Infidelity: Selfishness and Self-Flagellation

by d

Television has provided me with fodder today.

First up, Rachel Maddow got (justifiably) angry tonight. She interviewed Richard Cohen, a man who claims to have thought himself out of being gay and now uses pseudo-psychology to ‘help’ others do the same. This would be bad enough, but apparently Uganda is using his work to justify a new law that will allow them to execute homosexuals. Serious WTF moment, Uganda!

The interview is interesting for a number of reasons:

  1. Rachel is angry. But never unpleasant. Save for a few moments of frustration (“I’m reading from your book, dude!”) she is not aggressive or hateful.
  2. If this Cohen guy is being honest, his organization is not out to condemn homosexuals, but to offer ‘love’ and ‘tolerance’ for both people who live as gays, and those who ‘choose’ to live differently.
  3. Though he states that his group does not support the Uganda legislation, he never gets upset about it or Rachel’s many attempts to make him see how what he has written could lead to the deaths of innocent people. He’s eerily serene.

Earlier today, Dr. Phil was on while I did other things. It seems he’s got a whole series going about infidelity; the episode (Monday Dec 7th) I saw was Part Three. He had on two guests who caused a serious stir when they were on originally.

Since F started us out with male archetypes and games, lets start with Steve, the author of The MANual: A True Bad Boy Explains How Men Think, Date, and Mate–and What Women Can Do to Come Out on Top.

I began listening around the time he and Dr. Phil began to talk about Alphas. Again, his definition is a man who is totally on top of his game. I didn’t catch a lot of that segment, but over the course of the show he had some very interesting things to say. He says he ‘sowed his oats’ when he was younger, and is now in a committed relationship. Everything he had to say about that fits with the He’s Just Not That Into You hypothesis, which I rather agree with: When a guy is into you, truly into you, he’s going to behave well toward you and pursue. He was criticized by audience members as being immature. He’s also ruddy gorgeous.

Dr. Phil’s other guest is the one who took most of the heat. Sarah J. Symonds has been a mistress to married men for years and years, often for many years at a time, and to some very powerful men. She has turned her life into a teaching lesson for other women–the other women. Her argument is the one I want to talk about. The obvious caveat applies that the scenarios described below do not apply to all people, just an alarmingly large proportion of them.

Women who have affairs with married men are deluding themselves. We all know the story. He swears he loves her. He swears he’s going to leave his wife. Six months, a year, two years later, he’s still married and still shtupping his mistress on the side. It’s always, “I love you” and “I don’t really love her, I want to be with you.” Yet they never act.

Why do women do this to themselves? What does it say about them that they will continue to take this veiled emotional abuse? These men are using them, getting to have their cake and eat it, too. His wife provides a stable home life (any unpleasantness aside) and the mistress is his tame sextoy. Her happiness becomes entwined with him, his mood, his availability, and his favor.

I posit that this women are needy–they are desperate for affection. They do not feel they really deserve a fully-fledged, healthy relationship with a healthy man (serial abuse, no matter how ‘mild’ is a sickness).

Sarah Symonds got a lot of flack from the women in the audience. It was clear that they hated and resented her–or what she has done. She could do no right in their eyes. But why hate her?

She is trying to help the women who fall into these dead-end relationships. She told the audience again and again that she is a good person to listen to, as she has been on the wrong side of the bedsheet for so long. They accused her of ignorance. How can she know what it means to be a good, working relationship if she’s never been in one?

What she, and Steve, had to say about why men cheat was hardly news, but it was greeted with more anger and resentment. Wives ‘let themselves go’, they nag… Everyone gets pissed off at those ideas. But there’s a crucial distinction they made–these things don’t cause a man to cheat, they just make it easier for him to justify what he already wants to do.

I think there was a lot of sense being spoken on that stage. It drew such harsh reactions because the women hearing it don’t really want to hear it. They don’t want to think there’s ever a possibility that their relationship will go south. Worse, they don’t want Sarah, that whore, to have anything redeeming about her. They want to hate her. If she’s intelligent, insightful, or at all good, then they have to face the fact that the women their men cheat with are able to provide something they cannot.

I subscribe to the Dan Savage school of thought. If your relationship is great in every way except the sex, then do what needs doing. Go outside your marriage to satisfy your needs. Grant your lover the freedom to find what you cannot give them. Don’t be selfish, don’t trap your partner in an unsatisfying situation when you have no interest in helping them find that satisfaction.

If we have circles of friends, each friend providing us with a different experience, then why can we not contemplate something similar for our sexual relationships?

I know, I know, it’s one thing to say and another thing altogether to be placed in one of these situations. I like to think that I won’t be selfish if it ever arises.

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