It was just supposed to be diversion, an affair. Not all hearts are built that way.
There’s plenty of talk and advice for the marriage with the husband and father who cheats with another woman. The talk becomes hushed and even muted when certain dynamics of the scenario are altered, however, namely when the married man is bi-curious or a closeted bisexual and who committed himself to a traditional marriage that, as far as his wife knows, is neither open nor polyamorous.
“Is he gay, bisexual? Who would’ve guessed?” – some of the predictable first reactions when the cheater is caught or exposed. The questions, beyond the expected, get more complex and their answers less open-ended. Does the cheating man have a moral responsibility to his wife and child? More argumentative, does the man with whom the husband cheats take on the dilemma of keeping the secret of the married man’s extra-marital sexual preference and protecting him from discovery by the wife and child?
More argumentative, does a man’s extra-marital affair with another man reinforce the stigma and prejudice against the bisexual man (and woman) even within the LGBT community? And, in the broader scheme, does a married man having an affair – straight and otherwise – speak to the ethical and moral ideal of being a man?
Ron is a real man. In the early hours of a crisp October morning, Ron had a specific purpose in mind for driving to a city park that was notorious for its gay cruising. He would remember later that he waited in the vacant park half an hour before another man showed up and parked some half dozen spaces from Ron’s pick-up. The man, whom Ron pegged as gay, got out of his vehicle and proceeded into a heavily wooded area of the park where gay sex was known to take place behind the shield of heavy brush and foliage.
Ron followed the man into the woods. After the man he followed stopped and sat on the trunk of a fallen tree, Ron struck up a conversation – surface stuff such as how both were doing and how quiet and scenic the fall morning was. “So, what brings ya’ here so early?” the man asked Ron. “How about a blow job?” Ron answered nervously. Ron left the park that morning with what he came for, satisfied and grateful to the man who serviced him. Both men parted with the unspoken assumption that they had had nothing more than anonymous sex with a stranger and that neither would encounter each other again.
But the two men did encounter each other again at a chance meeting at a service station just a month later. Ron, that time likely emboldened by his earlier experience, wasn’t nervous when he asked the man for a second favor. The man agreed but explained to Ron undercover police would likely be staking out the park at that hour of the day. Ron readily agreed to follow the man to his apartment. There Ron again received the satisfaction of sexual relief and, knowing now where the other man lived, asked if he could drop by again. It was the start of a sexual relationship that would last 12 years.
Two years into the relationship, which had progressed from oral sex and mutual masturbation to intercourse, Ron told his partner he had never been with another man sexually until that morning two years earlier. But another disclosure, a confession that throttled the other man: Ron had gotten married the very afternoon of the day the two men first met. But for years before his marriage, Ron said he had been curious about gay sex and, in the privacy of his home as a single man, had watched gay porn regularly. Understandable, the man remembered thinking to himself: porn is impersonal, “safe” from the dangers of actively soliciting sex, safe from being caught by a spouse.
But the man also remembered a feeling of being lied to, deceived, of being made the unwitting “other man” in Ron’s marriage. But the man, perhaps to his discredit, agreed to keep seeing – and satisfying – Ron and swore not to contact him or do anything that might tip off his wife.
The man got a second surprise another two years later when Ron called him and invited him to his house, the first time the two would meet in the new house Ron and his wife had built. His wife was out of town for the weekend, Ron said, and there was no chance of the two men being caught together. But before entering his house, Ron confessed a second secret: he had a 2-year-old daughter asleep upstairs, that they needed to be “quiet.” Again feeling he had been made the “other man” in what now was a wider deception involving a child, the man nonetheless consented to continuing the affair and agreed to extra safeguards that would shield Ron’s wife and daughter.
Ron’s extra-marital affair with the other man lasted another four years – and ended when Ron entrapped himself. The other man learned years later that Ron, drunk one night, unwittingly dialed his wife’s cell phone thinking he was calling his sex partner and left a voice message inviting the man to the house for a night of “s**king and f**king.”
There would never again be any communication between the two men after that night – no phone calls, emails or letters of explanation. Ron simply fell off the face of the earth, ceased to exist. His partner was left for years with the shame and fear that he had played a very real role in the possible destruction of a marriage and family, that a woman and child had become the collateral victims of his sexual lust for their husband and dad. For him, the shame was worsened by the pain of losing a man with whom, somewhere along the line, he had fallen in love.
Years later, long after Ron ceased to be, his ex-partner set out to try find out where Ron wound up, hopefully with his wife and now-teenage daughter. The man hoped for closure, reconciliation – whatever – or maybe he was just curious. Through Internet searches of public records, it was found that Ron’s marriage apparently survived what surely must have been a significant crisis and threat to his marriage and family. According to the cyber trail – verified and confirmed by multiple other records – Ron, his wife and their daughter moved out of state five years ago. The man found Ron’s current address and thought briefly about writing him a letter, but quickly dispensed of the temptation.
Through the years, the man thought about Ron but, gradually, more strongly about his wife and daughter and with a fervent hope from blind faith that they emerged scathed but whole from Ron’s extra-marital gay affair. He also thought about the ethical and moral dimensions of men having affairs, straight or same-sex, and who in the end is responsible to the cheated spouse and children.
Ron was certainly complicit in a web of deception that ensnared his wife, daughter and his gay lover. He did not disclose his impending marriage the morning he hooked up with the other man for the first time and, indeed, withheld his marital status for two years into their relationship. Nor did Ron disclose to his lover that he had a child until two years after her birth.
Clearly the other man was duped into the role as the “other” in an extra-marital affair – at least initially. He did, however, continue his sexual affair for at least four years after learning of both Ron’s marriage and child. To that end, he failed in his moral and ethical responsibility to respecting Ron’s marriage and to perpetuating the fraud on Ron’s wife and daughter.
For the man, self-absolution is all too easy – and unsatisfactory – by invoking “justifications” and rationalizations: Ron would not have sought sexual companionship if his marriage had been intact; he would have found it anyway with someone; it was Ron who made the decision to cheat on his wife and risking losing her and his daughter. Maybe so. Nonetheless, in the end, both Ron and his ex-lover were complicit in conscious deception that impacted the integrity of a marriage, made collateral victims of a wife and child and besmirched the ideal of what a man is supposed to be – and not.
Guilt, of course, is a gnawing presence for the man. But he is left with the consolation that his complicity and selfishness did not destroy another woman, her marriage, her child – maybe her life. And the man has regret that he failed in fulfilling his role as a man of responsibility, accountability, morales, ethics and respecting the feelings and needs of the other person.
To husbands who are cheating or contemplating it, to their lovers and potential lovers: caution is valor. More times than not, there will be consequences, even hurt, as the married spouse and as the third person in an extra-marital affair. The benefits of cheating best be weighed against the costs. Or, at risk of invoking a chauvinistic warning, the cheating man and his partner need to think with their head and not with what’s beneath the waist.
As for Ron’s ex-partner, he has not had a relationship since – both because he doesn’t want one but mainly because he does not want to risk once again being the third partner in a marriage. For him, the benefits of his 12-year sexual affair with Ron weren’t worth the cost.
For, of all involved in the situation, it was he who paid the most.