"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Saturday, April 10, 2010

An Open Letter to Men Who Cheat


After watching in disgust over the last months as John Edwards, Tiger Woods and Jesse James all had their dirty laundry aired before a world-wide audience, I have found myself relating to the women and children who are dealing with the pain of those betrayals. I know all too well the embarrassment and shock that comes from finding that someone you loved and trusted is not the person you believed them to be—nor is your life what you imagined. It has, quite possibly, all been a lie.

I know women cheat, and are as guilty as men of this behavior, but I can only speak from the side I know, and so I offer this open letter to men who cheat. To clarify, I am specifically writing this letter to men who cheat who are husbands and fathers.

To Men Who Cheat:

Perhaps you got married too young. Perhaps you married the wrong person and know it now. Perhaps there is nothing wrong in your marriage and you can’t help yourself. Whatever the reason you are stepping outside of your marriage—whether it is once, twice, or too many times to count—you have no excuse. You may think—if only you knew MY situation. Well, I do. I grew up watching my parents in a broken marriage and knowing my father was cheating. I knew it before I knew what cheating meant. I knew it before I knew what sex was. I knew it and learned it before I learned what it meant to fall in love or be in love.

You may say that there was no way for a child of four to know all that. You would be wrong. While I didn’t know the details, I overheard arguments my parents swear (to this day) that I could not have heard because they took care to be quiet. Even when I recite word for word things I heard at four years old and still remember verbatim, they deny it. They deny it as the shock washes over their faces that I could say those words. Words they DID speak over thirty years ago. Words I have never once forgotten. Words I recorded in my head, words I didn’t understand the meaning of. But each syllable remained in my brain until each year passed and I understood their definitions.

Not only are you hurting someone that at least at one time you cherished—adored—loved—enough to stand in front of a churchful of people, and/or God, or just everyone you knew and loved on both sides of your families and someone legally allowed to unite you—and said—YOU are the one, and I will do right by you, honor you. Not only are you hurting this woman, changing her life, demeaning her, disrespecting her, hurting her in ways she could never have imagined…you aren’t just cheating on her. You are cheating on the children you brought into this world.

If I know you, and I do, you have somehow separated the two things completely. What is going on with you and your mistress(es) has NOTHING to do with your children. You love your children unconditionally. And they love you the same way. And therein lies the key. You expect their unconditional love despite your actions. And you will get it. And it won’t cost you a thing. But, it will cost them everything.

No matter how careful you believe you are, how little you think your wife knows, how justified you think you are for what you are doing, know that, in addition to damaging your wife’s self esteem, your children’s self images will be redrawn by your choices. You can shake your head reading these words. But, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it will happen.

Your son may grow to resent you for your treatment of his mother, but somehow, inexplicably in the torment of learning what we live as children, he may grow up to do the same thing, cause the same pain, repeating what may be a never-ending cycle of broken vows and lost faith.

Your daughter may grow up to date and/or marry men who treat her just as you are treating your wife now. And somehow, no matter how hard she tries to choose differently, she will always end up with this same type of man. And the cycle will continue as her children learn what they live.

And this I can promise you. No matter how your children end up, at one time or another, and maybe always, they will somehow blame themselves for what you have done. It makes no sense, and you may believe there is no possibility of this. But, they will. They do. Right now. They believe if only they had done something different, you wouldn’t have torn their family apart, wouldn’t have made such an important and devastating choice.

So, as you make a list of all the reasons you are justified, or even if you feel you don’t need to explain yourself to anyone… ask yourself this: is it REALLY worth it? Is a lifetime of damage and pain that will repeat itself for generations…is that worth it?

It’s not. I promise you. Some words of advice…if you are headed in the cheating direction…be a man. Step up to the plate and either make a choice to heal your marriage—or leave. How many times have those of us who grew up in these households heard that our parents stayed together for the children? This gift you are giving us is a ticking time bomb. This gift of “staying” is a prison sentence for everyone involved. Show us (your children) that real adults face the end of things and respect everyone involved enough to do the hard things. To make the hard choices. To do the right thing even when it isn’t easy. Teach us how to be honest, to make tough decisions, to treat people with respect.

Perhaps none of this will happen. Perhaps you will never be caught. Perhaps if you are (or have already been) caught, there will be no repercussions. Perhaps your wife will remain whole and unscarred, and your children will grow up to find the love you somehow didn’t, and have the healthiest of relationships, the happiest of families. Perhaps. And maybe you won’t regret what you are doing or have done. Maybe it won’t matter one bit.

But, ask yourself…how likely is that?

