Some people, a lot of people actually, will never really get what it feels like to be betrayed by the person they love most. And truthfully, I am glad they never will have to feel that gut wrenching pain. It does not feel good, in any way. It is devastating. It changes us forever.
So that being said, why oh why oh why do people who have never lived that kind of agony feel the need to write about it or judge people who have lived through it? I can honestly say that before discovery I never thought much about infidelity. I mean of course it was everywhere, in the media, on television, in movies, distant friends dealt with it, also my parents way way way back when, I was about five years old, but it wasn’t a part of my adult life, until it was. As mentioned before, I never thought it couldn’t happen to me… I just never thought about it. And, I did not say to anyone anywhere ever, “oh, come on, it’s not THAT bad.” Or this, “well, she must not have been a very good wife if he had to go looking elsewhere.” Or this, “oh, come on, she had to have known he was cheating.” Or this, “there is no way a spouse cheating is as traumatic as say, the death of a loved one, or rape.” Or after a betrayed spouse behaved somewhat erratically, I would never have said this, “there is no way a woman would act that way JUST because her husband cheated on her… she must be crazy.”No one ever asked me my opinion, but if they had, I would not have said any of those things because I have seen a lot (namely my mother being cheated on and left for the other woman who has, by the way, been my step mother for 45+ years) and I know what a trap it is to judge others without living their pain.
I also never could have imagined in my worst nightmares that I would spend hours upon hours doing nothing but crying and going over and over in my head all the bad acts my husband participated in with other women. I could not have possibly believed that I would ever be afraid to leave my house for fear of being physically assaulted by another human being. I never could have imagined that I would be tormented by constant daymares (mind movies) or nightmares about a wickedly unstable woman stealing my children or stabbing me in the stomach. I could not have envisioned myself having a panic attack at the basketball arena just because there were so many people heading towards me and I thought one of them could be her, and she might hurt me. I never ever thought I would look at my husband and see a monster. And for sure I could not have ever pictured myself self harming, and at the worst moment of my life, grabbing a shard of broken pottery, slicing my arm wide open and watching, mesmerized as the blood poured out. Sixteen stitches later, sitting in the psych section of a hospital emergency room, I could not have imagined the “before” me even still existed because what was left of me was so broken and distraught and in such agony that the only way out seemed to be an empty world in my mind… a world of nothingness, where no one existed, not even me.
The reason I know some people will never get how I, and thousands of others, feel about the trauma of betrayal is because they write about it. They write their opinions and judgments (many times men writing about betrayed women) of betrayed spouses often times acknowledging they have not lived through this ordeal, and yet, they question the validity of behavior and feelings associated with it. Now, there are many others, much more eloquent and talented than I, some right here on WordPress, who research and write on the subject of how “society” views infidelity and the betrayed wife. This post is not meant to be academic or enlightening. This is just me venting…
I was contemplating reading the book The Girl on the Train. It had been recommended by someone, I can’t remember who, and also not recommended by someone else. I don’t often fall to the whim of reading a book just because it is popular or on bestseller lists, but this one intrigued me and I like a good mystery. One of my favorite things to do is read negative reviews. I do this on Yelp and other restaurant review sites as well. For books I often go to Amazon or Goodreads. I want to know other people’s worst of the worst, it helps me better decide whether I will be able to tolerate a potentially negative situation. I never did read any of those Fifty Shades of Grey books because after reading THE most AMAZING review of the book (in the negative 1-star section on Amazon) by a retired college professor, I decided there was no way the book could be anywhere near as entertaining as that one review was. Plus it did not sound like my cup of tea, even though many women in my age group had recommended it to me, which scares me a little. Anyway, I am pretty good at weeding out the rubbish in the review world. So, these less than stellar reviews of The Girl on the Train basically compared it to Gone Girl and said it didn’t hold up. Well, I disliked, very much, the book Gone Girl. And I have boycotted the author because she flat out lied in interviews saying she had added an alternate ending to the movie, so it wouldn’t end like the book. I despised the ending in the book, but she did not in fact change it for the onscreen version. Honestly, I felt like the author just gave up about 3/4 of the way through the book and decided to rush and leave it all sort of half assed with the most absurd ending she could imagine. Of course this is just my opinion… I know a number of people who liked the book and the ending. Anyway, I wasn’t going to go to the Gone Girl movie, but I decided if she really was going to change up that awful ending, I would give it a go because some of my favorite actors were in it. I did not go see it right away, but it seemed like some vast Internet conspiracy that the ending was kept very hush hush. So, as previously stated, she lied (and the Neil Patrick Harris death scene still haunts me) and I have decided I no longer care what she writes. Um, okay, moving right along…
Back to The Girl on The Train. Many of the negative reviews centered on the weak characters in the book. Weak in both the way they were written, and also in the way they behaved. This intrigued me. I wanted to see how these women behaved (because the character-bashing was all about the women) that so infuriated these reviewers, mostly men. I decided to read it, despite the negative reviews (which were minimal compared to the positive ones). In the end, I found the book to be mediocre. I guess I would give it a 3/5. It was a super easy and quick read. I had purchased the book on my iPad and zoomed through it over a weekend. I kept going back to it mainly because I wanted to see if I was correct regarding who the real villain was. Yep, totally correct. It was all pretty predictable in my mind, and a bit convoluted, but I will say after reading numerous stories about addicts (and knowing some), and betrayed wives (and being one), and the other women (blech), I found the characters in that book to be totally believable. People really do act like the characters in that book. They really do. I love (sarcasm) the holier than thou attitude of some of these commenters acting like they are all so high and mighty and would never behave like the characters in the book and don’t know anyone that ever would behave like the characters in the book. As I like to say, trauma is a bitch I never wanted to meet, and she knocked me on my ass and I behaved in ways I never could have imagined. So yeah, people do act “crazy” after being lied to, gaslighted, and abused, and it is called betrayal-induced trauma.
