Mixed Up Marriage

I just happened to hear a news clip on a major network’s morning news show talking about marriage. The talk was that some people are now choosing a “menu approach” to marriage, and negotiating up front things like 3 free cheat days per year. Or sex with another person every 10 years.


Cheating and sexual abuse is not new. Yes – I equate cheating with sexual abuse. So the oxymoron of writing in “cheat days” to your marriage contract? The term ‘cheat’ means to defraud, to swindle. It means to deceive or influence by fraud, to elude or deprive someone of something expected. Ergo, when a person enters into a marriage, it is with the intent that they are defining something unique and special about the relationship. They are declaring to the outside world and to each other that this is different, this one is for keeps, this is for the good times and the bad times and the reason I’m willing to this to everyone is because you matter, you are valued and I want to mesh with you like none other.

It’s somewhat easy to stand on the outside and look at news stories about new types of relationships, watch videos about girls who share their guy or listen to a podcast about a couple of folks in an “open marriage.” To kind of say “Oh, I wouldn’t do that, but whatever makes you happy.” Pretty much sums out how I lived – never really engaging in the conversation or caring. That is until it is about you. Until you find out your partner considered your marriage open but forgot to mention it to you. Until you realize that your partner invited someone else’s DNA into your vagina and someone else’s sexual desires into his mind. Until you see that he remembers, or maybe wants, to send her flowers on Valentine’s Day. But not you. Until you realize he can’t be bothered to make a restaurant reservation for you, but is planning plane trips and getaways with her. No…when it comes to your house, contracted or not, it is devastating. I know this personally, and I know it from spending hours and hours and hours with other women – both betrayers and betrayeds, and even some who agreed to open marriages or other such inane arrangements. It may look good on paper, but when it begins to be lived out…the pain…the agony…


So I don’t buy it. I don’t buy any concept of marriage that isn’t committed and unique and sacred. We are humans – not animals thinking from just our limbic brain. Yes, our sexual needs are great and need to be met, but apart from engaging our minds and spirits and souls they are empty and uninspiring. They may release dopamine in our brains but don’t spur tenderness in our souls. Anyone who understands cheating knows it isn’t about sex anyway. And if your partner hasn’t dealt with whatever it is that causes him/her to need something else, something out there, then he/she isn’t bringing all he/she is to the table. To your table. To your life and your relationship.

I sat around a work table recently with five unique women from vastly different backgrounds. All are beautiful, and smart, and caring, and kind. All five…ALL FIVE…100%…have been directly impacted by infidelity in their lives. This was not a support group, or a women’s group for troubled marriages. This was a professional setting that had nothing to do with sex or sexual abuse or cheating or marriage. But the subject arose, and around the room, this is what came out:

One woman’s father had cheated on her mom…the aftermath a traumatic time for a preteen. The next one discovered after 20 years together that her husband was a cheater, and not the father of her children only. The next one is the daughter of a mom married to a cheater, watching her mom immobilized to move out of the abusive relationship and feeling completely and utterly impotent to help. The next? The daughter of a serial cheater who watched her own mother wither into oblivion, and who met numerous ½ siblings through the years…and is now grieving as her own daughter experiences a cheating spouse. Then of course, me. You know my story but in case you don’t, I’m the wife of a serial cheater, a sex addict, who artfully hid it from me for 25 years sending me into complete and utter trauma, and deeply impacting our beautiful children through his lies and manipulations to keep his double life secret.

No. Don’t buy it. We are selling out our humanity, our souls, our spirits, our minds if we allow ourselves to believe that having some sham of a marriage is healthy, or leads to wholeness or growth or peace. We are just furthering whatever hole is in the cheater, allowing him to fill it with temporary crap that ultimately leaves him more desolate than before.


If you don’t want to have a marriage, don’t get married. If you don’t want to forsake all others, then don’t take on the promise. If you don’t want to press into the challenges and find strength you never knew you had, don’t enter the race. If you don’t want to bare all to become one, then don’t. Marriage is about so much more than sex – a commodity that is for sale on a street corner, on the internet or through a device. If you enter marriage…it is just different and about the whole you, the complete you, if you even know who that person is. The trail of turmoil and agony you leave behind when you forsake your marriage, not only for your partner, but for friends and family and any precious children just isn’t worth filling your emptiness or curiosity with lies. And I speak from one who has found deep intimacy; there is nothing and no one out there that can compare or who is worth the risk of damaging the beauty of real marriage.