Read the words I have written above, read almost every entry on this blog. I am your daughter, decades from now, all grown up, living with the choices you have made or are making.

I can answer a lot of questions for you.

I can tell you how my life has been changed, altered and damaged by these choices you have made or are making, how it still affects my life even as I have just celebrated my 40th birthday.

Trust me.

It matters.

29 comments:

An Open Heart April 10, 2010 at 1:24 AM  

Bravo! Bravo! There are a lot of choices parents make that they think will not affect their kids and that is because they underestimate the power of a child's intuition. Children are sponges and absorb EVERYTHING, whether they know it or not. And, cheaters, both mom or dad, damage their child's ability to know what a good, loving relationship is.

Well done.
S ♥

Eva Gallant April 10, 2010 at 4:28 AM  

A very powerful, real post. Excellent.

PrincessKate April 10, 2010 at 5:25 AM  

Thanks for this post. I wish my ex would have read it several years ago. I briefly considered sending it to him today, but realised that this would give him too much power. I am in recovery, as are my children. The less we have to do with him the better.

They know not what they do....

AssertiveWit and Babybottoms April 10, 2010 at 8:21 AM  

this was written perfectly...if I could give you a standing ovation, I would :)

~ Dawn Sparks ~ April 10, 2010 at 8:39 AM  

Bravo! Well put words. It still surprises me at how a relationship such as this still haunts me making me feel not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough. It would have been easier to take a fist than this pain! I don't think it ever goes away!

Alli April 10, 2010 at 10:21 AM  

Thank you for sharing those deep emotions. This was such an intense read!

Loredana April 10, 2010 at 11:27 AM  

You are so right in all you write. At the end when you say 'perhaps you won't be caught or if you are your wife and kids will remain unscarred, etc"...remember this that although they are not 'caught' I believe they have to live with guilt. I believe that the cheaters or anyone that does wrongdoing lives with guilt. And even if you are caught and your partner stays with you and life goes on, there will always be a part of your relationship that was broken.

Thank you so much for putting such a huge perspective on what's going on lately with all these cheaters. I know it goes on all the time but to sit and hear it and watch these scarred people face these damages, hurts even us.

PrincessKate April 10, 2010 at 11:33 AM  

Unfortunately, there are some cheaters who do not feel guilt. They are called sociopaths. To them there is nothing wrong with what they do unless it affects them directly. They are unable to empathise with other human beings and lie and skate around the edges of truth as long as they can get away with it. 18 years in my case....

mama2lilev April 10, 2010 at 2:14 PM  

Well stated!! From the daughter of a cheater who now still to this day, pays for his many indiscretions. Thank you

Crystal April 10, 2010 at 9:05 PM  

Very well said.. the problem is people who cheat are very selfish and incapable of thinking about how their actions will affect their children, their spouse (partner) or even the other person involved. They only care about themselves. In my childhood home it was my mom who cheated, so its not just the men. : )

ANNiE April 11, 2010 at 9:17 AM  

Wow...thank you...took the words right out of my mouth.

Christina April 12, 2010 at 11:02 AM  

What a powerful documented 'real' feelings post!!

I watched the Masters tournament Sasturday & Sunday and each time Woods, the dirtbag, came to each hole to putt out, I yelled to the TV miss it & most times he did! Im sick & tired of newscasters lamenting about Tigers woes & I hope the next tourney he participates in THE AUDIENCE BOO HIM!!!

I was once a fan of Tiger, no more!

Peggy Jo April 14, 2010 at 3:58 PM  

I weep with you Kim at the truth of which you have dared to now give voice to. It took great courage and much considered thought to express what is the truth of what children know and perceive even at a very early age. I thank you and those who will begin the healing process because of the words you dared to speak that were locked up in their souls all this time but maybe did not have the words to express what they have been feeling all these years. Again, thank you for sharing. May it help others to heal as well. Blessings, PJ

RMB April 14, 2010 at 5:29 PM  

Great post. For my own observations on the moral opportunity presented by public splashing of infidelity:

http://rmbpcola.blogspot.com/2010/01/sex-addicts-or-moral-opportunity-for.html

RMB
Pensacola, Florida

Matt April 16, 2010 at 5:30 AM  

Excellent post. I got married last year after 9 years in a relationship. I love my wife dearly and the idea of hurting her by being unfaithful is awful. I believe in family values and it saddens me to see people entering into marriage or even committed relationships only to find out one or the other has betrayed what it stands for. It happens all to often in my view and I think it is a both result of and a cause of some of the reasons we are hearing about the social decline in our youth. Don't morals, values, respect etc mean anything any more?

