Did anyone catch this article over at HuffPo this week by Vicki Larson — HuffPo title “Why We Shouldn’t Blame Cheaters”? (Larson title: “Is Infidelity a Societal Problem?” — yes, well duh.)
She suggests that the fault lies in the societal assumption that we be monogamous. And people fail at that, a lot like fat people fail at diets.
The infidelity “epidemic” is at least as prevalent as, say, the obesity epidemic… While there’s a personal accountability to obesity — just look at all the how-to-lose weight articles and books that get published each year, in addition to all the diet supplements and weight-loss programs — it’s also seen as a societal issue.
…So, obesity — which affects about as many people as infidelity does in direct ways and many more in indirect ways through higher health costs and taxpayer dollars to fund prevention programs — is seen as something that can be fixed in ways outside just an individual’s control. (Yes, in some cases, genetics is involved in a person’s weight, but some studies suggest genes may play a part in some people’s ability to commit, too.) Infidelity, however, is not. Why? Especially since monogamy appears to “promote unhealthy behaviors” — aka affairs and sex avoidance. And since infidelity is among the top reasons for divorce, there’s a societal cost involved, too. (Bold emphasis mine. CL)
That’s right, chumps — it’s monogamy’s fault. It promotes unhealthy behaviors like affairs. Let’s just liken being faithful to your spouse with high fructose corn syrup — it’s unnatural!
She suggests that we lay off the monogamy assumption in our relationships, and if people felt free to screw around without all the shame and judgment — the committed few would actually stick with marriage. The rest, I guess, will be hanging out in their shag-carpeted, sunken living rooms having swinger parties.
I’m all for people configuring their relationships honestly — whatever they are — and that includes polyamory. Sister wives? I wouldn’t want to share one Mormon doofus, but that’s me. Different strokes for different folks.
But I don’t think the Great Societal Pressure of Monogamy is to blame for cheating — poor character is. And blaming monogamy misses the point — cheating is about the thrill of being dishonest. To “cheat” you need an agreement to renege on. There’s no danger in openness, no illicit sexual high to chase.
It also ignores the power dynamic that is inherent in infidelity. The cheater wants all the perks of a committed partner, and the excitement of screwing around on the side. The secrecy is about gaining advantage over another. All the kibbles for me! None for you! You commit all your kibbles and I’ll just feign reciprocity. Cheaters don’t WANT a level playing field. It’s about control and entitlement.
To compare infidelity to obesity is a false equivalency. No — it’s a moronic equivalency. If I weigh 300 lbs, the only person I am hurting is myself and whoever has to sit next to me on an airplane. Unlike a history of cheating, it would be immediately apparent to anyone that I am obese. And having a fat ass might make you sexually unappealing, but it’s not breaking up anyone’s home or exposing them to STDs.
As if cheaters didn’t have enough excuses. “Hey, pay no attention to that Craigslist ad, I am just suffering from the weight of Unfair Societal Expectations of me.”
Larson’s remedy appears to be lowering the bar and abdicating personal responsibility. The problem is that we expect monogamy? Why do you suppose that is? If we’ve “evolved” to fuck around, well, we’re also wired to be jealous and suffer heartache when we are abandoned. Where’s all the talk of how unnatural it is to bond with other people? Gee, we should really stop doing that. This whole trust thing is really overrated.
No one forces someone commit to being monogamous. Lost in the Monogamy Is So Hard argument is personal choice. Don’t agree to be someone you aren’t. It’s like cheaters are some misunderstood, discriminated against minority — like gays, they’re forced to live in the closet. This article insinuates that people who expect monogamy are like homophobes — narrow minded and rigid. If we’d just expand our minds about sexuality, we’d all be happier.
Cheating isn’t a sexuality issue. It’s a power dynamic issue. It’s abuse. It’s not about a lack of self control or oops I ate too many donuts, it’s a very deliberate set of choices. It takes a lot of planning and deceit to conduct an affair. Cheating is about narcissism — the rules don’t apply to me. Monogamy doesn’t promote unhealthy behaviors — entitlement does.
Whew, these kinds of articles (at HuffPo) raise my blood pressure! I assume the authors of these enlightening tomes are all cheaters themselves trying to normalize their cheating (or chumps trying to spackle for their cheating spouses).
Attempting to return to Meh………
I believe Larson was cheated on in her former marriage, but per another article, she’s of the it’s not abuse and “forgiveness is essential” school of chumpdom.
So, yeah, I’d file it under “spackle.”
I think she sometimes writes articles to spark controversy.
I once read a good amount of her blog posts and I’m pretty sure she cheated on someone as well…I don’t think it was on her husband, but maybe a live-in boyfriend or something.
I’d file it under ” dumber than a fuckking rock”.
What gets me about these blood pressure raising Huffpo articles is that nobody mentions the fact that jelousy is natural too. If I followed my baseline programming, I would mate guard and screw around on the side with anyone who excited me. Nature is a bitch like that. Why do I expect better of myself and my partner? Because feelings get hurt. Because I don’t want to make my husband feel like he’s competing with other men. Because I don’t want to compete with other women in some sort of pimal soap opera. As I’ve said to soem of these insipid “other women” on Huffpo: if your desire to screw my husband is only “natural,” so is my desire to throw a brick through the window of your car after you destroy my family.
Great article as usual CL.
Ha! Thanks, KT. I wrote something similar for HuffPo awhile ago (I think it was a Public Service Announcement for Cheaters). Yes, why do they appeal to the evolution argument to fuck around when as you rightly point out, that argument evaporates when some chump appeals to his/her animal nature and knocks their lights out.
Yeah, I’ve seen that evolution argument, that monogamy is unnatural, blah blah blah. Taking a dump in the toilet instead of on the ground is also unnatural, yet most cheaters manage to control that. Wearing clothes is unnatural. Resisting food in the garbage or a half-eaten hot dog laying on the ground is unnatural. Controlling your words/feelings when talking to your boss is unnatural. Not picking your nose in public, blasting out farts/belches or rooting around in your crotch are all “societies rules” that are not natural. Yet most people, including cheaters, manage to follow all those rules. Funny how it’s just impossible to resist the lure of a piece of strange, yet cheaters can be so “morally upright” in all other areas. Big load of bullshit, that’s what it is.
GIO, that was hysterical. And so right on!
