I get asked (a lot) about how cheaters can live two lives and how they could do this to their partners and families. There are articles here that do explore this in all seriousness, but today I wanted to take a somewhat different approach.
I have coupled these questions about the cheater with questions about how the affair partner is seemingly content to be the tawdry secret, and what is an acceptable response in the faithful partner.
In the absence of a nauseatingly perky and energetic glee group to do some singing, I have relied on YouTube to bring you … (drum roll) …
The IHG Musical: Cheaters.
Act 1: Fire in the Blood
Somewhere after midnight
in my wildest fantasy
Somewhere just beyond my reach
there’s someone reaching back for me.
Racing on the thunder and rising with the heat
It’s gonna take a superman to sweep me off my feet.
Whatever internal story is concocted by a cheater to give themselves permission to cheat (entitlement, cosmic compensation for a shitty childhood, my husband doesn’t understand me, I deserve daily blowies etc), affairs can become closely-held fantasies of a hero (or heroine) splitting the seas to deliver the cheater from their current (awful) reality. Their internal dissatisfaction with their life is the underpinning justification for their affair … and dammit, they can hold out for more!
Oh, the romance and passion of it all. If only they understood that ‘holding out for a hero’ isn’t synonymous with ‘coasting by in one relationship until something better comes along’.
Act 2: Mr Fahrenheit
Tonight I’m gonna have myself a real good time
I feel alive and the world it’s turning inside out Yeah!
I’m floating around in ecstasy
So don’t stop me now don’t stop me
‘Cause I’m having a good time having a good time
They’ve found their hero/heroine, and have embarked on their new affair venture. How could they? Well, let’s be honest here - cheaters have affairs because they enjoy them - they’re getting something out of it. They’re having an adventure in which they’re probably finding fun, excitement, and massive dopamine spikes! It’s a total buzz, they’re high on life and the affair partner is just incredibly fantastic.
It’s only in the aftermath of an affair, when the cheater is scrambling to hold onto the faithful partner, their lifestyle, their family, that there is EVER a suggestion that the affair was NOT fun. All of a sudden it was terrible, wracked them with guilt, or made them ill. Hey presto, the sex was terrible, the affair partner had bad breath, they thought of you constantly, they just didn’t know how to stop. Riiiight. Gotcha.
Act 3: Baiting the Hook
“You told me you were gonna leave her for me long ago.”
“Eventually I will ,but I just gotta take it slow;
Don’t wanna break her heart, although I gotta let her go.”
It’s the old clichés of, “When the kids are older” or, “When my wife can support herself”, or “When my husband comes into his inheritance’ that keep the hook baited. It wouldn’t suit the cheater or the affair partner if the truth was baldly spoken as, “I’m having a good time, and will say whatever is necessary to keep that going.”
Act 4: Too Real is This Feeling of Make Believe
Oh yes I’m the great pretender
Just laughing and gay like a clown
I seem to be what I’m not, you see
I’m wearing my heart like a crown
Pretending that you’re still around
The lies, the deceit, the gaslighting, the trickle truth: It’s all part of the Great Pretense employed by The Great Pretender. They can pretend that everything is hunky dory at home, and might even continue to project their ‘good spouse’ image for a while, but in reality they are not who they claim to be.
The affair deception may not be as flamboyant and endearing as the incomparable Mr Mercury’s portrayal (or come with such attractive backing singers), but the cheater IS pretending that all is well … laughing and gay … but the whole thing sometimes feels as if it’s actually a few clowns short of a circus.
Act 5: Mirror, Mirror
I used to have a girlfriend
but she just couldn’t compete
with all of these love starved women
who keep clamoring at my feet.
Well I prob’ly could find me another
but I guess they’re all in awe of me.
To the cheater, part of the affair high is wanting and seeing the version of themselves that their affair partner reflects back at them. The affair partner is really nothing more than the Snow White mirror, with benefits
It’s far preferable for the cheater to believe this new projection of themselves than it is to continue to live their mundane reality, where life isn’t the Hollywood fantasy .… But they’ve got to be smoking crack if they think that their balding head and widening girth is suddenly irresistible.
Act 6: Reality Bites
When you won’t look in the mirror in the light of day,
Swear you dyed it when your hair turns grey,
When you zip up your wranglers and your belly’s in the way,
You’re the oldest swinger in town
Perhaps this is a closer version of reality, where Viagra and Replens form part of the
torrid sordid passions of Pepé Le Pew and Penelope Pussycat? Just sayin’.
Act 7: Being Bitter
So I listened to the preacher as he told me what to do
He said you can’t go hatin’ others who have done wrong to you
Sometimes we get angry, but we must not condemn
Let the good Lord do His job and you just pray for them
Many couples reconcile after an affair, but while the affair is ongoing (or if the cheater then leaves) there is a lot of pressure to behave in certain ways. The last thing the faithful partner needs is more blame and judgment about their negative reactions to an affair - it’s difficult enough without it.
So, for those of you who have felt the censure and guilt for wishing your cheater and/or their affair partner ill, Jaron Lowenstein seems to have found a work-around.
It’s Friday, the sun is challenging the end of winter to an arm wrestle and seems to be winning, and sometimes affairs just need to be laughed at.
Perhaps art imitates life after all. However irreverently.