Defining Adultery (I was a Catherine, Redux)

 Hello Again, dear Long Suffering Readers. I was reminded this morning by one of the First FIGs, “You haven’t blogged in a while…” and like a great many things she knows about me she was correct in this as well. It’s not like I haven’t wanted to write, there are a great many things going on, but many of those things are more about what’s going on with me and less about what is going on between myself and Catherine, and or how I’m handling the divorce. I suppose in a way that’s a good thing; when I started this blog 7 months ago all I could do was obsess over Catherine’s behavior and what it meant about the future for myself and my daughters. I really feel I’m past much of the rough stuff although I know there’s a few icebergs still in the path I’m going to have to deal with (specific worries at this point: a. the holidays and b. once Catherine get’s a new live-in boyfriend/lover dude that’s going to be waking up in her house next to MY kids… I ‘m not so much worried about the her getting a new lover as how my kids will treat new Man Figure. That will be hard to watch.)

Anyway, there was something I did want to talk to you about Long Suffering Readers, and this is a topic that’s near and dear to my heart: Adultery. Specifically, the interesting lines and shades of gray I’m finding where people draw the line.

Henry, you cad you!

As I’ve mentioned in the past it’s been interesting to me that many of my Twitter/Blog followers are women. There’s a couple of men that respond to me on Twitter with any regularity but it’s literally just that: 2 guys. I did not expect this at all, in fact I expected the complete opposite: that more men in a similar situation to my own would find some sort of kinship with being dumped the way I was. What has been equally surprising to me is just HOW MANY women* have confessed to me that they too committed some sort of adultery.  (*I give this the disclaimer as I’m certain there are an equal number of men that the following stories could apply to, but like I mentioned, they’re not following my blog…)

 “This can’t end well…”

For the record, I’ll for first: So, Mr. Henry, how are you defining adultery? When I was with Catherine I governed my married behavior under the following principle: Would I tell my wife about this current behavior I’m undergoing with Ms. Unnamed Person? If the answer was “No…”, then I was probably in some territory I shouldn’t have been in. So, Mr. Holier Than Thou Henry, did you ever engage in any of that type of behavior? I will admit yes. When I was at the darkest part of my marriage with Catherine when she was very much detached from me there was a time when I was starting to have an “emotional connection” with someone I knew from my past. Did we ever meet up? No. Kissy face? No. Sexting? No. (Well, not in the way I’d define sexting today, but that interesting topic indeed needs to wait for another blog…) it was more, “What types of thigns do you like? Oh really.. what types of things do YOU like… oh really..?”  There was nothing more than some emotional talk (type, really) that eventually went away a couple weeks after it started once Ms. UnNamed Person and I agreed, “This can’t end well…”  So there’s my big confession. Was it adultery, by my definition and some Former FIGs I know: technically yes. Some of my friends, however have said, “Hey if you were only talking and you kept your dick in your pants…” then probably no.

“Married is Married. It’s adultery until the Judge signs on the dotted line…”

 In similar news, I was recently “dumped” by one of the first FIGs, and while she didn’t tell me why I suddenly found myself unfollowed and unresponded to, I suspect it has to do with the following: her opinion was that even though I’m separated (and filed for divorce.. and living apart from Cathine… and having not been intimiate with Catherine, since Dec 2011) that to be involved with me would be adultery. I was/am still, technically speaking, a married man. The state of California will sign some paper around Dec 2012 and I will no longer be a married man, but for now, I am. You’ve been warned, Long Suffering Readers! I feel bad that she felt I was on the verge of adultery—I don’t consider the flirty relationships I have with Fabulous Internet Girls adultery, but there are obviously others who disagree.

“It’s a sexual relationship with a machine.”

And here’s another perspective: about mid-way through my marriage with Catherine, back when things were OK, and hadn’t really turned to  shit yet we were watching some TV special about Facebook and the rise of internet affairs. She turned to me out and said, “Are you having an internet affair?”

This was years before Ms. Unnamed Person would come into the picture so I earnestly replied, “Does jacking off to internet porn count?”

“No.”

“Well, then no.”

“It’s a Sexual Relationship With a Machine”

And yet… I have a friend, whom we’ll call Jebediah, who thinks that masturbation in any form is adultery.

Huh?

When I started thinking about this blog post I asked him his views about it—he’s got a fairly interesting religious background—and his view is ANY sexual relationship with someone who is not your wife is indeed adultery.

Internet Porn? “Yes, it’s a sexual relationship with a machine.”

Masturbation? “Yes, it’s a sexual relationship with yourself.”

It doesn’t matter with whom or what it’s with, he says, “…the underlying morality is the same.” He does acknowledge that under his own strict definition it’s damn near impossible not be an adulterer. My interview with Jebediah went into some very interesting territory regarding how the brain starts making chemical connections to persons or objects that give them sexual satisfaction. Again, a post for another time…

“You are a very gifted writer. I read instead of napping. And I cried because it occurred to me that I am a Catherine too. Only worse.”