Is that why cheaters are ‘dogs’? Because they do all those things, and follow their animal instincts?
I really need to stop rooting around in my crotch, publicly.
And, yet, we are human who have supposedly evolved with the ability to reason and to think rationally.
Well, some of us.
Are women hard-wired to dump cheaters?
Other than the title, gee, what a dysfunctional pile that momlogic article was. Glad to hear I was “hard-wired” to dump my cheater. I’ll use that line anytime someone suggests I should have “stayed together for the sake of the children.”
I agree with you CL, that each person or couple is free to define what works for them (so long as they really agree). I read her article, and that caused me to wonder who she is to be speaking with such “authority”. Digging deeper, she is just a writer. She has no credentials other than writing (which is not a bad thing in and of itself), but she has no background in psychology, social work, counseling, or anything else to give credence to her statements. And, I have therefore dismissed her arguments as having as much weight as that drunk person at a bar hoping to stir up some crap for attention.
Well, in fairness, chumpattny, I am also just a writer — and a chump. I have no background in psychology and counseling (although I’ve recently considered going to back to school on this…) She’s just marshaling her arguments — which I don’t agree with — just as I marshall mine.
Well I do have a background in psychology. Larson’s premise and arguments are ill-conceived and poorly illustrated.
When reduced to its simplest, dispassionate element, infidelity is the unilateral breaking of a contract. People who renege on a contract just because they FEEL like doing it have character deficiencies.
And, CL, I think it would be superb if you went back to school. You are a natural, and psyc is one of the most fascinating fields of study on earth.
the funny thing about you saying this is that I had a professor a few weeks ago insinuate that it is the act of divorce that breaks the contract… which really irritated me. We were actually discussing ethics at work and in the hiring process and she basically said firms won’t hire anyone that they find evidence they are behaving unethically, or broke their word or something like that…. other than they do still hire divorced people! ha ha! hilarious!
But actually, I think she didn’t know anyone in the class was divorced and the joke actually made the entire class uncomfortable because of me. Which also made me further uncomfortable. So, yeah, just some divorce-shaming… but at least I now think all the other students in class will never go on to say something so completely stupid, so I guess it was worth it!
God, what an absolutely insensitive, stupid thing to say! I would’ve told the professor after class that, btw, you are divorced — and a perfectly ethical person. Unlike your cheater ex-husband.
I was stupid and insensitive about divorce before my xH cheated on me–quite arrogant, really. I learned really quickly.
Yes, but you are, quite clearly, a lot smarter than that dumbass.
Hear, freakin’ hear, CL!
If one signs up for an open marriage then that is one thing. Be upfront and honest. Don’t pretend to be building a life with another based on a different rule book then what was originally agreed to. I did not force the ring on my finger or hold a gun to his head to walk down the aisle and proclaim in front of all our friends and family to be a faithful husband. He knew the rules. He wouldn’t stick around if I cheated. The rules just didnt apply to him. We didn’t make a vow to only eat donuts from Dunkin Donuts and it will be a dealbreaker if one of us goes to another donut shop to get our “needs” met. Comparing infidelity to obesity is absurd. Sex requires intimacy and a connection to another human being on some level.
Real, great sex requires intimacy. I have a feeling that if we all examined our cheatin partners, 99.9 % of them are terrified of true intimacy, or even unable to feel it. Using people is what passes, for them.
I absolutely concur that these are false equivalencies. The idea that monogamy is what’s wrong with modern relationships might make an interesting article, but these are not the arguments that support that. Monogamy is what’s right for me, is really the only thing that matters in this issue, not what someone on the internet thinks it has to do with society at large.
I do think that people who engage in unhealthy behaviors (obesity to the point of secondary illness, included) DO hurt people besides themselves. The only way for that not to be true is to subscribe to the idea that people are islands, and we just aren’t – we’re great big ecosystems of interdependencies. I myself have a very serious chronic illness (lupus) – but I work really, really hard to be as well as I can be despite this. I work to balance medicating the shit out of it with the side effects, I work to stay strong in my muscles because lupus robs my joints of their own strength. I put up with a lot more pain that I might, so I am not gorked on pain killers all the time. I keep my weight down (ish, lol) so it doesn’t stress my joints and systems further.
I do this because the people who love me (my ecosystem, so to speak) deserve no less effort on my part. This belief works for me, even when I am feeling low enough to not quite believe *I* am worth being well for, you know? And there’s been plenty of these lows in my life this past year, with the whole discovery of 25 years of infidelity in Lt Commander Wonderful – but I’ve kept up the self-care, because the people who (actually) love me are worth it.
People who engage in unhealthy behaviors of all sorts, do not believe this. They believe they are entitled to destroy what other people love, even if its themselves. Substance abuse, decades of obesity, etc. The over-estimation of the point at which the loved ones are willing to step back into that resultant ever-growing hot mess and still help? It’s infuriating.
This person wrote a really, really bad essay on the subject and misses the point entirely, but I think I see the relationship in disordered thinking – it’s about entitlement. I find it maddening, no matter the disorder for sale. It hurts everyone.
One problem with the obesity argument is that while you may be able to avoid getting fat it is virtually impossible to lose weight, particularly if you need to lose more than 20 pounds. (Just a side note, when you see someone who is obese remember that they may have lost weight and/or be working on their health.)
Another problem with the obesity argument is that most people get fast due to habits that add up over time like not exercising. Cheating is something that does not just happen, certainly not after the first time.a lot of planned lying goes into it.
Get fat not fast.
There is actually a different conclusion you could draw from her arguments. Infidelity hurts society, society should be set up in a way to help discourage it. Just as a neighborhood where it is hard to walk promotes obesity, maybe society can make cheating more or less likely.
I have wondered about how society could do this. So far my only suggestion is that arguments that cheating is also the fault of the betrayed spouse may increase the chance that someone will cheat. So might arguments that monogamy is impossible anyway. And excusing the OW/OM probably doesn’t help. Anyone else have a theory?
I don’t think her point is that society should discourage infidelity; I think her solution is that society should accept infidelity. Her arguments are ludicrous, of course all our cheaters had a choice and could have been honest about their decision not to be monogamous. It is no longer stigmatized to remain single and that could have been their choice.
Society can discourage cheating in the ways that it used to, by holding cheaters accountable. Cheating should be recognized as a form of abuse and treated the same way.
