If you’ve followed this blog for long, you will know that my husband of (then) thirty-six years left me and our entire family for a twenty-nine-year old. You know, too, that it was a shock that this seemingly-perfect husband, elder of church, fine-upstanding-citizen would do such a thing. It was not only a shock to our family but to all who knew us….seemingly for a while…but now it appears not so much.
Please indulge me with generalities here…I know there are exceptions to any generalizing.
I have heard of the “bro [brother[ code.” What I have read in my attempts to understand the adultery dynamic is this: Men do not generally squeal on one another in the area of marital infidelity. Men who are close to their wives—who confide everything else—generally will not tell wives if a male friend is cheating because we women do tell as a rule. Telling her would violate the Bro-Code.
The literature (yes, real literature from social scientists) tells us that your girlfriends whose husbands are friends with yours are not a good barometer of what is going on with a cheating husband because the wives don’t know.
And so it has played out in my own life.
There is a couple who are exceptionally good friends to me. They have been supportive of me and hurt by my husband. It has been a rough road that we have traveled emotionally in tandem. This man was my husband’s dearest friend. We did a lot as couples and for decades shared joys and heartbreaks of children and life.
The wife called me over for an impromptu dinner the other night. Her husband was gone, so we had a girls-only simple dinner and a couple glasses of wine (which is likely key here). I love those times.
I avoid bringing my ex up to them because I do not want to be the clanging cymbal…but ex invariably comes up in the conversation when it’s just them and me. He has hurt them deeply, and we end up talking about him at their instigation. Fine with me—I just don’t want to be the instigator.
This night it began with her question: “C, did you ever suspect in years past that he was cheating? Did you have any feeling about that at all?”
I answered truthfully that I had no such suspicions. My husband had been exemplary; a spiritual leader in our home and in our church, a loving father, an attentive husband. I trusted him totally and never saw a reason why I should not—right up until the day I discovered his affair.
And then the beans spilled. My friend told me that she had only recently found out from her husband that mine had an affair about fifteen years ago. To make matters worse, it was a young employee of ours—a twenty-year-old member of our church.
I remember this young girl well. I recall that she worked for my husband for a very short time and he found her work ethic to be “unsatisfactory.” I remember discussions with him that it was difficult to fire someone from our church. I had thought she was just not suited for the job and knew he would let her down easily because he was such a kind person. She was let go (or quit—who knows?) and stopped coming the church altogether. I remember feeling badly that because she did not work out at the job, it caused her to give up our church altogether.
Now I see there was more to it than that.
I have to tell you that I am shocked. But not at my husband—these last several years I came to grips with the fact that I probably never knew him, so radically did his recent behavior differ from what I had thought I knew about him. No, the shock was about my friend.
The Bro-Code in action.
It is a lesson for me but, since my damage has been done and I am essentially looking in the rear-view mirror, it is a more important message for those reading this post. Let me share with you what I have learned through my ordeal:
- You do not know another person. Sorry, you just don’t, no matter what you think you know. I know of no other couples any closer than my husband and I were. My friend and her husband, for that matter, have been close. I never knew my husband, apparently. And, apparently, she never knew hers. This cannot be coincidence—that both of us wives (both intelligent, graduate-level professionals) have been duped into believing that our husbands were truthful and forthcoming when this is not the case.
- Your male friends will not tell you if your husband cheats in most cases. Those of you who can give me examples of an exception to this rule, feel free because I’m feeling very distrustful of the male gender.
- Your girlfriends won’t tell you if your husband cheats because they won’t know. Their otherwise truthful husbands will keep this from them. My girlfriend in this case, true to what is suggested by the literature, told me this news as soon as she knew it. Yes, we spill the beans, us girls.
I have reflected on what my friend’s decades-long silence has meant to me in real, practical terms. Had I known fifteen years ago what I was married to, I might have (hopefully WOULD have) made different decisions. I would have had far-and-away more time to recoup financially than I do now at this much-later age.
So, the damage to me by his honoring this bro-code is real. The silence may have cost me a great deal of financial security in my old age.
Now, moving off self-interest here, let’s talk about this young twenty-year-old. She was adult, and could have said “no,” but look at it this way: My husband appeared to be very successful. He was popular and an elder in her church. Believe me, he is a charmer. My view is that he was predatory. Brings to mind Elmer Gantry, doesn’t it?
But, beyond this, our friend was a leader in the church, too. If an elder went awry and took advantage and this man knew about, it is he complicit? In my view, yes. He had a duty to many to call my husband out on his behavior. And, if it was too late to intervene and prevent this young girl from being taken advantage of by a smooth older man, then at least he had a duty to report the transgression.
My husband had no business in church leadership. But this “friend’s” silence allowed him to go on almost another twenty years in a position of trust and authority when his evil proclivities were known. A cheater in church leadership. A proven wolf in sheep’s clothing—and preying on the flock.
Speaking of damage done by the Bro-Code, what more illustration do you need than the male-circle that surrounded Jerry Sandusky and allowed decades of sexual abuse of young children placed in his care? This week news of e mails at Penn State indicate that there was much “chat” by the males in the athletic department about how to “humanely handle” the Sandusky problem.
Humane? For whom? While they were dithering over this Bro-Code issue, young boys were being raped. I submit to you that the only humane thing would have been to stop this monster—Sandusky was due no mercy, given what he was doing. But he was extended this by the Bro-Code, which let him continue to rape.
I hope Penn State has to pay through the nose. Those guys are responsible for the rape of innocent children.
And to those men out there who may read this post, know this:
“The bro-code is not nice when it works like this.” C.