Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dirty, rotten scoundrels

How many times, especially in recent weeks since the Tiger Woods' fiasco, have you referred to a cheating spouse or boyfriend as a dirty, rotten scoundrel . . . or worse? Cheating is one of those things that women take very, very personally, whether in their own lives, the lives of their friends or even in their fiction.

I have a theory about this, at least as it pertains to the way we view the cheating man in the life of a friend. I suspect we all fear that there, but for the grace of God, could be us. The discovery that a man we know has been cheating on a friend hits way too close to home. It shakes up the way we view the world, and sometimes our own relationships. We start watching for the little clues that we might have missed that, heaven forbid, it's happening to us, too.

When a friend reveals that a spouse or boyfriend has been cheating, we offer a shoulder to cry on, try very hard not to be judgmental once the decision is made to stay or go, and offer support if the relationship is irretrievably broken.

It's a whole lot easier to be judgmental and view the issue as black or white -- kick the dirty, rotten scoundrel to the curb, for instance -- when there's some distance from the situation. Most everybody has their opinions about what the publicly humiliated spouses of various political figures and celebrities ought to do to their husbands.

The truth is, though, when the cheating hits home, it's a whole lot harder to make the call. The theoretical "cheating is a deal breaker" is tougher when your own emotions and kids, perhaps, are involved. Every situation, every marriage, every relationship is different. And sometimes it takes walking in those shoes to view the choices differently.

I've been thinking about this recently after seeing a reader comment somewhere that she flatly won't read a book in which the spouse or hero has cheated. Her views were strong and unyielding. Since I have no idea who she was, I have no way of determining what colored her opinions, but I'm curious about how the rest of you feel.

In Home in Carolina, which hits stores March 30, Ty Townsend has cheated on Annie Sullivan during their time apart while she was still in college and he was on the road playing Major League baseball. The situation reminds me of Ross's oft-repeated claim to Rachel in "Friends" that he'd thought they were "on a break." That's definitely what Ty thought, and maybe he could have pulled it off and earned Annie's forgiveness, if only one of those women hadn't had his child!

So, put yourself in Annie's shoes, if you can. This is a man who's been a dear and loyal friend, a man who's been there for her during some of the worst times of her life. He still loves her more than anything. Could you forgive him? Could you accept his child as your own?

Obviously there are more complications in the book than I've detailed here, but in general I'd love to hear how you'd handle such a situation. Could you steel your heart against this man you've always loved? Click on comments below and let me know, or email me directly at Sherryl703@gmail.com.

Sherryl Woods

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