51 thoughts on “Mixed Up Marriage

  1. Beautifully written and I absolutely LOVE the quote!!!

    I have come to believe that there is a selfishness combined with cowardice that is at the root of cheaters, especially serial cheaters. Cheating is the symptom (and an unacceptable one at that), but selfishness and cowardice are the disease that must be rooted out.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Or Disney? I think the Disney fairy tale mixed with the instant gratification society we’ve become are a poor foundation for marriage.

        We have a society of adults who think that marriage should be “happily ever after,” that marriage should “make me happy,” “make me whole.” Never realizing, never wanting to realize, that these things must come from within. And, so the assumption that something must be wrong with the marriage or their partner is the easier path than to look in the mirror and see one’s true self. And, instead they behave like children looking for “instant” self-esteem through they eyes of others, which is not really self-esteem at all, but truly nothing more than ego-stroking that needs constant feeding.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. And, yes, as much as I hate to admit it, there must have been a part of the Disney fantasy in my mind as well. For many years, I threw myself into being MC’s wife as part of holding up that fantasy. Now, I am throwing myself into being authentically TL. She can be a real bitch sometimes. But, I’m ok with that. 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

        2. oh yes…funny how all the fairy tales (Disney and big-kid ones like romantic flicks) end…END at “they lived happily ever after.” Oh yea? So what does that look like? We never see that do we?…

          Liked by 1 person

  2. If you’re going to write in ‘cheat days’ you’re not really cheating, you’re just having sex with someone else. You could always cheat a third party, however, by not informing them that you’re in a relationship. A friend told me only yesterday that the reason her eldest child never knew his father is that he only revealed AFTER my friend fell pregnant (and they had made plans for their future) that he had a flat and a live-in girlfriend in another part of the country. And he was happy with that arrangement so he was not going to be in her life or the life of her baby. He broke this startling news in the public bar of a smart hotel over iced champagne, so it was difficult for my friend to express her opinions (she is British). I also do not have the words.

    I agree with you, of course. ‘And if your partner hasn’t dealt with whatever it is that causes him/her to need something else, something out there, then he/she isn’t bringing all he/she is to the table. To your table. To your life and your relationship.’ That’s what’s tough about this. You can’t get without putting in. You can’t hide.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You say it isn’t cheating if you’ve written in a cheat day. I’d respond it isn’t a marriage if you write in a cheat day. That would be kind of like a university having an honor code that everyone signs, yet telling the students that a day or two during the academic year it doesn’t apply. Why have an honor code if there isn’t honor all the time – what is unique about that day or two that makes honor not applicable or important? A couple women I know were in “open relationships” that they agreed to, yet once they started embarking on it they cried out no. It hurt too much. So in my humble opinion, I think the concept is just another lie…and my encouragement is that if you don’t want to be married with all that married means, don’t do it . Just don’t. Carry on, do what you want (with other unmarrieds) but just don’t try to balance…ultimately people get destroyed. Thanks so much for replying, and I can just imagine the scene at the hotel…the iced champagne…what a nice touch.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh I agree, I just mean that if the arrangement is to have these days you’re not ‘cheating’ if you do. I don’t think any of these arrangements are a good idea. There are plenty of examples of misery from periods of Bohemian experimentation in the past without adding to them.

        It does appear that even when people have ‘arrangements’ they’re still broken – ‘cheating’ still happens. Having a secret is sometimes the point.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I am 100% with you…I Love your writings, your honesty and your intelligence and insight.
    Now here is my personal challenge and the inner demon I struggle with….
    How can a wife and mother with the values you described above be able to be with a partner who did not forsake all others, who traumatised you and your kids, who as you put it sexually abused you?
    You know I wrote about “grace” and “forgiveness” and all topics dealing with healing such as finding meaning, dealing with triggers….investigating memory and how it fools us and keeps us trappped….
    but, as I also wrote to TigerLily…something is missing and I do not think the betrayed can fill that void….To me it seems that the betrayed and let’s be honest…the ones who do most writing and most work are the women…need something that maybe the ones who betray are not capable in giving. How can they be capable of years of selfish behaviour and continuous lying and “change” in a trustworthy person…is this even possible? Are we fooling ourselves…
    Do we want to fool ourselves as we do not want to give up on the fairy tale marriage …the idea that it exists?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh dear Dr. E…I ponder on that in flashes. And cling to the actions – not the words – of HUSBAND. His actions have been so consistent, so entirely different than the man he was for 27 years. It honestly feels like a different person, a different marriage entirely. If he’d not been willing to do whatever, and I mean WHATEVER it took, I don’t think I would have considered staying. I will never have blind trust but am slowly building healthy trust in this new relationship. I do not believe in fairy tales, but I do believe that brokenness can be redeemed. I guess that’s what I’m banking on 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

