There are also the more emotional consequences of cheating, but even those aren’t nearly as clear-cut as you’d think. One Catholic-raised friend who did cheat on her husband felt guilty about it but also knew she was unhappy in her marriage to a controlling man. Like many women, she used the affair to leverage herself out of the marriage.
The only thing that her guilty feelings really impacted was the financial fallout from her divorce.
“My mistake was that I let him make me feel guilty enough about Cheating Wife that I didn’t seek more of a settlement of what I was legitimately entitled to,” she said.
You might think that guilt would stop women from being untrue to their mates. However, a lot of us do not feel the guilt and shame that society taught us to feel or have inflicted on each other.
“For these women, the release they experienced through sex with an affair partner saved their marriages. Prior to participating in an affair, they doubted their own ability to stay in the marriage. They simply didn’t know how much longer they could live sexlessly or with a sex life absent pleasurable release. However, the thought of dissolving their marriages evoked sadness and despair. But the sexual relief of being a cheating wife made them feel capable of continuing to stay in those marriages—something they very much desired,” writes Alicia Walker, Ph.D. in her article “The Secret Lives of Cheating Wives.”
“With their sexual needs met, at least periodically, they found themselves better able to endure the daily frustrations of a shared life. They could overlook an unequal division of household labor, irritating habits, and even inattentiveness, in part because they kept such a large, stigmatized secret from their spouse. Many pointed out that when they got angry with their husbands about something small, they checked themselves with some version of the thought: ‘I’m a cheating [b-word].’ But aside from the guilt about their behavior, the sheer power of having their sexual needs met enabled them to be a more gracious version of themselves.”
What we are seeing as women become primary breadwinners, business moguls, national leaders, and power brokers in greater numbers is more than a sexual evolution. It is a resurrection of women’s original sexuality.
Look back at the Goddess-centered cultures that covered the globe for the Paleolithic period. There was no passage of property linked to children, who were only guaranteed to belong to one man by control over his wife’s sexuality. Wealth, the means of making it, and children belonged more to the cooperative group than the ruling few.
It wasn’t until the much later and much shorter epochs that cultures became more hierarchical and violence-dominated. Wealth moved upward to a chosen few male leaders and their consorts, instead of funneling down and out to the greater community. (This is kind of the “One Ring to Rule Them All” model). Those few men of means began to want a guarantee that their children were theirs before making them their heirs. So, women became property, and their sexual power came under control, scrutiny, and often, punishment in one form or another.
We have since learned to normalize that control and the resulting muffled female sexuality. It clearly isn’t natural. When we look at how much longer the Paleolithic lasted than later periods, and the sexual norms that went with it, the rising tide of “cheating wives” seems to indicate more of a return to nature rather than an aberration.
What we are seeing in the cheating wife trend may be disturbing to some and vindicating for others. Regardless, it is an indicator of women taking their power back and re-writing their story themselves.