Agree! Wisconsin has a law against Adultery but it’s rarely used if at all. The DA would just laugh it off. They don’t want to cram the judicial system with Adultery cases.
Same with states that have no fault divorces. When infidelity is the cause those who commit Adultery (Both the cheating spouse and the affair partner.) should be punished and be held accountable for the Headaches, Heartaches etc. “Abuse” that they caused.
I agree that society could do a lot more to promote fidelity, when that is what has been agreed to in any kind of contract (whether marriage, monogamous relationship w/or w/o living together ….). And one thing we can do is to stop collaborating w/cheating by turning a blind eye. If every cheater knew that anybody they knew who figured out they were or even might be cheating would give their partner a heads-up, a lot would change. If every cheater knew that the people surrounding them, family, friends and colleagues, would give new partners a heads-up that this person has cheated in the past, they’d be more careful. If every cheater knew that their friends and family would step away from them and let them know in no uncertain terms that their behaviour was wrong, they’d be less likely to cheat.
Basically if we treated infidelity like we do serious cheating on a business partner, a lot less of it would happen!
Our culture gives lip service to fidelity, but then condones cheating.
Agree completely. Cheaters should be shamed by everyone and they should be raised such that shame actually means something.
Why is it when any other business contract is broken, there are penalties and repurcussions – but when a marriage contract is broken – it’s not considered a “breach of contract”. What crap! I can’t even believe I’m advocating more laws on the books, but this is becoming really stupid. For every action, there must be an equal and opposite reaction.
That was the logic behind ‘at fault’ divorce; it’s a contract, and if it’s pretty clear that it was broken by one person and not by the other, then the partner who was not responsible gets some compensation above and beyond the division of community property.
I understand why many jurisdictions went ‘no fault’ – in many divorces there isn’t someone obviously and clearly at fault, and most divorces shouldn’t be slowed down or complicated by the need to show fault. But when there clearly WAS fault; cheating, violence, addiction, then there should be a mechanism to compensate for the time, energy and money the ‘innocent’ partner has invested, while being deceived. (And maybe it would make people getting married smarter about who they chose; if your partner was ALREADY a cheater, violent or clearly addicted and you chose to marry them anyway, you don’t get to ask for compensation.)
Yep. What Bud said!
I agree, she is suggesting that we all just give up.
However, I think a more logical conclusion would be that society could do something to prevent cheating.
At one point our society was set up to discourage adultery. But the discouragements (consequences) were primarily aimed at women as part and parcel of patriarchy and they were pretty harsh.
It is impossible to legislate morality and ethics. It is possible, however, to educate oneself about how to rear responsible and ethical children. As long as people abdicate important chunks of their child rearing prerogative to the nanny state or the entertainment industry, you will continue to see entitled, character disordered and maladjusted people.
When children are taught to behave responsibly they learn to think long-term and delay gratification. When children are not taught how to behave responsibly they act on what they feel in the moment and give way to the impulse of the moment.
Thomas Sowell says it best, “It’s not that Johnny can’t read. It’s not even that Johnny can’t think. It’s because Johnny can’t tell the difference between thinking and feeling.”
This (hilarious) video of the Marshmallow Experiment (with very young children) illustrates the important concept of “delay of gratification” and how the ability to do so correlates with personal responsibility and success in life.
If you choose to watch, please keep watching past his introduction (which introduces a profound psychological concept) to the actual tapes of the kids. It is hilarious….
I don’t think we have to set things up in a way that only punishes women.
I also think we should look first for ways that society can play a role without involving the government. A basic first step might be for people to get out the message that if you cheat and your wife/husband divorces you, you broke up the marriage. It is not their fault if they don’t take you back. It is not their fault that you cheated – it has nothing to do with how they look or how nice they are to you.
I don’t know if there is anything government could do in this area, although I am interested in any ideas about this.
Why would you say that it is “impossible to legislate morality and ethics”? Isn’t that what laws against murder, rape, stealing, insider trading, are for? We can’t legislate moral character, but we most certainly can and do legislate moral behavior.
True, but I don’t think I would like it if the government were involved in punishing adultery.
I’m more interested in individuals and communities taking a stand against it. Wouldn’t it be great if the owner of Trashley realized his business was immoral and gave it up?
I think it would be more effective to just make infidelity uncool, like smoking. Like high fructose corn syrup — which is a very interesting study. The food industry has spent *billions* trying to convince the public that HFCS is healthy and natural. One facebook page and a grass roots movement has convinced the public that it is not. To the point now that ketchup and other sugary foods advertise on the label “No high fructose corn syrup!”
Hearts and minds, not legislation. That’s where it’s at. Although I do believe in fault divorce.
CL, I think this website is a GIANT leap toward making cheating not cool. You’ve brought us together to give each other the courage to speak out against all the prevalent cliches that say we must be forgiving and accepting and open-minded.
Really. My friend and I were just talking about how insufferable some of the cliche-spewing empty-heads are when commanding us LBS’s to “forgive” and “be friends” with the WAS.
I certainly feel emboldened to do what is right, and that is, to not put up with it, and to provide support to other betrayed spouses.
Well done, CL.
As I always say, you have built quite a legacy here. You are important to a lot of good people out in this world–in a good way. Karma’s a bitch, and she is your friend!
“Why would you say that it is “impossible to legislate morality and ethics”?
You said it yourself. “We can’t legislate moral character.” Perhaps I should have expanded that statement to read, ” We cannot legislate personally internalized morality and ethics.”
We can legislate boundaries on behavior that is deemed by the general public to be immoral and unethical. We can legislate penalties and consequences for violation of those legal and ethical boundaries; however, fear of punishment under the law is not the same thing as an internalized system of values, morals and ethics that promotes win-win (value for value) interactions with others when the law is not looking. Nor does fear of punishment keep some immoral and unethical people from trying to beat the system. If we could legislate personal belief systems (i.e. personal values, morals and ethics) we would already have eradicated behavior that wrongs others. That clarify my comment for you?
Addendum to the post above.
People who obey laws that address harmful behavior toward others only because they do not want to face the consequences of being caught and punished are not exhibiting moral behavior, they are exhibiting COMPLIANT behavior. And for some people (who would exploit others if they could do it unscathed) the best we can hope for is compliant behavior.