      1. “I do not believe in fairy tales, but I do believe that brokenness can be redeemed.”

        After all of the years invested, I so want to believe this to be true. It is the foundation of trying, isn’t it? And, then I start asking myself about the whole sunk costs dilemma. . .

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I still believe in marriage. I agree that it’s between two people and once you invite someone else to listen to your heartache and dreams, or share your body, it’s a violation that is destructive in your spouse but also your families. If you don’t want to choose to be committed, don’t lie and say you do.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Dr. E,

    “How can they be capable of years of selfish behaviour and continuous lying and “change” in a trustworthy person…is this even possible? Are we fooling ourselves…”

    You know this is my struggle, to believe he can truly change, that he is truly changing. I don’t want to fool myself. But, I do need to understand why I stay with someone who did all of these things. Even if he is changing, learning to not be guided by self-pity, selfishness and cowardice, he cannot “unfuck” anyone. He can never repay to me what he has taken. Something about seeing him want to try, makes me want to try. Something about feeling like he is the friend I need him to be now, makes me want to try. And, yet, am I being a fool? I don’t know. I do ask myself that very question. And, I don’t really know the answer.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Me either, TL. And I think this actually is part of the freedom. I know now that I am going to be okay, and that in our total and utter brokenness, we are meeting together like we never did before. It is such a new kind of trying, trying with hope.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Yes! Yes! Yes! I had actually just written something similar as a response…what I said was part of the freedom now is that through this process…I now I am whole and ok. And if he does betray now…now that we are really open and revealed? I will be sad, and hurt, but ok and whole.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. I ask myself that exact question every single day….am I still being the fool by believing that someone can change after 25 years of not wanting to change….even worse, am I betraying myself and my dignity by even allowing him the chance?

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Oh too long…I can’t answer that for you. I can barely answer it for myself. For me, it was a moment by moment by moment thing, literally, and before I knew it, moments had added up to days and so on. In the meantime, HUSBAND proves to me every day, most moments, that he is all in, completely changed. ACTIONS are what I read now, not words. Just know you have support whatever you decide…xoxo

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Toolongtolivethisway, I, like you, struggle with whether or not I am betraying myself. I struggle with what example are my choices after this devastation setting for our children. I don’t know the answers, clearly I haven’t a clue. But, I do think savingshards is on to something.

        It is the actions, not the words. Moments, add up to days, to months, to years. It is not always linear though, is it? We do not have a crystal ball, as much as I often wish we did. So, as much as our partner goes moment-by-moment, day-by-day on their path toward redemption, we do as well on our path toward healing and we watch their actions, and we take our risks, we make our choices and, hopefully learn to have enough faith in ourselves and, perhaps some higher power that no matter what happens, we will be ok (G-d, am I still working on this one) .

        As far as MC’s journey forward, one of our counselors explained it to us like this. We build superhighways in our brain that form the basis of our thoughts and behaviors. MC must stop using the superhighway that he built with selfishness, self-pity and cowardice and start building a new highway based on empathy, gratitude and courage. . .He can use the old, very well-built highway or can make the harder choice of working on building the new highway. Every time he makes the choice to work on that new highway, it makes it stronger. And the longer he stays off the old-highway, the more disuse it experiences, the less likely it will be to be used. But, it must be a constant and conscious effort to build and use that new highway.

        I don’t know, I really haven’t a clue. Just know you are not in alone in these and struggles. TL xx

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Edited, yikes. Saving Shards could you please erase the unedited version!

