Mother's Day can be an especially sensitive holiday for women who have discovered their partners have chronically cheated on them. That pain becomes infinitely magnified if she is pregnant, or has young children with the man when she finds out.
The holiday itself seems correlated with being a mother in a nuclear family which, by design, usually includes a husband.
When the husband has violated his fidelity vow, it breaks the legacy of the intact family unit that Mother's Day alludes to and celebrates.
On a more personal level, the infidelity can deeply humiliate her, wounding her self-identity as a mother. Of course, the sad irony is that she is mother to his child.
It's embarrassing to admit this, but when I was very young and naive, I wouldn't have believed that cheating could happen when happily partnered couples then had a beautiful new baby.
I think I extrapolated that from the look of love on new parents' faces as they proudly wheeled their baby carriages through Central Park.
I was 18 years old, living in Manhattan, when my 17-year old roommate invited me to go with her to a swishy cocktail party in another apartment in our high-rise building.
She said she knew the man throwing the party; he was an important record producer whose wife had just given birth to their first child and he was celebrating with an impromptu party at their apartment.
I agreed to go and when we walked in, Mr. Producer was standing at the bar, beaming as he collected high-fives, hugs and was proudly handing out cigars to all the men there.
After being introduced to him, I asked to meet his wife and the new baby; he told me they were still in the hospital but would be home tomorrow. I remember thinking, Why are you partying solo before they're even home?
It struck me as odd, but I let it go.
A few drinks later, I was ready to leave. I pushed my way through the crowd to look for my roommate in the sprawling duplex apartment. Where was she?
When I finally located her, she was in a back bedroom in what looked like a very intimate embrace with Mr. Producer. There was no one else there.
Shocked to stumble upon them alone, sharing what looked like a very close connection, I managed to stammer, "Uh...I'm ready to leave...are you coming with me?"
"Sure", she said, and as she disengaged herself from their hug and slowly turned to smile sexily at him, I noticed the sly glance that passed between them.
You know when you start trembling and you get that sick feeling where you think you might throw up? That happened.
As soon as we were alone in the elevator, she defensively barked at me, "Don't you judge me, looking at me all high and mighty. I'm trying to get a break in the music business, okay? Jeez!!"
Still trembling from earlier, all I could do was glare at her, shaking my head in disbelief.
That she was on rather "friendly" terms with quite a few men I had already noticed on prior occasions, so a small part of me wasn't all that surprised at her.
But what broke my heart was...him.
I remember going straight to my room, closing the door and having a long sob.
Later that night, I heard my roommate tip-toe quietly out of our apartment and not come home till the following morning.
I was having breakfast when she came in.
"Do you believe in karma?", I asked her without looking up from my tea.
"Maybe," she answered, pretending to be surprised by my question. "Why?"
"Well, someday when you're married and laying in a hospital bed half ripped apart from just giving birth, you better hope some seventeen year old girl isn't seducing your husband".
I got the door slammed in my face for that, but more importantly, I got some important primer lessons that would serve me well in my work with partners of "sex addicts" decades later.
Many years later I'm attending a professional training for how to help partners of "sex addicts" through the relational trauma that follows their Discovery, when I learn this dispiriting fact:
More men cheat on their wives when she is pregnant or has just given birth than at any other time.
The reasons given? The men felt their sexual needs weren't being attended to when their wife was in later stages of pregnancy, and once the their baby arrived, they felt ignored.
Remember the morality-absent cretin who started Ashley Madison, Noel Biderman? Apparently to help promote his adultery business, he wrote a book about the cheat-on-her-while-she's-pregnant phenomenon. It was called First Bump.
I know. No words for that.
I've mentioned in prior blog posts that we get a lot of mail here every week, tragic stories usually.
Hearing those testimonies of heartbreak, what's most wrenching to me is the partner's worry about the welfare of her infants/toddlers/children at stake in the many decisions she is now reluctantly forced to make.
It's hard not to be humbled by the amount of tenacity the partner of the sex addict (POSA) shows, struggling in the face of massive trauma as she begins to put one foot in front of the other, day after day, even though the structure of her entire life has just been bashed to pieces... because what else is a mother to do when she has children to raise?
Every day at work here, it is nothing short of remarkable to witness the love of these mothers and their commitment to their families, come what may.
And then, we also receive some very uplifting, exciting mail from women who decided that part of their being an awesome mom meant they needed to protect their kids from the toxic home environment that's almost guaranteed after D-Day and the difficult years that follow it. Even if it meant leaving their comfortable marital residence to rent a small room in town or else, moving back in with parents or siblings.
Here are some of the excerpts of e-mails that I've culled for this post (all identifying characteristics have been edited out):
"Becoming single again has surprised me- it's the most wonderful experience! I am a hundred times happier not married to my cheating spouse. I celebrate my singlehood as a reminder that I wouldn't allow my husband to continue to harm us any longer."
"I found the strength after decades of marriage to rise above the stink of his supposed sex addiction. It was the most difficult thing I've ever done, but I am starting to get my strength back again. Every few days I even experience small moments of joy, mostly from being with my kids."
"My children were the motivation for me to set very firm boundaries with my husband, to teach my kids by my example that tolerating disrespect was never acceptable. It took awhile to get here, but today I feel confident that I am raising aware young boys who will respect the women they end up marrying"
As I ponder these stories, I think about all the sacrifices made, the secret-keeping that had to happen so the kids could still have a relationship with Dad.
I think about the courage it takes to begin trusting your intuition once again after D-Day; the perseverence to soldier on even when they're thoroughly exhausted on every level.
I think about their bravery to go back out to work so they can support their kids and/or themselves, I think about all the caregiving they do on a daily basis, often on top of a full-time job or while going through a physical illness (we already know the emotional burdens!)
And I think about the steely strength it takes to raise moral, empathetic children with only themselves as a role model at home-
So, I would like to raise a glass:
To all the mothers who are (or were) the partners of a "sex addict"
You are awe-inspiring survivors and we bow to you.
You all deserve a standing ovation.
This Sunday, we hope you' ll enjoy the best thing you could have ever received from your less than upstanding mates, your wonderful children!
With love from Lili Bee & Team PoSARC, Happy Mother's Day.
Please tell us in the comment box below how you are bowing to yourself this Mother's Day?
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