Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s
Husband (or Wife)

Carly was convinced her life was over. There were days lately when she’d wonder what it would be like to OD on Caramel Macchiatos. Things had gotten that bad.

She tried, knowingly fooling herself, to pretend life was normal, the same. She was too embarrassed to admit the alternative. But everyone in town was talking about it. The “it” was the “affair.” And Carly knew the entire ordeal was all her own making.

She swerved her S.U.V. into the school parking lot and caught her 11-year-old son’s reflection in the mirror. Zack’s dark eyes looked so sad, and he needed a haircut. He opened the door and she leaned back between the seats to kiss him goodbye, but he pulled away. He hadn’t talked to her in over week, and today, she knew, would be no different. This hurts the most. Why didn’t I think of this? He was so angry with her. Her six-year-old daughter was too young to understand what had happened, but Zack had told her everything. Mommy was cheating with the neighbor. And now Daddy is leaving us. My friends made fun of me at school. It sucks.”

As she pulled out of the parking lot, another Mom waved and smiled wanly, but Carly knew what she was thinking: Cheater, Cheater.

Later, as she sat at her local Starbucks flipping through the newspaper, Carly knew there was no way out from under the repercussions of her actions. She also knew that when Dan (not his real name) moved in across the street a few years earlier with his family she had felt that thing she hadn’t felt in so long, too long, that she forgot it was even inside her anymore.

It all began that one night over a year ago when she was washing dishes and happened to look outside her window. She saw the neighbor shirtless, throwing the ball with his own son, who was a few years younger than Zack. Six pack, eight pack — who could count? Dan was tan and stunning. She knew she should look away, go to another part of the house and hide, but she stayed there at the window, glued, watching, long after the dishes were done.

If only she had walked away. But no, she walked toward “it” like one of her husband’s zombie TV shows. And now “it” was over, and so was her life as she once knew it.

A few Moms she recognized from the junior high entered Starbucks. They were all wearing short tennis skirts and tight-fitting neon Lululemon tops. They waved, smiled fakely, and she gave them five seconds – tops – before she knew she would become Exhibit A of their conversation.

She also knew she deserved it. What was she thinking? You can’t sleep with someone in your community and get away with it. Did you hear that Carly X had an affiair — some say it was six months, I heard it was a year — with her neighbor – yes, THAT guy – and her husband caught them. And yes, both families are getting divorced. EVERYONE is talking about it.

EVERYONE, Carly thought. Even the kids.

She held back her tears. Especially the kids. And now my kids know, and worse, they know that their friends know. Carly could barely drink her coffee. I feel so ashamed. And it was me, who has always protected them, who caused them harm. Will they ever trust me again? Will they ever trust period later on in their lives?

Adultery, when discovered, is the deepest pain from a kid’s perspective. It is the murder of their parents’ marriage, and it robs them of their innocence. It becomes their mark — their ‘Scarlet Letter.’ That child will always be known, as ‘oh, that’s so and so’s son/daughter … you know…'”

Yes, we ALL know. Their parent’s adultery becomes fodder for everyone else’s consumption.

The deepest need of every child is to fit in — not to stand out.

The deepest need of every parent is to fit in — not to stand out for doing something bad.

And when that’s violated, the kid doesn’t stand a chance. Rather, their future relationships will be tainted.

Trust me, I’ve seen it happen amongst several of my own contemporaries who had cheating parents. When they later had their own intimate relationships they suffered deeply. They NEVER truly trust their spouse, they constantly feel like they may be betrayed, intimacy can be  tough, and “innocent” situations may be blown out of proportion. A parent’s infidelity is a terrible legacy for a child to bear because it never goes away. Yes, the scorned spouse is deeply wounded and betrayed, but they eventually move on. They recover.

Let me be clear: A kid NEVER recovers.

When I wrote the article “Sex, Lies, and Carpool” (GIRLilla Warfare, May 9), it was commissioned by the nation’s top newspaper and it took me more than two months to write and investigate. Once the article was finished, the editor loved it, but said that he needed “names” as in the true identities of all the parents involved. As a journalist, getting an article accepted by this particular newspaper was a huge feat, but as a Mom — revealing names of cheating parents was a Huge NO, no matter what. I argued that they do not print hookers’ real names, why must they have names of adulterous parents? The editor could not answer that one. I further argued that I did not NOT want to reveal the names to protect the parents — hell no, I told the editor, but because of the cheaters’ children. They did not commit the crime, and did not deserve the repercussion and the embarrassment that my article would surely bring on by exposure.

The newspaper said without the true identities they would not run the piece. I wouldn’t budge and they pulled the story. No regrets on this end.

There are several “hot” stories going around my ‘hood these days, and perhaps yours, someone cheated with their trainer, someone else with an assistant at work, someone else with a married man/woman, someone else who went too far on a Vegas trip — it keeps on going. And all I can think about when someone shares the sordid details is what about the kids?

Infidelity is complex. It’s not merely a matter of sex in most scenarios — usually it’s seeking something you are not getting in your marriage and it most likely comes down to “attention.” There are cases in which you may think, Ohmygod, the wife is such a bitch, I totally don’t blame him. Or the guy is never home, and doesn’t give his wife the time of day — do you blame her? Or, my marriage is crap, but I don’t want to get a divorce, no matter what. So if I stay in a bad marriage, at least I should get something in return.

Yes, real reasons, real justifications. I always wonder how does someone look at themselves in the mirror after cheating, and go have dinner with his/her family,  or go to their kid’s soccer game, mingling and acting like everything is normal. There is not only such a deep selfishness to infidelity, but also a “separatism” — leading two very separate lives and that it is somehow okay.

Infidelity is a clinical word for fucking around behind your husband or wife’s back — the Ultimate Sneak — in which 9 out of 10 times the guilty party gets caught. It’s inevitable, with email, texting, Facebook — every portal is a glass house. Even the cleanest of deleters slip up.

Gossip in suburbia is fierce. Everyone knows that. But what you may not realize is that your words as parents (on the phone, in an email or text, or whispered to your spouse) can be overheard by your kids (they may not hear clean your room but they will always hear who is sleeping with who). Subsequently, all hell breaks loose later on the playground or school courtyard, where kids’ cruelty festers and knows no boundaries.

Zack found out about his Mom’s affair on the playground. At 11 years old, on the brink of puberty, and trying to find himself, that revelation must have been devastating. That revelation will most definitely follow the boy-to-a-man through EVERY relationship he has; every level of intimacy he will experience will go back to that pivotal moment on the playground. And my bet is that a man-afraid-to-commit has been molded.

So think twice before you jump into someone else’s bed. Think harder before you spread the gossip of the bed jumper. It’s fun and it’s naughty, but Words Hurt, especially to those who are innocent.

An office colleague of mine was having an affair a long time ago, and asked me how do I stop this, when that part of me wants it to keep going? I looked at her and said simply, “Don’t think about your husband, because clearly that is not enough to stop you. Instead, imagine your daughter’s face when she learns that you are sleeping with a man who is not her father. Picture her face BEFORE yours, and I promise, you can do it.”

– LB

Hey GIRLillas, post your comments/advice below — remember they are anonymous — and our goal is to keep the conversation going! Your input is what we’re about.



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