Cheating: The Truth

Let me be very candid and as clear as I know how to be. I was unfaithful to my wife and I make no excuses. In no way am I dodging the responsibilities for my flawed, immoral decisions, my weakness and my abject failure to be loyal to someone to whom I had made promises and loved dearly for twenty-eight years. I lied to her. I betrayed her. There is no justification. She deserved better than that.

More damaging than infidelity though, I had decided to leave her when she was probably at her lowest and most vulnerable. She needed me. I thought she would land on her feet in a better place. Stronger. Happier. I was wrong. I am ashamed for the decisions I made and will be for the rest of my life. I have tried to make that unquestionably clear. I wish I had done a better job of expressing it.

My decision to go public and take my message to the air was not predicated on some master plan to discredit my wife or sully her reputation, as some have suggested. Nor am I trying to play the part of a victim to campaign for your sympathy. Quite the opposite.

I’ve bared the truth of my story because I want others to understand what happened and how. I want others to listen, to apply my experience to their own lives and learn from my mistakes. I want the truth to be out there to be examined.

Publicly, for millions to see and hear, I tried to share the depths of my regret and remorse, but unfortunately there is only so much you can say in a show edited for television, and what was shown wasn’t enough for some people. There simply isn’t enough time, and to date, I have had no control over the questions that were asked or the answers that would ultimately make the cut. For the forty minutes of the one-hour ABC 20/20 episode that wasn’t commercials, I was interviewed on five separate occasions, for a total of fifteen hours. Fourteen hours and twenty minutes of raw, emotional honesty that neither you or I will ever see. But it’s not the job of a journalist, ABC News or any other outlet to tell the story I feel you need to hear. Thus, the book. Thus, this blog.

Since I started this blog, hundreds of people have reached out, some with support, others with anger and hate, but so many more who feel they can relate with their own stories of infidelity, messy divorces, violent partners, and sadly, suicide. I’ve exchanged dozens of emails, messages and phone calls with people for whom my story has somehow made them feel they’re not alone. They’re not. And that, in and of itself, makes this effort all worth it. And for my own reasons, I selfishly feel the need to talk about it with all of you.

In a recent blog post, “Everyone Thought She Was Happy,” a rather dissatisfied reader left a comment that I thought was worth sharing here, at least in part “…The fact is 95% of people don’t cheat and it’s difficult for them to sympathize with even a hint of justification of an affair,” wrote In The Know.

I wish that “fact” was correct. But unfortunately it’s not. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy reports that 15 percent of married women and 25 percent of married men have admitted to having extramarital affairs. And then there are those who will never admit to it.
I bring these statistics to light, not to justify or to deflect my failings, but to underscore the seriousness of the problem and to illustrate just how widespread and common it is.

While 75% to 85% of the American populous haven’t had an extramarital affair, it’s easy to say that you would never cheat or be cheated on. But so often it happens to those you’d least expect. I’ve come to believe nobody is immune.

I recently had dinner with a long-respected colleague, someone who knew and worked closely with both Jennair and me. I assumed she had already heard about what had happened. But minutes into the conversation about business and our respective careers, I wasn’t so sure. I looked up at her and paused. “Laura, you do know, don’t you?”

“Know what?” she asked, puzzled. I took a deep breath, and then for the next fifteen minutes I explained to her the unbelievable events that had unfolded just 19 months before. As I spoke, she stared back at me blankly in disbelief, her eyes growing wider and wider by the second. “Holy fuck, Mark!” she managed to exclaim, trying to catch her breath. To say the least, I took her by surprise. And then, it was my turn to be surprised.

“I get it. I totally get it,” she said looking down at the bar with the strangest twisted smile. And then, seemingly titillated and almost proud of herself, she gazed up and admitted, “I’m the other woman. I’m seeing a married man.”

“No, Laura!” I said loudly, pounding my fist on the bar. “Get out of it. Now! It’s not worth it. This will only end badly for you. For him. For her.

“I know. I know. But it’s so hard,” she lobbied sympathetically. “I’ll get out of it. I will. Eventually I will.”

I hope to God she does.

Understandably, some want to shift the focus of my wife’s deadly last act squarely on the issue of infidelity. End of argument. But I would be remiss if I let the argument end there. This story goes way beyond a crime of passion due to infidelity. Way beyond lust, bad decisions, and broken hearts. From our respective early childhoods until the moment I first laid eyes on her, something brought us together. Need. Love. The universe. And for the next 24 years, our life together was a tumultuous ride, full of beautiful memories and loving support, but also disappointment and a dramatic, dysfunctional codependence in which neither of us knew how to be honest about our true selves.