BTW, resistance to laws that are in and of themselves unethical or immoral is a whole other realm of ethical and moral discussion. (Think Ghandi and Dr. King.) Whole bodies of philosophical and ethical debates have emerged in response to these kinds of dilemmas. For example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Kohlberg%27s_stages_of_moral_development
You are absolutely right, my abusive ex would be here tormenting me if he wasn’t afraid to go to jail. A protective order only works on people that are afraid of going to jail – so it doesn’t work well in many circumstances. However, I’m supporting your point. We do make laws to provide consequences that are supposed to DETER people from doing harmful things in the first place.
I love Thomas Sowell!
“When reduced to its simplest, dispassionate element, infidelity is the unilateral breaking of a contract. People who renege on a contract just because they FEEL like doing it have character deficiencies.” THIS. If people feel the need to cheat – then either don’t get married or get out of your current relationship RESPECTFULLY!
I suspect that if more people who felt the urge to cheat took steps to get out of their current relationship RESPECTFULLY. The process of trying to make a respectful exit just might help eliminate their urge to cheat, since they’d have to THINK about the whats and whys of their urge and have an HONEST and potentially productive dialogue with their partner. That make sense?
The problem is, it’s the very fact that it IS cheating that makes it so exciting, IMHO. Disordered cheaters get off on knowing they are fooling their spouse, knowing they are getting away with lies, knowing they are fucking someone and it could cause problems. They love the danger and the “dirtiness.” I’ve posted this before, but I once told my ex NPD husband that I was concerned the only way he enjoyed sex was if it was dirty, dangerous, illicit or immoral in some way. In a rare moment of honesty, he replied that he worried about that too.
It’s pretty clear that cheating does not happen just because of sex. I wanted sex WAY more than my cheating husband did, and I’m sure many others here were more than happy to have sex with their spouse. Yet they still cheated. That’s because they are BORED with safe, loving sex with an intimate partner. They are only after the smell of NEW, the thrill of getting away with something, the excitement of the forbidden. It is cheating itself that cheaters love, not the sex and not the AP, at least in most cases. So there is no point in wondering why they don’t get out of their current relationship or act in a more mature fashion. That would defeat the entire point of their cheating.
Diana L gets it when she says, “Infidelity hurts society, society should be set up in a way to help discourage it.” Which means we need a discussion about monogamy. It’s the default, thus not a true choice (most people who practice consensual non-monogamy — open marriages, etc. — do so in relative secrecy, just like those who do opt out by cheating).
KarmaBuilder gets it, too — people who engage in unhealthy behaviors hurt a lot of people beside themselves. If that weren’t true, society would not fund anti-drug and anti-booze and anti-obesity programs, etc. We pay for those programs, directly through taxes and indirectly through higher health costs.
We should hold people accountable for all their bad behaviors — overeating, doing meth, boozing and cheating. Why just cherry-pick the bad behaviors? So, yes, infidelity is as much a personal issue as a societal one, so what should we do about that? I say start a conversation about monogamy.
Absolutely, people need to make informed choices about monogamy, not just have it as an unthinking default. And that should include the right to go to their partner and honestly say ‘I don’t want to be monogamous any more. Are you willing to try that for a while and we’ll see where it goes?’, withough being seen as an asshole.
But that’s not actually what cheaters want! They want CAKE! They want all the advantages of being in a monogamous relationship, AND all the advantages of being single, AND all the fun and extra zing of doing something forbidden! The previous situation, even if their partner were totally fine with it, wouldn’t work for them, would it?
It’s not about monogamy, it’s about entitlement.
I agree with what you’re saying except for this:
“And that should include the right to go to their partner and honestly say ‘I don’t want to be monogamous any more.”
It’s fine of a couple can do this, but I don’t think a person who wants non-monogamy should see it as their right. Once you’ve entered into a long-term monogamous relationship, it may not be fair to change the terms. If the other person says, I don’t want you to cheat, you should stick to your agreement.
The problem with changing the terms whenever is that in any relationship, there will be times when one partner has a better chance to cheat than other times. So then they suggest cheating. Or one partner may have a greater ability to cheat than the other – it seems unfair to tell someone who has been faithful for 10-20 years, that now that cheating is easy for you and hard for them, you want to change the deal.
I think changing the terms of the agreement as you go works better if you are not expecting to stay together forever.
However, if a couple wants to change their agreement, that is their right. I just don’t think everyone should have to accept a partner coming and saying, I want an open marriage now, and if you don’t give it to me, I’m going to cheat or leave.
I think I was pretty clear that their right is to SAY ‘ …. Are you willing to try that for a while and we’ll see where it goes?’. This is about a negotiated end or pause to the monogamous aspect of the relationship, and can only occur if the other partner is OK w/that.
And if they can’t find a solution that’s OK for both (whether a re-commitment to monogamy or rules for a non-monogamous relationship), both partners have the option of saying ‘then I will leave’. Just like they ALWAYS have that right, just like they always have had it. Because that’s honest. It’s the dishonesty that is the problem, which comes from entitlement.
It isn’t that simple. People have the right to leave, but marriage means your lives get intertwined. After 20 years or 10 or having kids, breaking up is a big deal. It’s messy, you both end up poorer, and you and your partner have probably made sacrifices you would not have done if you expected it to end.
So saying do this for me or I leave seems like a kind of blackmail. Obviously people should be able to say stop gambling, get therapy, or stop cheating or I leave. But saying I want multiple partners or I leave is different and unfair.
Also in practise I think many people who say something like this have someone in mind to sleep with.
Frankly, if my partner approached me about making our relationship non-monogamous, and I was not interested in that option, and they then said they’d leave otherwise, I would hold the door open for them. (Broken-hearted, probably, but willingly, nonetheless).
I don’t see a difference between telling your partner something very reasonable like ‘stop gambling or I leave’ and something that sounds unreasonable like ‘open up our marriage or I leave’, or actually ‘learn to sing opera or I leave’. You are stating your conditions, in an honest way. It’s up to your partner to decide what they think about that.
If my partner is ready to leave because I won’t open the relationship to sex with other people, I would actually like to know this. The truth can be painful, but it’s always a better base for decision-making than either lies or lack of information.
But let’s face it; serial or long-term cheaters don’t WANT open marriages, they want cake. They want that loving, committed, trusting partner at home, keeping the home fires burning, possibly raising the kids, doing all sorts of things that make the cheater’s life easier and more pleasant and being faithful. AND they want sex and/or extra ego kibbles on the side. Often the ‘sauce’ of sneaking around and doing something forbidden makes it even better for them.
