Saturday, June 11, 2011

His Cheating Heart

There’s cheating and there’s cheating. Some men are propelled by the fire in their loins; others cheat with their hearts. Some men seek adulation; others want emotional attachment.

Some of us have been asking what a wife should do when she finds out that her husband has been tweeting pictures of his private parts to women he doesn’t know.

Has he cheated? Is he looking to cheat? Is there something missing in his marriage? Is he just another vulgar lout?

Let’s change the terms of the cheat. Take a look at the dilemma that a young woman described in a letter to advice columnist Cait Robinson, aka Miss Information, at Nerve. Link here.

The woman writes about her feelings of jealousy. She has recently gotten involved with a man, only to discover that he maintains an unusually close relationship with another woman.

She has met the other woman and the two of them are “wary” of each other.

One day the girlfriend surreptitiously checked her boyfriend’s emails and discovered that he and the other woman communicate often, in a manner that bespeaks romance more than sibling affection.

Now she feels so guilty about having transgressed the sacred space of his emails that she feels paralyzed. She does not know what to do, so she asks Cait Robinson.

Unfortunately, Robinson does not know either.

Robinson rips a page out of the therapist’s manual and tells this woman to let her boyfriend know how he makes her feel.

Keep in mind that the average therapist thinks that his or her goal in life is to ask people how things make them feel. It’s the new, improved variation on the old question of how you feel.

If the word “feel” somehow disappeared from the language, most therapists would be struck dumb.

I will clue you in on one thing: the average man hates conversations that begin with an expression of how he makes you feel. Better yet, the boyfriend probably knows how his extracurricular emotional dalliance makes her feel. And he does not seem to care a whit.

First rule: Don’t make your relationships into therapy.

Recovering her sensibility, Robinson then suggests that this woman not issue any ultimata: don’t tell him that he has to choose between his girlfriend and his best female friend.

I consider this to be sound advice. Issuing ultimata does not make you look good. And why should you think that you should control someone else’s life?

Second rule: don’t issue ultimata or threats.

The next issues concerns the fact that the girlfriend’s sense of guilt over looking at his emails is causing her to distrust her feelings. She feels jealous and does not know whether or not she is right to feel jealous. Is she just imagining things?

Without knowing anything more than is in the letter, I would say that if she feels jealous, then the chances are very good that she has reason to feel jealous. Whether or not her boyfriend and his best female friend are making the two-backed beast, they are clearly more than friends.

The key piece of information in this letter is that this is a very new relationship. It is barely a few months old. She has very little invested.

Already, there are three people involved, and the letter writer should happily reduce that number to two-- by extricating herself from the involvement. It’s called cutting your losses.

The warning signals are clear; he does not especially care to abandon his best female buddy. She cannot control his behavior. But she can control her own. She should clarify the situation by leaving.

And she does not have to explain why. She can say that she does not feel that things are working out. She certainly does not have to confess that she looked at his emails. And she does not have to confess to her jealousy.

Might this shock him into seeing how important she is to him and how he is being manipulated by his best female friend?

Maybe so, but I wouldn’t count on it. Their relationship should be in its honeymoon stage, a stage when extracurricular dalliances really should be unthinkable.

Doesn’t anyone recall the late, lamented Princess Diana saying that there were three people in her marriage. If clear warning signs are present this early in a relationship, it is best to end it. Better now than later.


Jim said...

Being old fashioned and still married to my first wife (faithfully), I'm not quite sure what the rules are for non-marital sexual relationships. Part of me says that if people no longer want to be bothered with traditional committments than they should expect the worst. Speaking as a married man, the wife should be the queen of his heart and has priority over mothers, other relatives and "best female friends" (whatever they are). As a girlfriend, her best option may be to just leave as you recommended as it is not likely that this guy will ever "get it" about committed relationships. If she were his wife, she has every right to demand that he terminate his other relationship because if I remember correctly, the old fashioned vows did include "forsaking all others". If people want to choose a more non-traditional lifestyle, they need to be aware that it's not all that great.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Good point... it would obviously be much more difficult if they were married... which is a good reason to be able to see the red flags earlier, not later, in a relationship.

I am happy you reminded us about the vow to forsake all others... let's hope more people start taking their vows seriously.

I think that she, as a wife, would have the right to demand that he cease and desist from flirting with the other woman... but I doubt that he would agree. If he did agree I would not even trust him.