Maybe our marriage should have ended long before. But neither of us knew how. Neither of us had the strength. So without deciding, we stayed in it. And in the end it was weakness, not strength, that ripped us apart. My weakness. My lies. My deceit. I know now I should have done so many things differently.

I’m not suggesting people should stay in an unhappy marriage. Neither am I suggesting people should leave an unhappy marriage. Every situation, every relationship is unique and different. But if you make the decision to end it, there is a right way. With honesty, love and dignity. As I told Laura and as I tell everyone, if you are having an extramarital affair, for your own good and for everyone involved: Stop. End it. With kindness.

For more realistic insights and facts about marriage and infidelity in today’s America, I encourage you to read this 2018 New York Times article.

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6 thoughts on “Cheating: The Truth”

  1. Hello Mr. Gerardot, I am interested in reading more about you, because my sister is going thru divorce now. I am afraid that she might do something crazy. How can I be of support to her? Her husband left her for a younger woman. This other woman is expecting his baby now. My sister has not yet accepted that her marriage, her family with him is no longer his priority.

    1. Ledis, just be there for your sister. But also make sure she is surrounded by others too. Your sister needs love support from a variety of friends and family, and if possible, professional help from a therapist or perhaps someone from church. My wife didn’t have the necessary support. She refused it. As for your brother-in-law, from my own perspective and hard lessons, regardless whether he feels it’s a priority, he has a responsibility and a duty to make sure his wife is okay. If she does something “crazy” (as you say) he will regret it for the rest of his life.

  2. My mother cheated on my father for several years with her boss. It ripped my family apart. As a teenager girl I was devastated and confused. Suddenly a strange man was in my home acting as my father and bringing his grown children into our home. I refused to live with them and left for college early never looking back. It’s been almost twenty years since then and I still refuse to talk to my mother or her scum bag husband. I will never expose my husband and children to people who live their lives in such a selfish manner. God bless my father!

  3. Good for you for being so concerned with your sister’s well being. When my husband cheated and left me and our children for a younger woman and it was absolutely debilitating. I had unbelievable support from family and friends, a great lawyer, fantastic therapist and huge $$ support from my Mom and Dad. Even with all of this I barley made it!!
    My therapist said it best, “know why you feel tossed aside and abandoned?” “Because you were, and I’m going to help you get through it” . All too often these situations lead to suicide , please watch her closely. Having a pregnant mistress makes her situation even more toxic. Wait till her husband and his mistress take to social media proclaiming their happiness. He will hurt to her core to see it. She has to remember her husband’s words and actions are completely self serving, so do not trust him in anyway. Let her lawyer do her bidding. It has taken me years to fix his financial f ups so a long term view is important. Changing my life purpose to raising my children gave me the self direction to go on and be the person to salvage a horrible situation caused by his immoral actions.

  4. My ex cheated on me with a younger woman at work. I was at home with 4 young children (1, 3, 5, & 7) and had given up my IT career.

    I want to summarize a conclusion I have reached, 22 years later. I am blessed that none of my children are alienated from their father and that they live (part-time) harmoniously with his wife (yes, “that” woman) and their twins. I was surprisingly “proud” when my children tell me about their twin brothers.

    My children have taught me much. I find adultery abhorrent. The ex knew that when he “picked me” because I always detested it. I used to ask, “Of all the women on the face of the Earth, why me, Lord?” I guess He knows when something is “blocking” a person, the best way to release it.

    Do I endorse betrayal? No. Do I endorse adultery? No. But I endorse the freedom of children to love their faulty parent unconditionally. I have many faults, also. I pray that they love me unconditionally, also.

    A great book that I read during tumultuous times was “Why Forgive?”

    It is so hard. And yet, when you do, the breakthrough is incredible!

  5. Great advice Mark. I fell for a married coworker and left my wife of 18 years for her. I was so stupid to fall for the excitement and drama our affair created. It blinded all my good judgement and common sense as I soaked up her compliments and her good looks. I was inches away from getting remarried when I grew wary of her endless need for attention and her constant criticism of my first wife.
    I wave of panic consumed me when I realized I made a huge mistake and I pulled the plug on our wedding. I realized I did not want my fiancée to become my kid’s stepmom. Because if my actions I get to watch my children grow up under another man’s roof and it breaks my heart. To confirm your statistics on cheating, confused and bitter I spent several years after my divorce hooking up with women I met on my business trips. I am lucky to have some wealth and decent looks … that said I am no Don Juan so it really shocked me how many married women cheated. I am not proud of my actions but I did see first hand how many people jump into affairs risking their marriage.
    Thanks for your message Mark

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