Thought I’d point out an awesome Amazon.com smackdown of the idiot book “When Good People Have Affairs: Inside the Hearts & Minds of People in Two Relationships” by Mira Kirshenbaum. A reviewer named Elisabeth takes on every ridiculous assumption — that’s it’s better to lie and “be kind” than tell your chump the truth, that affairs can improve a marriage, that cheating is “necessary,” ad nauseum, and she disarms each claim with bad ass charm and intelligence. Go check it out on Amazon here.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of reviewers — cheaters (aka “good people”) just love the book. Perhaps the chump collective can do something to change those numbers…
Without further ado — here’s “Elisabeth” taking on the cheater apologists.
There is too much validation for the poor coping mechanisms which lead to choosing infidelity without sufficient warnings regarding the dangers. Though the author discusses the dangers; she lacks fair balance.
The premise is good: Help men and women who are having or have had an affair to understand why they did or are doing this. The paradox of being both saint and sinner can be confusing.
CLAIM # 1 — “Most men and women who have affairs are good people”
It’s pointless arguing if a cheater can also be a good person because people should be judged by their character and treatment towards others, NOT by their inherent self-worth. The real question then isn’t are these good people, but are they good partners? Whether or not someone can be a good partner and true friend will depend on their character (character shapes behavior).
Someone with good character is someone who is honest, trustworthy, fair, respectful, responsible, and loyal. It doesn’t mean this person is perfect, but it does mean this person makes a genuine effort to live by these virtues.
A cheater’s energy, in contrast, is spent justifying why they avoid these virtues.
Someone with good character is also consistent in practicing these virtues…they’re the same to your face as they are behind your back.
Cheaters, however, are two-faced.
So when judging someone’s character, I believe actions should speak louder than flattery.
I don’t believe in handing out “good people” trophies to those who lie and cheat on their spouses — just so they can feel good about themselves. Feeling good should come from doing good, to yourself and to others.
CLAIM # 2 — Cheaters “passionately want to do what’s best for everyone”
This claim certainly isn’t true during an affair. People who have their spouse’s best interest at heart don’t make fools of them for being so trusting…or reward their faithfulness with an STD…or gossip about them behind their back. It’s nonsensical to claim this.
However, could it be true that despite showing a total disregard for their spouse’s feeling throughout, they nonetheless want what’s best for them during a divorce? A dramatic shift in focus seems unlikely, however I was willing to read this book to find out if any cases like this existed. What I found in the examples given was a consistent level of narcissism before, during, and after the affair.
One woman, Emmy, thought her husband complained too much and was too critical, so she cheated on him. Next, she wanted to leave him for her new lover, but that’s not all…she also wanted to leave with the kids, too!
If this woman “passionately” wanted what’s best for everyone, then how was it best for her husband to be without his kids…or best for the kids to be without their father?
CLAIM # 3 — Cheaters are not users
The author claims cheaters are not users because users are people just trying to get away with something.
Well, here’s what one man, Josh, did:
- he created “hopefully secret email accounts” so his wife wouldn’t find out he was contacting his mistress
- he told his wife he was going on business trips when he was really meeting his mistress at a hotel
- he told his mistress he was doing everything possible to leave his wife for her, but never had any plans to do so
So, aren’t those examples of trying to get away with something?
The author also says users only care about getting what they want. Well, after Josh’s mistress dumped him, he kept his wife around (whom he never wanted to marry in the first place) because if he divorced her, he’d lose the job his father-in-law gave him and time spent with his baby. He used her to get what HE wanted.
It’s not surprising the author can’t recognize a user because her own advice involves using others. Here’s some advice she gives cheaters wondering if they should stay married or get divorced:
“Suppose what’s closest to your heart is your kids. Well, which path enables you to spend the most time with them and makes their lives easiest? Most people say that it’s the path of staying married. Okay, then. Your decision has been made for you.”
So just like Josh’s case, instead of setting a no-longer-loved spouse free to find someone who would love them…they’re kept around so the cheater can keep certain perks of married life. Not only are they being used, but they’re also denied a say whether to stay married or get divorced. Instead, it’s just assumed they’d want what the cheater wants.
CLAIM # 4 — Cheaters are loyal
The author claims cheaters avoid leaving loveless marriages because they’re so loyal…but as Josh’s example shows, it’s not loyalty that keeps them staying put, but greed. And with others, it was fearing financial payback from an angry spouse or losing their kids’ loyalty.
Loyalty isn’t just about showing up everyday. It’s also a faithfulness to the commitments you make to someone, which cheaters don’t have.
CLAIM # 5 — Cheaters “feel so guilty”
The author claims that cheaters “lie awake at night feeling guilty and scared”…but in her examples, what caused those sleepless nights wasn’t guilt over the act, but fear over the consequences that would follow. They worried that divorce could financially ruin them or cause them to lose their children’s love. They worried their impatient affair partner might tell on them to their spouse, etc…
But when worries are guilt-related, the focus is on the consequences to other people, not themselves (all the worries mentioned in this book were self-focused).
