Monday, April 23, 2012

What would you do?


What would you do if you saw your husband kissing your sister? Really kissing her with his hands in all the wrong places?

In my new mystery, Murder in The Buff, Molly Darter handled that scenario by throwing everything that wasn’t nailed down at her husband. She kicked him out of their home. She quit speaking to her sister.

She knew what she saw. Her eyes didn’t lie. Worse, her husband looked guilty. He tried to talk to her about it but she couldn’t stand to be around him. Every time she saw him that kiss of betrayal flashed in her head again.

Molly and Hadley’s marriage is a rich vein of conflict in this mystery. It echoes the theme of broken relationships that come into play in the murder plot. Love and murder – it just doesn’t get any better than that in my mind.

I write about people who make mistakes because I’m curious about human behavior. Love can be very messy.

Some people honor their romantic commitments. Some people cheat. Some cheaters fall apart when they get caught. (What were they thinking?) In real life, these things never end well. Arguments get nastier. Lines get drawn in the sand. Hurt pride rears its ugly head. Outsiders take sides. No one can back down.

This type of emotional conflict is great fuel for a story, plus as an author, I get to create the ending I want. That’s the beauty of fiction.

But I’m curious as to how you might handle a situation like this in real life or in the pages of a book. Would you go all ballistic? Would you withdraw and cry out your hurt all alone? Would you get even? Would you listen to what your spouse had to say?

Would your answer have been different twenty years ago?

What would you do?

Maggie Toussaint
Puzzling her way through life

47 comments:

  1. Yucky question, Maggie! I don't want to consider such a horrible thing. I'm not violent, rather quite sweet, but I'm pretty sure I'd scratch his eyes off and beat the hell out of her. I would scream every insult in my limited dirty vocabulary and cursed her to hell for tempting my usually well-behaved husband. Because I am a rational woman, when I finally calmed down, I would listen to the explanation, and it better be good!

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    1. Mona, You're a strong woman. I would hope that I would react like that. I admire people who fight for what they believe in. And I like that you'd give him a chance after you calmed down.

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  2. I'd be too paralyzed to do anything. The hurt would be overwhelming. But then, if they didn't know I knew, the power of the knowledge would be mine. Then, I'd financially do some real damage. Hide the assets and make him sweat, change the locks, go to a lawyer and cut them out of my life. But of course, I'm older now, know my self-worth. I couldn't have had that confidence in my youth. Now--you betcha!

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    1. Hi EB, My first reaction would be like yours. I'd be too numb to do anything. Your idea of revenge makes me smile. Nothing like a woman scorned, eh? I like that you stand up for yourself.

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  3. Makes me glad I'm an only child! Maggie, congrats on the new novel. You're truly prolific!

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    1. Hi Jacqueline, I'm not an only child, but for the record, my husband never kissed any of my sisters. This scenario did not come from a personal experience of my own. But I know several women whose spouses have strayed. I've heard their different reactions, and it puzzled me. Some women act and some react, which aren't necessarily the same thing. I'm getting a good cross section of reaction here this morning!Thanks for the visit.

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  4. Having seen this play out with sisters and boyfriends in high school, it always made me glad to be the only girl.

    Based on my past, I would most likely stand there until they saw me, then say something cutting and unforgivable, starting with "I see you still like my hand-me downs" and go from there. I don't use a lot of cuss words, but I have have a horrible tendency of going for the bone when I get angry. After that, I'd leave to go somewhere and I cry, beating myself up for not seeing it, etc., then I'd plot their murder--but probably wouldn't go through with it.

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    1. Keena, Can I be you when I grow up? I'd love to be so assertive in the moment. I always think of put-downs a day or two later. You're my idol.

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  5. My ex came to my room following surgery, 2weeks after our 8th anniversary, and right before Christmas to tell me that I was "no fun anymore" while I still had staples in my back and detailed the 5 [yes, FIVE] flight attendants he was bonking while I'd been supporting his sorry self through all his flight training. Once the staples were out of my back and I could walk again, I filed for divorce. It took less than 2 months to make me a free woman, but it wiped out my savings. Well worth the cost!

