Do women ever really get over affairs?
Is it possible to get over a cheating husband?
Published 26/05/2011 | 05:00
One man, one woman for life is a noble aim but seldom achieved. These days we live too long for that, get about too much, and opportunity abounds. 'The affair' is something most of us will have to face in a lifetime.
Every wife will vary in her response to 'the affair' when it happens. I say 'when', not 'if', advisedly, especially if the partners are young. And for every betraying husband there will be at least one woman without conscience.
Usually the longer the marriage, the worse the pain, the harder to forgive. I imagine Stacey Cooke will 'forgive' Ryan Giggs if he has strayed: he's a man of great physical energy, not likely to be cowed by convention, moving in circles abounding with predatory women and awash with alcohol.
I might forgive, were I Joyce Goodwin, though I'd be extremely upset: not least the super-injunction, or should that be his great efforts to hide it from me and not hurt me?
Every Samson needs his Delilah, as no doubt Fred tried to explain it away to Joyce -- the mighty pillars of the Royal Bank Of Scotland threatening to fall on him, he needed all the comfort he could get (although when they fell it was mostly on British taxpayers).
He may not be forgivable as a financier, but as a husband he is. Just about.
Were I Maria Shriver, though, I could not possibly forgive. It's the sense that life has been lived under an illusion that hurts so badly. Even in the easiest of divorces -- a simple breakdown, a mere parting of the ways -- you're returned to the age you were when the marriage began.
The years in between have been stolen from you. But this! A concubine's child born under your own roof, brought up with your own children, you in naïve ignorance: its similarity in looks to the father the betraying factor -- otherwise it would not have been revealed at all?
Shriver's years have not been just stolen from her -- they have been publicly and unforgivably murdered. Every memory of her years since the 'wrong' child was born is now tainted and painful. Her children damaged, their loyalties torn. No, she won't forgive, and shouldn't.
Do Ryan, Fred and Arnie realise the awfulness of what they have done? I don't think so.
They will lament the headlines that will damage their careers, and probably feel bad about the children, and wish things had turned out differently, but will feel they were only doing what came naturally. As indeed they were.
Did Charlie Haughey come to regret his squiring of Terry Keane for all those years?
When his world came crashing down around him, did he wince when their affair was splashed all over the papers? Was he sorry for the hurt that he caused?
And what of Ronan Keating, who was happy to go on the Late Late Show and plug his new album -- knowing that the awkward questions about this dalliance with a dancer would be kept strictly off-limits.
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It is in male nature to look after helpless women and little children, but as soon as the latter can look after themselves men tend to wander off and spread their genes.
It takes enormous social pressure to stop them doing so. The rich, famous and powerful are more impervious to such pressure than the rest of us (Dominique Strauss-Kahn, allegedly, being a case in point.)
This crop of alpha-males will be wondering why this newly feminised and easily shocked society of ours makes such a fuss about a little infidelity. Don't the brave deserve the fair?
While the betrayed wives, so much of their selves invested in, grown into their husbands, will be wondering where they went wrong, how they could have done things differently.
But what about Vicky Pryce, UK government minister Chris Huhne's wife? Footballers being unfaithful is one thing, politicians another, especially if they promote one rule for their constituents while following quite another. She can't forgive. She seems to be taking the revenge route out of misery.
I'm not surprised, though revenge can only be a short-term fix. To have accepted his traffic points, as she says she did, can only remind her of a happier past. Greater love hath no woman! But after a divorce life really must begin again, and the best revenge is to be happy.
People vary in their attitudes to infidelity. They have a different capacity for sexual jealousy, just as they have different degrees of sexual energy.
I've known couples embark cheerfully on 'open' marriages, and think nothing of a one-night fling -- just tell me and I'll tell you, that's all I ask -- though, since sex has an annoying habit of turning into love, someone usually gets hurt.
Of course, people marry for all sorts of reasons. Some are romantic and marry for love, and an affair breaks them to bits.
Some are not romantic and marry for practical reasons -- to share the rent, the household bills, have company on holidays -- but even then there's usually one who loves and another who allows themselves to be loved.
Even in these cases, an affair will still hurt. Knowledge of the powerful intimacy you habitually have with another being shared with a stranger is intolerable. And if the affair is with someone you know, the sense of betrayal is even worse.
'My best friend' as his mistress is just torture. For a husband to prefer a younger, newer model at least brands him a shallow monster, and you as one thoroughly wronged.
If someone as old and as plain as you takes his fancy then it is humiliation. It's you and your personality who are being discarded -- not just your physical being.
Times change. Men seem unable to put up with the guilt of secrecy. People who once would have had an affair, put up with the passion until it subsided, now feel entitled to the 'authenticity of their feelings'.
They offload the guilt on to the wife. They tell all: get a divorce, remarry, and form another household. Which is fine if there are no offspring, but if there are, surely the old ways of discretion are better?
There are worse things than lies -- the truth: not least when it comes to protecting the children.
For a married man there is no such thing as a trivial affair, especially when the world is watching, and in these days of social networking, it will be. So lay off it.