How Mad Men Saved My Marriage

With a title like that, I suppose I need to start off by explaining a few things. 1. My marriage is not in dire need of saving. 2. If you haven’t seen at least the first season of Mad Men, but plan to watch it on Netflix or something, please don’t read this post because it will spoil the show for you. 3. Some marriages are easier to save than others, and it is not up to me to judge what someone else does. It’s not my life. 4. Actors who play people from the 60s on TV are much better looking than the actors who played people on TV in the 60s.

I realize that this is a horrible way to start out a marriage, but when Josh and I said our vows, it was in full knowledge that if either of us wanted out, there was only one thing we needed to do- sleep with someone else. I don’t know how many people have the “cheating clause” in their relationship, but from the beginning, Josh and I said it was the one thing we could not overlook, would not try to reconcile, and we accepted as the ultimate betrayal. We felt, and still do, that nearly everything that makes a marriage work- trust, generosity, compassion, chastity, companionship- are thrown out in that one single act of sexual compromise.

For a long time, I believed that if I discovered Josh was unfaithful, my whole world would be shattered. Everything I believed in and knew about myself and my husband and our relationship would be a myth, totally negated by his willingness to engage in a relationship (any kind, but especially the kind that could give me an STD) with someone else. And then, I watched the first season of Mad Men.

I discovered that, no matter what, I am a romantic at heart. The whole season long I kept hoping that Betty and Don would somehow figure it out. That he would walk away from his womanizing, recognize how much his wife needed him around, how much she loved him, and how much he loved her. I kept holding my breath during scenes when there was the possiblility that Betty would find out Don’s secrets.  The sneaky renezvous with the store owner, the weird booty calls with the hippie, these moments seemed exciting only because they were under cover, and my stomach would turn every time Don bumped into another (probably half naked) woman.

In the last scene of the season (if I remember that right), Betty admits to her therapist that she knows about Don’s affairs. But, in an unexpected turn of events, she doesn’t describe how she plans to divorce him, or even plot to murder him. (And I can’t really say I blame her…I also have a hard time convincing myself that the suave and rediculously good looking Don Draper would be better off dead.) Instead, Betty explains that she doesn’t think it has anything to do with her.  “It’s just who he is.”

What can I say, my mind was totally changed. Throughout the show I had been craving the moment that the two of them would get back together. And when she said those words, it changed my whole outlook on unfaithfulness. Instead of looking at it as the degrading, sinful abomination that it is, I thought about how it is just a broken promise. Some broken promises really hurt, and regaining trust takes a long time, but that’s all that it is, just a broken promise. And instead of it being “the wife’s fault because she….” (please fill in the blank with whatever stereotypical bull you feel completes that sentence), I realized that in the end, cheating is less about the spouse being cheated on, and more about the spouse doing the cheating.

And, for that reason, I decided that, if Josh ever cheated on me (which I don’t believe he ever would), I wouldn’t leave him. That doesn’t mean that life around our house would be all roses and sunshine, but there are three things he would learn by cheating on me.

1. I am worth every promise he made to me on our wedding day. If he couldn’t see that when he cheated, he would see it afterward. I deserve his respect, his honor, his forgiveness, and his FAITHFULNESS. By being the damn good wife he married, he would discover that there was no reason to go seeking something he thought he didn’t have. Our marriage has all he needs, and he promised God that he would cherish it (I have that on video).

2. Just because hypothetical Josh decided to cheat on me, doesn’t mean I am going to walk away from the promise I made to him and God. I don’t care what he thinks of me, I keep my promises. If, in the end, he walks out on me and our children, then I’ll be the single mom who can do it all, has it all, gives it all, and wants for nothing. But, I won’t be getting re-married, at least not while he is alive (plotting his death after he divorces me is something I haven’t quite removed from my post-cheating plan, but there is time for everything to be resolved). Our children, our family, and our friends will know that he was the one who walked out on me, on us, on God. I’m just too damn subborn to give in to something like that.

3. It is not ok to cheat on your wife. Just because you tell her about your affair doesn’t mean you can continue to do it like it is no big deal. Which is another reason why Josh would not see me filing for divorce. I don’t ever want him to be able to walk around in public with another woman as though it is natural and fun. It needs to be secret, awkward, and compromising for MY husband to be with another woman. As long as it is frowned upon, he will have a reminder that it isn’t right, even if he doesn’t feel guilty or uncomfortable. If he can’t bring the mistress to Christmas because his wife is bringing the children, he will recognize that what he is doing isn’t natural, isn’t right, and isn’t going to invade my world. Perhaps that is a little sinister and selfish in the overall ideal that this is just a broken promise, but I never want MY husband’s cheating actions to be seen as acceptable.

Having said all this, I have watched seasons two and three of Mad Men. I know what happens to Don and Betty. I know that there is still more to come as I finish season four, and season five continues.  I also want to make it clear that JOSH ISN’T CHEATING ON ME (although if I get some interesting comments or e-mails after this post I may have to do some investigating). And I don’t belive that Josh would ever cheat on me. And perhaps that is why I can have the outlook on unfaithfulness that I do.

I have a husband who showers me with attention when he can, craves my attention, loves me even when I have crazy banshee PMS, tells me I’m beautiful everyday, and tells me he loves me at least 50 times a day. We have our fights, a lot of times we have the same fights. Sometimes we say things we wish we wouldn’t, we sometimes don’t say the things should. But I try to be Josh’s wife. He tries to be Josh, the husband of Julie (not Julie’s husband, because he still thinks he wears the pants in our relationship).  And hopefully I never have to eat this post, or re-read it from a different perspective. Perhaps my next post should be about why I would never cheat on my husband. If you have ever met him, then you know why…I got it all when he said, “I do.”

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3 thoughts on “How Mad Men Saved My Marriage

  1. Betty Draper is right, it’s not about being cheated on. The person who cheats has a deep deep problem somewhere with-in them-self and it has absolutely nothing to do with the other spouse. They can try, but cheating is never justified with the excuse that my spouse just didn’t _______. Bull crap. I think it’s pure insecurity and selfishness.

  2. I married up and would never compromise that………also I can’t seem to find my pair of “the pants.” I think I may have lost them in a fire accident.

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