Madwoman Out of the Attic

a feminist trudging forward in a patriarchal world

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My husband's free adultery pass

A couple of years ago, I announced to Mike, “If you ever cheat on me (and then confess and feel really bad about it), I’d forgive you. I wouldn’t divorce you.”

This marked an important turning point in my conception of marriage. Before I was married, and even into the first couple of years of our marriage, I was convinced that if my husband was ever unfaithful, I would immediately kick him to the curb. The marriage would be over. Period. And how could anyone think differently?

But with eight years of marriage and one baby behind me, my views on this topic have become more nuanced. I can still see how a marriage with an unfaithful spouse could descend into a pit of broken dreams, crushed expectations, and destroyed trust. I can see how love could die from such a huge mistake, and I wouldn’t judge any person who decided to end their marriage after such a betrayal.

But as for me and my marriage, I now think that I’d be unlikely to leave a loving and contrite Mike, a Mike who was willing to change and try to work things out. Perhaps this is due in part to my extreme pragmatism. I like being married. What would my chances be of finding a man as nice as Mike, particularly with baby in tow? And what about money? I have a couple of graduate degrees, but as a teacher, my earning potential is less than half of Mike’s. I could survive, but it would be difficult on my own with the baby. These are my sobering realities, and I suspect these are the sobering realities that a lot of women face when they consider whether or not to divorce a cheating husband.

Beyond all the pragmatic considerations, however, there have also been my dawning appreciation of Christian forgiveness and my realizations of my own fallibility. Let’s face it. I’m a screw up. We’re all screw ups to some extent. We all do stupid things. I want to think that my heart could be big enough to forgive the (nearly) unforgivable.

Don’t get me wrong. I would not stay in a perpetually bad marriage. I could accept and forgive an episode of regretted cheating more easily than I could accept continual unkindness, disrespect, or emotional distance.

My husband and I refer to my bald announcement as his get-out-of-jail-free pass. I suspect we are able to joke about it because Mike is about as likely to commit adultery as I am to fly to the moon. But I think it’s an intriguing topic. Is adultery a deal breaker? How bad does a marriage have to be before you would leave it? And how much should one take into account the pragmatic considerations when deciding whether or not to leave a marriage?

Friday, March 21, 2008

I'm a sucker

Here I am in the early afternoon blogging. I should be teaching, but my horrid stomach flu has forced me to get a sub again.

So I sit here and check my email. And I find one from the Humane Society about the winners of a pet photo contest. Each one has a sentence or two about their pet. So many of these pets have been abandoned and abused, and now they are loved and helping their owners overcome depression or anxiety.

So like a sucker, I read these tributes and look at the pictures, and tears just roll down my face.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sick Again

This has been a horrible couple of months when it comes to sickness. Yesterday I came down with a violent case of the stomach flu (or was it food poisoning?) and threw up a good 20 times before the day was over. My body hurt so much that I couldn't even sleep. I even called in a sub today. Yesterday's experience of having to run out of the classroom a few times and vomiting in my classroom's trash can convinced me that I better just suck it up and get the sub.

Now Mike is sick with the stomach flu. Poor guy.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Sunstone West

I just got back from my day at Sunstone. A good day. E spent the day with Mike's parents, so we were free to enjoy the various sessions. I particularly loved the Why I Stay session. Here are some of my favorite memories from that session:

1. The cute old man who got out his temple rec and waved it around and then also showed us his Obama pin that he wears everywhere. And the fact that he wears it is such a way that he can conceal it around people who would be uncomfortable with it.
2. Claudia's energetic presentation. What a fun speaker. I particularly loved her ending point. She stays because the Church needs her. Needs women of age and experience like her who have proved their loyalty and are free to give non standard answers in SS or RS, thereby giving permission to the younger women to do likewise.
3. M.T.'s whole presentation. I loved how honest he was about how difficult his mission was and how troubled he was by the priesthood ban. I was touched by his stories of losing two of his children and the way his ward rallied around him. I rarely think much about my own dead father, but I was struck by the thought that I would have loved to have a father like this man.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Money in Marriage

I handle all the finances in my marriage. I pay every bill, open up all bank accounts, take the lead in long term investing, and do all the purchasing. I do it all, and I like it that way.* So does Mike. I think a part of him kind of wishes he knew where the money went, but a much bigger part of him is relieved to not have to deal with it.

It’s not that Mike has absolutely no idea of what’s going on. If there’s something electronic we need to buy, or something car related, or something really big, like over a couple hundred dollars, we talk about it.

Every six months or so, Mike makes a half hearted comment about how we (I) should spend less. But there isn’t any strong feeling behind his comments. He knows that we’re in the black and saving a good chunk of money every month. He also – and this is so interesting – has told me that he doesn’t say much about my occasional clothing splurges or decisions to give away chunks of money because I bring home a paycheck as a part time teacher, and he regards this as my money.

This is fascinating. If I were a full time stay at home mom, would he be more critical of what I do with the money? Does my part time job earn me space and freedom to purchase and give as I see fit?

I remember my mom once telling me her ideal way of handling money in a marriage. The majority of money should go towards the common expenses and necessities– mortgage, utilities, food, etc., but that each person also should get a few hundred dollars (or less, depending on financial circumstances) of personal money every month to spend however he or she wished. And each person would not be at all accountable to the other for it.

I love the egalitarian quality of this idea, so recently I offered Mike (and myself) a monthly amount that we could do whatever we wished with. At the time, guilt was overcoming me since I have so much more fun with money than Mike does, who never wants to buy anything except books.

He wasn’t as impressed with the idea.
“What am I going to do with _____ a month? “ said Mike.
I said, “You could save it and someday buy something big you really want.”
“Nah, sounds like a hassle,” was Mike’s reply.

Gotta admire the man’s desire for simplicity.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Terrible Day

I've been really sick. I think I have the flu or some kind of nasty virus. Along with a high fever, I've got the chills, muscle weakness, aches all over my body, terrible cough and congestion, etc.

Today I got home from a school activity, sat on my kitchen floor to pet my dogs, turned the dog heater onto me full blast, and fell asleep on the kitchen floor for half an hour. Then mom got home with E, ending my interlude with the floor.

Mom then left E with me to run to the store for something. One of the longest 30 minutes of my life. I promptly staggered into the counter and knocked two glasses over which shattered. E was screaming by this point wanting to be picked up, but I had to try to sweep up the glass, even though I could barely had the strength to move around and bend over. By this time, I've had an emotional breakdown and am trying to stop crying. E spent the next 20 minutes screaming at me because I wouldn't pick him up (no strength).

By the time mom got home, E was in a terrible state. Mom had E sit next to me on the couch, but he was so angry he started hitting me and pulling my hair, which made me break down again. Mom at this point gets really mad at E and hauls him up to his crib for a 15 minute timeout, during which time he screams like someone's killing him.

Eventually E came down and was very sweet. He was still hiccouphing and sniffling, but was no longer violent.

I just got him to bed. Time for me to go too.