Los Angeles, May 2013. I am attending a Kindle conference at a hotel near LAX airport. Participants wait to hear and critique the 30-second “elevator pitch” for my book—what I would say if I met someone influential in an elevator and only had as much time to talk to that person as it would take to reach his or her floor. “I’m writing a self-help book for women whose husbands are unfaithful.” I begin. The women to whom I pitch show considerable interest. A few admit that this is happening to them, and many more say they have a friend who really needs a book like that. Some of the men I talk to say they would buy the book for a friend. One or two even look pretty sheepish. Maybe these guys really mean that they would buy it for their wives.
I continue my pitch. “If your husband is having affairs, how do you decide whether or not to stay with him? You might feel that your cornerstone has been kicked away and that you now have a gaping void in your life. How do you deal with the feelings of anger, loneliness, fear and betrayal? You could be swimming with dolphins in Hawaii, and yet your heart is filled with bitterness rather than joy. This book will give you tools not only to just survive but also to actually thrive within or without your marriage.”
The response I got was overwhelmingly positive. “There’s a huge market for this, and no-one is writing about it. It’s a great subject.” There was something about the topic I had chosen that seemed to touch a nerve and fill a need. It was not about taking revenge on an unfaithful husband; instead it was about how to empower the wife.
This is not a book about couples therapy or how to reconcile with your husband. Instead, I am writing about ways that you can feel more fulfilled and complete in yourself, whether or not you choose to stay with your adulterous husband. My aim is to give you some ideas that you can work with on your own, no partner required.
I hope that what I have written here will prevent women from following the extreme reaction that Angelika had to Stephan’s infidelity. Her husband upped and left her for a younger woman. Although living apart from Angelika, Stephan chose to remain married to her, as it was more financially advantageous for him to do so. His wife floundered around for a year or two, trying all manner of New Age therapies to fill the aching void Stephan’s departure had left in her life. Then she took her own life by swallowing an overdose of sleeping pills. Her twenty-three-year-old daughter was devastated. What a tragic and unnecessary waste of a life! My choice would have been to divorce the bastard, move on and get my own life in order without him.
I wanted to write a book that would be relevant to women who remained married as well as those who chose to leave their husbands. Plenty of books have been written about dealing with divorce, but how to continue to live with an adulterer has received far less attention. This is despite the fact that many women do indeed stay with adulterous husbands and form a group that unfortunately receives scant support and little respect. They tend to be pigeonholed into the role of long-suffering wife or queen bitch—an object of pity or contempt. If the husband dumps his mistress, it is easier for the two spouses to reconcile. Yet wives also choose the much tougher path of staying with habitual womanizers or men who will not give up their mistresses. Contrary to popular belief, this does not mean that these wives are sad, spineless examples of womanhood. Theresa, in her 90s when she told me her story, described her “until death do us part” marriage to a chronic philanderer in the 1940s. Extremely intelligent and fiercely independent, she was a tough cookie. After raising two daughters, Theresa became an attorney and later on a judge.
Whatever form of adultery, philandering or womanizing your spouse is committing, read on to find out how other women in similar circumstances have dealt with it, and what you can do to regain control of your life.