There is a particular look we give the woman who has chosen to stay with the man who cheated on her.
And it isn’t a very nice one.
Our eyebrows raise a little, and we cock our head to the side. We project onto her a sort of disingenuous sorrow coupled with a hint of condescending pity.
‘Was she the woman who ‘chose’ to stay?’ we ask ourselves. ‘Or was she just the woman who wasn’t strong enough to leave?’
Psychotherapist and expert on sex and relationships Esther Perel, says that a few decades ago the decision to file for divorce was loaded with shame. But in the modern moment, when ending a marriage or relationship is no longer taboo, the ‘new shame’ is to stay when you have the option to walk away.
We evoke language like ‘self-respect’. ‘Strength’. ‘Bravery’.
The woman who knows her worth, leaves. That is the one and only correct response to infidelity. You have been insulted, made to look stupid, and the trust has been irreparably broken.
It is the worst crime that can befall a relationship – and, in fairness, it’s not hard to see why.
“Why would they do that?”
“Why?” is the question you’re always left with.
Following, of course, the “who?” the “when?” and the “how?”
“Why would they do that?”
There is a special brand of shame you feel when someone cheats on you. It’s humiliating. The person who is meant to love you most, and knows all your flaws, couldn’t help but ‘stray’ – the word itself implying that they tried very hard to stay in their lane, but in the end, they just couldn’t help it.
Listen: Mia Freedman interviews expert Esther Perel on why people cheat. Post continues below.
It feels like a rejection of your whole being, from the way you laugh to the shape of your nose. And the answer to the ‘why’ descends on you, like a lone brick falling from the sky, at 3am on a Monday night.
“Because I wasn’t enough.”
There was something The Other Woman or The Other Man has, that you don’t. They weren’t satisfied. “Cheating is a symptom,” we rationalise. “And I was the problem.”
We’ve been led to believe, from pop psychology, music, movies and relationship columns, that someone cheating always has something – at least a little bit – to do with the person being cheated on.
You didn’t have enough sex. You were neglectful. You were too jealous. You weren’t putting enough effort into your appearance. You didn’t go on enough date nights. You demanded too much. The relationship had already died, and they were just too afraid to break your heart.
There is enormous shame in telling your friends and family that the man or woman you’ve devoted yourself to, wanted, even if only for a moment, someone else.
And in the midst of a tidal wave of emotions, one is expected to make a decision. And fast.
“If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America?”
Several women in the public eye have been marred by their husband’s affairs.
Let’s start with Hillary Clinton.