Infidelity. Some say it’s human nature, and I suppose they are right, in a way. Lust and hormones and all that goes with them are a large part of what makes us the living, breathing, mistake-making animals that we are.
If you’ve been reading Inked for a while you will know that in December my excitement at having my family together again was quickly turned to pain when I discovered that my husband had been having an affair. The minefield of emotional turmoil that followed was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to navigate myself through.
In the spirit of full disclosure I’m comfortable enough to come forward and say yes, I have cheated before (I am thankfully still friends with this old teenage boyfriend and have apologised profusely for the past ten years, he might have even forgiven me by now… maybe… either way I definitely still owe him a few rounds at the bar). I have been on both sides of this hurtful coin. I was very young and I was stupid and I did not treat myself or others with the respect that we all deserve, I was learning. I was on my own journey. But that’s another story.
I want to talk about our terrible attitude toward the other woman. Which may seem odd, seeing as so many of you would believe that it was an “other woman” who ended my marriage. But that’s not how I see it. I have talked to this “other woman,” in fact I had contact with her as soon as I discovered what had happened, it was the only way I could get access to the truth. I contacted her with respect and empathy and honesty. Because she is another human being, she is a person with her own morals and values and because she too, like me, has feelings. She had feelings for my husband. She had feelings that deserved respect.
I’m sick of seeing my Facebook news feed littered with woman-hate. Women hating on other women because of choices their partners made. Women hating on other women because of how the dress or the amount of make up they wear. Women calling other women awful, disrespectful, shameful names in public. Women they don’t even know. Women who they blame for the breakdown of their relationship.
But if we are playing the blame-game. I think we are getting it all wrong… and putting the fight for equality and women’s rights back a thousand steps whilst we are at it.
Infidelity is, in my opinion, the ultimate betrayal. The person having an affair knows that the relationship is ending, how could they not? They are the one who gets to make all the plays. They get to make all the decisions. The unknowing partner, is in most cases, completely in the dark. Like I was. When they discover the truth, the sky falls. In one minute, your life changes, irreparably. Every experience suddenly becomes rearranged. All of a sudden memories are tainted. Trust is destroyed. A persons self-worth takes a huge beating. Mine did. I’m still working on building it back up. Slowly. I know that it will take a lot for me to trust a partner again. It will take a long time to get there.
This complete upheaval is traumatic. So it’s no surprise that so many people find it easier to blame the person you are not in love with. Of course it is. It’s easier to blame the “other woman.”I know I was tempted. But I knew it wasn’t her fault. Sure, she shouldn’t have done what she did, and she knows that. But it wasn’t her responsibility to be faithful to me. It wasn’t her responsibility, it was his. So as much as her actions hurt me. I cannot blame her. I will never know the full extent of what was said to her, the stories that were told to her, the promises that were made to her, the private moments that they shared. I know more than enough as it is.
When I think about her, it hurts. Sure. It hurts. But do I blame her? No. Do I want to be her friend? No. But that’s OK. I don’t know her, I have never met her and although I know a lot about her, I wouldn’t recognise her if I walked past her in the street. Would I ever be cruel to her? No. I wouldn’t. I spent a few days talking to her via email after everything happened. Getting a lot of information that was very difficult for me to read, and I’m sure, given the information that I have given back, it wasn’t easy for her to write the words that she did either. She was grieving her own private grief too. We both lost something we though we had.
It took a week or so before I was ready to tell my friends what had happened. When I started sharing my own story, the women who I told immediately wanted to know about the “other woman”. They wanted to know what she looked like, where they had met, how old she was. They wanted to call her names and bash her and beat her down. They wanted to attack. To protect me from the hurt that had been caused.
Most women who sleep with married men, are women who have been pursued by married men. Most women who sleep with married men don’t know the truth about his relationship. Most women who sleep with married men are not temptresses out there to seduce and steal someone elses man.
In this case, the woman is not to blame. Regardless of what we are lead to believe, men actually do have complete control over their pants. They can choose to keep them on. Just like we can.
So let’s stop bashing each other. Let’s stop using names like slut and bitch and whore for each other. Let’s stop tearing each other apart. Let’s stop competing with each other and please let us stop feeding the woman hate. I’m not saying that we all have to be a part of some sort of fairy tale sisterhood where we all have to be best friends because we are packing the same genitalia. I couldn’t be more disgusted by the motto my male friends used to go by in highschool, ‘bro’s before hoes,’ (I seriously hope they have grown out of this one by now). Creating a female equivalent (chicks before dicks perhaps?) is just as repulsive. But we don’t have to hate on each other either.
If we hate on each other all the time, and drag each other down and blame each other instead of putting the responsibility on the person (regardless of gender) who is actually at fault. If we continue to verbally bash other women, in both the private and the public spheres what are we teaching our sons about respecting women? What are we teaching our daughters about respecting themselves?