Monday, June 18, 2012

Ronald Reagan's Wise Advice on (Not) Cheating

This is from BrainPickings, which pulled it from a book of Ronald Reagan's letters. Though I've never considered myself a Reaganite, I can certainly appreciate the wisdom and integrity in these words for his soon-to-be-married son:

"Dear Mike:
Enclosed is the item I mentioned (with which goes a torn up IOU). I could stop here but I won't.
You've heard all the jokes that have been rousted around by all the "unhappy marrieds" and cynics. Now, in case no one has suggested it, there is another viewpoint. You have entered into the most meaningful relationship there is in all human life. It can be whatever you decide to make it.
Some men feel their masculinity can only be proven if they play out in their own life all the locker-room stories, smugly confident that what a wife doesn't know won't hurt her. The truth is, somehow, way down inside, without her ever finding lipstick on the collar or catching a man in the flimsy excuse of where he was till three A.M., a wife does know, and with that knowing, some of the magic of this relationship disappears. There are more men griping about marriage who kicked the whole thing away themselves than there can ever be wives deserving of blame. There is an old law of physics that you can only get out of a thing as much as you put in it. The man who puts into the marriage only half of what he owns will get that out. Sure, there will be moments when you will see someone or think back to an earlier time and you will be challenged to see if you can still make the grade, but let me tell you how really great is the challenge of proving your masculinity and charm with one woman for the rest of your life. Any man can find a twerp here and there who will go along with cheating, and it doesn't take all that much manhood. It does take quite a man to remain attractive and to be loved by a woman who has heard him snore, seen him unshaven, tended him while he was sick and washed his dirty underwear. Do that and keep her still feeling a warm glow and you will know some very beautiful music. If you truly love a girl, you shouldn't ever want her to feel, when she sees you greet a secretary or a girl you both know, that humiliation of wondering if she was someone who caused you to be late coming home, nor should you want any other woman to be able to meet your wife and know she was smiling behind her eyes as she looked at her, the woman you love, remembering this was the woman you rejected even momentarily for her favors.
Mike, you know better than many what an unhappy home is and what it can do to others. Now you have a chance to make it come out the way it should. There is no greater happiness for a man than approaching a door at the end of a day knowing someone on the other side of that door is waiting for the sound of his footsteps.
P.S. You'll never get in trouble if you say "I love you" at least once a day.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Are you victim? Or Victor...

The truth you believe and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new. 
~Pema Chodron

I've been thinking a lot lately about stories. Mostly because, together with a friend, I'm editing a collection of essays about cheating that we hope will be published in an anthology. We've got some great writers and some incredible true stories – all by smart women who, at some point in their lives, were betrayed by their partners.

But what's striking about each essay is that each writer has ultimately settled on a story about what happened. And she's had the choice to cast herself as either victim or victor, which of course would affect the trajectory of her life. 
In all cases, these women were cheated on. And how they responded to that – whether by staying, by leaving, or by clinging until there was not other way than to leave or be left – has made them who they are. And who they are is strong, wise, compassionate, honest. 
These women aren't "broken". Their hearts have healed. They've gone on to love other men or they've learned to love their broken man better. And what's more, many of them are, if not grateful for what happened, at least not bitter. They haven't lived lives of regret. 
And this is good news for all of us, I think, but especially for those of us who are just finding out about a partner's betrayal. Those few days and weeks and months are excruciating and it's hard if not impossible to believe that the day will come when you'll look back at this as an incredibly difficult part of your life. But not your whole life. 
And your ability to see it as a part depends on the story you tell yourself – the story you ultimately settle on. Your story.
And in your story you can either see yourself as a victim who was powerless over her partner's impact. Or as a victor – someone who faced unimaginable pain with as much grace, strength and self-respect as she could muster. Someone who, though maybe not immediately, would overcome this challenge and continue to live a full life – with joy as well as pain. 
None of us are exempt from pain in our lives. And though a partner's betrayal is up there with the worst of it, we are up to the task of overcoming it.
Just ask the women who wrote their stories and are able to look back through time and recognize their own triumph.


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