You’re talking out of both sides of your mouth. On the one hand, “infidelity hurts society.” On the other hand, you don’t hold people who cheat accountable — criticizing the current climate you write –” The implication is that it is the transgressor, not the structure, that needs adjustment.”
So the ***structure*** needs adjustment. You further write that that “monogamy appears to promote unhealthy behaviors” — again putting the sin of infidelity at the feet of expectations of monogamy, aka “the structure.”
Yes, we’re having a conversation about monogamy. If you don’t want to be monogamous, don’t be. You seem to think I judge people for not being monogamous. I don’t — I judge cheaters for feigning monogamy to gain advantage over chumps — all the perks of marriage, and the thrill of fucking around on the side.
CL, you nail it – it’s fine to discuss the idea that with our extended lives or whatever reason monogamy is not doable. The very reason cheating is so awful is not that a couple is not monogamous, it it that one person chose to lie about that. That one person believes they are in a monogamous relationship; while the other lies. This is about making choices that the person agrees with, it’s about being lied to bottom line. I once did try to do the open thing (no lies) when I was single and I could not overcome my societal upbringing. We all are a product of our environment, societal norms and culture.Even if you want to change that you cannot because you are formed by your culture. BUT, someone cheating on you cannot is not equal to this idea, it involves lying and taking your choices away. You should always have the choice.
VL, I come down in favor of monogamy. Here’s my discussion of it:
Monogamy works better for most people. We have evolved to be jealous and to want a faithful partner. This is in conflict with our desire to have extra partners ourselves, but if we want loving and faithful intimacy from our partner, we have to give up the chance to have extra sex and romance/attention ourselves.
For most people, deciding to allow their partner to have extra partners ends up causing more pain and jealousy and issues than not being able to have sex with other people.
In addition, open relationships really do lead to people falling in love with outside partners (Jenny Block). They do not even prevent cheating, since people in an open relationship can end up breaking whatever rules they set (i.e. use a condom, don’t sleep with someone in our town, don’t fall in love, etc. – Jenny Block plus miscellaneous anonymous bloggers who talk about guys in open relationships asking for sex without condoms). Open marriages are not as stable and likely to last as monogamous relationship – although for some people in open relationships, that is okay because they don’t measure the success of their relationship by whether or not it lasts.
Non-monogamous relationships have other risks – STDs and children with the wrong partner. Not to mention endless meetings and discussions of feelings and how to balance the needs of multiple partners and power struggles. The time alone makes it impractical for anyone with kids!
So, although I think it’s good for a couple to discuss the idea of not being monogamous, I also think it is good if “society” promotes monogamy as the ideal. It is better for most people.
I also think it’s a good thing if monogamy is the default. It works better. Having some couples who are out there being non-monogamous can be de-stabilizing for other couples – you can find commenters here who talk about someone in an open relationship sleeping with their cheater. People in a monogamous relationship may put pressure on their partner who wants a monogamous relationship to allow them to have more cake. Cheaters may try to get an open relationship after they have cheated – or like Jenny Block just not stop cheating until their partner agrees to be “open.”
Diane — thank you for your intelligent and rational look at the situation.
For the record, I am not saying a cheater is the same as an obese person; we are talking about the numbers of people impacted by bad behavior, thus the “epidemic” and what should we, society, should do about it, if anything. So far, we have made it very clear that obesity must be stopped, but in general we accept infidelity (not on a personal level, but on a societal level — look at all the politicians we forgive and the celebs we applaud; think Pitt and Jolie, etc.)
You say “Non-monogamous relationships have other risks – STDs and children with the wrong partner.” Actually, people who cheat don’t practice safe sex, and studies indicate 10% of men are unknowingly raising children who are not theirs. So, what you fear is already happening.
So, now what?
You are somewhat correct in saying monogamy “works better” (and I am in a long-term monogamous, by choice, relationship) because many people feel comfortable living within the norms — except when they want to break them, as so many of us do.
I think it’s essential that anyone committing to another person have a long. hard talk about monogamy, and continue talking about it throughout their partnership. Now THAT is the equivalent of an obese person not needing the government to ban soda, but instead choosing to no longer buy and drink them.
VL, people often make the argument that STDs and babies already happen, but that dies not mean that having more people sleep with more partners would change anything. As GladItsOver shows, people who agree to have more partners can still lie and break their own non-traditional promises. The difference is that you have increased the chance that sex will happen in the first place.
My ex was balling a woman in an open marriage. I knew nothing about this, of course, until much later. I knew the woman well, and her husband, too, though I did not know they had an open marriage. The OW had rules in her marriage about who was okay/not okay for her and her husband to sleep with, and my ex was definitely in the NOT OKAY category, so she was actually a cheater, even in her open marriage. Ex was also using her to triangulate the OTHER married woman he was sleeping with like crazy. He played those two suckers off each other the whole time, and even got them to have threesomes with him. Both women fell in love with him, one woman left her husband. I don’t see anything any better about open marriage in terms of honesty, longevity or health (no condoms used in all of this fucking).
It takes strength of character to make a commitment to another person, then uphold that commitment for a lifetime.
People who are in open relationships and who then knowingly have sex w/people whose partners think they’re in a monogamous relationship (whether marriage or not) are still affair partners, and are still showing their lack of character (and their TERRIBLE taste in who to sleep with, but that’s another issue). They are exactly the same as any AP who knows their sleeping w/someone who’s married.
When I was single, I had married men hit on me who said they had an ‘understanding’ with their wives. Amazing how, when I said I’d be happy to consider going out with/sleeping w/them once I heard FROM THEIR WIFE that there was an understanding, somehow they quickly faded into the woodwork. Before I came up w/that response, I’d just ask ‘Does your understanding include her having sex with other people, as well?’, which did just as good a job, but I don’t think got to the point as well.
‘they are’, not ‘their’. Hope no student of mine ever sees this!
Good for you!
well said KarenE
My….god…..Glad….. We have certainly lived IDENTICAL LIVES with our exes.
Mine did the exact same thing, triangulating two women who were best friends, had affairs with both of them at the same time, as well as group sex. They would do anything to win him. Never any condoms, As soon as I kicked ex out on D-Day (but believe me he was happy to go), married OW left her husband and sons for him, assuring one and all they would be married right away…. they still are not. His other AP, her best friend, he promised to marry years ago but reneged, and she became an even bigger alcoholic. He ‘s now kicked both of them out of his consulting business, he is on to bigger and better cake.
