This isn’t by the Goddess of Java, but is by The Ferret and originally posted here. Reposted by permission. This is excellent stuff!
In my last discussion of infidelity, I outlined the four basic types of cheaters. Of that, there were only two who you could really hope to have a relationship with:
- The Wild Oat-Sower, who cheats to see whether something’s as good as they thought it was (and then, their curiosity satisfied, doesn’t do it again), and:
- The Desperate Housewife, who’s cheating because you’re doing something that’s making them miserable. Hence, they’re going elsewhere to fulfill the needs that you’re not satisfying.
I also said that when caught, the Desperate Housewife – who, despite the name, can also be a guy – will almost invariably claim that they were just working something out of their system.
But why is that? Why will these unhappy partners lie and tell you that it’s not you, it’s something they’re going through and they need to work it out? Wouldn’t it be better just to talk to you about the shit they’re going through and maybe clear it up?
The reason’s simple: Desperate Housewife cheating happens in an environment where your lover feels they’ll be punished for being honest.
If a Desperate Housewife could tell you about what was really bothering them in a way where they felt like you could listen, then they wouldn’t cheat. (They might have sex with someone else with your permission, but contrary to some popular beliefs, that’s not cheating.) But now, if they tell the truth, they’re going to get into a big long argument where they won’t be heard at all. It’s quicker to cheat.
Yes, the Desperate Housewife is a sign that your relationship has degenerated to the point where your partner now views you as an obstacle to be worked around. Your partner still loves you – otherwise they’d be out the door* –
This may not be your fault.
You could, for example, be committing the crime of “Not being the ex-girlfriend he’s hung up on,” and talking to you about how you’re really not her will just make you feel bad and cause a lot of crying. So since that’ll never change and he’s not quite ready to leave you, he’s just not going to mention how he’ll jump her if he gets the chance. Really, there’s nothing you can do.
Or perhaps you are guilty of “Unable to tell her exactly what she should do with her life right now, and she doesn’t know.” Your wife’s suddenly decided that everything in her life is wrong; she’s not satisfied with her husband or her career or her family or her hobbies. She’s drifted passively through life until now, agreeing quietly with everything people said, but a few months ago she realized that this wasn’t working.
Now she doesn’t know what will make her happy, and she’s quietly angry all the time because somebody should hand her a paper slip containing the magic words that will give her a life of fulfillment, and nobody has. Everything you suggest is complete crap that she knows won’t work – she knows it so thoroughly that she won’t even try it.
As her husband, you should be the one who knows what the hell she wants – or are you part of the problem? Hmm? Maybe?
That’s a no-win situation.
Or you might be condemned to, “Not wanting to watch your husband screw every woman in town until he’s had all of the fun he wants.” Or “Unable to agree with everything your girlfriend says.”
Some Desperate Housewives desire things that are completely unreasonable. In many cases, what they want is something that you shouldn’t provide – they probably should be punished for being honest, since what they’re asking you to do isn’t something that should be granted. And as is often the case with dysfunctional relationships, there’s really not that much common ground to work with once you clear away that dry brush. What would make your partner happy would make you miserable, so there’s no real room for negotiation.
But remember when I said that when caught, almost every Desperate Housewife will claim to be a Wild Oat-Sower? Here’s the corollary:
When a Desperate Housewife is caught, almost every partner claims that they’re doing everything that their partner can reasonably expect, whether they actually are or not.
The partner of a Desperate Housewife will almost always admit that yes, there are problems, but on the whole he’s been doing everything he should be doing. He’s been kind, communicative, understanding – it’s her that’s the problem. This is understandable. The “solvable” Desperate Housewives (the ones where they have problems that can be addressed) are generally caused by communication locks, where the cheatee feels like she’s listening properly and the cheater knows he isn’t.
What happens is often subtle; the cheatee is suppressing vital communication in some quiet way that he or she may not be aware of. Lemme give you a real-life example here to clarify things.
In a long-term relationship with an old girlfriend, I was kind, sensitive, and loving. I took care of her emotionally, I brought her flowers, I picked her up from her job, and I was an awesome boyfriend.
She cheated on me.
This was sadly common in my LTRs. Most of my girlfriends cheated on me.* And it was a surprisingly long time before I discovered the common denominator in my crappy relationships was me.
What was I doing? It was surprisingly subtle. I kept asking, “Do you love me?” (or that eternal variant, “Are we okay?”). And I didn’t just ask it once a day – oh, no, sometimes I’d ask it a couple of times an hour.
I was a good boyfriend, on many levels. If you were to ask me, I was doing what I was supposed to do, and if I was a little needy at times, well, my other fine qualities made up for it. But realistically, I was suppressing communication constantly.
How? Well, every time I asked “Are we okay?”, I was accomplishing two things. Quite obviously, being asked all the time is fucking annoying, so I was endlessly nagging. But on the other hand, every partner has their quirks, and I might have found someone who was willing to reassure me a lot.
The larger problem was that we had to be okay. If my partner was upset or just irritated, telling me that they weren’t okay would lead to an instant Serious Discussion of What Was Wrong, which would not end until we were okay once again. Basically, any conflict, no matter how slight, had to be ironed out immediately for my convenience – I couldn’t live with my girlfriends being mad at me at all.
Sometimes, people just need time to cool off. (Or you don’t want to get into an argument now, because this movie’s really good.) By continually demanding that everything was okay at the very moment I asked it, I was lowering the bar on “okay.” In order to live with me, any girlfriend had to quietly redefine “trivial, but not worth discussing now” as “Okay.”
In this fashion, I taught them to lie to me. I was practically asking for it.
But wait! There’s more! If they didn’t want to discuss it right then, they couldn’t argue about it later – because then I’d realize that they had lied to me when they’d told me we were fine half an hour ago, and how could I know whether they had really meant that okay? The argument now would be that much bigger. So if they didn’t bring up the trivial stuff instantly, on my terms, they couldn’t bring it up at all without a huge fight that questioned their honesty.
They stopped talking to me about the trivial stuff. And the funny thing about trivial stuff is that it almost invariably chains into major stuff… But how could they discuss the major stuff that had sprung from the trivial stuff without having to justify all the quiet lies they’d told to me along the way?
In fact, they couldn’t talk to me at all. I was still a great guy, but there was this no-fly zone of non-communication. And hence, they would eventually find a guy who didn’t ask them stupid shit all the time, and by God was he attractive.
They didn’t leave me. They still liked me. But the other guy was like a vacation, or perhaps a pressure valve. He provided something I couldn’t – you know, confidence.
And so my communication patterns broke down. But if you were to ask me, I was doing everything that I was supposed to in order to keep things moving – in fact, my negative was a positive. I was always asking for feedback! I wanted open communication! Why did all of my girlfriends lie to me? By God, they were all Kobayashi Marus. You couldn’t win with them. Sure, I was flawed, but those were minor; on the whole, I was doing everything I should.
Thus, the big question in any future relationship with a cheater is, “What are you doing wrong?” It sounds ludicrous to ask this after a partner’s wounded you so thoroughly, but chances are better than even that they didn’t just do this out of evil intentions.
You might be partially at fault for this. To find out, in the next segment of this ongoing series, I’ll outline the various types of Desperate Housewives that I’ve seen, both male and female.
* – Or a Tarzan Cheater, as outlined in the previous essay.
** – And I on them, but I’ve chronicled that in the past.