Ann Pearlman's "Infidelity" shares true tales of generation-spanning marital betrayals
Certain topics are so intensely personal that people tend to shy away from discussing them, but sometimes they must be talked about; sharing stories can lead to understanding, healing, a new life.
Adultery, something that is often hidden under the proverbial rug, is one of those topics. But a recently re-released book by a local author explores this topic in prodigious detail and with great empathy.
Ann Pearlman's Infidelity shares the true tales of three generations of marital betrayals. Dzanc Books recently re-released the book and Pearlman "was thrilled and surprised they wanted to reprint it. The launch has been scads of fun.” Infidelity was originally released in 2000 and was the inspiration for a 2004 Lifetime Movie Network film with the same name, albeit the roles are reversed: the marriage therapist is unfaithful in the film.
In many ways, Pearlman was the perfect person to write this book. The Ann Arbor resident has worked as a psychotherapist and marriage counselor, serving in schools, women’s prisons, child guidance clinics. Along the way she married, becoming half of what she thought was the perfect couple.
They had three children while Pearlman continued her work, authoring books and appearing in the media as an expert on the joys of marriage and fidelity.
But then the other half of her perfect couple repeated the sins of generations’ past.
“I went to my writing journals to help me through [the infidelity],” Pearlman says. “I found myself looking at a 400-page journal … talking about my mother and grandmother’s history and I started thinking how important this story was. As I was trying to figure out what had happened in my life, the memoir grew.”
Initially, Pearlman had a whole section of the book detailing what she had learned from decades of working with patients and their experiences. “But my editor convinced me that my story had enough on its own,” she says.
The details in the stories are remarkable, quickly drawing the reader in. “I always had a good memory and have been a writer almost my whole life," Pearlman says, whose love of writing began with an 8th-grade assignment.
“My teacher asked us to write a letter thanking people who donated a painting to our school, so I wrote my first poem," she says. "After that, I was hooked.”
Since then, Pearlman says she has always “written, made art, talked to people about art,” especially when experiencing trauma such as an unfaithful spouse.
The book also shares truths that many women will recognize, such as when Pearlman’s mother tells her to beware of the three Ds: death, divorce, desertion. Even though at the time many women only went to college to get a husband, Pearlman’s mom advises that she make sure she is always able to support her children. During her college years, Pearlman herself realizes that “for women, even in America, the quality of life is determined first by her father and then by her husband.”
Pearlman shares many other gems of wisdom and understanding throughout the book, saying that she wants to make sure that readers know that you can heal a relationship after infidelity so that it is stronger and better than ever. “In other words,” she says. “An affair does not mean the end of the relationship. … Regardless of what happens, you have a new life and you can do with it what you want.”
Pearlman has started a new life, retiring from private practice but continuing to write, describing the act “as taking dictation from the universe.”
Patti F. Smith is a special education teacher and writer who lives in Ann Arbor with her husband.