Strength of character these monsters do not have.
I have given up on the idea of “Correcting” HuffingtonPost articles through the use of the comments section primarily for two reasons:
1. I believe it only encourages them to publish more offending material. Offending material stirs up controversy, people comment on it, they respond to comments, and this all translates into “Page Hits”, so the bottom line is it “Pays”.
2. It’s a thankless job, and I don’t get paid for doing it. There are plenty of thankless, unpaid jobs to be had, and I would get more personal fulfillment out of doing almost all of them than I do responding to the Derp HuffingtonPost keeps publishing.
I haven’t added Huffington Post to be banned sites list on my router yet, but I am considering it.
I’m like a moth to the flame. Derp?
The Oxford English Dictionary (how do you like that? The creators of SouthPark and Baseketball created a word that made it into the OED) defines Derp this way:
(also herp derp)
Used as a substitute for speech regarded as meaningless or stupid, or to comment on a foolish or stupid action.
In the interwebz, though, Derp has the additional connotation of “endless repetition”, or constantly “asserting your priors” and “adding nothing of value to the discussion”.
Ooh. Thank you for this new bit of vocabulary.
Who the hell is Vicki Larson? She sounds like a moron and an entitled, narc cheater.
Her argument is insane. Lots of people “fail” at not murdering, robbing banks or carjacking as well. So is that some sort of societal fault at work, unreasonable expectations that people obey laws? Perhaps we should simply do away with the law against murder, and those who want to obey will, and those who don’t are okay doing their own thing. That should be right in line with Vicki Larson’s thinking.
She’s a journalist, and she’s posted on this thread. She’s also a former betrayed spouse, not a cheater.
I don’t want to disparage Larson, the person with name calling, but I agree, the argument is insane. Why not take on psychopaths? Hey, people have different neuro pathways. Some people don’t do empathy. It’s not natural for them. Why all this emphasis on law and order? Why do we fault the individual psychopath? We should look at the structure that assumes people should behave ethically!
“…people have different neural pathways.”
CL..I’m really not trying to derail the main thread because I do believe that character deficiencies are at the root of calculated exploitation and harmful manipulation of others.
But we still don’t have definitive answers as to what causes psychopathy. The verdict is still out on how much of what we call psychopathy is nature (neuropsyc approach) and how much is nurture (learning theory approach).
Infants are born hardwired for survival, and those with the strongest hard wiring tend to be most persistent in seeking to get their needs met. So, when and how does assertiveness and persistence morph into harmful aggression? Or even more intriguing…when and how do some people sublimate their innate assertiveness into wickedly subtle passive-aggression.
Researchers are seeking ways to measure empathy and ability to differentiate between “good” and “bad” in infants. And it is complicated but very interesting.
I agree it’s an interesting, complicated study of where psychopaths come from. I found this article in the Times interesting http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/magazine/can-you-call-a-9-year-old-a-psychopath.html?pagewanted=all about the hereditary nature of “callous unemotional” traits. Of course, they’re just traits — if you were well adapted, you might make a good heart surgeon and if you were sick, you could be a murderer or a Wall St. CEO. As I think I mentioned before, I also like the site http://neurologicalcorrelates.com which compiles scientific articles on sociopathy and narcissism.
Who knows what makes them tick? I say — just stay away from them. 🙂
Fascinating article. Thanks for the link.
You don’t have to go as far as psychopaths to make the argument.
Property is not a natural concept.
What about honesty? Maybe 25% of people have committed adultery, but virtually everyone has lied. Why do we think lying is bad?
I think lying is bad because over the long -term it so incredibly damages the person who does it. Best summation I have ever found is in this quote from Ayn Rand.
“People think that a liar gains a victory over his victim. What I’ve learned is that a lie is an act of self-abdication, because one surrenders one’s reality to the person to whom one lies, making that person one’s master, condemning oneself from then on to faking the sort of reality that person’s view requires to be faked…The man who lies to the world, is the world’s slave from then on…There are no white lies, there is only the blackest of destruction, and a white lie is the blackest of all.”
Maybe Larson needs to come up with something that makes sense to her, to allow her to forgive her cheater ex. Maybe the harsh truth about her cheating ex is too much to bear. I wonder if she is still hoping for a reconciliation. If so, putting the blame elsewhere gives her permission to hope that maybe a reconciliation will work. After all, a cheater isn’t all that bad. Society makes them so. I say quit over analyzing cheating. Call a spade a spade. People who cheat have zero integrity. It’s a choice. Nothing more, nothing less.
I am consistently at a loss to understand her thinking processes.
Her article is completely ridiculous in this day and age. People don’t “have” to get married anymore. Any pressure for a person to settle down and have the spouse and kids is far less than it was a few decades ago. I know plenty of people in my age group (30s) who are single, dating without living with the person, etc. She’s just trying to justify the behavior for whatever reason, but honestly, I don’t see any reason for cheating to exist in this day and age other than the reasons CL mentioned: entitlement, kibbles, disordered personality, etc. If those people would kindly stay single, they’d be doing us all a huge favor.
I think it’s funny that society expects people to “Just say no” to drugs, murder, stealing, etc. But when it comes to cheating–an activity that requires you to lie to your loved ones and take off your freaking clothes–you are helpless before the onslaught of animal urges? Uh, no.
The only similarity between obesity and cheating is “cake”.
If only there were no bakeries and Ashley Madison the world would be a skinny and happier place.
Can I throw up now?
“If only there were no bakeries and Ashley Madison the world would be a skinny and happier place.”
Spew alert! LMAO
I’ll just throw a few cents in. First, I read the introduction (chapter summaries) of the book upon which Larson is basing her notions that “perhaps” monogamy is no longer normative or ideal, or even desirable. http://www.amazon.com/The-State-Affairs-Explorations-Relationships/dp/0805844589
As far as I can tell, the scholarly book she cites says no such thing. Rather, it’s a series of essay length studies on varieties of human relationships; a couple of the articles concern marital infidelity and why it is problematic from a social point of view, yet exciting, titillating and compelling for cheaters (secrets, power, sex, d’oh…..)
