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Dear spouses, stop cheating on each other - for the kids
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By Andrea Peyser
June 8, 2015

Dear spouses, stop cheating on each other - for the kids

Who's your daddy?

Claire thought she was going through menopause. Instead, a year ago, she gave birth to a healthy girl, a baby she initially thought was fathered by her husband of 15 years after a routine night of passion.

"We're best friends. Sometimes it's more like a roommate situation," Claire, 40, who recently moved from the Northeast to the South for her husband's job in marketing, whined to me about her relationship with her spouse.

Claire was delighted with her bundle of joy. But then she took a good look at her daughter.

With brown hair, dark skin and blue eyes, the baby bears scant resemblance to her light-complected older sister, now 9. "I look like a Norwegian,'' said blue-eyed, blonde Claire. Most strikingly, the tyke does not possess the fair skin and brown eyes of Claire's Scottish-descended husband, 44.

The infant is the spitting, gurgling, cooing image of Claire's on-again, off-again lover of three years, a half-Hispanic, half-white 51-year-old married dad of two who lives in California and works in construction.

"At times, we'd feel guilt and shame and quit," she said of herself and the man she calls her "boyfriend.''

"But like crack, we're back!"

Claire even once invited this man into her and her husband's bed to spice up the couple's erotic life - although her spouse just watched as Claire had sex with the other guy. The men did not touch each other.

Claire believes her husband - whose name appears on the child's birth certificate in the space marked "Father" - is not related by blood to the baby. And guess what. The soap opera-esque situation is more common than one might hope.

As Father's Day approaches June 21, men across America are looking at little ones - and wondering.

Each year, more than 400,000 American men swab their cheeks and those of their supposed children, or have their blood drawn, taking the kinds of paternity tests whose results are admissible in courts of law, according to a 2009 article in The New York Times Magazine - a 64 percent increase from a decade earlier. (Even more people use tests bought cheaply at drugstores or on the Internet.)

It sounds like something out of "Maury," the Maury Povich-hosted talk show in which men and kids undergo paternity tests and sometimes receive devastating results on camera. But this isn't schlocky infotainment. Thirty percent of men who took paternity tests, the magazine reported, had no biological connection to children passed off by their mothers as the men's spawn.

Ashley Madison, the dating Web site that connects 36 million adulterers worldwide, in 2013 commissioned a survey of 102,137 of its female members. Nine percent admitted they had conceived children with men with whom they were having affairs - and their husbands were clueless to the deceptions. Another 16 percent said they were not sure who fathered one or more of their kids.

And 72.4 percent of women in these two groups revealed that their youngest children were either fathered by men other than their husbands, or that they suspected they were.

Claire, who asked me not to reveal her full name, said she joined Ashley Madison after she gave birth nine years ago, suffered a "nervous breakdown," and quit her job as a lawyer. Her husband, too, sought sex with strange women. But "he'd love a hooker with a paper bag over her head," said Claire. "I want men to court me, tell me I'm pretty. I'm a piece of work." She met her lover of three years not online but at a strip club she visited with her husband.

One day, when her daughter was 2 months old, Claire and her husband were putting away groceries when he asked, "The baby is mine, right?"

"Yes," Claire stammered.

It may not matter. Many judges across the country have ruled that men must support children born into their homes financially, if not emotionally, even after learning that the kids resulted from their wives' affairs. Claire's lover has decided not to undergo a paternity test and wants Claire to raise the child with her spouse.

Happy Father's Day. Call me old-fashioned, but I wish that adults would find contentment, if not excitement, in the arms of their spouses. Don't do it for me. Do it for your health and sanity.

Do it for the kids.

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