Airing Dirty Linen In Public

I was at a birthday lunch for a friend of mine yesterday and it was a great day. It was one of those winter days where the sky is a crisp blue and completely cloudless; where the blue is so perfect, so undisturbed that the sun kind of melts into it.

Something happened at the party yesterday that upset a few of the partygoers. I thought I’d share it with you to get your opinions on what you think of people who air their dirty linen in public.

We were all just chatting, having a laugh, and the conversation turned to cooking. How to keep variety in the weekly menu, who does most of the cooking in the family, and so on. It was great to see how many men actually cooked on a regular basis and how many teenage children did. I thought that was brilliant.

Then Graham chipped in about his wife Belinda : ‘She is the worst cook I’ve ever met. Thank God she’s so hot in the bedroom.’ Everyone laughed until Graham added : ‘Not.’

‘What are you saying?’ Belinda countered. ‘That not only am I a terrible cook, I’m crap in bed too.’

‘Well, we haven’t had sex for more than two years,’ Graham shouted, a little tidbit I wished he hadn’t shared with the party at large.

Graham cheated on Belinda. Juniors from his office. No one knows for sure how many there were or how long it went on for. But Belinda knows. She filed for divorce three years ago but Graham begged and pleaded for her to give him a second chance. His campaign to win her back lasted for more than 6 months. I was astounded by his focus. Most men would have given up, but he persisted. When she relented he said he was the happiest man alive.

Things went well for a while but after about three months Belinda admitted she was having trouble with intimacy issues. She couldn’t stomach sex – sometimes it made her physically ill. She felt she couldn’t completely trust Graham and the thought that he might still be sleeping with other women as well as sleeping with her, repulsed her. ‘What if I catch something?’ she said.

In the end she admitted that she used sex as a weapon, a shield. If she withheld sex it meant she was protected to a certain extent from his infidelity. She could keep that little part of herself to herself, untouched. She felt Graham didn’t deserve all of her anymore, that he had lost the right.

Once lost, trust is such a difficult thing to regain. So many people I know (both male and female) who have been victims of infidelity say that it is trust they grapple with the most when trying to rebuild their relationships.

It’s easier to say : ‘Ill give you a second chance. I’ll try again. I forgive you’ than it is to quieten the little voice in your head that says :’It’s 11PM and he isn’t home yet. Is he out with her?’ ‘Who keeps sending all these explicit emails?’ ‘Why is he buying me flowers on a week night?’

Belinda has been seeing a therapist who told her that it is very common for people who have experienced infidelity to initially forgive the behaviour and then even as much as ten years later, to suddenly develop problems around issues of trust.

Belinda summed up her fears:

“Just because he’s says he isn’t being unfaithful, doesn’t actually mean he’s being faithful. He told me he wasn’t cheating when he was in the middle of all those affairs. He looked me dead in the eye and said he would never do that to me but he did do it. Talk is cheap when it comes to infidelity. I don’t know if I can truly believe anything he says ever again. And if that’s the case, how can I ever really forgive him?”

And there’s the rub – is it really possible to completely forgive someone who’s been unfaithful to you? Can you ever fully get the trust back or is there always doubt niggling at the back of your mind? And if that’s the case, let’s be honest, should you and that person be together?

Belinda and Graham fought for over an hour. Sly little digs that eventually began to deteriorate into an out and out slanging match. A slanging match that hung her (supposed) lack of sexual prowess out to dry.

A few people and I eventually got sick of it and suggested they either stop or take the argument elsewhere. Then Graham started in on us, that if we hadn’t been bending Belinda’s ears for the last two years she would be in a much more forgiving state right now. Seems like everyone was to blame but Graham himself.

As Graham, Belinda and a few other people left the garden turned an inky green. I got to thinking about the word hurt. It is a word that hangs in the air after you say it, as if part of it is corporeal, as if by saying it you release it into the physical realm.

There is a seductiveness about it, like an autumn leaf with its edges curled up that you cannot resist crunching into the ground. There is a finality about it, as if once you have experienced it, it will be the only emotion you remember experiencing. There is pain in the word, like someone slicing through your flesh. There is a certainty about it, so that saying you are unaffected by its presence sounds unconvincing.

Hurt me and I hurt you back. Isn’t that how it goes? One way or another the hurt binds us, makes us unable to think or hear or see. Sometimes it can work out that the hurt is all we know, all we are. I hope Belinda can relinquish the hurt, that she will not drop the strong parts of herself she has gathered, and move on to a better time where the night will not grow ever colder. And I hope she doesn’t have to go through the humiliation of her dirty linen being aired in public ever again.

