Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Sam: Whose fault is it?

Affairs. Whose fault is it? The man? The woman? Both? A new book from a States side psychotherapist squarely lays the blame on women. While it’s tempting to quickly howl him down, some of his findings are actually quite interesting. The author interviewed men who had affairs and found that contrary to popular belief, they weren’t running after younger prettier things, or more sex. Actually significantly more men said emotional dissatisfaction was the main reason for them straying.

Its a small sample of men he interviewed – 100 unfaithful and 100 faithful men, but I think it does shed some light on an interesting subject. Certainly my male clients who have been tempted into infidelity said that really it was the lack of emotional satisfaction that drove them away. I really get the sense that the reasons men stray are much more complex than the cliche of wanting to shag the sexy blonde.

There is a real temptation to think that your relationship is like a perpetual motion machine – once you get together and fall in love it will just keep working by itself. What I think is that you have to make sure that you are constantly and attentively feeding the emotional needs of the other person – otherwise they will get hungry and start looking for food somewhere else. But this cuts both ways – men have to be paying just as much attention to meeting the needs of their partners. Love is like food, something that needs to be constantly attended too. Neglect it at your peril.

What would have been really interesting is the female version of this book looking at why women stray, and what men can do to keep them faithful. I think that women stray just as much as men – they are just better at not getting caught.

What have your experiences been with affairs? Was it lack of sex? Or lack of emotional food that drove you in another person’s arms? Or just the thrill and kick of it?

10 comments:

Milana said...

I'm new to todger talk, but happy to kick this one off from a woman's perspective, if that is ok.

I was unfaithful to every bloke I went out with until I was 27. Reasons? If I'm honest, mainly to flatter my own ego. I couldn't resist the attention and the drama and excitment affairs created in my life. Of course the real reason was that I simply wasn't in the right relationships at the time.

At 27 I met the bloke I've been with and been faithful to ever since. I still enjoy flirting, what I call playing the game, but I never, ever collect the trophy anymore, because I know it would destroy the trust we have and that even if we could get over it enough to stay together, it would never be the same again.

Sometimes I do find myself starting to get caught up in flirtations and can even start to get a bit obssessive about other men, but I recognise the warning signs and have a serious word with myself and soon get over it.

I know the situation is more complicated for those who have kids, but if you haven't and you find yourself cheating or about to cheat, I would say you clearly aren't in the right relationship and should stop wasting time and get out.

M said...

Talk about taking out the tar and the BIG brush.

Really, there is no way to lay the blame of infidelity as a whole on either gender, attempting to prove that either men or women *cause* infidelity is pointless.

So most men in the study and who you have worked with Sam who cheated were missing emotional connectedness. I believe that. However, that doesn't tell us anything about whose FAULT it is that they cheated.

Did they attempt to create an emotional connection? Did they know how to make one? Were they hindered by male stereotypes from asking for what they needed in the relationship? Did their partners rebuff their attempts to create intimacy? And, most importantly: If they weren't getting what they needed from the relationship, why the fuck didn't they get out?

We can talk all day long about who ruined a relationship but at the end of the day, whether you're a man or a woman, nobody can *force* you to cheat. Each individual is always responsible for their own actions.

H said...

"Affairs. Whose fault is it? The man? The woman? Both? A new book from a States side psychotherapist squarely lays the blame on women."

This puzzles me. Isn't the book talking about affairs that men have, not affairs in general? Or do they lay all the blame, regardless of who's cheating, on women? The way this paragraph reads, I feel like, as a woman, it's my fault whether I'm the cheater or the cheatee.

I have been unfaithful once, and it definitely was all about emotional dissatisfaction. But, as M said, no one forced me to cheat. It's more complicated that "X couldn't give Y what Y wanted, therefore X is to blame for Y's affair."

gal africana said...

A psychotherapist who lays blame of ones actions on someone else other than the perpetrator? hmmm....Someone should tell his clients to jump off the boat FAST. Its easy to blame others and with books like those well...

Also from the same book review

"Reading his recommendations, it's hard to know whether to laugh or cry. To keep their husbands faithful, wives should be slim, even-tempered, sexually available and emotionally attentive. A wife should take care to heap praise on her husband's ability to provide for the family (even if she earns more than him). She should discourage nights out with the boys and instead she should share in his hobbies. In other words, she should never let him out of her sight."

The guy is certifiably mad....in my books :-)

Simon said...

