Recently I received a stinging rebuke to one of my posts. Ok, maybe it wasn’t stinging, but it was real. It was from my favorite critic, Spaghetti Sam, who writes a great blog over at https://arewestillhavingspaghetti.wordpress.com/ . She writes about her struggles due to the infidelity of her soon-to-be-ex-husband. The fallout is hard to believe, and I encourage you to check it out.
Today I wanted to review the key points Sam brought up:
Sam: I applaud you for wanting to do right by your wife. I’ll leave off that pesky clause about cheating on her.
Ryan: Granted. I cannot go back and undo what has been done. But I can take control of my future.
Sam: I do have a question for you, though. You talk about not abandoning your kids. Not abandoning her financially. Paying your support. Not draining bank accounts. I think the whole “I want to treat her with respect” train has already passed by but kudos to you for not wanting to drag her any further through the mud. What happens though if upon finding out what you’ve done your wife doesn’t want to play ball?
Ryan: I’ll start here. First, I do acknowledge that it is the worst kind of disrespect – to cheat on my wife. I know this. That train has left, but that doesn’t give me the right to disrespect her any more. What I’m really referring to is if the marriage dissolves I do not want to become a jerk who continues to make choices that make her life worse.
Now if she chooses not to play ball, and she well could, then I will have to live with the consequences of my actions. But that does not mean giving up. That does not mean adondoning my children or my respect for her.
Have you read Glennon Doyle’s blog, momastery? I read her most recent book too. Her husband was in the same boat. She was not playing ball with him. But he stuck with it. He was there for her and for the kids. Over and over he kept showing up. No matter what happens I’m there for her and the kids. Even if she chooses to cut me out.
The other side of this is that I know my wife very well. She will say horrible things at first, and then calm down and become reasonable. She does not want her children not to know their father. There is a chance she would do something crazy, but I think it’s very small. She knows I’m a great father, and would want to keep that going even if she hates my guts. She has had to live through this with her own father.
Sam: What happens if your kids, who I know are very very young at this point, find out one day what happened between you and their mom and they no longer want anything to do with you? Are you still going to do your best to do right by them?
Ryan: Absolutely. It would be a long time before they found out and understood anyway. By that point we would have already formed whatever bond we were going to have post divorce. I know that during the teenage years thoughts of anger toward your parents for any perceived slight can form. I had them for my own parents. All I can do is prepare my children for such a thing, and be there for them when it happens. I will ALWAYS be there for my children. ALWAYS. It’s the one thing my mother showed me was important. Even if you don’t do the right thing or don’t even know what the right thing is – you be there for your children.
Sam: I don’t ask these questions to be a raging bitch. I think it’s one thing to believe you’ll co-parent well with her, you’ll never leave your kids behind, you’ll treat the ex-wife/their mother with respect, you’ll be friends and everything will be fine- you’ll just be going home with someone else. It’s another thing when the shit has finally hit the fan and she’s pissed off beyond belief. She’s not cooperating over anything. She refuses to co-parent with you, tells you you can do whatever the hell you want and she’ll do the same. She won’t sit with you at ball games or recitals or high school graduations. She tells everyone, and I do mean everyone, what you and your mistress did. Maybe she sues for sole custody and you see your kids every other weekend. Maybe she ends up getting a settlement that leaves you financially destitute. And then your kids get mad at you and won’t talk to you. You are no longer the wonderful daddy who can do no wrong. You’re the father that cheated on their mother and broke up their home. Maybe they even turn against your mistress and refuse to see you if she’s around.
Ryan: Whew! Deep breath… You don’t paint a pretty picture. It’s quite possible any or all if those things could happen. These are the reasons, in fact, that I really want to take a break to consider things.
The fact is I have already cheated. It’s just a matter of how to move forward. Some of the things you talk about are definitely worth considering, but at this point there is nothing I can do about the past. I can’t go back in time.
