Cheating can have deadly consequences; a cautionary tale for Sandra and Elin.
Cheating on your wife gets you what, exactly? It gets you a thrill in the sack that may last minutes, hours, an evening perhaps. It may get you several evenings like this, even. And what do those moments of carnal pleasure leave you with? Wanting more, maybe, and a guilty conscience, we hope. Cheating men like Tiger Woods and Jesse James appear to be able to compartmentalize their illicit behavior, and portray themselves to their spouses as something they really are not; devoted, attentive husbands who adore their wives. The women believe in their men, feel safe and secure with them, and love them wholly and completely, trusting that their men are who they portray themselves to be.
When the bubble bursts, and the women find out that the men they are married to are not the people they thought they were, how do they reconcile that? That man who professed his love to you, who looked adoringly into your eyes when you made love to him, who was always sweet and kind and supportive of you; who is he really? That display of devotion we now know was an act; but what about the rest? What part of the rest of his behavior was true, and what part was a lie?
And of trust; how on this earth do you ever trust him again and know not only will he never cheat again, but that what he says to you and what he shows you is truly what he thinks and feels? That person that you fell in love with no longer exists, and in fact, never did. You fell in love with the version of him that he wanted you to believe, the version of himself that he himself wanted to be, but didn’t have the strength or conviction to be.
Cheating men can cause more harm to a wife than the emotional scars an affair leaves. There is the initial hurt at the point of discovery, and the anger and sadness that follow. Cheating changes you; no longer can you be the freely loving person you once were, loving someone with blind faith. Even in forgiveness, the spouse will hold back something of themselves, a part which they preserve and that can never again be touched or hurt. And in his occasional glance at another woman, a late arrival home at night, or when catching him with a faraway look in his eyes, the wife will not be able to keep herself from wondering if he’s at it again.
Cheating can also have deadly consequences, as it ultimately did for my great grandmother, Marisa. Michal and Marisa were married around the beginning of WWI, and in 1915 she gave birth to Jaroslav (my grandfather, Jerry), and then later in 1918, to my great uncle, Igor. Michal was a rising star in the Austro-Hungarian Army, who ultimately rose to be the equivalent of Major. He initially went to officer candidate school, was stationed in Romania and then later in Italy.
It was in Italy towards the end of the war that he apparently strayed. I suppose you can try to argue that he was in unusual circumstances, fighting in the war, far away from home, not knowing if he would survive the war or see his family again. Life was stressful, and hung in the balance. But whether lust or some other excuse, Michal had an affair with an Italian woman (Were there others? One always wonders this – once a cheater, always a cheater), and contracted a sexually transmitted disease.
The symptoms of syphilis may not appear for up to three months. Initial symptoms are painless chancre sores which heal over the next few weeks. But soon after the initial symptom, the next stage occurs with flu like symptoms, white patches on the tongue, and even hair loss. During these first two stages, the person is highly contagious, and treatment with antibiotics can cure the disease.
But in 1918, treatment was not available, and nor were tests; penicillin wouldn’t be discovered for another decade, and was not used to treat the disease until many years after that. Syphilis is often called “The Great Imitator” because it resembles so many other diseases, including hepatitis; confirmative tests were not yet available either.
WWI ended in late 1918, and Michal left Italy and went home. He traveled to the newly formed country of Yugoslavia, to his home in Pivnice and joined his wife Marisa and their two sons Jaro and Igor, ages three and one by then. They resumed their life that the war had so abruptly interrupted, and expanded the farm they lived on to grow and process hops. During this time, Michal must have unknowingly infected Marisa as well.
In 1919, after a latent period, Michal entered the third stage of the disease. He most likely began to exhibit gammas, soft tumor-like balls of inflammation and ended up being hospitalized. Michal recovered from the symptoms and the disease remained latent for much of the next 12 years.
Marisa, however, also began to exhibit the same early stage symptoms, and then her disease also went latent for the next 20 years. For the decade of the roaring 20’s, at least, they remained together, and one hopes, led relatively happy married lives as they raised their sons, built their hops business and as Michal worked first as a merchant, and then later in a bank. But Marisa knew what disease they both had, and it had to have been rather troubling to know that your husband had carried on an affair behind your back, and had most certainly committed them both to painful, early death sentences.
Around 1932, Michal’s disease reared its ugly head again, and this time attacked his brain in what is called neurosyphilis, a chronic dementia that often results in depression, mania and psychosis. His personality began to change, and he suffered from memory loss and often showed poor judgment. In 1934, a crazy man by now, Michal climbed the hops shaft on his farm, peered down the hole, and toppled over the edge, falling to the ground. My grandfather, Jerry, twenty years old at the time, found him, writhing on the ground and still alive, although barely. Michal lived a few more hours, and then died that afternoon. He was 44 years old. His own father, Jan, would die in 1935 at the age of 68.
Michal never met his son Jerry’s bride, Pauline, nor saw the birth of their first born, Diane, in 1937. In 1938 with signs of another war approaching, Marisa encouraged Jerry, Pauline and Diane to flee the country and make a new life in Canada. Her younger son, Igor, stayed behind to run his butcher shop and to look after his ailing mother and his surprisingly spry grandmother, Julia. Marisa died in 1940 at the age of 45 in Novi Sad, and my great, great grandmother Julia lived until the age of 87, dying in 1957.
I noticed that the graves of Michal and Marisa bear the names of the German spelling of their Slovak names. Michal Suster became Michael Schuster, and Marisa was Maria Schuster. Igor eventually immigrated in the 50’s to Canada to join his brother and family, settling in nearby Sarnia, Ontario with his wife Maria and their two children, Igor Jerry and Dianne. Below is Igor’s son, born in 1948, at his grandmother’s grave.
As a young married couple, Michal and Marisa had their whole lives ahead of them, full of love and hope and promise; Michal’s fleeting affair would forever change the course of their lives and ultimately cut them short.
When you cheat on your wife, unfortunately whatever STD the other woman has can be passed on not only to the cheating husband, but to the unsuspecting wife as well. The women Tiger and Jesse hooked up sound like they get around; I hope Elin and Sandra have better luck than Marisa.