Today’s podcast — and blog fodder — is the interview Sarah Gorrell and I did with popular British therapist and author Andrew G. Marshall. We had some difference of opinions about the feasibility of honest conversations with deceptive partners.
Hang on, Tracy. Before you go any further — where can I listen to this complete sh*t show?
Well, I’ve embedded the episode below, but you can also subscribe to the Tell Me How You’re Mighty podcast on Spotify and Google podcasts. (It should be on iTunes soon, I hope. As soon as we bank a few more episodes.)
You’re the Leave a Cheater lady. Why are you talking with a reconciliation therapist?
To see if one holds up to the scrutiny of critical thinking.
How’d that go?
Not well. We found some common ground, but then it all went pear-shaped. I agree that you can learn a lot about yourself from experiencing infidelity. And you can become a stronger, more enlightened person as a result of these painful lessons. However, I don’t think betrayal improves marriages. And frankly, I find it offensive that more emphasis is put on untangling cheater skeins — do the work, chump! — than self-protection from an abuser’s harm.
I also found it weird that a man who describes helping people cope with infidelity as his “life’s work” had zero curiosity about my experience, or Sarah’s, or the millions of people on this blog. He did perk up, however, at Sarah’s ex’s FOO issues.
If you don’t have the time now to listen to 45 minutes of awkwardness — I’ll hit the highlights for you.
Marshall is dismissive.
He finds Sarah’s story (abandoned with four kids) and mine (serial cheater) “extreme.” He dismisses Chump Nation as also being on the “extreme end” of infidelity. (No idea where he found the time to wade through millions of stories, but okay.) We’re all people who “left”, so it’s not the same “subset.” (I pointed out the majority of us tried reconciliation first, and aren’t all chumps the same “set”? but whatever.)
On no fewer than three occasions when asked a difficult question, he tries to paint me as “angry.”
I’m familiar with that I-can’t-answer-your-question-I-don’t-like-your-tone mindfuckery. (Hello, I wrote a whole chapter on Stupid Shit Cheater’s Say.)
But it’s also standard misogyny — women are emotional and men are rational. We can’t be trusted with ideas, or our heads might explode into snakes. Don’t worry your little Gorgon head there, Miss.
I would think if you had the courage of your convictions — your life’s work! — you would welcome the opportunity to explain your ideas. That a solid counter argument wouldn’t leave you deflated, head in hands, bemoaning that you cannot. go. on.
But see, he’s reacting to my “anger” — not my logic. If I’m mean, then it’s a conversation stopper. Can’t talk to the Mean Lady.
Sarah, however, absolutely had him on the ropes with “What’s the gold, Andrew?” and starting out of the gate asking if he had any lived experience of infidelity? But Sarah is exquisitely polite and disarming. And utterly unflappable! Note how Andrew began the first minute by mansplaining broadcasting to Sarah — an award-winning, BBC Radio presenter.
The G is for gaslighting.
On two occasions Andrew denied some of his more controversial takes on infidelity. The first — that if you want to “win back” a cheating husband, you must first apologize to him. He said he was taken out of context. The Daily Mail writes what it wants. Yet, here he doubles down on it, on television, with advice columnist Denise Robertson.
Next, he denies ever promoting “affair proofing” your marriage. I tell him I literally watched a video of him saying that, and he dismisses it as the work of “marketers.” (Enjoy the fact check at the 32:00 minute mark.)
Let’s return to hopium and “do the work.”
But what Andrew G. Marshall really sells — and sells well — is hopium. The idea that if you just try harder, and “do the work” you will have a stronger marriage and a more committed partner.
If it fails? Hey, you didn’t Do The Work. You didn’t go “deep” enough or try hard enough. When pressed about what such work looks like (let alone what it costs) — What’s the gold, Andrew? — or how practical it is to expect honesty from cheaters, Andrew falters. Yet, he keeps returning time and time again to magic power of deep conversations.
First off, this assumes there’s some insight problem. The evidence is pretty clear — some people enjoy fucking around and lack compassion for their partners. They aren’t that deep. If you want to plumb their shallow depths — okay, but why should a chump waste time on a shrink sofa for that? Wouldn’t remorse and better understanding come with tangibles like a postnup or immediate legal settlement?
I think that question comes from your pain, Tracy.
I think that question comes from painful experience. Nonetheless it’s a legitimate question. Got a “sorry” cheater? Conversation doesn’t cut it. Show me the money. A fair settlement is NOTHING compared to the STD risks, emotional and time costs of reconciliation.
In the end, it seems ironic that a man whose whole premise seems to be deep, deep conversations cannot have one with two polite women journalists.