YourTango.com asked me to write an article addressed to women who were having affairs with married men. This was considered controversial since usually the “mistress” and her motivations or feelings are left in the dark background in the cultural unpacking of infidelity. We talk a lot about affairs, why they happen, what motivates someone to cheat, whether to repair your marriage or not, etc. But we don’t talk about the “other woman” or man and their experience. The fear is, if I write in a compassionate way about the complicated emotions in affairs, I will be seen as promoting infidelity. I think it is time we all got more nuanced than this.
The article has been picked up by Huffington Post and what has been interesting is the commentary and attention it has gotten. I am not surprised by the amount of responses that are full of hatred and condemnation of the mistress, presenting her as someone out on the fringes of society, someone we don’t need to consider or try to understand. The basic thread being: only a terrible person would do that. It reminds me of people’s approach to premarital sex in the 1950’s, “those bad people” doing that are different from us, not worth discussing at any depth. Well, that approach didn’t stop pre-marital sex and shaming hasn’t stopped infidelity. Based on the stats we can safely assume that each of us knows someone (probably several someones) who has played one role, or more, in the infidelity triangle. These are not bad others out there, these are people like the rest of us. I understand that it feels safer to pretend we can isolate “mistresses” or “cheaters” in some moral ghetto. I understand that is feels comforting to profess bravado and threats of violence if this happened to you. I understand that it feels emotionally less complicated to believe that love is something we can own and that can be “stolen”. But the reality for many, many people is that affairs are complicated, emotionally confusing, and deeply personal. It doesn’t serve us to demonize and shut down the conversation. And everyone, deserves a place to explore their motivations and choices. In fact, this open conversation may be the thing that eventually helps us to reduce the pain that infidelity causes.
If you are interested in reading the article you can find it here.