I do not understand infidelity. I don’t understand casually shredding the trust, happiness and emotional security of your mate. I know it happens and I know it is relatively common. I just don’t understand it.
I used to think that everyone felt the same way as I do about infidelity. To me, anyone who would be unfaithful couldn’t possibly really love their mate or be committed to them. How could they risk harming them that way? I believed that the breaking of a steady, faithful heart would surely result in an unholy wail by the angels. Who could live with themselves?
As a guardian ad litem, I have learned that not everyone has the same perspective. I have been surprised to learn that although there is generally a lot of distress when an infidelity is revealed, for many couples, it just isn’t the earth shattering, soul destroying crisis that it is for others. For some, infidelity is just recreation or a diversion. The mate is not happy about it and insists on assurances that it won’t happen, again, but it frequently does. Because for some couples, infidelity is … accepted. It is part of their special marital rhythm.
For these unions, there seems to be a lot of power shifting back and forth, depending upon who is currently righteously angry and who is currently righteously resentful and justified in stepping out. The most balanced moment in their relationship seems to be that time when one feels the guiltiest and the other feels the most forgiving. They are both giddy at the possibility of having another chance to “get it right.” For a moment, the sun revolves around their little world and the chaos and anguish their actions have caused their children, families, lovers, etc., fade to black. At the end of the day, the most important thing is how they make each other feel. They cling to each other in the eye of the storm that swirls around their relationship, overall.
So these days, I am afraid I have become much more jaded when dealing with repeat cheaters in the context of a custody or visitation case. While some spouse pours his/her heart out about how unfeeling the partner is; what a %&*#@$ she is; what a poor example he is to the children; how he has hurt the kids; how she has repeatedly cheated, I don’t really feel the sympathy I once did – at least not for the spouse in front of me. If it bothered them as much as they would have me believe, they’d have left a long time ago - at least emotionally. Moreover, you can't have it both ways - grant forgiveness, prolong the hell, play the power games, them resurrect the pain when it becomes useful in the battle at hand.
Nope, in a repeat cheater scenario, most of my sympathy is reserved for the dead soldiers who litter the landscape in this War of the Roses in miniature.