Also, fearing punishment for a crime committed isn’t the same as feeling guilty over committing that crime. There are people sitting in jail cells right now who aren’t sorry for what they did, they’re just sorry they got caught.
The cheaters in this book acted like martyrs, feeling entitled to cheat given all they had to put up with at home. And you can’t both feel entitled to do something and guilty about doing it at the same time.
The author nonetheless believes that cheaters suffer from too much guilt, so she advises them to “stop feeling guilty and start feeling like the good person you really are”.
To help them do this, she gives advice which ends up minimizing their crime to a misdemeanor.
One such advice is telling them to “just write it off as something you really needed”…which implies that (1) adultery is such a minor offense you can casually “just write it off” and (2) adultery is a need rather than a want.
To further stress the “need” factor, she tells them to view adultery as “just an opportunity to take something off your to-do list”…as if it’s perfectly normal to put “commit adultery” on your to-do list.
What I saw in the examples, however, wasn’t too much guilt…but too little.
One woman, who was married to a man, wanted to know what sex with a woman would be like….so she pushed aside her fidelity vows to find out.
And yet, the author claims when people cheat, “It’s the last thing they ever thought would happen.”
Um…you sure about that?
After the affair ended, the woman LAUGHED and said, “I really am straight”.
But if this woman “feels so guilty”, then how could she laugh about the whole thing afterwards?
Shame gets a bad rap because it’s such a painful emotion and it can be used against you, so I understand the temptation to rid yourself of it completely. But shame has a positive side as well. Shame makes you aware that what you did was hurtful and wrong, and hopefully that painful awareness will prevent those who actually do feel guilty from engaging in that act again.
But take away that guilt and where’s the catalyst for change? Where’s the apology?
CLAIM # 6 — Cheaters “somehow fall into” an affair and “all affairs are accidental”
This claim implies affairs happen mysteriously — without any effort on the cheater’s part at all — as if they just ran into some bad luck.
But affairs don’t happen TO cheaters, they happen BECAUSE of them…because they made deliberate decisions which guaranteed an affair would happen.
The author even says, “Let’s face it, it was a line they were hungry to cross”…meaning, cheaters are aware the line is there.
Therefore, knowing beforehand that certain lines shouldn’t be crossed (which is why cheaters lie when they do cross them) and knowing beforehand that crossing those lines could lead to divorce means this is NOT some innocent, accidental mistake. It’s an intentional violation.
So this wide-eyed innocent “It just happened” excuse is a cop-out.
Another cop-out is claiming affairs are “rarely planned”. If you don’t plan on starting an affair, then why accept someone’s inappropriate behavior towards you or engage in it yourself? Or as one blogger put it…if you don’t plan on starting a fire, then why strike a match?
CLAIM # 7 — Cheaters were “hungry” for love and were “pushed into doing things they wouldn’t do otherwise”
First of all, cheating is voluntary. No gun was put to their head, so they weren’t pushed into anything involuntarily.
Second, people have choices in life. When grown adults are “hungry”, they can either (1) work on the marriage if issues can still be resolved or (2) ask for a divorce if they can’t.
People who invent an option (3) commit adultery, do so because it’s much easier to run away from your problems than deal with them head on.
Passive-aggressiveness develops overtime, not overnight. So, even if they’ve never committed adultery before, coping with problems in a passive-aggressive manner IS something they’d normally do. When people carry a victim mentality into a relationship, they’re an affair just waiting to happen.
Much later in the book, the author finally tells cheaters to hold themselves accountable…however, if she’s also telling them they’re selfless, they didn’t use anybody, they’re such loyal people, it was all an accident, and were actually pushed into doing it…then what would they hold themselves accountable for?
Also blocking accountability is the pitying, poor baby tone she uses throughout, saying things like “all they wanted was their share” of love (never mind that cheating itself shows a lack of love for others). Phrases like these imply cheaters are just victims acting in self-defense…and so, why would they apologize for that?
Later in the book, she also advises cheaters not to blame their spouse for the affair…however, when mentioning her own husband’s affair, she says, “I wasn’t blameless.” So if she believes blaming the victim is wrong, shouldn’t she take her own advice?
With so many contradictory messages, it’s unlikely any of this advice will be taken.
CLAIM # 8 — Cheating is wrong, but also necessary
The author says affairs are wrong, but also says they’re “very much needed” (she even compares having an affair to playing hooky at work because you really needed a break)…so again, she’s driving home the message that affairs are needs rather than selfish wants.
She also calls affairs a “radical but necessary procedure”….as if abusing your spouse’s trust is some necessary rite of passage.
She also calls affairs “therapeutic”, claiming they can “wake up” a stale marriage. Well sure, throwing a temper tantrum (which an affair is) can get you a lot of attention, thus feeling “therapeutic”, like it’s “waking up” everyone…but it’s also a manipulative and obnoxious way of getting attention that brings unnecessary stress and trauma to the victim.
