Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How Fearing Adultery Hurts All of Us

I felt badly for Herman Cain's wife who, when news hit of her husband's 13-year affair, reportedly said, "Here we go again."
But it can't be ignored that it was news of his adultery that derailed his presidential nomination – NOT the reports of sexual harassment.
And this is, I think, part of the problem.
Sexual harassment is a crime. Adultery...is not. Adultery is hurtful absolutely. But it's not criminal.
Yet we live in a society that treats it as more serious...or at least a portion of society treats it as such. And by keeping it in the shadows, we don't talk about it, nor do we discuss how to deal with it if it happens.
Instead, we all pretend it only happens in bad marriages. Or is committed by people of poor character. While I'm not defending those who engage in adultery (though it might sound as if I am), I am saying that we can't tar all adulterers with the same brush (as tempting as it is to tar them with something...especially when you're the hurt party!!).
My overwhelming wish, having survived betrayal, is that society discuss this as something that can, and frequently does, happen in marriage. Even "good" marriages. But bringing it into the open, I'm convinced that, rather than make it more acceptable, we'll make it less attractive. By seeing the pain it causes in relationships, by having honest discussions about the impact and the long, rocky road to recovery, I would hope it would seem a whole lot less tempting.
What do you think? Does treating adultery like the scarlet letter make it more likely? Or less?
As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

10 comments:

  1. I do wish infidelity was more widely discussed. Just so it wasn't "in the closet" for those who have manged to move on or past an affair. But also so it was more widely criticized?

    I hate that songs are popular on the radio and they are about "your boyfriend's not here so let's get it on" type songs. Really? Quit making cheating seem ok.

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  2. I would like it not to be so secret as well if it had the desired effect of making it less frequent. However, I wonder if infidelity may be like child birth or infertility. That only those who've actually experienced it truly get how very much it hurts.

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  3. I do think there's a certain cultural/societal "script" around cheating that bears little resemblance to the reality – at least to MY reality. The songs are about kicking the guy to the curb and walking into a bright future wearing stiletto heels. Cheating is too often treated as titillating gossip rather than a real societal problem that affects work, kids, health. Maybe I'm naive but I wonder if we betrayed wives hid less and showed our pain more, the reality of cheating might make it a whole lot less appealing to all involved.

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  4. Ok . . . you first ;-)

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  5. Yes, yes, point taken. :)
    I've wanted to write a book based on "Betrayed Wives Club" and my agent refuses to take it because I want to write it anonymously or as a club of betrayed wives. I insist it's to protect my kids, who don't know...however that's only part of it. I also don't want to blow my cover and have the other moms, neighbors, whomever think of me as "that woman whose husband cheated on her." As if the shame is mine... Catch-22, it seems.

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  6. Yes, the "shame thing" is absolutely HUGE for me. Huge. Huge. HUGE.

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  7. Well Ladies,I am here to tell you that it can't be a secret any more. It just can't. I read about the cheater not wanting the spouse to tell anyone. Well, that is @#$%^&*(. Healing occurs when things are brought to light. You know... I am not going to put it in The Tribune but I am going to talk about it. In fact, I must.
    I am also thinking of a comedy routine... really - Called "You don't have to make this up!"
    My therapist said so many people could benefit from it! I want a variety of ages, ethnicities, gender, sexual preference. Everyone has a story and it seems that when I talk about it they are so relieved to talk about their story too. I think it has to get out there in the world. Believe me, I won't be defined by this but surely there is an avenue to constructively talk about this. I am telling every young and old person "Get help for your marriage. It is out there." Plain and simple. Marriages cannot make it on their own.
    Peace to all of us here.

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  8. A comedy routine is a fantastic idea!! Let me know if you do it.
    I definitely see the value in pulling this from the shadows. But, as someone who grew up with a alcoholic mother who lost her high-profile job thanks to her addiction, I'm also aware of how the shame surrounding this affects children. I wish the shame wasn't there...but at this point in our cultural history, it does. And I would never wish that on my children. I might be able to buck up under the whispering of neighbors/colleagues/whomever, but I'm not so sure my kids could survive it with heads held high.
    And, five years later, I don't think "cheater" is how my husband deserves to be defined. There was a time I would have said 'yes'. But not anymore. It was something awful he did...but not who he is. I realize that doesn't necessarily hold true for all cheating spouses. Sometimes that is EXACTLY what they are. But not all.
    So, of course, it comes down to a private personal decision that reflects compassion to all involved.
    In the meantime, however, I wish infidelity wasn't treated as either titillating or as if the only possible solution is to boot the offender to the street.
    I'm curious what the conversation will be like following widespread release of the movie Shame, which is about sex addiction. That was my husband's issue and it's hard to hear the "convenient excuse" dismissals that many offer up. But at least it gets people talking...

    Elle

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  9. I have often wondered if exposing the detriment that an affair causes would reduce the number of straying spouses. Allowing the public to see it for what it is rather than as gossip...
    I think, as you said, it would depend on the character of the person that hears it-- if he is in the category of "it's a mistake he made," I can only hope that seeing the destruction and anguish and hearing the cries of someone betrayed would cause him to pause before making a decision which would cause the same to his loved one.
    For the one whose affair is simly a manifestation of his true character, it probably wouldn't make any difference.

    It just makes me so sad every time an affair is considered breaking news or the tabloids put it on the front page. If they only knew what an affair does to a person's spirit, if they understood the shame... they wouldn't see it as news.

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  10. Hi Everyone;

    I too also struggle with this.....and have been on both sides of the coin regarding my feelings towards it. I now feel not talking to many people about it is a good idea. Although I must admit I did not see the benefits of that in the beginning and I do regret that.
    That being said, it did not help matters that my husband brought this much younger woman to a meeting he was conducting in another city ( there were about a 100 people there so he 'thought' no one would notice LMAO!)....so that behavior made me feel that I could & should talk about it.
    I also started a blog and did not continue because I worried I would be 'found' out. I really did not want to be that poor suffering wife anymore...... and even though he was horrible in his behavior, I finally wanted him the opportunity to 'save face' if needed.

    ~~ S

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