As I read the Larson piece in HP, she ends by saying that infidelity is a social ill, and possibly needs a social remedy. Smoking would obviously have been a far better comparison than obesity. Using obesity is just dumb, has totally different correlates, is blaming and obnoxious. Bad choice, said the smart fat chick. (I can lose weight–in theory…but you can’t fix stupid!)
I think that as far as Larson goes, she’s just a muddy thinker on this–can’t read a scholarly book and make sense of it in a brief, interesting and comprehensive way, and also make a compelling argument that will draw HP hits… C’est la vie.
But her point that infidelity is a social problem–not an individual, family-by-family one, and that remedies would benefit from *Social* (i.e., society-wide, group) agreement that cheating=BAD, lying=BAD, honoring your commitments=GOOD, being truthful=GOOD! Those would be well supported by social efforts, just as with the reduction in smoking. (No ads; Not sexy to see people smoking in the movies–or not so much; Warning on packages…heh….don’t quite know how that would happen~!). But mostly a reinforcement of the general sense that no, it’s not OK, everybody doesn’t do it, if you do your friends will shun you (and folks should, IMHO do the shunning). etc etc etc.
One thing that is presently keeping me from meh is the whole friends non-shunning business. Just the opposite. Friends (well, presumptive friends) are all clinging to the sparkly turd. I know I need to just keep moving, but that’s a tough one to get past, it really is.
So fucking not fair! (she cried). And while I’m crabby– what the fuck is up with Foursquare — the creature’s twatter feed is full of “I’m at XX Starbucks”; I’m at XX train station”. I mean even if he wasn’t a skeevy asshole cheater, who the fuck cares? is it just the corpse-flower like bloom of the narcissist in full flower?
But it’s a really *fabulous* latte at Starbucks. Don’t you wish you were there?
namedforvera, a well thought out response. We are a product of our environment and the huff article was dreck. What she should have written is that we need to rethink our relationships and be honest. I think future generations will have families where there are multiple people who love each other and this will be good for kids. I mean if we can overcome jealousy and end up with 4 parents to the kids that would be awesome, but to do that there has to be open honesty, not cheating on a spouse who expects monogamy.
Had to look up Jenny Block – and I see a recent (?) article she wrote on accepting Tiger Woods and his current flavor of the month. But she had a point that may be relevant to something Ms. Larson suggested.
Maybe it IS time we had different types of marriages. Regular “marriage” is for all us boring all chump folks who prefer/enjoy monogamy. It is what we promise and expect from our relationship.
Personally I’m fine with gay marriage, but if it would help speed along acceptance of gay marriage in all 50 states, maybe we set up another category for gay/lesbian unions. Call it whatever.
Then we create a third type of marriage for all the non-monogamous folks out there, that just want to follow their animal instincts and find their bliss with whomever. As so many of us have found out with our cake-eating cheaters, a lot of them really do want to be/stay married. Maybe they see a need to provide a stable home for kids (hey, mom & dad screw around with whomever, but it’s home, and they always come back home sooner or later). Maybe they need that veneer of respectability, to run for public office (Gingrich, Clinton, Sanford etc.). But I liken this to CL’s call for a sign, like a big fat “A” on their foreheads, so that those types can stick together. Let them marry each other and then work out how the non-monogamy will work in their particular relationship. Just don’t trick us into marrying into it. And society won’t raise an eyebrow when they are observed stepping out on the spouse. There was no promise to be faithful in their union.
Both Jenny Block and Vicki Larson seem to imply that everyone jumps into the one-size-fits-all marriage suit because that’s the way it’s been forever. Even when they want just some of the benefits of marriage. Hey, they can still have the big white wedding, and get presents and the whole nine yards. But the rest of us will know that for them it’s not a traditional marriage in the sense that they expect each other to remain faithful. No worries about whether or not to inform the “betrayed” spouse – there isn’t one.
They can even set up categories on the dating sites about what you are looking for – a monogamous marriage, or an “other” marriage – one where we get the tax deductions and health benefits and legitimacy for the offspring since we are married – but it’s understood up front that screwing around is part of the deal, sooner or later. But this assumes that potential cheaters are capable of self-reflection and accepting that in themselves (and future spouses) up front. In my case, he didn’t start cheating until a good 20+ years into the marriage. Not sure how aware he was of the potential back when we were dating, or if he was aware, if he would have been capable of publicly acknowledging it back then.
Although I think what some cheaters want is a partner who is faithful to them. Open marriage would drive theocracy.
Excuse enforce them crazy!
Argh! Correcting the correction- drive them crazy.
Monogamy is boring. Check
But polygamy is boring too
Cheating is interesting because of the logistics, because of the adventure.
I would be open in a Simon de Beauvoir- Jan Paul Sarte thing and he knew that.
But he was not after it.
He LIKED the double life and the thrill of deception .
As simple as that.
CL you hit the root of it as always.
Its not the cheating so much as the lying. Its an integrity issue. A person should be the same person in front of anyone. ie. A hooker, your mother, your son, a nun, a cashier, etc. People with no integrity put on an act and they’re fakes. I saw the change in my STBXW after she had left the reservation.
Society should not excuse gluttony, alcoholism, or sexual addition. We need to talk to our Representatives to enforce marriages. They’re more worried about who can get married as opposed to protecting the marriage institution itself.
Please SEND your PERFECT response to HuffPost. Bravo!
When I read this today I almost stood up and cheered at work. CL, when you replied above that you were “just a writer,” I have to point out that there are all kinds of writers – and the criticism isn’t personal against Ms. Larson. Some writers exhibit clarity and higher level thinking in their writing, some do not. You are definitely the former and she consistently exhibits the latter. This doesn’t make her a bad person, but it does indicate she might not have clarity and has a lot of triangulation going on in her thinking.
I really think the problem with the way people view cheating is that the conversation gets reduced to the lowest common denominator, which is the sex. Just like rape is not about sex, neither is cheating. Cheating is an act of emotional violence against the person on whom you’re cheating, generated by a sense of entitlement, selfishness and self-centeredness on the part of the person doing the cheating. It is a multi-layered assault – lying, deceit, betrayal and possible transmission of life-altering (threatening?) disease. And it is not just an assault on the spouse – it is an assault on the entire family and family structure. Inherent in the marriage contract is an implied belief in your ability to have absolute trust in the person with whom you are entering that contract. As CL has pointed out so many times, if you want to be released from the contract (divorce), then there should be a discussion with the person with whom you entered the contract about the terms necessary for you to be released from the contract.
