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Is Cheating Genetic?

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Joy Divorced Luck Club reveals the beginning of the end of her relationship.


"It's an expression my Chinese mother would always use as I was growing up: 'You make your bed, you lay in it.' Translation: Your choices determine your consequences. It's also what my Chinese grandmother said to my Mom in anger when [my Mom] decided to marry a Caucasian man-- one who turned out to be a womanizer and an alcoholic. So it has been no surprise that my mother has used this phrase often during my lifetime when she knew I was about to make, what she felt, was a poor decision.

How ironic that this has became the metaphor for the affair I had last year. I'm certainly laying in the bed I've made.

It amazes me how we are so quick to pass judgment on someone who has cheated. My ex informed me that it is the "worst of betrayals" and "you should have left first if you were so unhappy." I have been cheated on too during my adulthood--the pain is horrible. So you might naturally assume, once someone has cheated on you, that it is definitely something you could never put another person through. But people, we are human, and whether it is anger or loneliness, sadness or fear, addiction or boredom, or even falling in love with another person, can we all agree that it happens often? I'm not saying it makes cheating right, but it certainly, from my perspective, doesn't make it wrong. Instead, it is a choice, and it comes with consequences. When my ex found out, he threatened to walk up and down our block and inform our neighbors, as well as family and friends, that I was a homewrecker and a liar. When I told my best friend of his intentions, she chuckled and said "Your neighbors are going to hear the news, shrug their shoulders, and say to someone else at the dinner table, 'Can you please pass the potaotes?'

Trust me, things were pretty awful in my relationship with my ex for two years before the affair happened. I didn't just wake up one morning, look at my life, and think 'Hmmm....I want to go screw somebody else.' Somewhere between trying to create a home for two children and the responsibilities of both parents working full time, we lost track of each other. I watched other people become my ex's first emotional and financial priority-- his business partner, his friends, and even his parents. And I was still in denial, waiting for the recognition that I was yearning for as the mother of his children, as a significant income producer, as a home-maker, caretaker, laundry washing, dinner cooking, social coordinating water-buffalo attached to a thankless yoke.

Desperate to make this relationship a success, we found ourselves in and out of couples counseling for several years. I remember being pregnant and/or nursing our second child and sitting in the therapist's office in tears. Things would get a bit better for a week after the session, and then he would gravitate toward the same behavior. And after a productive hour with our therapist, he would be armed with new information to attack me with during our next argument. 'You're the one with the issues,' he would say, 'You're the one who needs help.'

Our home was full of the latest and greatest in technological advancements--a showcase to my ex's other interests. I stare at an obnoxiously huge flat screen television hanging from gravity-defying mechanics on the center of the living room wall with such resentment. We've got all the gadgets--overpriced and just released to market. I happen to love books and the theater...a hike in the mountains with a picnic basket... a walk on the beach. After almost six years together, he still doesn't know who my favorite author or musical artist is.

For his 35th birthday, I threw a huge dinner party on my dime for almost 20 of his closest buddies and our mutual friends. My ex was just launching a business and flat broke at the time, and I remember how his friends would talk about weekend dirt bike excursions, and how he couldn't justify spending the money on one for himself so that he could join them. The look on his face when the brand new dirt bike was wheeled into the restaurant was priceless. It brought me so much joy to arrange that day and that gift for him.

That was five years ago. Last year, for my 35th birthday, I got a digital picture frame and a pat on the back.

In an effort to ensure that my 35th received a bit of the fanfare it deserved, my east coast girlfriends encouraged me to book a ticket and fly to New York for a fun weekend. They treated me to a wonderful night on the town in New YC, and that was when I met P. on a rooftop bar. We talked about our respective families, our children, our work. And he told me that my ex was a lucky guy, that I was very special. He told me that I was beautiful. And when we said goodnight, we shared one kiss. There was no exchange of numbers, no running to hotel rooms for one-night stands. The honest truth is that we said goodbye. And there was no communication until I received that phone call almost a month later when he managed to find a way to track me down.

It took a few months (actually five) when the affair finally happened. But the wheels were already set in motion when we met and when we reconnected.