    In your scenario, I might imagine a really miserable excuse of a sister trying to lay one on her sister's husband just to piss her off. I'm another only child. But there would be NO excuse for his hands being where they shouldn't. Any man I let in my life had better be fighting her off. So I can't imagine any justification for what she saw. Or explanation that would make me ever sympathetic to the man again.

    Maybe someone who's never been burned might be more sympathetic. But I personally wouldn't really care about the explanation or want to try again. And for sales purposes, I wouldn't buy any book where this was the scenario.

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    1. Hi Beth, First let me say that I'm so sorry your ex was such a bum. He behaved abominably and you are better off without him. You nailed the sister in my book. She was jealous of the relationship and wanted to hurt her sister. As I explored this in the book, I realized that a single action like this spread out in shock waves and hurt the entire family.

      I hope you are able to regroup and move on. It would be a shame to let someone hurt you like this so that you never took another chance on love.

      Hugs!

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    2. Got over things enough to enjoy the Persian Diversion's company.

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    3. ((grin))

      Glad to know you are resilient!

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  6. Not sure what I'd have done 20 years ago, but now I'd want to know more. It depends on the personalities involved. If it seems completely out of character for them, I'd want to do a lot of self-examination as well as find out what happened between them. I'd ask myself what shape our marriage was in before this, what was going on in their lives, and so on. What I'd do would depend on many things. Of course, if I thought they were easily capable of such behavior, I'd go for the jugular. :-)

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    1. Ellis, I find your reaction very telling. You'd search for an answer with your head and wander down introspective hallways. But there's enough of a rebel in you to want to go for blood. I hear you, sister!

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  7. Geez, let me echo Mona's response. YUCK! I'd like to say I would cut them both to the quick with some fabulously scathing comment, then move on with my life-alone-like a tragic heroine, but since the scenario is so far out the realm of experience with both my husband and my sisters, I'd probably be so devastated I'd be paralyzed.

    The truth is, no can really know how they are going to react to the horrifying situations life throws at you. I learned this truth as a twelve year old when a man grabbed me and a friend when we were riding our bikes in the woods of a state park. Even at that age, I was a confident kid, thanks to my amazing parents, but geez, I was scared. Afterwards, I was amazed I hadn't fallen apart. My friend certainly did and I understood completely. But instead of cowering as he knocked me around and attempted to drag us off the trail, I found myself reasoning with the bastard. I still don't know where I found the guts to stand my ground, chastising him for beating up a kid until he finally gave up and slithered off through the trees.

    I know this is off subject, but it proves my point. Until you are faced with a situation, you just don't know WHAT you will do. Or maybe that's just me.

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    1. Gosh, Mackenzie, you were so brave! God must have given you the strength of mind to overcome your attacker that day. Perhaps your protective instincts also came into play? I'm sorry that happened to you.

      I like how you know yourself and give yourself options by being clearheaded under fire. Just curious here, did you grow up to become a nurse or cop?

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    2. Maggie, though it isn't a pleasant memory, it did teach me several valuable lessons. Up to that point I was oblivious to the evil wandering the world. I no longer am. And no, I didn't pursue a traditional career, my creative side wouldn't let me. I spent years freelancing for Hasbro, zipping around the country doing live commercials demonstrating toys. What can I say, I like to have fun!

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    3. Mackenzie, Sounds like a cool job to have, demonstrating toys.

      I grew up in a rural community, very Andy of Mayberry. Anyway, my husband sensitized me to potentially dangerous situations when we lived in the DC area. I was so naive. All kinds of terrible things might have happened if not for that.

      Long live creativity!

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  8. Twenty years ago, I probably would have shut them both out and walked away. Today.. I'd probably laugh hysterically. I'd know darn well one of them was either trying to bait the other as a joke or was about to get socked in the stomach. Then I would ban them both from alcohol. ;-)

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    1. LK, I enjoyed your answer very much. It illustrates a point I hoped I'd get to make. Our perspective, our attitudes, and our reactions change through time. Sounds like you really know yourself, your spouse, and your sister. Thanks for the visit.

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    2. Maggie, they sure do! As Anais Nin said, we don't see others as they are, we see others as we are. I've been married 24 years now. I am a much different person than twenty years ago: more secure, more learned, more accepting of different viewpoints, and less likely to jump to conclusions.

