Raise your hand if you think good sex is an important part of a good relationship. Oh, hey, is that all of you? I think most of us can agree that good sex is a Good Thing.
How do you define good? Well, that’s between you and your partner to figure out. (Enjoy those experiments, kids!)
One common assumption about infidelity is that cheaters must cheat because chumps suck at sex. Now look, some chumps may actually suck at sex or be sexless. In which case, honest conversations must be had, and ultimately, this may not be the best relationship fit for either of you. But sexual incompatibility is no excuse for cheating, which is abusive and endangering.
Inevitably when you try and have a conversation about infidelity, the battlefield is fought on sexual incompatibility. And the cheater apologist wants to argue on the grounds of Sex Is Important! (agreed) or No One Should Be In a Sexless Marriage! (agreed) That’s a Unilateral Decision! (So is cheating, and no one gets pregnant or infected by sexlessness.)
And then we inevitably spiral into Monogamy Is Not Natural. (Okay, so don’t agree to be monogamous. Problem solved.)
The New York Times recently ran an article “First Comes Sex Talk With These Renegades of Couples Therapy” featuring Dr. Tammy Nelson and Esther Perel’s thoughts on sex therapy. And it’s the same retread of chump sexual deficiencies make cheaters cheat.
In traditional couples therapy, which is about 50 years old, sex has often been shoved to the sideline. Practitioners are trained to work on underlying relationship issues, like blame or communication, many discussing sex only if the couple wants to talk about it.
But in the last decade, as coupledom itself has been legally redefined, a chorus of provocative voices in couples therapy has emerged, emphasizing the importance of good sex in relationships and sometimes suggesting the radical idea that couples fix the sex before tackling other issues.
Here’s a radical suggestion — maybe sex is not a separate compartment from communication and intimacy?
Anyway, here are a few gems from the article, which I will now feed to the UBT. Even though it is holding its nose and begging me not to.
The den mother of the group is Esther Perel, 56, the internationally known Belgian-born author of “Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence,” who asserts that mystery and distance could benefit long-term monogamy.
Ms. Perel, based in Manhattan, is writing a book tentatively called “Affairs: Cheating in the Age of Transparency,” and gave a TED talk about the topic in March that has been viewed about two million times. Her newest provocation is the idea that trauma-based language around affairs is limiting.
Mystery and distance unlocks erotic “intelligence”? So, uh, does that mean I’m stupid if I like my sex familiar and intimate? I think most people would like to know a person a good long while before they trot out the leather and whips, but maybe that’s just me.
And Esther? I’d be tentative about that book title too. It sucks. “Cheating in the Age of Transparency”? Cheating is about being opaque. Deceitful. Hiding it from your partner for the frissons of delight that is getting away with it. If you meant transparent, as in honest and above board? That’s not cheating, that’s “open marriage,” which has rules too, so sorry even polyamorists can be cheated on.
Her newest provocation is the idea that trauma-based language around affairs is limiting.
UBT: I know! Let’s divert cheating away from the ugly concepts of deceit and reframe it as a CHUMP problem! Ooh, that’s good. Betrayal is not a trauma! So stop using “trauma-based language”! That’s so limiting.
You wouldn’t want to be one of those limited, unintelligent people, would you?
“An affair is an act of betrayal and also an experience of expansion and growth,” Ms. Perel said in an interview. “It is a relational trauma, but it isn’t a crime. The family can often come out of it stronger and more resilient, and often an affair will draw the couple out of a place of deadness.”
The UBT has given up in protest.
“An affair is an act of betrayal…”
It’s not SINGULAR, Esther. Affairs are thousands of decisions to betray, one lie after the next after the next. It’s not an act (singular) of betrayal. That’s smothering the verb. It is betrayal. Period. The sentence is much stronger (and not to your point) if you write “Affairs are betrayals.” So you distance the language and say, affairs are just “an act” (one!), implied that there are no feelings of ill intent. That’s a hefty assumption.
“and also an experience of expansion and growth.”
Who’s against expansion and growth?! Chumps are idiot picketing members of historic preservation societies. Save our marriage! Don’t tear it down! Sorry, Esther needs a strip mall for the all-you-can-eat-pussy buffet. Don’t stand in the way of progress!
So acts of betrayal and expansion and growth are equivalent? In what moral universe? Bank robbery is an act of theft and also an experience of exhilaration and enrichment. You’ve got your thumb on the scale for the crime over the victim, but you’ve dressed it up nicely as being the same.
“It is a relational trauma, but it isn’t a crime.”
Actually, it’s a crime in most world religions. Some states still have adultery on the books, and it’s in our military code. But yeah, you’re not going to get sent to jail for cheating on your spouse.
As long as the “trauma” is in your relationship, hey, it’s not criminal. Wasn’t that the old rational for domestic abuse?
“The family can often come out of it stronger and more resilient…”
How’s infidelity working for everyone’s kids? Stronger and more resilient for it?
I’d say strength and resiliency come from leaving cheaters, not staying married to them and modeling dysfunction.
And WTF, Esther — you’re going to put this trauma behind you because the cheater is never going to cheat again? No, you just made cheating normal and “expansive.” A good thing! Why would the cheater want to stop when you’ve given them so many delicious excuses to continue? So, suck it up, chumps. Your family will be stronger for it!
and often an affair will draw the couple out of a place of deadness.
For who? The cheater? But it’s okay cheater, now that you’ve expressed your unhappiness, your chump will pick me dance her/his heart out! And you’ll get more kibbles. And if you don’t, hey, cheat again. It’s your right.
Does the chump feel dead? Nah, chumps love to pick me dance. They were bred for it and have natural rhythm.
But wait there’s more!
Another emerging voice on infidelity is Dr. Nelson, 52, a New Haven-based couples and sex therapist and author of “The New Monogamy: Redefining Your Relationship After Infidelity.” She encourages couples to write their own monogamy rules, which can include extramarital sex on weekends or extramarital sex but only together.
“I describe monogamy as honest, perpetual dependency of some type,” Dr. Nelson said. “It can be whatever a couple wants, but it has to be fluid and flexible, and the couple has to keep renewing it, like a license.”
Boy, you make monogamy sound so fun, Dr. Tammy. Perpetual dependency? Sign me up!
It can be whatever I want? Monogamy as a holodeck? Today I am Bluebeard the Pirate! Find me a wench! But only on weekends.
Damn, I think the UBT has broken.
A rerun. But these therapists still suck.