There comes a time in life when affairs, like death, become unavoidable. They become a part of the adult landscape; you just hope the bomb doesn’t go off too close to home. That the shrapnel doesn’t hit your family. This week, it landed in my inbox. (And on my screen, currently binge watching The Affair, and I recommend you do too… after you finish this blog.)
In the last five days, two women have reached out to me. One has dissolved an affair and the other was asking me if I could put into words what she was feeling, her frustration with people who find themselves checking out other people’s grass. People who get right up in it and inspect it for greenness.
There was a time in my life when I could have written either message. Now I have brown married grass, nothing to see here folks, keep away pretty young ladies and curious men.
The affair I’m privy to is tale as old as time; Joe Blow is miserable, his wife is awful, his home life is a prison. And guess what, Joe Blow ain’t lying. I am one wife vouching for them all; we are awful and this is a prison. My husband is going to ask before he puts something on our calendar, I’m liable to shoot down any golf outing I see fit, and I don’t get to leave the house on any given afternoon for a Pedicure. Target runs don’t happen because I’m bored, they happen because if I don’t leave the house I’m going to lose my shit. And that’s just what I’m willing to put on the Internet.
Sometimes we both feel like we’re suffocating, sometimes we’d rather suffocate one another. We don’t have the best or the worst marriage, it interchangeably feels like both, but I think it will last because we’ve learned one truth: you don’t get married to have an easy life; you get married to have someone by your side through a hard one.
When I was young I couldn’t see past a white dress and a big party and the inevitable baby shower to follow. I thought of marriage in events, not the minutes between them. But I’ve had my party, my belly has been round, and now I’m a mother and a wife. I know that marriage means holding someone through labor, and cancer. It’s addiction, it’s depression, it’s a crippling mortgage, and it’s worrying about how you’re going to send a now 6 month old to college. And when you’re lucky, it is 5 episodes of Chopped on a Thursday night. It is not sexy. And affairs are. I get it. If you want your body to tingle every time someone touches you, don’t get married. I mean honestly, don’t get past four dates.
If you do though, you’ll find home. You’ll be able to crawl in bed next to someone and feel at ease, even if the four walls around you are on fire. If you don’t stick around long enough for the tingles to fade, you’ll never be able to endure the heat.
You think his wife sitting at home has never thought of someone stealing a kiss in a coat closet? 1,000%. Because he is actually awful too. And that is a G rated fantasy for the audience’s sake. But she knows there are more important things than secret notes, and secret beds. She’s learned about marriage the only way you can, by being in one. Her walls are burning down, and you’re worried about lightning and lingerie.
We understand that divorce is sometimes inevitable, but like death, we hope it’s accompanied by dignity. That a mother will be able to tell her children their father is a good person without wincing and gritted teeth. Forget the house shrew for a moment and allow me to appeal to your conscious; are you prepared to be the villain in a child’s nightmare?
So I’m asking you, on behalf of the girl who wrote me and myself, before you insert yourself into someone else’s, get your own. Know what you’re helping dismantle before you pick up a sledgehammer, without the sense to wear a hard hat. Know that it’s incredibly hard to walk away from a marriage when there are little children screaming your name. Know that one day, (despite your conviction that you won’t be) you’ll be “awful” too; your home will resemble a spiritual prison (if you’re doing it right), and you’ll be praying that some young girl who hasn’t lived enough life yet to sort fantasy from reality, doesn’t set sights on your husband, who’s forgotten what’s important.
(This piece originally appeared on The Spilled Milk Club)
About the author: Scarlett is a stay at home-ish mom, writer, and bartender. She lives in a suburb of Detroit with her husband and daughter. She’s trying to be a slightly less insane parent than her own (low bar). You can read her work at The Spilled Milk Club and creep her on Instagram and Facebook.