To be a bit catty, I’m often shocked at who people pick as their lovers. You do have to wonder why someone like Peter Cook would cheat on Christie Brinkley. What were you thinking, Pete? You had the woman that every man (and, truth be told, quite a handful of woman) would put on the top of their ‘list.’ How is it that stars who are married to super models have affairs with frumpy women?
And let’s not discriminate here–women are just as guilty. On our forays into the cheating hearts club, it’s not unusual for us to pick tubby men with receding hairlines. They’re nice guys, of course, but lack a little in the looks department.
The reality is that the idea of the object of one’s lust always being a visual ‘model-upgrade’ is a deeply held myth, perpetuated by the big screen. In Hollywood, the ‘other woman,’ whether prostitute, prom queen, or housewife, is always shamelessly hot. But we all know in real life, we lie in bed at night with our partner, pondering a friend’s recent marriage demise, and admit to the darkness, “I can’t believe he wrecked his marriage to fool around with her.”
Obviously there’s more than physical appearance that motivates a philanderer. Neglect, loss of a dream, being locked in an emotional wasteland, lack of appreciation…. Everyone can claim his or her own fill-in-the-blank rationale. But since volumes have been written examining these less-than-superficial reasons, I’ll revel in the shallow red-light. If you’re going to have an affair, don’t go for a fixer-upper when choosing a lover.
And this is where my story begins its twisted cord. The wandering heart in my household took my advice and went for a ‘model upgrade.’
In my case, it was simply that unmet needs and building tensions undermined what was a previously pleasurable shared experience. I remember how it used to be when my husband and I spent hours doing things together. Some of my fondest memories center around the adventures and misadventures of our road trips: reading West with the Night on a road trip to Maine, waking before dawn to skirt the I-95 traffic to Florida, a New Years’ trip to Asheville to camp in a snowstorm.
I think it’s the hours traveling together that have always been particularly special to me. I’d sit in the passenger seat, map on my lap, camera in hand, bag of snacks at my feet, and love in my heart. My number one job was to navigate, though I catered, photographed, and helped my husband to stay awake on those long, late night drives. I thought I was an all-around chipper travel companion, commenting on the scenery, anticipating our next stop, and reading informative quips from the travel book.
But as the years passed, things began to deteriorate. I joke that we have our best fights in the car, but it’s not always so funny. Though we also have our deepest talks in the car, we seem to have our most intense arguments, too, often tipped off by my navigational skills (or lack thereof). Although I’d like to blame him for his impatience or pin ‘fear of making mistakes’ on his psyche, I know that I have a severe deficiency in ‘map reading.’
It starts out simply. He asks me something like, “Is this our exit?”
I answer, “I think so.”
He retorts, “Are you sure?”
I start to panic, as we have a few hundred feet left, and say “Yeah, take it, on the right. Take it. I think that’s it. Just take it.”
He says, “What? You ‘think.’ What exit number were we supposed to get off on?”
The exit passes; we miss it. I tell him he doesn’t listen to me. I confirm that it was the correct exit. He says I didn’t seem like I was sure. Then I spiral down to tangentially pinning every emotion, insecurity, and quibble we’ve ever had in our marriage to this one interchange. For the next hour, I go on and on and end in a hyperventilating mess, forcing me to completely re-do my make-up before we knock on the door of his roommate from school that we’ve been driving in the car for seven hours to see.
Perhaps I have conjured up a bit of sympathy for him at this point. No wonder he looked other places to get his needs met. Who wouldn’t–married to a catastrophizing woman like me. I would drive anyone crazy. I will be the first to admit that we all, including me, have space for improvement. Nonetheless, like any wife will say, I was still shocked to find him in the company of another.
And here continues the sad tale of how it all crumbled in my hands. How he showed complete disregard for my feelings, practically flaunting her in my face. It was as if he wanted to get caught. As I came out to the car one day, I could see her silhouette through the front windshield. She was trim and, well, obviously well-endowed. Not being one to go down without a fight, I confronted the situation.
I was immediately struck by how sexy her voice was. Even in an awkward situation such as this, she maintained a steady, confident voice. It was as if she was completely unthreatened by me, knowing she had nothing to prove. Her quiet calm was in great contrast to my escalating panic.
My husband said his friend Peter had a woman like her that spoke to him in French. I merely raised my eyebrow at this. As if Peter’s behavior would excuse my husband’s cheating heart.
After a snarky comment, I went back into the house, making sure the front door slammed. I felt old, worn out, and replaced. As you can imagine, lots of soul searching occurred. As time went on though, I began to think about the situation in a more level-headed manner. I like to think of myself as a relatively progressive woman and recognize that I am not able to meet all of my husband’s needs. Though you may not agree with me, I resigned my initial fury and told him that there may be room for all of us in this marriage.
Blame it on the prevalence of shows like Big Love, but I was ready to find space for this other woman (and her sultry voice) in our lives. I soon could see why he had such an attraction to her. She was confident without being bossy. She never cowered to a mumble when being challenged. And she maintained a rare quality in a woman: even when it was obvious that no one was taking her advice, she refrained from escalating her tone to a painfully squeaky pitch, as she repeated herself for the third time. She was an endless font of patient information.
And even better, she is amazingly low-maintenance. Not only is she willing to hang on the windshield for hours with a mere suction cup, but she considerately displays a polite warning if she’s running low on energy. Now how’s that for an unusual quality in a woman?
Now she goes with us everywhere. Whether we’re fearlessly flying down Route 66 or meandering through narrow streets in Arcos de la Frontera in Spain, we always include her in our plans. And our marriage is actually better for having her as a part of it. Although we struggle in many ways to keep technology from overwhelming our lives—too much TV, texting at the dinner table, cell phone calls on date night—we’ve found that relieving me of my navigational duties has freed us to find more joy in the journey. I can’t meet all of my husband’s needs, as it would be foolhardy to expect him to meet all of mine. Where we fall short, we can always depend on friends, a bit of wine, and a ‘model up-grade’ now and again.
And I’m not threatened in the least by her trim figure or confident voice.
After all, she sleeps in the glovebox. I’ve still got the bed….