      Murder in the Buff covers an important subject, and has an important lesson. Great conversation here!

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    3. I'd like to think I've grown more tolerant, but there's a limit to my tolerance. I see a lot more gray than black and white these days.

      I also know women with cheating ex-husbands who have amicable relationships with them for years afterward. They still eat holiday meals together, etc. But I also know women who have walked away and never looked back. Is one woman right and the other wrong? Doesn't seem like it. I think we have to judge each instance individually and remember that as outsiders, we rarely know the full picture.

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    4. I agree twenty years on a marriage makes a difference. Also the age of the person. I think in the 20's and newly married, a person is definitely more passionate about a mate, so watch out if you touch her man! Now at 50 years old and married 30 years, not such a violent reaction...more of "what are you thinking???" Love this discussion. Thanks for presenting it.

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    5. JQ,

      I don't know how I missed responding to your reply earlier, but I didn't overlook you on purpose. Welcome to Mudpies. Sounds like you are content in your marriage. You said something that I found very interesting. That a newlywed is more passionate about a mate.

      I've been thinking about this lately. The early years of a marriage are often a lot more volatile and angst-filled. But as the years pass, the passion changes or mellows. It's still there, as witnessed by some of the strong reactions to my topic, but its simmering under the surface instead of billowing from your sleeve. Or that's how it seems to me.

      Thank you for stopping in and leaving a comment!
      Maggie

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  9. Oh, ugh! What a question. Twenty years ago I'd probably have flown into a tempestuous rage. Now, with 22 years of marriage I have a feeling I'd be much colder, twice as mad, and be looking for the best way to destroy them both.

    And having read -and enjoyed - the book (the review is coming, I promise!) I'll say I really sympathized with Molly's emotional journey.

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    1. Hi Regan, Like you I would have been more overtly emotional twenty years ago, but the heart devastation would still cut to the quick.

      In the book, I got to create a situation where the husband wasn't a deadbeat but an error in judgment put him in the doghouse. Few things are as cut and dried as we'd like them to be.

      Thanks for the visit.

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  10. Possible scenario: After I hit him over the head with a frying pan, I would go to the bank and take out all the money. Then I would have a very serious chat with my sister on my way to the airport for New York, where I would be going for a major shopping spree. Leave the two of them to stew over what they did. By the way, my sister gets to tell our mother. Reality check: If I ever caught my husband and sister in that situation, I would know something was off-kilter and not what it seemed.

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    1. Hi Heather, I enjoyed your comment. You captured inflicting physical pain, treating yourself to something way nicer than a cheater, and making them clean up their own mess.

      Good for you for knowing the true character of your sister and husband. Thanks for the visit.

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  11. You can always choose a new spouse, but you can't pick your family.
    I would devastated, of course but eventually I would forgive my sister and move on.
    Neecy

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    1. Good answer, Nancy. Spouses come and go, but family is eternal.

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  12. I'd be gone and he'd be history!!

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    1. I like your spunk, Mary! I appreciate the comment.

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  13. Sadly, reminds me of a true story. Family members had holiday dinner together. Sister of the hostess went home, some thirty miles away, intruder broke into her home, raped her. She called the police, then later went back to her sister's home for emotional support. Brother-in-law was there, admitted to woman that he had been the intruder. He's now serving prison time.

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    1. Yikes. What a tale. I'm glad I didn't marry into that family.

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  14. Such a complex subject to tackle in writing it as well as experiencing, I would imagine! I'm a confronter - no way could I walk away or ignore. I have a tendency to cut with words more than throwing things, and also have an insatiable curiosity, so I'd want to listen to the stories they had to tell as to why. What would happen would depend on so many situational things, so it's hard to say what the end result would be - which is why I think the subject makes a great story! I'm going to enjoy reading your take on it.

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    1. Hi Melissa, You sound like such a fair person. Shrinking from this type of situation may be a defense mechanism, but understanding what happened is the key to determining if forgiveness is possible. I'm finding it interesting how varied the responses are to this subject. We are all complex individuals, with different moral compasses and emotional histories. Our response is dependent on all those factors and our personality.

      Thanks for stopping by.

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  15. Gosh Maggie, It's hard to say. I know my gut says I'd divorce him and wouldn't speak to my sister again. That's my gut. I know life is much more complicated than that. I know from the people where I work, there a tolerance to cheating, which, personally bloggles my mind. But then my father cheated on my mother and it left a bad taste in my mouth, so I know it's not something I would personally tolerate.

    Molly is certaintly in a pickle in "Murder in the Buff." She might take her husband back, but I don't know if she would ever feel comfortable completely trusting him. I think you did a great job tackling that issue in the book and I was happy with the resoluation at the end.

    Smiles
    Steph

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    1. Hi Steph, It is hard to predict. Our gut instinct is to separate ourselves from that pain of betrayal, but the swirl of emotions it leaves behind is different for everyone.

      It's quite common in the south to hear people talk about a man's error in judgment as "he made a mistake." For me a mistake is when I incorrectly add a sum of numbers. I would not consider infidelity or adultery as a mistake.

      In the book, Molly thinks the worst of the situation. But as events unfold, she realizes that there are two sides to every story. She must face her fears head-on for them to get any better.

      Thanks for stopping in and commenting, Steph.

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  16. Well I see this blog certainly got our attention. LOL I tell you love really is messy and painful as well as heady and sky rocketing wonderful. Oh, I would listen to my husband and my sister, too--then I would kick my husband out of my life and my heart and I would take my sister out of my will. Even if it somehow was not what it looked like, it did look like it in front of all our friends and family and caused humiliation and pain--I can't come up with a good enough reason to put someone I love through that.
    Great blog and the murder mystery sounds very enticing.

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    1. Hi Sarah,

      I am getting quite an insight into human behavior here. The take-home message for me is that this is the worst kind of betrayal, even if it was only a kiss. I have also discovered that many women are hurting from this type or other broken relationships.

      No wonder so many women love to read romances. They get to travel to that other world and experience a happily ever after.

      Maybe they like murder mysteries for the same reason. The victim/wronged get justice.

      Thanks for the visit!

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  17. I had a similar episode with my husband and a friend. I pretended it hadn't happened and carried on. Disaster - so did they! Now, I'd throw him out and kill the friend

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    1. Omigosh Jenny. That person was not a true friend. And I hope that guy is a bad memory. You deserve someone who won't break your heart. Hugs!

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  18. I think each of our answers is also dependent on the "package" which our sister is presenting to our husband, and what he may/may not have - not his package, but what's going on emotionally for him (perhaps I wasn't there for him?) or whatever it might be that she could possibly have offered to him. See, my sister and I are very different, even while having some similarities: very very different physically and religiously, so this would be very bizarre if my husband all of a sudden felt an urge to put his hands on my large, unhealthy sister who belongs to a strict religious group and she allowed this. But, yeah, he would be out on his keister. Can't pretend he thought it was me...and I'd be mad because I would think that he was taking advantage of my sister's vulnerabilities. So, madder at him than her, but it's based on knowing her, and since I'm currently unmarried, based on any one of ex-husband, ex-bfs/fiances and current bf.

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  19. Hi Di Eats the Elephant (cool moniker by the way),

    I'm finding it interesting that some comments have a thread of "he strayed because I wasn't meeting his needs." I think that taps into a fear of inadequacy that we all have. We want to be his everything, so if he strayed, we didn't do something right.

    It's rarely that simple, and I'm certainly no people-fixer.

    I hope that you and your sister find happiness in your journey through life.

    Best wishes! Maggie

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  20. I trust my husband. IMHO, if there is no trust, the marriage is already over. So, if I saw my husband kissing my sister, I would interrupt and confront them then and there, assuming my sister attacked my husband. (Not that I think she would but I'm going with this scenario.) Then and ONLY then if both hubby and sister didn't have a damn good explanation they BOTH agreed on, it would be O.V.E.R.

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    1. Hi Lilly,

      Your candor is refreshing, and your approach is very adult. It sounds like you trust your husband implicitly, which is much to be admired in this day and age of revolving bed partners.

      Given what we see on TV and the movies, it seems like infidelity is the norm of our society, but that's not the pulse of this discussion. What I'm gleaning from the comments is that infidelity leaves deep wounds that don't heal.

      It was very nice to have you stop by for a visit. Come again anytime!
      Maggie

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  21. I think ballistic would work best. :D

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