Pat April 17, 2010 at 4:42 PM  

You do write from the heart and with experience. Unfortunately men think with the wrong "head". I'm divorced and remarried and my second husband adopted my kids. My I still think my son wouldn't of had all the problems he had growing up if his biological father had paid him some attention. He still sees his bio father at family functions (my sister and I married brothers), and he barely speaks to my son. Although my son loves his father (my husband) he still feels a tie to his bio father (who has nothing to do with him.) So, yes, when he cheated on me, it hurt the kids. Most definitely.!

California Girl April 21, 2010 at 5:43 PM  

Wow. On the mark and very true.

My husband is the son of a cheating father. He did not grow to be like him, mercifully, but the resentment he felt towards his father and mother, for taking him back, is pretty deep. By the time his dad died, my husband was almost not speaking to him. You are right, it's a lifetime of hurt.

Brittany J. May 5, 2010 at 4:57 PM  

Wow, just came across your blog. I'm absolutely floored. This letter has touched so many emotional cords as I too come from a broken home caused by infidelity. Bravo! I look forward to reading more!

Cheri Pryor May 22, 2010 at 2:14 PM  

Excellent post!! The letter is from the heart and well written, as always.

My take on this?

"Dear men who cheat,

You suck.

Forever haunting you in your dreams,
Cheri"

Rainysoul May 29, 2010 at 12:00 PM  

As a man who has lived through much (my mom went through 5 divorces by the time I was 17), I take issue with only one point. The "prison sentence". If that's all it is, don't do it, get divorced. As much as that sucks, if you're not trying to improve your marriage, its obvious that you don't like each, and your kids know that as well. Yes, having been a kid through all that, I would still say that. On the other hand if you're willing to try, it could make all the difference in the world. Marriage is rarely easy, and even with the example of my mom, I've only been married once, and we're going on 18 years.

California Girl May 31, 2010 at 11:08 AM  

Have you stopped writing? Or are you on a break? This is well-written, heartfelt, poignant.

Hope to see you back.

Peggy Jo May 31, 2010 at 6:41 PM  

I haven't seen anything on the blog recently. Thinking of you and hope all is well. Peggy Jo

Angella Lister June 1, 2010 at 12:49 PM  

Missing you. Hope all is well.

Kim June 1, 2010 at 6:49 PM  

I cannot tell you what it meant to get these messages--those of you checking in on me. Sometimes you wonder--is anyone reading this? But, it was so sweet to know my internet friends were wondering where I was.
I had hit a slump--a lot of writer's block and a lot of life and busy days. This helped me out of it though. Thanks for all the sweet comments.

Medexpressrx November 22, 2010 at 1:42 AM  

Cheating husbands/ boyfriends have always existed. Though there is no excuse to stray out of a relationship, some of the reasons why men tend to look for love outside their relationship could be lust, revenge, lack of combination or lack of moral.

read more: men who cheat

Neviah Hughes October 9, 2013 at 8:20 PM  

Too bad more men don't think about their children more and their"tool to reproduce"less.

KFoxL October 23, 2014 at 12:33 PM  

So many important points made here. First, the cowardice of "heading down the cheating path" instead of taking an honest, yet tough, path of owning up to the problems in the relationship and fixing them or leaving. Second, the very real truth that young children understand, or at least intuit, what is going on, and never forget it. We have 4 children 8 yrs old and under and my spouse has been cheating for 5 years. He deludes himself into thinking they are too young to understand and tries, in vain, to compartmentalize his infidelity to between us. As you point out, this is not true. A cheating spouse cheats on the whole family, and the pain and damage lasts forever.

Unknown June 22, 2017 at 6:19 PM  

Aftwe reading about Prince Harry's latest revelations, I have thought more deeply about my past. I say "more deeply" because I am always aware of the impact of my Father's infedility had on me. Your blog was spot on with one exception, for me. Rather than seek out men like him, I'm afraid to admit that I swung between utter cads (who I was under no illusion could not give me what I needed) to "nice boys"
who I routinely cheated on, hating myself (and manifesting this through self harming) as I did so. I'm now in my mid-40s and resolutely single. Through choice. Ish. I've faced my strengths and weaknesses and have come to realise that "long haul" commitment (aka my biggest fear "curled up on the sofa with a glass of wine with the love of your life) fills me with - honestly - revulsion and ennui. It's not a comforting idea to know that this most likely means a single life, but this is where good, authentic friends, my dog - and who would have thought it - a genuine and transparent relationship and friendship with my cheating Dad, warts and all - is, for me at least, my family, my tribe.

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