If I fess up about what happened then all of this may come true regardless of whether I ever see Meredith again or not. Wife may jump straight to an angry divorce and end everything even if I’m willing to work it out. But telling the truth is the right thing to do, right? I don’t know. Maybe not.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that all the things you mentioned may happen, but they may all happen because of what I did not because of what I will do. No matter where things go I will be respectful to Wife, and I will be there for my kids in the future.
For my children, their father is fallible. As tough as that can be sometimes to imagine when growing up eventually they will need to know that about me. I hope that they remember me as a good father and don’t grow to resent me or Meredith, but it’s quite possible they will. The one thing I fear most is losing my kids.
In fact if I do end up with Meredith they may end up hating her simply for being her. Or they may end up hating their step-dad who I have no control over. That’s a scary thought. I had an evil step-mother growing up and I don’t wish that on my kids.
For the record, I don’t think you’re a raging bitch. You are living much of what you are describing could happen. That’s good experience, and why I’m listening.
Sam: It’s easy to envision this peaceful future where you two go on to be friends, co-parenting right along with your mistress, one big happy blended family. You know why? Because SHE didn’t do anything to YOU. She didn’t cheat and break your heart. She hasn’t already replaced you. It might work out the way you imagine. Sometimes it does. Not often. I certainly wouldn’t bet on it. More than likely things are going to be tense and rocky and very unfriendly.
Ryan: To be honest I don’t envision a peaceful future. At least not right off. I think it is something we would have to grow toward. It will be very hard at first. Time heals all wounds. I would hope that within a few years things would start to get better. She will probably always feel some anger and resentment toward me and those feelings would not be without merit. But it is how she decides to act on them.
You’re right, she didn’t do this to me so it’s easier for me to think about an alternate future. In fact I don’t know how I would have felt if she had been the one to have an affair. I can’t go back to before. I’m sure I would have been angry and scared. I do not know what actions I would have taken. I certainly know that I would appreciate her kindness rather than derision during the process.
Also, she hasn’t been in my shoes. There are reasons this affair was so enticing. There are reasons that despite my best efforts I couldn’t resist it. I didn’t plan on getting stuck in an unfulfilling marriage. I never expected to be put down and 2nd guessed on everything. I never expected that my wife’s enjoyment of sex would stay dramatically low for decades. She talks a good game, but her walk doesn’t match up.
I know what I did was wrong, but that doesn’t make her completely innocent. She should listen to her husband. He has needs and desires too.
Sam: I have no clue what goes on in [my soon-to-be ex]’s head but I do know that in the beginning he tried being friendly, tried acting like nothing had happened. He still wanted us to “develop a new relationship based upon us being happy for one another”. I think it’s quite possible that if the kids hadn’t been pissed off at him for throwing this tsunami in their laps only a year after moving them away from their friends he might have made more of an effort to stay in contact with them. I think that their refusal to have anything to do with him made him dig in his heels and reject them. Then again, I’ve come to believe he’s just a disordered asshole so it probably wouldn’t have mattered what we did.
So the real question is can you still stand by your convictions when things aren’t going the way you planned?
Ryan: It sounds like he didn’t try hard enough. He seems to have moved out and moved on rather quickly. Building the trust back could take years. I really can’t relate to what your ex did. Abandoning his family. Not giving them any support. From a choice that HE made. Your ex is teaching me plenty of lessons. I will give him that.
They say in war all the plans change after the first shot is fired. I’m trying to keep that in mind. My plans are broad and vague at this point because once things start happening it’s hard to say where it will go. I may still decide to just stay married and keep everything under the rug.
Sam I thank you for your critique. I have this feeling that we will never quite see eye to eye, but I thoroughly enjoy your views. I also have a lot of sympathy for what you are going through. I hope in answering your questions you can see that we (those who have cheated) are not all the same. Maybe you can see into the gray area. Just as I know you are not the scorned woman you describe above either. You took the high road many times and showed compassion even when it wasn’t in your best interest.