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June 8, 2011

Column #1,554

“Unfaithful: Stories of Betrayal”

By Mike McManus

            In recent weeks we have been bombarded with stories of powerful men who think they can cheat on their wives with impunity. 

Most recently, it’s been Rep. Anthony Weiner unbelievably sending nude pictures of himself to women he never met.  That on the heels of learning Arnold Schwarzenegger had a child with his maid; the head of the International Monetary Fund arrested for raping a chambermaid; and John Edwards, on trial for using campaign funds to pay over $1 million to a woman whom he impregnated while running for President.

            Results to date: Arnold divorced; IMP Chief imprisoned for a week and facing a trial; Edwards on trial and Weiner, likely to lose his seat through redistricting, if he doesn’t resign.

            There are more fundamental questions. First, how frequent is adultery?  Not very.

            In 1994, the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago reported that only 15 to 18 percent of "ever-married people have had a sexual partner other than their spouse while married." And just 3 to 4 percent have cheated on their spouse in any given year.  Good news!

            The more fundamental question for average American is more mundane.  If there has been infidelity, can a marriage be restored? 

            Yes.  What’s new is a TV series which honestly explores the pain of infidelity called “Unfaithful: Stories of Betrayal,’ which begins on Monday, June 13, at 9 pm Eastern, on the new Oprah Network. (Comcast Channel 182, DirecTV channel 279, DISH Network channels 189, 885.

            What’s more, these are true stories, told by the husband and wife themselves, while scenes of their previous lives are re-enacted with actors who look like the couple decades ago when the adultery took place.  Thus, we see the husband and wife, as they appear today, telling their stories full of anguish in a compelling new TV format.

            More important, each story ends up with a heart-warming reconciliation.

            I know one of the first two couples whose story is told, Bob and Cathy, who have previously shared their story only with friends.

            What sparked her infidelity seemed odd to me.  Bob came home to tell her that as an Emergency Medical Technician, he answered a call that turned out to be from her best friend, Marlene, who tragically died.

            Cathy went into deep mourning over the loss of her friend.

            Bob said, “You have to accept this.  It is awful.  But there is nothing you can do.”

            She recalls, “It made me angry at him, telling me to get over it. I felt very alone in my marriage.”

            In retrospect, Bob now acknowledges, “I could not respond in the way she needed me to respond.” 

A therapist adds, “A marriage is in trouble when they do not talk, and start to avoid each other.”

            However, David, a close friend of both of theirs, was more sympathetic.  “I could not wait until Bob left for work, and David would call.  It was flattering.  I thought, `This man cares for me.’ I found myself being attracted to him.”

            One day David asked, “Why don’t we meet somewhere?”

            “I knew it was wrong.  I could have turned around at any point.  As I got to the door of the hotel, I thought, `What am I doing here?’  He was gentle and kind.  I thought, `No one will ever know about this.’”

            The therapist adds, “What starts as an emotional affair can end up as a sexual affair.”

            David called to tell her that his wife, Anne, found out about the affair. So Cathy decided to tell Bob, and said “I am very ashamed of myself.  I ask for your forgiveness.”

            Bob comments, “I could not believe it.  I trusted her totally.”

            However, he asked, “I have to know who it was.” When he learned it David, he said, “I have something to share with you.”  Cathy’s heart started pounding.

            “I have been unfaithful to you with David’s wife, Anne!”

            Now it was her turn to be shocked, and she blurted, “I cannot believe it. We saw David and Anne regularly.”

            “I was devastated and did not know how to deal with this.”

            However they were both heart-broken at how they had hurt each other. They went to counseling to understand how it had happened, how each had fallen short as husband and wife. They rediscovered one another and renewed their vows.

            Adultery may be grounds for divorce, but not a reason to divorce.

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