This past Sunday, Blue Eyes and I watched the final episode (which ran in two hour increments over three consecutive Sundays here in the US) of a British mini-series that aired in the UK back in 2015 called “Doctor Foster” and which was renamed “Doctor Foster: A Woman Scorned” in the US. I had seen a couple commercials for the show and Blue Eyes wanted to watch it with me. We had no idea what we were in for. The show is about a cheating husband and a betrayed wife, mostly about what transpires after the wife confirms her husband is in fact a cheater. Apparently it was written by a man, which I find rather astonishing. He seems to have a pretty firm grasp on what it feels like to be a woman scorned. The episodes included infidelity-induced trauma, a ton of collusion by “friends” and co-workers (mostly female, by the way), a much younger mistress who becomes pregnant, a lot of sleuthing by the betrayed wife, and a revenge plot. The main character happens to be a medical doctor and she does do some very unethical acts in her traumatized state, and in pursuit of the truth and also in trying to figure out her new reality and decide what she needs to do for her future. It was an interesting story, I thought. The actors did a fine job, especially the lead actress. I did want to know how it turned out and we watched all three two-hour episodes. It wasn’t brilliant, but it was watchable and to me, believable. I was a bit shocked that Blue Eyes wanted to watch it and that he stayed present and commented on the characters, the storyline, etc… All in all, I thought it was enlightened, which some of the critics did not. I do think a medical doctor would jeopardize her career in order to find out to what extent she had been betrayed by her husband and her friends and her co-workers. I don’t think it was convoluted at all. The show portrayed basic human character flaws, the deep level of dysfunction many of us have running through our lives, and the sick and weak behavior of those who collude in order for heinous acts of betrayal and infidelity to occur.
In the first paragraph of his review of the television series, Mike Hale of the NY Times calls the program “luridly melodramatic.” Well, Mike, this is television we are dealing with here, remember? I did not, however, find the story particularly sensational, over sexualized, over dramatized, or histrionic, especially considering the programming we are seeing now on television in the US, especially the premium channels. I thought the series was pretty realistic. Particularly in lines like the one spoken by the young pregnant mistress as she is leaving her parents’ house with her married lover, about why do all older women become so bitchy. This she is saying about a woman who (is NOT old, by the way) has been cheated on, and lied to repeatedly. A woman who committed her life to one man, the father of her own child, just to be disrespected, gaslighted, and ignored. Little Miss will get her comeuppance, at least in my version of the rest of the story, ha. There are also the lines spoken by the older alcoholic ex-doctor partner of hers, when he says/implies? that her pain cannot possibly be anything near what he felt when his life partner passed away. Well, some of us know how difficult it is to live now, in the reality that our own life partner has betrayed us in the most horrifying of ways, by stealing from us, stealing our memories, our life plan, and replacing it with something less than what we had hoped or even what we think we can live with. Death from natural causes is a progression of a life led. Being lied to repeatedly and betrayed should not be. Mike from the NY Times also lets us know that, “It’s all very hard to take seriously but not that hard to enjoy–the show and the cast are admirably committed to the craziness they’re perpetrating.” So, one man’s “craziness” is another woman’s trauma, and is not so much crazy, as scary, heart wrenching, and life altering. This mini-series is not as “far-fetched” as Mike might think in his obviously sheltered, non-betrayed world. There is another review done, this time by a British man on Forbes.com in which the reviewer makes fun of the entire program as well as making fun of English decorating, “As Americans, you might not be entirely familiar with the unhinged decor decisions that can happen in the English provinces,” he says. Neil Midgley uses words like “potboiling” “bonkers” “jealousy” “borderline insane” “hellish fury” “borderline lush.” All of them written about the main character, of course, the betrayed wife.
There are other lovely reviews, like the one in The Guardian, written by a woman, with the comment, “It’s a brilliant and gripping portrait of a marriage slowly being poisoned.” Obviously, she gets it. Some people do, many do not.
As I muddle through this post-betrayal life of mine, I seem to be drawn like a moth to flame to stories of infidelity. I compare and contrast the stories with mine and others I know. I read, I watch television and movies with infidelity as a theme. To be honest, it is somewhat difficult to find anything to watch these days that doesn’t cover infidelity in one form or another. I prefer to know about it first, versus being blindsided, but the topic no longer disturbs me. I am particularly fond of the Showtime series, The Affair, which explores the emotional and psychological effects of everyone involved when two married people have an affair. There is cheating, lying, divorce, trauma, cutting, the loss of a child, and a crime, a mystery winding in and out of the storyline, waiting to be solved. I find the show quite intriguing. The husband is played by Dominic West and boy do I love to hate him. When I first started watching, I was about a year out from discovery. The sex scenes between the cheaters were a little rough back then, but now, sex scenes of that type don’t bother me. I often wonder if I am healing, or if I am just becoming numb. Maybe healing is becoming numb.
I know people will continue writing about infidelity, and most likely I will continue reading and watching. I know cheating is insidious and as old as time. I guess I just wish people who did not understand the destruction that this kind of lying, gaslighting, and betraying leaves in its wake, those who do not understand the trauma, the life altering consequences of broken and selfish behavior, would just keep their opinions to themselves. I know it’s never going to happen, but I keep wishing…