Let me say at the outset that my one and only marriage did not survive infidelity. But my divorce occurred many years ago, and I was a different person then. Given similar circumstances, would I pursue the same course of action now?
To set the stage for this treatise, I grew up internalizing the American sitcom “Father Knows Best,” in which the wife and mother Margaret Anderson (glamorous actress Jane Wyatt) vacuumed the floors, if she ever did vacuum the floors, while her elegant neck was perpetually encircled by a string of perfect pearls and her slender movie-star silhouette was adorned in haute couture dresses. Her greatest tragedy was likely to be a bad perm day at the beauty parlor, and her adoring and loyal husband Jim’s (actor Robert Young) last nerve was apt to be jangled by a cloudburst on his golf day. “Adultery” was a word absent from their lexicon, and even its causes didn’t exist. Of course, my own parents resembled Margaret and Jim Anderson not even a smidgen, and neither did their “hum-drum” marriage. But I, we of my generation, wanted to believe the TV version to be the “real” thing, and all of us were convinced it was our true and only destiny.
If you are familiar with the TV series “Mad Men,” you’ll get the picture of the vast differences in male and female relationships that beset my generation by the time we approached marriageable age. Drugs, sex, and rock n roll were cultural tsunamis that rearranged our world, and with the changes came rampant bed hopping, even by married individuals. In my experience, married men more than married women indulged in the sport then, and I was one among the majority who abstained. As with my girlfriends and female members of my family, in my heart of hearts, I remained a version of Margaret Anderson and my husband of Jim Anderson. Boy, was I wrong about him! And boy, was I wrong about me! I just bet, though, that if Margaret and Jim Anderson had been swamped by the swirling, dirty, drowning cultural waters of the 1960s and 1970s, they very well might have been swept into the divorce court, too.
It took me several years after my divorce to realize, or actually, to admit, that the infidelity was a symptom rather than its cause. And of course, the fact that it was the “accepted” rationale for breaking up our family blinded me to the truth, as well. I had all the evidence against the continuation of my marriage I needed, so why bother to dig any deeper than the specter of the “other women?” Among the “real” culprits were our unrealistic Margaret and Jim Anderson expectations of married life, as were secrets we hid from each other. Everyday proximity was another. “Familiarity breeds contempt” really is true. Is there anyone whom you hate more than your spouse at times, or maybe all the time to a degree—disdain, dislike, disrespect, disapproval, scorn—all the possible synonyms for hatred of him or her stuffed away somewhere in the sub-basement of your consciousness?
Nowadays, we have many more opportunities to be better informed about what it takes to forge and maintain a complimentary marriage, to learn new adaptations, and to stop and contemplate Hemingway’s avowal: “The world breaks everyone, and afterwards, many are strong at the broken places.” But I think he should have enlarged his statement with the actuality that many are left cripplingly or fatally weakened at the broken places. What are your thoughts on this subject? And more to the point, would your marriage survive infidelity?
Linda Lee Greene’s latest novel “Cradle of the Serpent” explores the causes and consequences of infidelity in the long-term marriage of archaeologists Lily and Jacob Light. Hover your mouse here goo.gl/i3UkAV to find it on Amazon. Look for her on Facebook and on Twitter @LLGreeneAuthor.