Just a quick note to say I'm currently in the temptation phase with another woman and can't help flirting with her. Why? For exactly the reason suggested by this author - I'm not emotionally fulfilled with my current partner. Yes, I should get out, but we all know life isn't that simple. I just wanted to say this theory makes a lot of sense to me. Sure, the sex thing is alluring, but it's not the primary driver.

Lily Lane said...

I cheated once - I had been trying to get out of my relationship for some time but was too scared my boyfriend would hurt himself or me. In the end I fell into the arms of an ex-boyfriend and it gave me the strength and certainty I needed to finally leave a bad situation.

Lily Lane said...

Also...

I've been the "other woman" quite a few times. I have no idea why. :-S

The reasons I think the men I have been with have cheated though...

Man 1: The sexual temptation was too strong for him and as he hadn't been with his girlfriend very long he didn't have a strong sense of loyalty. (his fault)

Man 2: Boredom. His relationship was in a stale patch and he needed the excitement. (both had some responsibility but he was the one who made the selfish choice at the end of the day)

Man 3: He had been trying to get out of a relationship for a long time, but was continually blackmailed back in by his "partner" who used their child and financial situation (very complicated and horrible). The relationship had stopped being about love a long time ago and had become about posession. (her fault)

Man 4: Cheated as a way of asserting his independence and boosting his self-esteem. (his fault)

Man 5: In a long distance relationship, but I think this deprivation was only part of a larger explanation. Tricky to specify a reason but I definitely think he was very mixed up internally. He only ever had good things to say about her. His cheating came from a problem in him, not necessarily a problem in their relationship. (his fault)

So, there's some anecdotal evidence for this problem. Now let's see how this evidence can be summarised/manipulated.

- Men are to blame for 70% of affairs.
- Women are to blame for 30% of affairs.

or

- In 7 out of 10 cases the cheater is to blame for their cheating.
- In 3 out of 10 cases the person who is cheated on is to blame for their partner's cheating.

or

- Emotional dissatisfaction is the cause of all men's cheating.

This does NOT necessarily lead to
- Women are responsible for all of men's dissatisfaction and therefore all cheating.

or

- I have a bad habit of forming connections with emotionally dissatisfied men.

or

- Men cheat because there are some women in the world who are out to take advantage of their emotional dissatisfaction to get laid.

or...

All relationships are unique, as are the people in those relationships, and therefore affairs should be regarded as such too. It is utterly unhelpful to assume that blame falls on a person because of their gender; in fact it is detrimental. The more we enforce and perpetuate gender-based stereotypes/ roles/ duties/ responsibilities, the more people will perform in their everyday lives instead of truly being themselves. I'm surely no expert but I think people need to get to know themselves and allow their partners to truly know them in order to find the best ways to create a successful relationship between them. Playing by gender rules prevents this, and this book is going to make life harder for people struggling with infidelity in their relationships, particularly women, on whom it places an enormous burden.

butterflywings said...

Agree with m, h and gal africana.
An affair is the responsibility of the person having the affair. Simple as that.
Why does it not surprise me that according to this creep it's women's fault if men stray, for not keeping them interested?
You *should* have dismissed it.
The thing is - yes, I agree, relationships take work. In most heterosexual relationships the woman does most of the emotional work (generalisation, I know).
There is a difference between genuinely not having your emotional needs met - and even if that is the case and the relationship is on the rocks, that's still no excuse for cheating - and not being pandered to, flattered, the freakin centre of her attention all the time which, sorry, many men feel entitled to.
And again. If he's unhappy with the relationship, try WORKING ON IT, and that's a 2 - way thing guys which means YOU TAKE SOME OF THE RESPONSIBILITY - not cheating!

B said...

I have been contemplating infidelity for 11 months now. The reason that sparked it is complicated. There were a few problems in the marriage and someone came along at just the right time. It was easier to get lost in the exciting bubble of infidelity than deal with the problems. (actually, I had tried to deal with the problems, but was not getting results quick enough).
I have always placed the blame for even thinking of an affair squarely on my own shoulders, although I never made the leap into outright infidelity I was as good as. It was many months later I found out my husband had made a leap, at much the same time I was contemplating. I wonder whether my subconscious knew and that is why I behaved in the way I did?

I guess my rambling point is, it is never black and white.
I feel I have a good marriage (we've been together 13 years), we are good together. What I craved (and still do) is that newness that comes from an affair. The sparks, the thrill. I don't want to break up my marriage, but I do crave a bit of excitement. That either makes me very selfish, or just human.

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