Defining Betrayal: The over-active Anthony Weiner, whose nimble fingers have twittered him into some pretty deep you know what, has added a new twist to the ever popular presidential pronouncement, “I did not have sex with that woman.” What is infidelity and what grade are these men in when they come up with their personal definition? First base O.K. Second base a bit risky if the wifey founds out. Third base? Is reaching “home” the only true portal to “infidelity?” Who is the decider on this one in The Coupledom, leaving Congress out of it for the moment?
How Do Their Minds Work?: The year 2011 has been unusually fertile in scandal, betrayal and the question of what defines infidelity. For the French, does chasing a hotel housekeeper, and perhaps aggressively thrusting your body parts into her, qualify? Could it be impregnating the help and harboring her for the next ten years in your home rather than “abandon” the poor lady to the streets to perhaps blackmail you? Then again, there is the new twist on the old theme of flirting over the water cooler, twittering away the hours texting porn stars or sending your buff image, topless or otherwise, to college girls and anyone remotely interested. Is this a variant of peeking up the skirts of the girls out in the playground or hard-core betrayal? What Are These Men Thinking? Really!
Sexual Addiction: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tiger Woods, DSK (Dominique Strauss Kahn), John Edwards, Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer, Bill Clinton: are all these powerful men addicted to the rush of sexual conquest? Is it a symptom of an unhappy or sexless marriage? Perhaps giant egos gorging on adoring and surrendering females, or escorts? Sex with strangers can be an antidepressant or part of a manic episode in a bipolar illness. I don’t have the answer to this question. But what is certain and identical in every case is that all were married men.
Are These Men Fatal To The Coupledom?: A faithful follower of my blog, and herself a budding therapist, asked me in an email What can couples do to prevent this kind of betrayal?” She astutely posed the question “Could anything have saved these men? Would a technique within the marriage have been able to circumvent the nasty habits forming?” Many would take exception to the phrase “save these men” and substitute “save these women.” I will take it another step, “Could anything save these Coupledoms?”
Pre- and Post- Nuptial Conversation, Minus the Denial: What strikes me is the paucity of information couples nail down about their potential partner prior to linking up legally. To my question, “What attracted you to this person?” I often hear, “He/She was fun” or “We liked to do the same things.” Sometimes, “I loved his family/her family” or “We have the same values.” Just not good enough. In the age of Facebook and Twitter, email and Skype, there are more than fifty ways to betray your lover. In a nanosecond you can take down a Coupledom. Could be between stops on the subway or stepping out of a congressional hearing. Therefore it behooves couples to have a conversation.
A Stroll Through Another Mind: I suppose one might take comfort in thinking that their partner is neither powerful nor rich. No pass on that one. Anyone can break vows or rationalize their way into betrayal. What might be more useful than denial or wishful, blissful thinking is knowledge. True, people lie or innocently say, “I would never do that.” To a simple question, you get a simple answer. The process here is more complex, a stroll through the mind in conjunction with a review of the past. Both partners can talk about what it would mean if they found out that the other flirt twittered, exchanged photos, buff or otherwise, Facebook searched and chatted with old flames or potential new ones. Yes, I know this is tricky, a delicate exploration, but hopefully not one that will derail in defensive maneuvers or accusations. Agree to set the bar higher.
The Flirtatious Partner: If you have chosen a flirtatious partner, remember that tendency typically is part of their DNA. Both of you can own that fact and flesh out its ramifications to problem solve how protect to The Coupledom. Finding ways within the relationship to satisfy some of that drive would be a trust-building and affirming activity.
History’s Warning: Most of the men cited above had a history. Taking the data from the history and using it to jointly determine a future breaks down the damaging defenses of denial and magical thinking and says, “Hey, our Coupledom is vulnerable here, what can we do to strengthen it given the personalities, past history, and ample opportunities out there to cheat? Let’s get tough and own this stuff.” Did Anthony Weiner’s wife know of his flirtatious past and discuss with him how much traveling she would be doing, how much time away from each other and the possible impact? Did Maria say to Arnold, “Look, I know that you grab and grope, let’s look at this together? What propels you? Maybe we should see someone and get this stuff out there before we sign off on a life together.” If so, did Arnold get it, or just appear to do so. Was it a true search of the soul, or just a game?
The Techno-Coupledom: Words are not a silver bullet but the thoughtful process and articulation of ideas can be. Most folk do not consciously think about the fine line between “flirting” and “hurting.” They harbor assumptions or rationalizations but none are formulated or pondered, or shared.
I suggest that having this conversation is a strengthening exercise for The Coupledom. If there is an “addiction” or the inclination, here is an opportunity to take some preventative measures. If one’s sexual and relational code, subtly passed down from family of origin, clashes with that of your mate, here is the moment to learn that difference, rather than following a painful discovery of infidelity. New codes can be created together.
Easy To Cheat, Easy To Get Caught: The facts are clear: it is easier to cheat in the techno age but it is also easier to get caught. Everyone knows how to break into emails, check phone history, access texts and twitter messages, or knows someone with the requisite skills. Anthony Weiner, after stepping out, is now stepping down. What will happen to his Coupledom, his wife, both their careers, and his constituents, will unfold over time. A steep price for some sexual highs that are taking down a lot of people, one unborn.
©Jill Edelman, M.S.W, L.C.S.W. 2011