I’m going to close with this one. One of the other things that I’m now torn by is some of my favorite internet friend girls, indeed MOST of them, have some sort of behavior in their past they’re not really proud of. The quote above came from someone whom I’ve grown to care for and she feels, after reading my blog, that somehow I will see her differently because of some things done in her own past. This is a tough one for me. Catherine was very clear that one of the reasons she felt she could not be married to me was my “everything is so fucking black and white with you!” view of the world. I will tell you, my friends, and I don’t mean to sound preachy here… there is no one I’ve met, including myself, who is without sin (you just read my story above, right?) I have now met at least a dozen women, including the original “I was a Catherine” whom I respect, admire, and care for. These people have been, or are currently are, in relationships that are stifling, emotionally exhausting, or otherwise unsatisfying. Many of them have reached out and had some sort of online-affair, emotional affair, or physical affair. And many (but not all) of their stories are hauntingly familiar. All of these things did I hear from Catherine. Do I see these women differently? As of this writing, no. Perhaps that will be my undoing in the future, but for now, I’m hoping that it’s some sort of lesson in humility. It made me thing that one day My Catherine will be someone else’s FIG (if that makes sense?)

Realizing I was going through this lesson in humility by the New Catherines, last week I had a long conversation with My Catherine about my newfound enlightenment. I relayed to her some of my experiences with the FIGs and the stories I’ve heard and complexity of my feelings towards the New Catherines based on my treatment at the hands of her, My Catherine. I told her, “Look, I can’t say I forgive you—because after all I was your husband and I was the one who got burned by this—but after hearing so many similar or only slightly modified versions from women who get desperate and lonely or are missing SOMETHING and then find it elsewhere… at least I understand it more than I did before.”

She simply nodded with a bit of a tear in her eye. I then did something I haven’t done in a while, I gave her a hug. We held it for a moment and then I turned away. I then continued to put all my belongings in boxes and loading up my the moving truck to take them away.

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“Lots of people commit adultery!”

My dearest Long Suffering Readers! As many of you know last week I’m underwent the very unique experience of going on a family vacation with the ex “Catherine”. Up until the last day before leaving I was considering cancelling the vacation as I was afraid I would get up into one of my “early April-style funks” hanging out with her. So how did it go?  No seriously… really… how did it go?

Sure, it may look like a mound of dirt to you, but that’s actually one of the excavated sites on Roanoke Island, home of the famous “Lost Colony”. Yes!

Catherine is still, well, Catherine

At first I didn’t see much of Catherine. The first few days while I was in Richmond, VA with the girls she took off to give me Man Space with my friend Santo. We then caravanned without incident to Roanoke Island, NC so I could geek out at Ft. Raleigh and soak in the Lost Colony, but she mostly left me alone during those times as well. It wasn’t until we did the long road trip from Roanoke Island to Myrtle Beach, SC where I got a nice dose of the Old Catherine. We did talk a bit about the “failed marriage” rehashing old scenes I’d brought up in January through May (her most interesting and revealing quote: “adultery does not make me a bad person… lots of people commit adultery…”). There was no new discoveries to be made here other than to have her confirm that she’s got a date with some high school dude when she returns from vacation. (And how do you feel about that, Henry? Well, Long Suffering Reader, after obsessing about how she was sleeping with someone for 5 months until I discovered her affair, her going out on a date really does not even budge the emotional hurt scale…) Seriously. I don’t care about that.

Catherine is still Catherine, but Henry is not still Henry

I think my biggest hangup with Catherine is that while we were locked in the car talking I wanted to hear her take more responsibility for her adultery. Because, let’s be honest, my life has been totally eviscerated as part of this experience (house=gone; time with my daughters=halved; any sense of personal space=gone; any hope for me getting any lovin’ in 2012=gone). She made a mess of my life and in some small way I felt like she owed it to me to be more apologetic. And while she has apologized for the affair, it’s always with some sort of, “But…” typically followed up with one of the following:

  • But, lots of people have affairs…
  • But, it takes two people to make a marriage fail…
  • But, our marriage was doomed anyway…
  • But, I wasn’t looking for an affair…
  • But, I never meant to hurt you…

All true. But… you did have an affair, and it did emotionally devastate me. Then.

I digress.

Now that I’ve been back a week and I’ve had some time to process the entire encounter I can say this: I’m actually still surprised that I stayed with her for so long. Of course I know why I did it: because, I’m morally wired that. Common thoughts that went through Henry’s head when things were at his darkest with Catherine:

  • You need to do EVERYTHING you can to save a marriage
  • You must do EVERYTHING you can to stay together for the children
  • Even though she is no longer intimate with me I made a commitment to her and I will not dishonor that.

In the future, assuming I do get into another long-term relationship someday, 2 out of 3 of those statements won’t say anymore.  I’m guessing you can guess which one I’ll be keeping with me.

And lo, dear Long Suffering Readers, I was going to rant on the behaviors/traits Catherine had to has brought me to this space (and it was going to include words that sounded like “selfish” and “stubborn” and “irresponsible”) but I won’t. One of the Fabulous Internet Girls, Ms. @According2Jewls, made a comment that I was breaking Rule #1 by disparaging the Ex (“…no matter how insane [she may be]…”)  so I’ve been trying to take that to heart lately. I’m more than happy to tell you how ridiculous some of my own antics are—and let me tell you, there’s a couple of doozy blogs in the making but they’re not yet ripe for writing—but going forward I’m keeping the comments about Catherine to a minimum. Nothing to gain there.

So long story short (which is hard for me to do): Had fun on the vacation. Had a couple of big blow outs with Catherine, which led me to believe I was with her at least 3 years too long. Enjoyed every minute I spent with the girls. I highly recommend visiting the Outer Banks, but can’t recommend you do it with your ex-wife.