On the other hand, there might be something in it for her as she’s writing a book on infidelity, according to the New York Times, and is only taking on new clients “who have experienced infidelity.” Perhaps she’s studying the chump perspective. You bitter, angry, sarcastic people.
I got on her radar because I cheekily sent her my column debunking her infidelity essay. She responded by Twitter:
“my heart goes out to you – my article does not directly apply to your situation, as your experience goes way beyond infidelity.”
At first I thought she was being nice and I felt bad for telling her to bite me. (Hey, I’m a chump. Feeling bad is my default setting.) Her heart goes out to me!
But then I thought about it some more and decided this reply was actually quite condescending (because you know, I’m bitter that way). Pat, pat, pat. You poor dear. Still stuck in anger, refusing to move on, riling up cheater hate here on Chump Lady, drawing snarky cartoons, telling people to leave people whose only crime was self actualization. And I kinda got pissed off all over again.
My experience goes “way beyond infidelity.”
I’ve gotten this take on my writing before. It goes something like this — Oh, you’re not qualified to draw conclusions about infidelity because you had one of those BAD cheaters. He was a serial cheater, and moreover, unlike my cheater who was sad and lost and misunderstood, your cheater was drunk and angry and mean. My cheater just Made a Terrible Mistake. Your cheater threatened to burn down your house and piss on his ex-wife’s baby’s grave if you told anyone. Your experience goes way beyond infidelity. That wasn’t my experience.
While there are certainly differences between cheaters, the long-term affairs vs. the short-term affairs, the emotional affair vs. the physical affair, the “sex addicts” and the folks who hold hands and recite Bible verses in hotel rooms. The cheaters who go to prostitutes (and therein we have more distinctions — massage parlors, Thai vacations, Russian hookers…) and the cheaters who find it at home. The cheaters who hook up on Ashley Madison and the like, or those who find old flames on Facebook. The cheaters who fuck a co-worker and those who fuck your siblings.
Sure, there is variation. Sure, there are degrees of cheating. (In fact I’ve gotten in trouble on my own blog by not weighing emotional affairs as heavily as physical affairs, just because I don’t think they endanger chumps to the same degree, i.e., pregnancy, STDs, etc.) But the longer I read and write about infidelity, the more I am struck by how alike cheaters are. How they manipulate with the same narcissistic panache. How they make the same sorry excuses for their behavior. And how — unless you’re dealing with a stone cold sociopath — they all want you to believe that They Never Intended to Hurt You.
Adultery becomes a moral failing as we move to a description of character flaws: liar, cheater, philanderer, womanizer, slut. In this view, understanding an act of infidelity as a simple transgression or meaningless fling, or a quest for aliveness is an impossibility.
So I put it out to you chumps — did any of you, please raise your hand, have a cheater who committed a “simple transgression” or a “meaningless fling”?
Esther — cheaters who want cake (the affair AND the marriage) all want chumps to believe their infidelity was “meaningless.” I never intended to hurt you. It didn’t mean anything.
But here’s the thing — it means everything to the person whose world wasn’t considered. You threw away our commitment for something that didn’t MEAN anything to you? It’s almost worse really. Falling in love with your soul mate schmoopie, while horrifying, is at least understandable at some level. (Okay, not really. I also debunk the whole We Were Compelled By Forces Greater Than Ourselves.) Anyway, it’s a neater rationalization than — I did something that didn’t mean jack shit to me, that clearly seems to devastate you, for an orgasm.
We’re not stupid for wanting our feelings to be considered, for relying on commitment, for believing in monogamy — IT WAS PROMISED TO US. And we abided by that set of rules — and moreover, we didn’t see it as a “set of rules” to break and “exuberantly defy.” We loved with our whole hearts and got played.
Oh, but my experience “goes beyond infidelity.” How exactly? I welcome you on to this blog, Esther, the largest assembly of chumps you’re going to find, and let you explain exactly what you meant by that infidelity article that sure as hell seems to excuse extramarital affairs as exercises in self actualization.
Self actualization sounds so much nicer than “Fucks in a Harrisburg hotel at lunch” or “let me stay home with the children while he screws around on business trips” or “slept with other men while I was deployed.”
Because those are the stories I read here EVERY DAY. Do their experiences go “beyond infidelity”?
Really, Esther, I’m a lightweight in the chump department. You ought to meet my husband — 22 years to a serial cheater. She slept with her boss, his best friend, and assorted others. And when he found out, he divorced her. (Or in your parlance, he indulged in the “dissolution of the family structure.”)
Okay, she never threatened to burn down his house. She wasn’t one of those cheaters. She just wasted 22 years of his life.
Please show me the Good Sort of Cheater who has a meaningless fling. Even a one-night stand involves a series of decisions and a cluster of lies to cover it up. How does a person happen to encounter a meaningless fling? Do you advertise for one on a dating site? Does it sidle up to you in a bar? Offer itself at work? Boundaries are crossed, conspiracies are made, rationalizations created.
All apparently “meaningless.”
This is a rerun. Esther Perel has now scrubbed “Changing the View on Infidelity” off her website.