The Adulterous Woman

I’ve heard it from girlfriend’s confessions, male friend’s woes, and neighborhood gossip. Women are cheating on their husbands. Lots of them. When I was growing up, extra-marital affairs were something associated with husbands far more often than wives. Have things changed?

I picked up an interesting looking novel at the bookstore that centers on the topic of adultery. It caught my attention.  The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright says it follows a married thirty-something woman’s affair with a married man. Gina falls for Sean, her sister’s neighbor, and they carry on an affair for more than a year before they leave their spouses and unofficially move in together. 

The American Library Association awarded this novel the Andrew Carnegie Medal For Excellence in Fiction. The New York Times Book Review declares The Forgotten Walz, “A tour de force.” It is indeed beautifully written and insightful.

I find the front and back cover, however, a bit misleading. The book jacket shows a woman in shadow standing in front of an elegant balcony with her hands on two empty chairs.  I turned to this story to peek inside the heart and mind of a tortured woman committing a runaway love affair. That’s not what I got. What I found instead, was an elusive protagonist who did not understand her motivations, nor did she articulate her feelings to the reader. It’s not a romantic book. Gina is not repentant about leaving her confused husband, nor does she feel particularly guilty for extracting her lover from his wife and troubled young daughter.  She says she loves Sean and she knows she made the right choice, but ultimately, no one seems particularly happy. As far as I could tell, Gina was not the angry wife the thrill-seeking wife or the wife with low self-esteem. She did not appear emotionally starved or sexually deprived.

Ultimately, her story is not even really about her love affair. Gina’s adultery was merely a backdrop, masterfully used to paint a moral indictment of today’s me, me, me, Kim Kardashian-like material girl. 

If you are looking for a brilliant read about the decay our modern-day society, this is the book for you. 

To answer my original question, have things changed, I typed a few key words into Google. Turns out, they have.  More woman than ever are rolling in the hay outside of their marriages. It’s getting close to a 50/50 split between the number of wives cheating, versus the number of husbands.

Some women need to see what else is out there in order to appreciate what they have. Some women need to see what else is out there to gain the courage to leave a marriage that no longer works. While I personally believe that it best to be up-front with our partners, the pragmatist inside me understands that life is not always so clean cut.

What do you think? Do you have a black and white opinion on cheating or is there a grey area?

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4 Responses to The Adulterous Woman

  1. Ryan says:

    Uh, no grey area at all. No reason justifies that action. I may be a little partial after the last few years, but no one deserves that kind of treatment. I have hurt others, as you know, and didn’t always feel remorse immediately. Weird feeling. I know NOW that it is terribly wrong and once committed, never the same relationship. Many work through affairs, but that TRUST is never fully regained. Never. My two cents.

  2. hollyyoumans says:

    I feel like the older I get, the more I see the gray. In the memoir I’m reading now, Wild, the woman cheats on her husband after her mother dies. She was only 23 years old and she felt numb. She did all sorts of things to harm herself, to make herself feel alive, including destroying her marriage. Her husband certainly didn’t deserve to be treated badly. Yet, I can’t look at her and say she is a bad person. Another instance of gray – a wife tells her husband in various ways he is unlovable. After years of emotional abuse, he has an affair with a woman who makes him feel lovable again. Again, I couldn’t say he was completely wrong.

  3. hollyyoumans says:

    Another gray, one where a marriage could be repaired: a child is suffering a long term illness and the parents, not knoing how to express their grief to one another, grow apart. Seeking refuge from their pain, they both have affairs. In this instance, I can imagine them coming back together again, and perhaps enjoying an even stronger bond than before the affairs.

  4. Shelly T says:

    When I was in my very early 20’s I met my husband and fell head over heals. We both knew what it felt like to be cheated on and had a very black and white rule, “you cheat, pack your bags and get out”. Over the next 20 years, we’ve lived and seen a lot of life. We’ve seen through our own experiences and those of others that black and white rarely works in life. We have never changed our stance of, “you cheat, pack your bags and get out”, however after this many years invested with each other, kids, finances and the feeling that no matter what happens we will always be connected as family, it would not longer be a black and white issue.

    This greatest gift I’ve gained through life is that of non judgement. I may not like a person’s actions (and I do believe in consequences to actions), however I have not lived every painful and joyful experience that were a part in shaping that person, and therefore I can’t judge them as a person.

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