I agreed to read and review Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress in conjunction with the Pump Up Your Book Virtual Book Tour, in large part because of the title and the cover art. Both are compelling and intriguing. The term “widowed mistress” jumps out at you, almost daring you to pick the book up and see who coined that phrase . . . and why. And the woman on the cover looks so distraught, so alone . . . I just had to hear her story and understand how the choices she made in her life brought her to the point of sitting alone on that step, holding those rapidly wilting roses.
Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress is frequently difficult to read, not only because the topic is one normally relegated to whispered dinner party conversation, screamed in tabloid headlines, or used by lawyers to extract large, quiet settlements. In America, we think of mistresses as women on one end of the spectrum or the other: They are either drug addicted madames like Heidi Fleiss or sparkling new trophy wives who suddenly begin showing up at the country club or in the carpool lane (in a much nicer vehicle than they used to drive). They seldom look like your sister, neighbor, coworker or best friend. They certainly don’t stare back at you from the bathroom mirror.
So first-time author Megan van Eyck challenges her readers to put a new face on infidelity by telling her own story of a five-year extramarital relationship that began as a sexual encounter designed to help her escape briefly from her desperately unhappy marriage . . . and ended up being a very real affair of the heart that ended tragically when her lover, Carlos, was diagnosed with and quickly succumbed to amyloidosis, a rare blood condition.
My review of the book was candid. I took van Eyck to task for what were, in my opinion, the most unscrupulous and callous details of her story. Surprisingly, she appreciated my honesty and we began a free-flowing dialogue via Facebook. I invited her to be a guest author here at Colloquium in order to expound a bit on both my and other readers’ reactions to the book, which is getting excellent reviews. She not only accepted my invitation, but has also graciously agreed to present an autographed copy of the book to one lucky reader, selected at random (details below).
Readers React to Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress
I am thankful for the wonderful response I have gotten from readers since the publication of Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress. I have made new friends, met some wonderful women, and been blessed beyond my expectations.
One of my great newfound joys as an author is opening my inbox to find e-mails from readers. I have noticed that I get two types of letters.
One type is from women whose husbands have cheated on them. They write to tell me that my story is a delusional piece of smutty fiction born from my own fantasies and narcissism. They pity my husband and scorn me for what my book will mean to my children. They agree that if I am not repentant, I have learned nothing from my dalliances with a married man. These women boast that Carlos could never have loved me . . . that I am an attention-seeking fool.
The other type of letter comes from women who have either been in an affair, or have been a close friend to The Other Woman. They praise the courage and strength I have demonstrated in sharing the nitty-gritty bits of a story that rings very true to the experiences they have known or witnessed. These women say the tale of a hen-pecked, unappreciated, and untended husband, who looks for love outside of marriage, is far from fiction. These letters almost always start with, “I am so sorry for your loss . . . ”
I was a sociology major in college and I like to dabble in psychology; I want to know what makes people tick. I find the obvious discrepancy of perception fascinating.
My choice to have an affair may be considered scandalous; I guess my decision to write about it even more so. But . . . I am not motivated by anything but love.~ Author Megan van Eyck
I did not share the intimate details of my lies, my seeming disregard for the sanctity of my marital bed, or my undying love for a man whose love changed me, simply to garner the shock and awe effect those details have on some readers. It just never occurred to me to write less than the truth, to be anything less than brutally honest and forthcoming.
I don’t see any point in writing a disingenuous memoir. By definition, a memoir is not an autobiography, but a story of evolution and personal change. It is my feeling that when a memoirist skips over the hard, ugly truths, the thing they least want to share with the world, they are spinning a self-aggrandizing half-truth. In my opinion, those types of tales offer little opportunity for growth for either the author or the reader. Those memoirs are nothing more than the author’s unabashed attempts at self-promotion.
So, I laid it all out there because the everyday details of my affair are not unique, special or extraordinary. Yes, cheaters often take their lovers on business trips and expense fancy dinners. Bringing an affair partner home, to share the marital bed and play a bit of house, is common because the marital bed is free. Weekly hotel bills can be both an indiscrete expense and an eventual paper trail chronicling one’s infidelity. And most shockingly, love does happen in affairs, whether the betrayed spouse likes it or not. But most importantly, I told the truth in order to tell a tale of growth, maturation, love, and soulful evolution.
Yes, all of the details may be shocking, offensive, wrong and selfish. I never said they weren’t.
This brings me back to my mail bag. People are only moved to reach out to someone who touches them — either negatively or positively. For some women, my story has affirmed their truths. For others, it reverberates with their worst fears: That a meaningful relationship can evolve within an affair, that marriage is only about duty and obligation, that everything that defines an emotional relationship can be better in an affair than it is in a marriage.
To those women who read my book and only see the things that they fear the most, you have missed the point completely. Despite the wonderful love Carlos and I shared, the adventures we took and the bond that connected us, he still wanted to love his wife. In the end, he wanted her to fight for him, to stand by him, to understand him . . . he believed in her love and devotion to get him through his darkest days, initially dismissing mine. That is not an easy thing for me to admit and it is made even more difficult by what Carlos’s wife did with that love; how she failed him.
I am not saying that he loved his wife more than me, or that his marriage offered him the unconditional security he needed. What I am saying is that, despite everything, he wanted it to. If his wife would have ever admitted to her own failings and shortcomings as a spouse, and committed to working on developing a more mutually satisfying relationship, if she would have made his happiness as much as a priority as her own, I wouldn’t have had a chance.
Carlos and I were more than sex and titillation; we were soul mates. So when you read my story, consider taking it for what it is: my final goodbye to a man I loved and who I wish I could have grown old with.~ Author Megan van Eyck
Many women choose to only see the betrayal involved with infidelity. But after the dust has settled, I am merely suggesting that you look at your husband as he is, accepting his loneliness, neediness, vulnerability and weakness; his heartbreak over a marriage that may not have been all that he thought it would be. I am saying that he is waiting to love you passionately. Yes, that might mean that you have work to do; that you may have to deal with the truth of your own shortcomings. But as a cheater who was busted, I can promise you that my marriage wouldn’t have stood a long-term chance of growth, rebirth and maturation if my husband had placed all the blame on me and seen only the things in our troubled marriage that justified his anger, fear and selfishness. If he hadn’t accepted all that was between me and Carlos while still having faith to the future we know waits for us, our marriage would be a lie-a term of servitude to the security of our children.
Yes, it is a hard pill to swallow. But those vows that so many people like to throw around do include the words “for better or worse.” Worse can totally suck. But infidelity can offer a glimpse into the shared reality that is at the heart of your marriage . . . to the fact that just maybe your husband is desperate to feel loved unconditionally . . . from you.