If we don’t have the ability to consider our behavior and reason what is most appropriate in any given situation, and we’re all just at the mercy of our baser instincts, desires and lizard brain tendencies, then really and what the hell, we’re just barn animals.
Marriage is one of the (if not THE) most intimate relationship you will have with another person. You not only share your heart and mind, but you share your body as well. It is the one relationship in which you share your entire self, where you are fully exposed, for the most part, to another human being. Most people, not even obese people, have that same relationship with or investment in food.
No, you cannot legislate morality. But there can and should be consequences for deceit, betrayal and breach of contract with respect to your marriage partner. Why is that relationship less sacrosanct than a business relationship where, if you practiced the same behavior, there are actual criminal penalties that can be applied and enforced. There should be a study done on how prevalent infidelity is in societies where it is punished by castration and/or beheading. I’m not advocating that ( 🙂 ) but I am curious.
You nailed it, Chump Princess.
Better luck next time, (if there is a next time) human species. All this technological development in a short period of time, and what do you do with it? Same as a bunch of chimpanzees would. Sneaking, cheating, mate stealing — jockeying for power positions and backbiting.
Articles like this, rationalizing it, articles that might go a little deeper and navel gaze are nothing but a form of BRAGGING. Chest thumping. Just like a chimp.
Even the elders of the species still go at it. George Soros (the Cryptkeeper) got married over the weekend to a woman half his age. You don’t get much more primate than that for status.
“Cheating is an act of emotional violence against the person on whom you’re cheating, generated by a sense of entitlement, selfishness and self-centeredness on the part of the person doing the cheating. It is a multi-layered assault – lying, deceit, betrayal and possible transmission of life-altering (threatening?) disease. And it is not just an assault on the spouse – it is an assault on the entire family and family structure.” THIS.
And this kind of behavior proliferates in a culture as saturated in narcissism and entitlement as our culture now is.
There is an excellent book (one of the best I have ever read) that addresses these cultural phenomena (and what he believes are their roots) and does it in a writing style as engaging as CL’s …different but equally engaging. It is entitled, “Grow Up! How taking responsibility can make you a happy adult.” Author: Frank Pittman, MD (Psychiatrist and marriage and family therapist for in excess of 40 years). It is a good read.
Yes, you totally nailed it.
Today is the second anniversary of my D-day.
I have spent the last two years healing and wondering if I will ever ever ever let myself be vulnerable to anyone like this ever again.
amen, sister. well put!
OMG, as soon as I read that article I thought…wait until CL gets hold of this. You didn’t let me down. Thank you :).
I was in an open marriage and no, it is no panacea. He still screwed around on me – how do you manage to do that when you have your sexual freedom? We had an agreement; no shifting of loyalties, no diseases, no children by others. Transparency & honesty about everything. He couldn’t even abide by that. By the time the toner had cooled on the divorce decree, he’d had three children by three other women than me… the last one turned sixteen a couple months before she gave birth. He was in his early thirties. I can’t believe her parents didn’t press charges. It’s all about power, control, and getting the advantage. He was, and remains, completely amoral. Yet women still line up around the block for him. I don’t think I’ll ever understand why.
Well, I went on a date tonight and experimented with Vickie Larson’s theory that monogamy was unnatural.
I told lovely lady I was dining with I was looking for a serious relationship that included having sex with other women. I explained that monogamy was unnatural and if she expected monogamy I would have no choice but to cheat on her.
After my date doused me with a glass of wine and stormed out of the restaurant I was very disappointed in my date and her lack of appreciation for Vickie Larson’s theory on the evils of monogamy.
Oh…I called my decorator and cancelled the shag carpeting order for my non-monogamous serious relationship lifestyle.
Vickie Larson you’re theory is ahead of the times. Damn society and the reluctance to accept your theory.
I just need to explode this somewhere cause I can’t or shouldn’t tell anybody…
My friend, He is cheating his wife even before they married 2years ago and He still cheating his wife and today is their wedding Anniversary…. He posted wedding photo and says “Love you Princess”…. (to makes her happy?! or show off to people?!) How people can do that? Poor wife… she has no idea what her husband doing last over 2years…. If He really love his wife, why he can do this to her? or He is not really love his wife that’s why he keep doing this? Then why he married? I found out about this by accident but I don’t want to destroy their things and non of my business that’s why I zip my mouse but This makes me Sick… People loves gossips so I’m sure If I tell for my/our friend, his wife will find out soon or later… so I zip my mouth but so stressful to know about this…
Wouldn’t you want to know if it was you? I think you should have compassion for the wife and let her know. Just an anonymous note is enough. She may not believe it at first, but it will open her eyes and she will start paying attention. Others here have received notes like that, and were grateful for those who tried to help. Remember, it is NOT YOU who is destroying their things, it is his cheating that is destroying their marriage. And anyone here can tell you, he has already done that, even if she doesn’t yet understand.
Thank you Quicksilver!
Yeah, I feel compassion for his wife about having this unfaithful husband even if He is my friend. Or maybe I feel more like a “Silly” “Fu%ked up” to them….
Maybe I can tell his wife but I’m not her friend…. If She is my friend then Yes I will tell her 100%!!
I’m not sure He may love her, I hope he does coz He married to her and maybe wanna keep his married?!?! but I don’t understand why he can do this….and seems like a he does not feel guilty at all…if he does then why he keep doing this…. this is so sick. I’m single but since I found this I doubt guys more…I know it’s about him and not all guys but still….
I never married so I’m not sure but I wanna ask for married ladies if your husband cheating from before married and still keep cheating after 2years, you still wanna keep the married or try to fix it or divorce??
Hardly an article worthy of all the comments. Having lived with the results of an affair on what was a decent relationship with my husband and watching what it has done to him is enough to say it is not a good thing for any relationship. This is not Utah or Before the Common Era where a powerful man had to have alot of wives to procreate and increase the population this is the 21st century full of angst and STDs.
Now I am going to rant to get it out of my system. Husband started taking a medicine he has to take 4x a day. Packed 2 pills in his lunch with a note stating times to be taken. Comes in before he leaves telling me I am stupid because it is 4x when he is awake not
4 x in 24 hours. Please help me Lord I am only a health care provider.