cousin's 2 children from a car accident. I looked at my husband and said to myself “This is a man who doesn't know the meaning of NOTHING.” And I set out to teach him. I got the house, full custody, more child support than was court ordered and a great settlement.

  14. Julia says:

    I think it's very hard to understand why people make the choices they do – to stay, or to do – unless you have all the information (and/or misinformation) they're using to make their decision.

    But the guy you spoke to seems awfully anxious to blame just about anyone else for every decision he made – getting married, staying married, cheating, you name it, all someone else's fault. Not good….and very telling.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Those 6 reasons are all exactly right, plus I think people are lazy. It is so much easier to stick with the status quo (married to a cheater or someone you don't love) than to take action, tell the kids and family, move out and risk starting over.

    I run into sooo many married guys who “are married to their best friend, love their wives and their lives, would never leave or make their kids suffer, but they miss having that special spark”… blah blah and would love to have an affair if it didn't mess up the home front. Also, having been single and dating (or not) for the past 5 years, I believe there is something to be said for trying to hang in there, honor the vows, work it out. The grass ain't always greener on the other side… sigh.

  16. Michael Ann says:

    Can so relate to Cheri. I don't think my husband every cheated either, but yes, he lied and schemed and kept secrets, mostly finanical. SERIOUS financial secrets that eventually caused me to leave. I had two small children and was a stay at home mom and so stayed many years longer than I should. Perhaps that is why some women stay with unfaithful husbands. When you don't work and are raising your kids, it's a very scary thought indeed to be thrust into the world with no income of your own and having to split custody with your no-good husband.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Cheating is all about the cheater and not about the cheated-on. I shamefully admit to several affairs with married men and assumed that their wives stayed on because they understood the shortcoming belonged to their husbands, not to them. I don't fool around with married guys anymore, so please leave that alone, I had my reasons.

    In a phone conversation with my boyfriend's wife she said “I will never divorce him because I control him with the guilt, he's had girlfriends before, go ahead and waste your youth”. I ended the relationship that night.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Women stay with cheaters for may reasons, such as:

    1.) Belief that the cheating was a one-time thing and he is remorseful and wants to repair their marriage.
    2.) Fear of the financial implications of divorce and/or supporting themselves.
    3.) Fear of being alone.
    4.) Belief that “boys will be boys” and women should just “look the other way”.
    5.) Deciding that they love their partner enough, or benefit enough from the relationship, that they're willing to tolerate infidelity.
    6.) Deciding that fidelity isn't a dealbreaker for them.

    I personally wouldn't stay if I found out my husband were unfaithful, but I've seen women do it, and this seems to be their reasoning.

  19. Cheri says:

    I wasn't married to a cheater (or at least I don't think he cheated..) but he did lie, scheme and deceive me about other things, which hurt worse than cheating on me. Before we got married, I told him I'd only divorce him if he hit me or cheated on me. Little did I know I needed to include, lying, scheming and being dishonest with me in bigger ways than say, accidentally on purpose forgetting to tell me that he bought is friends dinner and drinks that came to $300, or something similarly small in the whole scheme of things.

    He also was such a great guy, he used my promise against me to guilt me into staying and putting up with his crap for 7 years. To me, a marital foundation has to have TRUST. If there is no trust or if there is a crack in the foundation of the marriage, things are not going to go well. You will always be wondering and worried. Forget that!

    Besides, ever hear the saying once a cheater, always a cheater? I believe that one to be true.

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