When Cheating On Your Wife Is The Right Thing To Do

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2017/11/30/when-cheating-on-your-wife-is-the-right-thing-to-do/

The column in the New York Times last week sounded so positive:

 An Optimist’s Guide to Divorce.

The premise is that a married man can cheat on his wife, then announce that he is leaving her for the other woman. And this is all O.K. if the cheated-on wife becomes civil in the process.

What a progressive thought:  Breaking up a family can be a virtuous experience, as long as everyone is nice about it.

This column, written by Vanderbilt professor Elizabeth R. Covington – aka the “other woman” – is a challenge to comment on, for two reasons.

The real-life characters in the story seemingly get along. Divorce breaks up a family but, at least in this case, the adults don’t appear vindictive, which would make it even more difficult for children.

And, two, how do you write about divorce without coming across as judging them? Divorced people receive enough judgement, as Alison Maloni explained on this web site last spring.

But statements and actions can be discerned. And, because of Dr. Covington’s column, this story is hardly private.

The story leaves questions about honesty, self-centeredness, children, and the value of marriage itself.

The infidelity (at least, in spirit) begins when Josh, the married man, is not home because Beka (the wife) is hosting a mother-daughter tea …

“And [Josh] appeared in the seat next to me at a neighborhood bar.”


Married man walks into a bar by himself and sits next to a woman he is obviously attracted to. Can we please not pretend this is a coincidence. This is not how a married man behaves. Of course, Vice President Mike Pence was ridiculed for setting such boundaries.

The dishonesty – and dancing around the boundaries – continued later when:

 “One day he took a seat next to me at another bar … When he left to pick up his children, I wasn’t surprised when he said, ‘Can I see you again?’

“I thought:  ‘Just another creep trying to fool around behind his wife’s back.’ But I agreed to meet him again, mostly because it was easier than explaining why I wouldn’t and because I was certain I would never have an affair with him.”

You think he’s a creep but you agree to meet with him again? Are we being honest here? Is this how affairs begin, people pretending they are not going to do anything wrong, when they’ve already crossed boundaries?

Then there is the self-centeredness, which justifies breaking vows after 12 years. 

 “Twelve years in, their marriage seemed to be compatible and right. But it was a union of practicality more than passion, and Josh was miserable.”

Is Josh’s wife the cause of his misery? Can this be worked out? Is it right for Josh to trade in his wife – did I mention vows? – for someone else because he’s conflicted?

Dr. Covington obviously likes Josh. Is it right for her to play a role in a family’s break-up?

 “(It) led us to the best decision of our lives:  to do what it would take to be together. But that meant inflicting undeserved pain on others.”

The children involved in this family break-up are girls, ages 7 and 3. The mother has gone to incredible lengths to make them comfortable with their dad’s girlfriend. Dr. Covington recalled a time when the 7-year-old said, “I love you … I’m so glad you’re part of my family.”

Again, it’s better than a messy divorce. But let’s not pretend the children would rather have this arrangement than having their family back together. (Reminds me of the Alex Rodriguez story, when he says his daughters are thrilled to be with his girlfriend).

And what is the lesson for Josh’s daughters? They may marry one day, but the vows their husbands profess might mean nothing, when another woman comes along.

Maybe the girls can read the words of their father, who is quoted in the story:

 “It makes more sense for the divorce to be about another woman,” he said. “Many of our friends are going through divorces for the same reason.”

Because everyone else is doing it, it’s all justified – the cheating, the dishonesty, the selfishness.

And it’s that much easier if the mother you cheated on is a kind person.

It is a sad story. People are hurt. But we accept divorce as the new normal, which makes marriage less and less relevant.

Go ahead and be optimistic … about breaking up a family.


Kevin Thomas is a writer and former teacher, living with his wife and children in Standish, Maine.