I once fell in love with a married man, and one thing that I’ve never really talked about was his uncanny ability to make cheating a lifestyle despite having a wife, three children, a full-time job, plus a blog and active Facebook community.
This is a man who lead a double life not just for months, but for more than a decade.
As I learned who he really was, I found out that he built his entire life around his indiscretions. Whether that was intentional or not, I doubt I’ll ever know. I don't even think he knows, because that would require total honesty with himself.
He cheated with his coworkers.
When I first moved down to Tennessee in 2013 and I began to learn more about this man I loved and the world he lived in, I thought that surely, there must be something in the water.
I couldn't believe how many co-workers he'd been involved with and how many other people I met whose relationships all began with affairs at work.
As it turns out, cheating with co-workers seems to be pretty damn common in the bible belt. Depending upon your particular job, it's easy to get away for a few minutes or even take a day off together.
And it's something of an easy thrill. People who start affairs with co-workers get to enjoy the emotional high of beginning a new romance whenever they clock in. For some folks, it makes the time pass by much easier.
It’s also a way to turn their work life into something of a fantasy.
He offered to run errands for the family on his own.
This move reminds me of the red pill men who try to game their wives. Eventually, I found out that the married man I fell for routinely offered to go shopping, pick up dinner, grab prescriptions, and do anything else that made it look like he was doing his wife a really big favor just so he could have some alone time to call or text a sidechick.
When we were having our affair, he used to get upset anytime I didn't answer my phone when he went on one of his impromptu errands. I didn't like his attitude. I didn't feel that it was fair.
But he was really good at manipulating my emotions so that every time I spoke up about it, he found a way to turn things around for him. Suddenly, I was the one who was so unfair. I didn't understand how hard stuff was for him.
He also knew how to use my guilt as the other woman against me. I didn't like the fact that we were cheating, but I also never found the courage to leave. He would push and pull on my emotions, as if he knew I would never actually leave.
He mooched off of me and other women.
One big sign that your spouse is cheating often comes with the bank statement or credit card bill. But my married boyfriend didn't manage his own money. His wife did that.
He got out of contributing anything financial to our time together while he was still married. I later discovered this was standard for him. It was the women who paid for the hotels and meals, all so he could keep his secret safe.
Anytime away from his wife became an opportunity to cheat.
His cheating activities weren't just limited to the 9 to 5 at work or his seemingly heartfelt offers to go grocery shopping. There were other times, like when he had to fly out for a job interview, or anytime his company sent him to a conference or bit of training out of state.
In his mind, women came after him and his biggest problem was simply that he couldn't say no. He frequently likened himself to a victim of circumstance. Or fate.
In reality, he was always on the lookout for someone. Like a lot of other chronic cheaters, he didn't want to be alone. Constantly seeking a new partner kept him from truly facing himself or seriously contemplating the man in the mirror.
He complained about women.
It took me a while to catch this strategy because it's something he employed more with his wife. Eventually, though, he used it with me too. He would nonchalantly complain about women being difficult, to the point of saying that he couldn't handle cheating because it would mean trying to please multiple women.
He insisted that it felt bad enough to argue with one woman, so why would he want to deal with more? This was a flat out lie intended to cover up the fact that he often had four or five different women on the side.
He didn't rock the boat.
In many ways, my ex let his wife "wear the pants" in the family, so to speak. This is something else that I see a lot of in the bible belt. Women stay home to be wives and mothers, husbands silently resent them, but those same supposedly unhappy men refuse to reveal their feelings to their spouse.
Instead, they make sure that whatever they do, they don't rock the boat in their relationship. My ex had this down to a science. His wife made virtually all of the decisions but he gave her the illusion that they were a team because he mostly agreed.
The absence of real arguments made a good show of happiness, but it was a fake relationship. I went through a similar thing (though I didn't make all of the decisions). We never had a real relationship because my ex was never truly honest with me either.
Everything he did was just a ploy to maintain the life he wanted at the time.
He came from a culture where cover ups are commonplace.
I often wonder if cheating is more common in the bible belt because it sure seems more common down here. I’m from the Twin Cities and it's not that Yankees don't cheat, but it seems like the whole long-term "double life" thing is much more prevalent here. Where everyone claims to live for Jesus.
Actually, my ex was a youth pastor before we met. And he cheated on his wife the entire time.
Clearly, this is my unscientific opinion about cheating in Tennessee or Georgia versus cheating in Minnesota. But in my experience, it's a cultural and religious thing. People who grew up in the evangelical purity culture often carry a lot of regrets about sex and relationships.
In addition to those regrets, there's also a ton of shame. And shame is probably the biggest motivator in most cover ups. People don't want to get caught, but they especially don't want to feel burning shame in from of sombody else. When you're motivated by shame, you're more likely to try to cover things up instead of coming clean.
Here in the bible belt, there's a weird amount of pressure to stay where you are and do what looks like the right thing. As a result, people seem much more apt to look away and bite their tongues when they discover that someone they know is cheating.
He used mobile apps that make it easier to cover his tracks.
I'm still pretty naive about all of the different applications a person can use to cover up their cheating ways, but there's apparently something out there for everyone. He liked to use texting apps that masked his real number, so women couldn't contact him in a way his wife might see.
Of course, lots of dating apps make it easy to cheat too. Spouses don't have to know that their significant other has a profile on certain websites. They can carry on torrid affairs without ever using their real phone numbers.
His online hobbies helped support his lifestyle of cheating.
This seems like such a diabolical thing, but my ex began a blog and non-profit organization during the "occupy movement," and he wound up using it to meet and impress more women. That's actually how he found me, but I would later discover that I wasn't the only reader he targeted for a romantic relationship.
It’s a little bit of a chicken and egg question. Do guys like these build up online communities to create a built-in opportunity to cheat? Or does the power just get to their heads and lead them to cheat?
Maybe it's a little bit of both.
He felt entitled to cheat.
This seems to be a pretty common mindset among chronic cheaters. My ex indicated the feeling that he deserved to cheat because he was so unhappy with his life. He didn't like that he'd gotten married so young. He felt forced into having kids and resented his wife for not bringing in an income.
The reality, of course, is that he made all of his own choices. Nobody had really ever twisted his arm into doing anything, but he found it easier to carry his regrets and blame somebody else.
He felt entitled to cheat on his wife, and that's what ultimately led him to build his whole life around an ability to have affairs.
And the reality is that he’s not the only one.
Over the years, I’ve had a number of guy friends who have confessed strings of affairs. These are people who come across to the world like “family men.” They talk about family and fatherhood. Other people brag them up as these incredible fathers.
And yet? They lie, in one way or another, to everyone they love. It’s baffling how they’re even able to get away with so many secrets. I wonder how many red flags go ignored or get missed by wives who are busy running households and raising children.
From what I've seen, none of these dads with double lives really deserve to be called father of the year. Not even from their picture-perfect sham selves. They're spending energy on feeding their egos with illicit affairs when they could be building a better life for themselves and their families. But it's easy in a culture that sets the bar so low for men, for those men to hide in plain sight.