I read the article on MSNBC about a woman who went undercover on a dating site specifically for cheaters, Ashley Madison. As I read it I made several notes to self. Notes, which, by the way, are probably irrelevant since I’ve never been married. Never been close. Never even been in a serious relationship much longer than a year. But that doesn’t mean I don’t watch relationships around me unravel. Or change with the ebbs and flows of life. Or listen to frustrations or fears. Or watch as friends settle, then regret it. Or even be happy. Yes, there are happy stories for this cynical girl!
My first response is although the article did state that women and men cheat about equally, it was from the perspective of a female author, which means she was learning about men cheaters. I’ve heard that while men cheat for sex, women cheat for intimate connections with another. The bottom line is, for all people, something seems to be missing. The one despicable thing about these relationships is none of the people using Ashley Madison seem to be willing to communicate the things that are lacking. And in some cases, for men, it was that intimate connection, or a challenging mind, or an outlet just to talk. It was like the men had grown bored. Not just with sex (or in most finger-pointing scenarios, we all believe, lack thereof). But with the connection with their spouse. Life had become mundane, repetitive, and the men felt like they had already lived the best years of their lives.
Oh. My. God. HOW DEPRESSING! Seriously? These men get married and their lives get worse? That blows. Really. And I don’t doubt they feel this way. I also don’t doubt they have a bit of the whiny “woe is me” syndrome going on. We all get it. I got it in my late twenties/early thirties. It felt like “this is it?” And while I stewed in that self-pity for awhile, I ultimately figured out that this is only it if I LET this be it! That’s when I started to think about what I’d want my life to be if it could be anything. A few things in my “dream life” were writing, traveling, trying new things, learning to really cook, finding a dream home and decorating it the way I want it (emphasis on I, not on the next owners), spending a lot of time with my parents, sisters and nieces and nephews, finding those really good friends and spending time with them, and less time with the not-so-great friends that seemed to be plaguing my life, figuring out MY meaning of life, finding a connection with God/the universe, making peace with/preparing for death (yes, seriously – I have an irrational fear of death). I wanted to not only grow and change and improve as a person, but experience stuff, and appreciate life more. Ultimately I wanted to quit my job, but realized I might have to give everything else up in order to do that. So I decided I’d concede to the job thing so I could afford everything else. Hey, life’s not perfect!
OK, so what’s my point? I often don’t have a point, I know. It’s part of my charm.
My point is, I didn’t want the past to be the best there ever would be. When I was in high school I looked at some of the athletes or popular people and thought they were lucky. But after high school, it became apparent those were the best years of their lives. And while a lot of people really lived it up in college, I chose the path less traveled, lived with my parents, found an “un-fun” job that was in my career path, and got through college. Did I do some partying? Sure. But did I skip class, hold keggers at my house, and get banged in a six girl train? No. Part of me wished I had what most of my friends had while it was happening. But when college was over and I had a job and wasn’t shackled with student loan debt, I was more thankful for where I was.
Anyway, regardless of this, and regardless of the fact that I’d given up stuff, I also had a lot of great experiences I look back on and relish. And miss. But if I’m honest, I wouldn’t go back to having no expendable income. To the curfews and midterm papers and group work. NO THANK YOU. That all sucked. Just like I have fleeting moments where I want to be 14 again. No responsibilities, no job, no worries. But then I remember the cattiness, the being misunderstood, the sharing a bathroom with six other people, no privacy, teachers. Ew.
So, what was my point?
Well, first, I think those people who are blaming someone else for their cheating ways have to take some accountability on their own. Make your life meaningful. If your life’s boring, encourage your spouse to take on new activities with you (and no I don’t mean just in the bedroom, but I also don’t mean NOT the bedroom). Create the life you want. Bring that person along. If you were in love enough with this person at one point to dedicate your life to them, what’s changed? Is it just that you’re not having sex with a stranger? I doubt it. Because I know at one point in your life when you WERE doing that, you found it unfulfilling enough to find someone to connect with more deeply. If you’re annoyed that she’s let herself go, find a way to incorporate healthy eating and more activity into your lives. Cook together. Workout together. And look at yourself before you judge your husband or wife. Many people who are unhappy with the physical appearance of their spouse aren’t looking so hot themselves. And husbands, give your wives a little bit of a break if she’s sprung six of your offspring from her loins. Her body’s not going to look the same. BUT, she should be taking care of herself. As should you. I mean, you have kids. Do you really want to die early? Think of how sad they’ll be. Take care of yourselves!
If you’re not having enough sex, then figure out why. Is it because you’re run ragged working all the time, raising the kids, keeping up the house? Could you find another way to get these chores done? Get a babysitter for a night and go out on a real date? Hell, even if it’s just dinner and a movie. Do it up like your first date. Remember those? All giddy, spending tons of time choosing an outfit, fixing your hair, texting your girlfriends in anticipation. Get that babysitter an hour early so you can indulge in getting ready. Get ready separately. Have him come to the door to get you. And trust me, this is good for your kids, too. Did your parents ever do this? My parents didn’t. But I think it would have shown me that it’s OK to still be affectionate with your spouse. That you do still love each other. And you know what? Do all of the “foreplay” stuff you used to do on dates. Sit on the same side of the booth. Hold hands. Don’t talk about the kids on the ride there. Talk about fun stuff. Sexy stuff. Tell each other you look sexy. Pretend at the end of the night you’re not going home together. Do whatever it takes. Then seal the deal at the end of the night! I know the first year of a child’s life is hard to do this stuff, but beyond that, you really don’t have an excuse. Does part of you like the mundane, the routine? I’m sure you do. Hell, take it from me. Spend a Friday night at a bar watching the men and women. It’ll probably remind you of why you got out. And if it all looks fun, then find a way to do it again.
And men, you’d be surprised how many girlfriends I have that bitch to me about how after marriage their husbands stopped putting out. They’re not interested, even when she initiates it. They’re too tired or whatever their excuse is. And these are beautiful girls. And not just because they’re my friends. But they’re beautiful, in shape, take care of themselves, and when they go out, other guys hit on them. And they’ve been married for less than five years. One of them less than a year. And if they’ve reached the point they’ll say it publicly to friends and sorta-friends, you know it’s bad. Most of my married friends keep up the facade as long as they can before the burst.
So don’t just blame the women on decreased sex drives. Men get this way, too. It only took one night at a Slumber Party with just enough Summer Brew to realize marriage isn’t what us single girls think it might be. It’s as frustrating as the single life. Worse, maybe, because these girls have committed themselves to a marriage where they don’t feel desired. They don’t feel connected. And someday, they’ll find someone who does it for them. If they haven’t already.
It breaks my heart to watch the marriages of my friends fall apart. To watch them slowly drift apart from each other when they were so connected. To remember what they had and wonder how it turned out this way. It makes me more cynical than my own eternal single life makes me. It makes me question whether marriage is natural. Whether monogamy is good for anyone, other than the kids. And while it’s easy for me to say, “Talk about it.” How many times have they tried? At some point, you don’t want to have the same conversation anymore, and it’s easier to cut the cord and move on. And it’s even easier to never have the cord-cutting conversation, but to move on anyway.