    Also, I think at some point I have to accept that by trying, with MC or anyone, I may in fact be played the fool again. Ultimately, we need to get to a point that we KNOW we will be ok no matter what happens. If I am played the fool again, I will ultimately be ok (still working on that one). If I stay in a place of fear (with MC or without), I remain in my walled off prison. It may sound too much of a “devil you know” kind of argument, but MC is taking safety measures to mitigate my risks, could I expect such measures from any other partner?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha! Removed 🙂
      Yes! Yes! Yes! I had actually just written something similar as a response…what I said was part of the freedom now is that through this process…I now I am whole and ok. HUSBAND also continues to take safety measures…and to allow any questions or back up if I’m having a “doubting” moment (which seem to be lessening).

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I loved the last paragraph of this blog so much that I posted it to FB with a link to your blog. You are doing an amazing job of sharing your heart but also sharing wisdom and hope. Kudos and thanks to you, dear friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice….I remember when that movie came out.
    I’m with you….if you can’t keep it in your pants….don’t get married….and just be thankful that when we find out that you are a scumbag, we don’t go all Lorena Bobbit on your ass.
    If you want tramps, marry THEM…..then your values will be equal!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I agree with the sentiment of “if you’re going to cheat, have sex with others, however you want to put it, then why get married? ” However, and I have said this out loud to both H and my therapist – if only H had discussed with me when we met that he didn’t plan to be/wasn’t capable of being 100% monogamous during our relationship, I would have at least been given the opportunity to make the choice if I was OK with that, or not. Instead, I was made to believe I had landed that fairy tale prince who would be with me, and only me.

    So, as I see it, the positive message in the news story is that at least this is something these couples entering into “modern marriages” have openly discussed and agreed upon together. Maybe the couple truly understands the ramifications, or maybe not, but at least the subject is brought up between them. I wasn’t given the right of refusal – the choice to have other women in my marriage was made for me without my knowledge, and hidden from me. It would have been nice to know what I was getting into 25 years ago.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks for your insight, sunshine. I see what you are saying. I, too, had no choice or even the remotest idea this was a moral possibility for the man I thought I was marrying/married to. Truth is, thought, he didn’t have the remotest idea this was a moral possibility for himself…and during all of his affairs…he kept justifying that his situation was different. He was different. He wasn’t “one of them” and he even shared with me the disdain he felt for the couple of cheaters we did know. Perhaps there is some strength in pre-discussing/agreeing on it, but I’d argue back – that isn’t marriage. It is a semi-committed partnership, or an intermittently devoted pairing – but not marriage. And with the women I am in group with who did agree to one of these arrangements up front, it still felt like cheating, like betrayal. But yes…I would have appreciated having the option to know that HUSBAND couldn’t/wouldn’t be faithful – and I can assure you I would not have married him…although, I would have missed what I now have…

      Liked by 2 people

  10. What is the world becoming?! Cheat days?! So very sad. Things seem to be going into such a terrible direction. I am so with you SS – marriage is a sacred union and it should be a union that’s not (only) made for sex, but as a partnership of trust, support and live between two equal honest participants. Why get married if you know you won’t honour the person with your soul, care, love forever? That would be the whole point.

    Having said that, I very much see the point in Sunshinelifeforme’s comment, too: our husbands have us their words to come into the MARRIAGE as we define it, there were very unambiguous words and promises we mutually agreed to when we uttered our vows in front of the Lord and all our friends and family – and they betrayed us, they broke the promises they made to us, they disrespected, hurt and broke us. I, too, was not given the right of refusal, I was lead to believe we are in it for the same reasons and the same rules – if I knew then what I was up against I would have loved to have the choice of not getting into it.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I agree. People who need to cheat can stay out of marriage and just have an “open relationship”, even then, ONLY if they tell their partner…. which they obviously almost never do… *sigh*. When are people going to learn to get to know themselves? I knew who I was already in my teens, and I knew I would never cheat in a serious relationship, and years and years later, I never have! That is how I know I can be in a serious relationship or in a marriage. I am tired of this attitude in society that cheating is ok. It is NOT.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. OMG, Savingshards, all the time I look through my favourites…I DO have to see that horrible photo you placed on top ! Eeewwww breast hair….at least no other hairs (if you know what I mean) in sight…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh now I will have to go and look at this in a big screen! Ewww. Thankfully the WP app doesn’t show THAT pic. (Reminded me that the OW had hairs on her nipples from time to time – such a catch 😉)

      Liked by 2 people

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