Revenge Is Not Sweet for Adulterers' Wives

The bottom line is this: Why waste mental space thinking about how to take revenge on your husband and/or his mistress, rather than putting your focus on how to make your source of happiness and fulfillment independent of the pair of them?
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Lipstick mark in shirt.
Lipstick mark in shirt.

When you discover your husband's affair, you might feel the urge to take violent revenge upon the cheating cad. At the very least, there is a strong temptation to whack him in the face with a heavy object or destroy his prized possessions. An adulterer's wife might also fantasize about stabbing his floozy in the heart or punching her in the face. However, in most of the Western world, adultery is allowed yet physically attacking your spouse or his mistress might cause you a few inconvenient legal problems.

In the movies, revenge is sweet. In real life, that's not necessarily the case. The desire for revenge can be a very toxic emotion that keeps you bound to all the negative effects you've suffered from his infidelity. Seeking vengeance can lead to endless hatred and bitterness--it never brings back what you have lost. It is easy to smash something up, but takes a lot longer to rebuild it. Out of revenge, you may do something you later sorely regret, but by then it may be too late to fix.

I heard a case of a psychiatrist who was having an affair with a former patient. In a fit of rage upon finding out, his wife reported him and the man was struck off. Losing his medical license meant that her husband lost his practice and most of his income. The wife received a far lower alimony and divorce settlement than she would have been able to claim had she not turned her spouse in. Perhaps the man deserved to be struck off for what he had done. Nevertheless, some might say that the psychiatrist's wife had cut off her nose to spite her face, acting out of revenge rather than good sense.

In the book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, Malcolm Gladwell discusses a situation considerably more devastating than an unfaithful husband or a failing marriage--dealing with the murder of a child. He contrasts the lives of parents who have taken the revenge route, often characterized by broken marriages and lifelong suffering, with those who have tried to move past and let go of the pain of losing their child, even attempting to forgive the murderer. A famous aphorism from the New Testament illustrates the importance of forgiveness within Christianity: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do;" says Jesus while he is suffering on the Cross. Quite an improvement on the "eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" revenge model (from King Hammarabi's code of ancient Babylon), don't you think?

The Dalai Lama is another spiritual leader who takes a strong stance against revenge. He advocates and genuinely practices compassion towards the Chinese government whose armed forces have oppressed, imprisoned, tortured and killed his people.

So if the parents of a murdered child, Jesus on the Cross, and Tibetan monks tortured by the Chinese can forgive, how about trying to forgive your wayward spouse and his girlfriends? Even if you're an agnostic or an atheist, rolling your eyes at the mention of Jesus and religion, at least consider the value of trying to come to terms with your circumstances and finding a way to be at peace with yourself.

The bottom line is this: Why waste mental space thinking about how to take revenge on your husband and/or his mistress, rather than putting your focus on how to make your source of happiness and fulfillment independent of the pair of them? The best revenge you can take is to move past the need for it. Easier said than done, of course, but it's still very much worth striving for.

According to certain schools of Tibetan Buddhism, if you're guilty of sexual misconduct in your current life, in your next reincarnation you're likely to have a promiscuous, hostile and ugly spouse who also has committed sexual misconduct in a previous life. Thus, as far as revenge is concerned, perhaps you can content yourself with the possibility that both your husband and his floozy will be unhappy and hideous to behold in their next lives. However, what Buddhists deem to be sexual misconduct varies considerably from one sect to another. Nevertheless, if there's a person you've come across who really looks like the back of a bus, at least now you have some idea of what he or she may have done to deserve it.

Penis captivus is another fine form of revenge that might visit a couple committing adultery, at least that's the claim of a German manual of gynecology published in 1933. The author Walter Stoeckel theorizes that during illicit sex, the fear of discovery can increase the force of the woman's vaginal spasm, trapping the man's engorged member inside her. So does penis captivus really exist or is it just a popular myth? William Kremer reported on this fascinating phenomenon for the BBC World Service in February 2014. Many doctors have heard about copulating couples getting stuck together at least for a few seconds. There are also documented cases of penis captivus resulting in hospital admissions, although this condition is rare. It certainly gives a new twist to the expression, "I'm stuck on you."

Adapted from C. J. Grace's new book, Adulterer's Wife: How to Thrive Whether You Stay or Not, available on Visit C. J.'s website, and follow her on Twitter: