We’ve got a copy of Jane’s new novel, TEMPTING FATE, up for grabs today. See the entry form below for details.
Three years ago I started to notice a worrying trend. A number of women in my town, who appeared to be happily married, suddenly announced they had been unhappy for years, and could no longer continue with this sham of a marriage. Invariably the husbands would be left bewildered, as their newly-thin and glamorous wives exploded their lives, and turned out, in every case, to be having an affair.
In the majority of situations, the object of the affair was either younger, or someone entirely different to the husband – instead of a businessman, he would be a tennis coach, or the evening art instructor, or a younger man they met at the gym.
This was their soulmate, these women would tell me, their eyes sparkling with excitement and lust. This was the man they were supposed to have been with, not their boring old husbands.
In most of the cases, within the year, the soulmate had turned out not to be so, the women realized what they had thrown away, but by the time they go back to their husbands filled with apology and remorse, the husbands have moved on and met someone else.
I started to wonder why this kept happening to women around me, women in their forties, women who seemed to be happy, until the moment they weren’t. I thought about it on the train going into New York City, where at rush hour I found myself walking up Park Avenue into a sea of men in suits, swarming towards me. None of these men made eye contact, all of them busy looking at the young blonde on my left, and the mini-skirted young brunette on my right.
Oh! The realization slowly sunk in. Without realizing it, I had somehow slipped into middle age, and with middle age came invisibility.
And then I did a book event with a young, handsome author, who exchanged email addresses with me, and proceeded to indulge me with a series of gently flirtatious emails, which was both exciting and unsettling. It had little to do with him, but to do with me, and my growing feelings of invisibility, and the addictive quality of someone, anyone, actually noticing me, paying me attention, making me feel beautiful again.
I had always naively thought that in order for someone to have an affair, there has to be an inherent problem in the marriage, but all the evidence around me was suggesting something else. Although the women who did have affairs demonized their husbands, it was rarely to do with their husbands, more to do with the insecurity of aging, complacency within the marriage, and wanting, even for a little while, to feel beautiful again.
In my new book, Tempting Fate, Gabby, at 43, knows without doubt she is not the sort of woman to have an affair. She adores her husband, her children, the life they have built together. When a younger man starts paying her attention, she enjoys it knowing nothing will happen, but the more attention he pays her, the more addictive it is to feel attractive, noticed, alive. Soon she finds herself at a precipice, knowing she’s making the wrong choice, but unable to stop herself.
Recently I asked one of these women who lives in my town and left her husband, a woman who describes her now-ex-husband as the love of her life, why she had an affair.
‘I was bored’, she said, and as callous as that may be, I understood what she meant.
However wonderful our marriages are, however wonderful our husbands, when children are waking us up, repeatedly, at 5am, when every night is spent figuring out what to make for dinner, when mornings are spent shoveling laundry into the dryer and remembering the days when you actually had time to iron, it’s very difficult to remember the passion and lust that brought you and your husband together.
When your weekends are not spent holding hands over a candlelit dinner, but instead ferrying four children around from basketball game to basketball game, to playdate, to ice skating, to birthday party, it’s very difficult to remember the importance of appreciating your spouse, or indeed to find the time to remember to be kind, to pay attention to each other, to make each other feel loved.
Marriage becomes pots and pans. At first you’re distracted by those tiny children, but all of a sudden you’re in your forties, your kids are in grade school, you’re no longer needed in the way you once were, and you start to feel irrelevant.
Which is why the forty-something woman is so vulnerable. There is a window of opportunity, before we settle into what Jung called the afternoon of life, where a compliment can have far more impact than it otherwise would, where attention can start to feel like a lifeline to a youth and excitement we thought we had left behind long ago.
What I have learned, in my years as a writer, and thereby an observer of life, is that the grass is rarely greener. I have learned that life is cyclical, that this too shall pass; that just as there are periods when our marriages are wonderful, there are periods when life is boring, when we think nothing exciting will ever happen again. Those too, shall pass.
A good marriage requires work. It is a test of endurance, that is filled with joys, and laughter, tears, and worries, and often pain. If you stick with it, the joys will always outweigh the pain.
As for that younger man who makes you feel alive? That art instructor who offers you dreams of the creative road not taken? They are rarely the soulmates you tell yourself they are, in a bid to mitigate an action you know isn’t right.
I don’t often quote Judd Apatow movies, but occasionally there are words of wisdom that strike home. In “The Five Year Engagement,” the heroine’s sister, exasperated at the heroine’s fear of commitment, finally says, ‘well maybe there is no right cookie. You just pick one and take a bite.’
And once you take a bite, the right thing to do is stick with it until the end, no matter what other delicious confections temptingly call your name.
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From Jane Green, the New York Times bestselling author of such beloved novels as Jemima J, The Beach House, Another Piece of My Heart, comes an enthralling and emotional story about how much we really understand the temptations that can threaten even the most idyllic of relationships….
Gabby and Elliott have been happily married for eighteen years. They have two teenaged daughters. They have built a life together. Forty-three year old Gabby is the last person to have an affair. She can’t relate to the way her friends desperately try to cling to the beauty and allure of their younger years…And yet, she too knows her youth is quickly slipping away. She could never imagine how good it would feel to have a handsome younger man show interest in her—until the night it happens. Matt makes Gabby feel sparkling, fascinating, alive—something she hasn’t felt in years. What begins as a long-distance friendship soon develops into an emotional affair as Gabby discovers her limits and boundaries are not where she expects them to be. Intoxicated, Gabby has no choice but to step ever deeper into the allure of attraction and attention, never foreseeing the life-changing consequences that lie ahead. If she makes one wrong move she could lose everything—and find out what really matters most.
A heartfelt and complex story, Tempting Fate will have readers gripped until they reach the very last page, and thinking about the characters long after they put the book down.