Friday, October 26, 2007

More on Feminists and Cheating

Something to know about me: my parents are both psychologists, and my youngest sister is a social worker and marriage and family therapist. I strenuously reject any vocational callings in this area myself, but the tendencies are there.

Most people who divorce because of adultery regret it later. I've seen statistics at least as high as 80% for this, but my search for a definitive source took me to some scary places (You are a sinner if you divorce your abusive husband! If he hits you, it's because you were committing a sin by not obeying him!) so I've decided to abandon my search.

There are serial adulterers. Statistically, they are a minority, and there are lots and lots of people who do it once, in a perfect storm sort of situation (something going on in the marriage relationship that provided space for the affair to happen, plus stuff going on at work, plus personal issues in play, and so forth). That doesn't excuse adultery, but it does mean that there are lots of people - men and women - who might have an affair once and never again. Once they've recognized the patterns, the problems, the issues, they can address them and insure that the same thing doesn't happen again - if committing to a monogamous marriage is what they want.

Some marriages are based in love, some in lust, some in trust, some in friendship, some in companionship, some in shared passions, whatever. A great marriage might include elements of all of those things. But where the emphasis falls at any given time might vary throughout the marriage. And a relationship might have value beyond the obvious.

And what "an affair" means can vary widely from relationship to relationship. I know someone who believes that he has had an affair, though no one else was ever involved. This person placed too much importance on something outside of the marriage, at the expense of the marriage, and called that adultery. In this case, it was money/work. Another couple might not feel the same way about the same situation. And other couples have open relationships, where extra-marital sex is acceptable. Who's to judge, from the outside?

The words, the words, they begin to blur on the screen and I need to sleep. I'll close with two anecdotes. First: while stumbling around online, I found a piece by a psychologist who suggested that Hillary Clinton is conflicted by being such a powerful woman, so she feels that she must act like a doormat at home. How offensive! How reductive! How presumptive!

Second: I once had a friend who seemed to be the boss of her partner in every way. But she confessed to me that this was the comfortable public face of their relationship; things were very different in their private lives.

And I'll let that stand, rather than resorting to the obvious platitudes about judgement.

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