A Roomful of Yearning and Regret
[Hat tip: T19]
This is a must-read article—a wowzer—don’t miss the last four paragraphs, but make certain you read the entire piece, over at, surprisingly, The New York Times:
NOT long ago, the friend of a friend spent the night in a hotel room, which is sometimes what you do when you find out your spouse has been having a yearlong affair. His flight was sadly predictable — it’s all many of us are capable of after discovering such a betrayal — though I am sure he now realizes that mere movement is not a fix for that kind of agony.
I know this for two reasons: No. 1, I have had an affair; No. 2, I have been the victim of one. When you unfurl these two experiences in the sunlight for comparison, and measure their worth and pain, the former is only marginally better than the latter. And both, frankly, are awful.
I recently offered my cheated-upon view of things to my acquaintance, who has returned every night for a week to that hotel because he cannot bear to look at his wife. A couple of years ago I offered the other side to a friend when she was considering having an affair.
Start, I suggested to her, by picturing yourself in the therapist’s office with your betrayed husband after you’ve been found out (and you will be found out). You will hear yourself saying you cheated because your needs weren’t being met. The spark was gone. You were bored in your marriage. Your lover understands you better. One or another version of this excuse will cross your lips like some dark, knee-jerk Hallmark-card sentiment.
I’m not saying these feelings aren’t legitimate, just that they don’t legitimize what you’re doing. If you believed they did, your stomach wouldn’t drop on your way out the door to your lover’s. You wouldn’t feel the need to shower before climbing into the marital bed after a liaison. You wouldn’t feel like a train had struck you in the back when your son asked why you forgot his lacrosse game the other day.
When you miss a family function because of work, you get over it. When you miss a family function because you were in a hotel room with your lover, you feel breathless with misery.
The great sex, by the way, is a given. When you have an affair you already know you will have passionate sex — the urgency, newness and illicit nature of the affair practically guarantee that.
What you don’t know, or perhaps what you don’t allow yourself to think about, is that your life will become an unbearable mix of yearning and regret because of it. It will be difficult if not impossible to be in any one place with contentment.
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