Affairs

I have been talking about this Korean drama with WX “My Wife’s Having an Affair This Week” and I can’t believe I finished it over a span of three days. I am a really slow drama watcher and I must say I haven’t been hooked onto a drama in ages. I took almost a month to finish Goblin so the pace at which I finished this drama really surprises me.

“I never expected to love it this much, but I do. It’s strange because I never would have thought the story would grab me as much as it did since I’m not part of a married couple, never have been, I am neither in a relationship nor am I at the age where it’s possible to personally experience situations like divorce and affairs. My parents are together and fortunately don’t seem to be dealing with these issues and hopefully never will. However, the realness and artistry in the way the story was told made it so interesting, entertaining and thought-provoking that I couldn’t help but fully appreciate this drama from start to finish.”

The paragraph above quoted from a comment on Dramabeans truly speaks my heart and mind, given that I am in no position in my life to comment about marriage and infidelity. No even close actually. No one will probably be interested in this but hehe I am just documenting my thoughts because I enjoyed this drama so much more than I thought I would. The full 12 episodes basically details how:

  1. Husband found out that his wife was cheating on him.
  2. He confronted her at the hotel where she met the (too) married man she was cheating on him with.
  3. He was in a state of denial because he always saw their marriage as perfect — she (Song Jihyo) was a perfect woman, perfect wife and perfect mother. She excelled at her job as a working mother, and was seen as capable of juggling work and motherhood. She did it all as part of a routine, she made sure to drop off and pick up the kid from school, fought to enrol him in special enrichment classes through connections with other mothers, took care of all his extra-curricular needs such as needing to sew a doll for class and bathed him everyday. She prepared meals for her husband and kid in the mornings before work and evenings after work.
  4. The reason she cheated was because she met a man, a client from another company, who intentionally turned up at the venue 2 hours late because he wanted this “2 hours to be wholly hers”. He noticed that there was a book in her handbag that she haven’t been reading for the past few months, and also noticed that her heels were worn out. After this encounter she realised that she hadn’t had time to herself in the longest time, and she felt like she could be herself again when she met this new guy. She could forget about all the guilt that she couldn’t give her child the best, she could forget about her stress at work and forget about her role of being a mother.
  5. They never were able to reconcile their differences after finding out about the affair. They argued and cried over and over again over what to do with the child (! and this as a form of communication, was actually rare) because their kid was starting to realise that the relationship between his parents was strained. He hit another kid in school because this other boy told him his parents were going to live apart.
  6. The married couple, yet to be divorced, tried giving each other a chance. He was able to forgive, but realised he would never be able to forget when they opened up to each other for a hug. In the end, they got a divorce because they realised it was the best option for them — to live apart to settle their differences.
  7. After a few months of settling in with their new lives, they realised that they were happier. They started calling each other up and sharing about their new personal lives, and were even closer than when they were a married couple. In this new stage of life, they wanted to find each other again.

Why did she have the affair?

The biggest criticism (on Dramabeans, that I read) was that the drama did not flesh out enough character to the female lead; towards the end, there was no sign of growth. However I thought that the mystery shrouded around the character was the best because it was up to audience interpretation. Towards the end, there was also more revelation of her as a person and how she still knew her husband to be a good man, through her recollections of her past dates and why she chose to marry him when she had many suitors in her college days. I particularly liked the ending and how she realised she could not let go of him even after the divorce, a good one on the scriptwriter for misleading the audience that there were potential love lines for each of them. After the dust settled, she realised that she loved him.

It was also criticised that through her expressions and refusal to leave any of her roles — i.e. not quitting her job and not making any changes to her busy routine lifestyle, it seemed clear to the audience that she was unremorseful about her affair. But why should that be an expectation of a busy mother?

I thought that both the male and female leads were in rather similar positions in their occupations, yet it was more “expected” for the wife to pick the kid up after school because that should be the role of a mother, similar to the majority of the mothers of her kid’s friends. She called to ask her husband whether he was able to pick the kid up on several days because “she would be busy that evening” (having to work overtime and so on, there are tons of unforeseen circumstances as one is working) but he curtly replied that he too, “is busy” and will not able to pick the kid up. She had no choice but to make sure that she picked him up on time by whatever means she could, yet no one ever applauded her for doing so (on multiple occasions, in fact). In fact, she only got chastised for leaving work early when all her colleagues were still in the office past 6pm, for getting to the daycare late to pick him up, and for being slow on elementary school applications or registrations for enrichment classes. Her husband also criticised her, for being a loner devoid of interactions with other mothers, such that her kid ended up a loner too, walking all the way to the back of the school bus to sit alone. She always felt guilty for being “behind” and therefore her kid was lacking in the very same respect, but yet the blame was never placed on her husband.

It was also interesting how the husband boasted to other friends that their marriage was perfect, but that was because the wife was trying her best to make it perfect, and she never said the same to others. She was literally stretched thin over the 8 years that she was trying to craft the image of a perfect family — but he never realised because they never had conversations. She was also at fault here; she never told him the difficult encounters at work, she never told him the difficulties and importance of networking with other parents just to get her kid in a more favourable position in pre-school and elementary school. The marriage was seen to be perfect because of the lack of arguments (people were jealous!), but on hindsight no arguments happened because there was no time between them to even argue. They never even disagreed on anything because they never even found topics with each other to disagree on. The promises that they made to each other before and during their marriage were also left behind after they welcomed their new life as a family with a kid. They never found time with each other to go stargazing anymore as they promised, something that they both enjoyed given that they were college sweethearts who met in the Astrology Club.

I don’t classify myself as a feminist but as someone who will be working for the next 10 years I do foresee that this will be happening to me. I think it is easy to think for many busy and working parents (with kids) to think that they are doing much for the household by taking out the trash and dropping the kid off, but there is simply so much more to look after. The husband only realised this when he argued to take care of the kid (because she was doing a poor job) and couldn’t make a doll for the kid for class, because this was never part of his job scope as a husband. He also struggled to bathe him and prepare him for school because of his stubborn and lazy nature, something that you would never truly understand unless you extensively interact with the kid from birth. She jokingly said that the kid took after him, but he never realised it until he spent days and entire days with the kid alone. He was angry about the affair because he thought he never did anything wrong, which was definitely accurate, but as the male lead grew throughout the drama, he realised he never did anything right in his marriage union with Song Jihyo as well. He merely took out the trash and dropped off the kid whenever he was free, roles that he thought would make him equals with his wife for whatever sacrifices she made in the upbringing of their child.

The drama did not entirely condone her affair given that she was shamed by the cheating husband’s actual wife as an adulterer, that they had to go through the complicated and tiring process of a divorce, and that she was dropped her promotion because of her marital status. Her kid also had to go through difficult times trying to understand why his parents were living apart. She still had to suffer the consequences for her actions, and I thought it was nice that they showed the extremities of the views: the harsher “don’t forgive her, never condone cheating” and the softer side of people who edged the husband on to forgive his wife and move on. Thus I really enjoyed this drama because it was a really realistic portrayal of real life, which also allows people to reflect on their current (stale?) state in life.

Here is a disclaimer that these are entirely my own views of course. I hope that this blog is private enough for my (controversial) thoughts to remain relatively exclusive to that of my social circle, and also here’s a promise to myself to keep reflecting on my relationships as I grow up. I want for myself to realise anything that is going wrong before anyone else tells me off for them.

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