24 thoughts on “Airing Dirty Linen In Public

  1. When I first started reading this I was going to say “oh I am SOOO the kind of person to air their dirty laundry” – because I am infamously lacking in boundaries.

    But – no. That’s one line even I don’t cross. Ever.

    The whole thing makes me hurt – for both of them, actually.


  2. Graham sounds like a bit of a buffoon to tell you the truth. No it definitely isn’t right to air your dirty laundry in public and especially in a social setting such as a party. Sex, or the lack thereof, should be something sacred between a couple. It sounds like he deliberately set out to humiliate her and that is just WRONG.


  3. Graham sounds like a first-class jerk! Wow, I feel for your friend. Perhaps she will still get a divorce; this doesn’t sound like a marriage that will ever be healed. Infidelity can take many forms. I think even wanting to cheat on your partner is a form of infidelity, if you know what I mean. Graham certainly must be in that category still, if not actually physically. What does she see in this guy anyways. Sorry if this dampened the party spirits but perhaps its a turning point for this couple to take the next step, either way.

    Hugs, G 🙂


  4. PS: Did you have any WP issues with images in the past day or two Selma? My header went pooooof!!! Yikes. Apparently they are working on it. G


  5. IMHO, Graham is a narcissitic control freak who is battering Belinda with his mouth instead of his fists. And IMHO, Belinda would be much better off if she went forward with the divorce she started a few years back. Graham’s attitude and behaviour is inexcusable. We, as a society, would be much better off if we all stopped tolerating this kind of behaviour.

    Sagacious Woman


  6. That reminds me of what my father used to say to me as a child – never air out your dirty laundry in public – never tell strangers or friends what is going on in your life. But this WOW – Graham is a real jerk its one thing to say your wife is a bad cook in public but to say that she is bad in bed, that is a low blow! After all Belinda has been through with him she should divorce him. Even being a jerk he still has some sort of control over her for her to take him back… all I can say is what an ass he and Belinda deserves better


  7. If I’d been the host at that party, I’d have asked … nay, TOLD him to leave.

    If I’d been another guest, I’d have told him to shut up, if I could have done so without offending the host. Otherwise, I’d have left.


  8. Obviously there’s major issues here. Why was it that Graham went looking for girlfriends, anyway?


  9. BRITT – it was one of those moments where you go : ‘What the?’
    I hurt for them too. I can’t imagine holding on to that bitterness for so long.

    GYPSY – I think he wanted to humiliate her too. This was obviously something they needed to address ages ago. Often, the things you don’t address sometimes blow up at the most inappropriate moments. It was horrible.

    GERALDINE – I think she should have left him three years ago, but recent events with my sister have made me realise how hard it is for some women to break free.

    I hope your header comes back soon. On the weekend the other image I had became really pixelated and you couldn’t make it out so I just changed it. I have no idea why it happened. Gremlins in the system?

    SAGACIOUS WOMAN – absolutely 100% agree with you. We tolerate so many things in society we shouldn’t. Sometimes I can’t figure out why.

    TBALL – I think Belinda should run and not look back. Who needs that kind of treatment?

    TRAVELRAT – I felt like throwing a bucket of water over them. Might have snapped them out of the state they had worked themselves into.

    RWHACKMAN – I can’t say but I do know for a fact it wasn’t sex. I’ve known a couple of men who have blamed their wives and sex for the reason they strayed but to me that is total crap, because those men in question were fooling around for the power trip, nothing more. I’m not having a man bashing session here but I don’t like that line of argument where if a man cheats it must be the woman’s fault in some way. That may be true in some cases but most of the time it isn’t. Whatever the issue between a couple is, neither would need to be unfaithful if they spoke openly about things. Much less messy than an affair. Rant over. Sorry about that.


  10. I am all for bing honest and have a decent sense of humor. And I can assure you that guy is a douche bag with way too much venom in his blood. How rude and utterly uncalled for. IN PUBLIC or PRIVATE that was a terrible thing to say.

    Also, I dont think I would ever be able to “get over” someone cheating on me. And that many times. I would have packed my bags along time ago.


  11. Leaving is hard to do. Very hard. Divorce is difficult and expensive, although in this case totally justified. But you can’t make her leave, even if in this case, she would be totally justified.