I noticed the author had a flair for the dramatic, too. One example is when she advises cheaters (who want their spouse back) to make a “huge, showy, passionate plea” for forgiveness.
But sincere apologies don’t need showy theatrics. It’s only the insincere ones that do.
The author claims she’s not encouraging affairs…but also says this about affairs:
“It’s often better to find out and be done with it than to endlessly yearn and speculate.”
So, doesn’t that sound like encouragement to “be done with it” so you won’t torture yourself endlessly speculating if your ideal love is out there?
She claims affairs are wrong, but also says this to people who’ve already cheated:
“When people regret leaving their spouse for a lover, one of the reasons they most often cite for their mistake is not giving themselves the opportunity to see their lover as the person he/she really is.”
“If you’re thinking of trading up, to minimize the risk of getting a lemon you’d better make it one hell of a test drive.”
What the author is advising here is an extended affair…an opportunity for cheaters to test if their affair partner is worth leaving their spouse for (or as the author so tastefully puts it, “trading up”).
But in order to do that, they’d have to continue lying to their spouse about their whereabouts and continue making important decisions without their spouse’s input….all things that make affairs wrong in the first place. So, how can she say affairs are wrong and also give affairs an extension period?
Perhaps she believes the ends justify the means…even if those means include lying and denying your spouse any say in the matter. However, that’s the same mindset cheaters have…so this mindset needs to be challenged, not encouraged.
Also odd is how the author treats married cheaters the same way she treats HONEST singles dating two people at once, wondering whom they should marry…as if their dilemma is the same as someone who’s already made that decision. Even the advice she gives singles in her other book, “Is He the One?” is recycled in this book for married cheaters…again, as if they’re one in the same.
But they’re NOT the same.
Both may have multiple lovers, but their ethics are very different…and, therefore, should be treated differently.
CLAIM # 9 — (Implied claim) Cheaters are the exact opposite of everything they should avoid in picking a lifetime partner
It’s funny so many reviewers have called this author non-judgmental when she devotes nearly half of the book helping cheaters judge which of their two partners is worthy enough to be picked by them…all the while not judging cheaters themselves, except to judge them as good people.
She advises cheaters to avoid picking any partner who is dishonest, unreliable, makes bad decisions, creates unnecessary tension in the relationship, is a user, a flake, doesn’t keep their promises, has too much self-pity and is unsafe.
She’s just described a cheater! However, since the author doesn’t advise cheaters to have their partners grade them, too (using the exhaustive checklists provided in this book), the implication is that cheaters don’t need to because they don’t possess these negative qualities. But they do. And if these descriptions are cause for rejection, then the cheater would be rejected by their partners, too…for the exact same reasons.
However, by sparing cheaters this reality check (and possible rejection), it’s likely they’ll conclude the real problem all along has been their two partners. So even though, later in the book, the author advises cheaters to patiently listen while their spouse vents their anger towards them…do you really think cheaters will listen to a spouse who doesn’t flatter their ego the way this author does?
CLAIM # 10 — Cheaters should NOT confess their affair to their spouse
The author advises cheaters not to confess their affairs…not even if asked point blank. She claims confessing will only hurt their partner and not make the cheater feel better. And so, they need to do “what’s best for everyone” and not be one of those “truth worshippers” who do confess.
Now, confessing CAN be selfish if you’re just using it to get yourself off the hook. However, that’s not the point of a confession…neither is it to sadistically hurt your partner or make yourself feel better.
The point of confessing is to give your partner the gift of knowledge. It shows a willingness to relinquish control and allow your partner to decide — for themselves — what’s best for themselves…rather than you deciding FOR them “what’s best for everyone”.
It takes both courage and flexibility to do this, since a confession runs the risk of losing your partner forever. However, that’s also the risk you knowingly took when you cheated. Part of being an adult means facing the consequences of your actions.
Also, the definition of cheating is using deception to gain an unfair advantage for oneself.
The unfair advantage gained during an affair is keeping a marriage intact, keeping your spouse’s trust intact, and being allowed to have sex with your spouse through deceptive means (withholding the truth).
Continuing to withhold the truth after the affair is over would still grant oneself these unfair advantages.
Therefore, continuing to deceive your partner after an affair has ended would still be cheating even though the affair itself has ended.
And finally, you have to look at the logic of this advice — if the problem you’re trying to fix is solving problems using deception, does it make sense to solve the problem of deception with even more deception?
In the acknowledgement section of this book, the author sarcastically thanks those who didn’t want her to write this book.
But perhaps these people weren’t objecting to ANY book being written to help cheaters make better decisions….but objecting to THIS book being written. And I don’t blame them!
Not only does the author let cheaters off the hook and keep them in denial with all her seductive flattery and excuse-making…but she also creates an imbalance of power by having cheaters call all the shots. It’s favoritism and it’s wrong.
Some reviewers have called this author courageous — basically just repeating what the author already says about herself (she calls herself “such a rebel”) — but really, all the author is doing is telling cheaters what they want to hear.
REAL courage would be telling them what they need to hear….even at the risk of losing popularity votes and book sales.