When my ex learned about the affair, it was the catalyst to hasten a process that was already well under way. But that's when things got ugly. Because in the course of our relationship, I had also learned that he would never take responsibility for his actions. He could never say, 'That was my fault. I was wrong.' He couldn't even say 'I take my share of blame.' And because, from his perspective, he needed to place the blame on me, how better to justify his position than to make sure I was punished in some way? So he left, with no desire for reconciliation. And hence, the legal battle over money.

It worried me more when my mother learned about the affair. I waited for her to say in disappointment 'You make your bed, you lay in it.' And you know what happened? Instead, with tears in her eyes, she held both of my hands in hers. She said, 'I never want to see you suffer the way I did with your father. I was not happy with him and I stayed in that marriage for too long. You deserve your happiness in this life. You deserve to be loved. You did a good thing. You did a good thing.'

So yes, I am dealing with the consequences of my actions. But they are not all bad. I have a chance at happiness again, and I do deserve it."

next: Top 5 Ways to Celebrate the Fab Four
6 comments so far | Post a comment now
Charles February 4, 2008, 5:08 PM

Answering your question; no, cheating is not genetic. It is a choice of one person to put their immediate desires ahead of everything and everyone else. Our society has become so PC that everyone is afraid to stand up against that which we know is wrong. That doesn’t make it any less wrong.

I have a friend who actually believes that if her husband were to cheat on her, she would wonder what she did wrong to cause him to do it. How can you explain to her that it has nothing to do with her and everything to do with the selfishness of her husband?

If you really are in a relationship that is untenable, do what you have to in order to fix it, or if that is impossible, get out of it. Cheating is the coward’s way of forcing an end to a relationship by fulfilling a selfish desire.

Lori February 6, 2008, 5:57 AM

I was married for five years to a miserable man who controlled my every move with his anger. When I found myself waking up in tears as I dreamed about someone (who didn’t exist) that I was madly in love with, I knew it was time to get out. Never mind the screaming arguments that sometimes ended in bruises, somehow, even though most considered me a strong independent woman, I thought if I kept trying, I could “fix it.”

I knew I was at risk for having an affair and I didn’t want to give him the ammunition to drag me through court and perhaps get custody of our son. I left him when he was out of town and he’s now one controlling b*****d who never got back his control over me.

An affair is NEVER the right way to end a marriage. If it’s truly time to move on, put on your big girl panties and do what needs to be done. I did and now I’m happily married to the love of my life, who I met AFTER my divorce.

OK August 29, 2008, 6:57 PM

Thanks for sharing your story …. I am also a Chinese woman married to a caucasian man and going through something very similar …. thanks for sharing ….

ladyjay September 2, 2008, 5:01 PM

Wow… I am a woman who has dealt with a cheating husband and wonder how wrong it is to cheat. I am adult enough to know that it would be very wrong to do. I also know that it would hurt him.. Sometimes I just look at him and feel so sorry for him..I guess I look at it like this. Two wrongs don’t make it right and either work it out or get out..

johanna September 5, 2008, 9:10 PM

No its not genetic at all. Its all choice. I cheated on my husband and i made the biggest mistake. Even though our marriage was falling apart but still it was wrong on my part. I was lucky he wanted me too stay and work things out. we divorced but we are still together and working at it and living together and talking about marriage again in the future. Im lucky too have him. But ur not born with a gene too cheat. its a choice either you can ignore it or act on it. there are consquences too cheating. Personly if you dont feel guilty then u need too check your heart.

Patty November 27, 2008, 9:30 AM

NO, cheating is not a genetic tendenacy. It is a person who hardends their hearts and ONLY loves themselves. They are only looking out after their own selfish needs. I have been on both sides of the fence. I have been cheated on and done the cheating. I will say, at least in my experience, it a very long and lonely journey to bring yourself back to being a decent person capable of giving nonselfish love, after becoming a self centered person who is sole interest is in fulfilling your own lust at all cost. Life is too short and it is not worth respect you lose for yourself or the lives you destroy. No matter what you belive..the golden is still the best policy. “Treat other’s the same as you would want to be treated.”

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