October 23, 2009
A female reader writes about the previous post The Unfaithful Wife:
That was a thought-provoking article. Maybe I’m taking it the wrong way, but it seems like you’re being much harder on women than men. Men have been having and getting away with having affairs for millenniums. And a lot of women have sucked it up and dealt with it, often for the sake of their children. I’m certainly not condoning affairs or divorce but it’s nothing that men haven’t done. Men have discarded their wives, potential wives and children for decades on the altars of sex and excitement.
We aren’t inside these marriages so how can we say the women in the marriages have been treated with love, respect and kindness within the marriage.
I’m no man-hater or feminist but is everything going to be blamed on women now? I see no need to go to that extreme. Not everything is the fault of women.
The phenomenon of male infidelity is relatively well-known. Of course, it is a serious problem as well. Look at the audacity with which many men in public positions today have betrayed their wives, people like Bill Keller, the editor of the New York Times; John Edwards, and Rudy Giuliani.
While an act of male infidelity is as morally wrong as an act of female infidelity, the faithlessness of women is much more destructive on a societal level. It more often leads to the dissolution of marriage in an age of easy divorce. Women, who are the primary initiators of divorce, are more inclined to end a marriage because of their own outside indiscretions than because of the indiscretions of their husbands. This conclusion is confirmed by Michelle Langley’s work and the psychological differences between men and women.
Please note that when I talk about the faithlessness of women, I don’t mean merely their affairs, but also their desire for romantic adventure regardless of whether they have a specific man in mind. For women, marriage is generally meaningless if they are not emotionally involved with their spouse, which in an era of easy divorce and favorable custody laws leads to a great deal of family breakdown. A man is more capable of seeing marriage in terms of an abstract committment. This is why female adventurism is so much more destructive. A woman wants to leave when her feelings for her spouse are diverted and she is more easily overcome by her feelings to the point of insensitivity toward her children. Also, male infidelities are more likely to be about sexual pleasure, rather than emotional involvement, though of course this is not always true at all.
Women tend to react to their errant sexual desires with more guilt and confusion than men because of the common conviction that women are essentially monogamous. This guilt causes them inner dissonance which often manifests itself as manipulative behavior toward their spouse and leads to the end of a marriage. I have witnessed this a number of times. Many women successfully convince themselves that their decision to leave is caused by the faults of their spouse. There is almost an innocence about their self-deception. They are the creatures of passion.
Of course, I am talking about the women who are unfaithful. Many women are not, and many women are capable of viewing marriage as an abstract committment regardless of emotional ups and downs. However, I don’t entirely dodge the charge of being harder on women. For one, female infidelity is an affront to male honor; male betrayal is not the same experience for a woman, as awful as it is. Also, I think it hurts more when a mother is unfaithful than when a father is. Such is the price women pay for the privilege of giving birth and of nurturing life. I also hold women to a high standard because it is the world of the affections that is their natural domain. But, betrayal is betrayal. One only need look at the necrotic face of Bill Clinton to see what sexual indulgence and deceit do to a man’s soul.
The same female reader writes:
So true about Clinton’s face. I’d feel sad but it’s hard because I can’t stand the guy.