    Still, whatever would possess him to fling that kind of dirt in public. It’s one thing to disagree in public. Quite another to go out and start a row. Sounds like someone needed to kick him in the shins.


  12. You know,, you see people do that, almost as if they can’t hold a serious and open conversation about it between them, so it seeps out in these little snipes and cracks in the most inappropriate places, and someone ends up saying, “Jeez, can’t you take a joke? I was only kidding.”

    Me – I’d have simply punched him hard in the mouth. 🙂


  13. MELEAH – it was totally uncalled for. I wouldn’t be able to get over it either. My bags would be flying out the door.

    NAT – he needed a bop in the head, I think. It was so embarrassing for everyone there but mostly for Belinda. I have no idea what she’ll do now. She must be humiliated.

    NANNA – you’re back. Yeehaaaa! So great to hear from you. I have seen a few people do that because they can’t talk openly with one another and before you know it, it’s a free for all. I bet you’ve got a great right hook. I prefer a knee to the lower part of the anatomy, myself.


  14. Oh gosh that is truly horrible.Trouble is the longer she stays the harder it will be to leave as his behaviour towards her and the way he humiliates her in front of her friends will undermine her self-esteem yet more. And then he will criticise her more and so on and so forth. What a mess.

    It is really hard to break out of any situation when you have lost your sense of self-worth.

    One of your commenters said you can always talk through things and if you do that then there is no need to be unfaithful – I don’t actually think that is true. I think sometimes there is no way forward through talking and an affair is the only way for someone to get out of a stale situation. I guess if people always talk then maybe that would never happen but there are many reasons why little things that are unspoken turn into big things over time.


  15. RELUCTANT BLOGGER – it’s so incredibly complicated, isn’t it? I don’t think there is ever an easy answer. I just hope that in some way they both find peace.


  16. Oh, my. Graham sounds like a complete a-hole; I can’t believe that he would air his sex life (or lack thereof) out like that. Moreover, I can’t believe that he feels entitled to sex after cheating on his wife. Shoot, no one in a marriage should feel entitled to sex; while it’s definitely an important part of an intimate relationship, if that’s all your relationship is based on, it might be time to re-evaluate it.


  17. I sincerely hope she dumps him and gets on with her life. I’ve also witnessed a similar situation and, wow… very uncomfortable for everyone.


  18. LK – great to hear from you, my dear. I hope you’ve been well. I definitely think a re-evaluation is in order. Nobody needs to put up with that kind of nonsense.

    KAREN – it’s one of those moments where you literally don’t know where to look. There was a lot of whistling and shuffling of feet going on. I hope she dumps him too.


  19. Infidelity is a definite deal breaker for me. No matter how long we’ve been together. I know myself, and I know I’d never get past it.

    My God, I would have been out that door – and home packing my bags – after his first derisive utterance. Especially with their history!


  20. Whew! I think the husband oughta count his blessings. I think infidelity CAN be forgiven, but only if the offender is truly contrite, and working to win the person hurt’s trust. This “husband” sounds like he is doing neither..I hope she ends it with him, soon. I don’t know her, but it surely sounds like ANYthing would be better than what she is currently involved in!
    One last note: I loved what you said about the word “hurt”, Selma, and it’s sooo true:
    I think it(hurt, and continuing to feel hurt, and victimized) is what stops all of society from moving forward(it’s why we STILL have the death penalty (for revenge. It’s not “justice” to then kill the killer, in order to show him it’s wrong!).


  21. this is one area where i feel that if you cannot forgive and forget you should go on alone or try again.. why on earth would he want to be faithful to a woman that cannot stomach having sex with him??

    in my first marraige i could not stomach having sex with him,, but i accepted my part in that and decided he deserved to be with someone that loved him and wanted to have sex with him,, as did i… although i never cheated while i was living in the same house,, i can tell you i never lost a moments sleep over actively searching out a partner as soon as i was free… and the beauty of it is,, he didn’t either..

    staying with someone and expecting them to “nurse” you thru your own self inflicted sexual psychosis just has the ring of wrong in it to me……


  22. PAISLEY – I know. It just doesn’t ring true, does it? I agree with you completely. If you cannot forgive then you must move on – for both your sake’s. Long term this kind of thing is so damaging. Once again, I am grateful for your wisdom.


  23. Lovely post. Please add my email address to your list and email me the updates if possible. I always like to read your blog and comment on it.


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