One single kiss and now she’s branded a cheat, her reputation tarnished forever. I know how she feels. It all started with a kiss for me as well …
In the first minutes of 2010, under the light of a full moon and amidst the spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks Sydney Harbour is famous for, I found myself in the arms of a man who wasn’t my husband. By body didn’t hesitate to respond as he kissed me on the lips while my mind kept telling me to stop. I was married to someone else. This was cheating. The kind of cheating I’ve been taught is unforgivable.
I would love to tell you that we only went as far as that kiss on New Year’s Eve – a momentary lapse of judgement blamed on too much wine and the magic of the fireworks. But the kiss was just the beginning. Within weeks I was spending stolen hours in hotel rooms exploring the nakedness of a man who was the husband of someone else. I wanted to feel guilty, ashamed and disgusted with myself, but instead I revelled in the delight of being desired.
‘Once a cheat, always a cheat’ my mother used to tell me in those dating years before I got married. ‘If he’s done it once, he’ll do it again,’ is the advice of all the relationship experts. And here I am in my forties, officially a cheater. Does that mean I’m going to do it again? Am I untrustworthy?
The secret to why I had an affair with another man lies in the relationship I had with my husband. After sixteen years of marriage we had become more flatmates than partners. I used to joke that we only had sex on Valentine’s Day and Christmas. The truth was pretty close to that. For more years than I care to remember we had sex only three or four times a year.
The lack of sex wasn’t the problem in itself; the problem was why we weren’t having sex. From the outside we looked like every other married couple. We worked hard, had our own interests and rarely fought. But underneath the apparent harmony lay a fetid pit of emotional abuse. Nothing I did was ever good enough; I wasn’t pretty enough or smart enough. He never told me he loved me or that I looked beautiful. I lived in an emotional desert. And when another man offered me a drink of cool, fresh water, I was unable to resist.
A lot of women have marriages that have long since lost their passion. There is a deep ache in their hearts for appreciation, affection and to feel desired. Most women accept this yearning as something they just have to bear. They have children to care for; bills to pay and feel keenly that straying from their partner means they will be outcasts in a society that expects women to be monogamous. They shut down their libido and supress any attraction to a man that gives them the attention they don’t get at home.
Perhaps it was because I didn’t have any children, I was financially independent and I didn’t worry too much for the opinions of others, that I had the courage to walk down a path that would end my marriage and transform my life. Two and a half years after that New Year’s Eve, I am now in a relationship with another man who is my soul mate. He tells me he loves me, he lets me know I’m beautiful and we can’t keep our hands off each other. Sex is frequent, intimate and mind-blowing. Should he worry that I’ve cheated in a relationship so I’m bound to do it again?
When a women cheats it’s not for fun or variety – it’s because they feel stifled, unfulfilled, frustrated, and helpless in their marriages or long term relationships. We need all three sides of the love triangle – intimacy (feeling close, connected and bonded), passion (romance, physical attraction and sexual consummation) and commitment (a choice to maintain love over the long term). When all of these elements are present there is no need to stray. My partner doesn’t need to worry about my fidelity while our relationship remains intimate, passionate and committed.
And this time if it all falls apart, we’ll say our goodbyes with love and respect long before the fetid swamp of emotional pain drives me into the arms of another man.
So what do you think? Once a cheat always a cheat?