Sunday, November 15, 2009

Betrayed wife: Victim or Co-conspirator

Ruth Bettelheim wrote in The Huffington Post that referring to betrayed wives as "victims" of infidelity is dishonest, specifically noting Hillary Clinton, Jenny Sanford, Silda Spitzer and Elizabeth Edwards. She notes that any time a spouse is feeling abandoned, lonely or sexually ungratified, the chances are high that the other spouse feels the same way. In that way, she writes, both spouses have betrayed their marriage vows to "love, honor and cherish."
While I appreciate her point – that there are inevitably problems in a marriage that can leave a spouse (or both) vulnerable to an affair AND I, too, object to the term "victim"– I nonetheless disagree that betrayal doesn't render the betrayed spouse completely blindsided and crippled. Sure, in hindsight, I can see that there was plenty of writing on the wall. And sure, we'd both been ignoring marital issues for too long. But infidelity is a game-changer, and frequently, a deal-breaker. It takes a problem and turns it into a crisis. A hurdle becomes a brick wall, which must then be taken down a brick at a time.
So while I loathe the term "victim", the last thing a betrayed spouse needs is to feel complicit in her spouse's infidelity. We'll get to the point where we can accept responsibility for our role in the marriage breakdown. But never should a betrayed spouse feel as if she drove anyone to cheat...or that her behavior left her spouse little choice.
Victim? No. Co-conspirator? Definitely not. I'll settle for survivor...

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