December 13, 2017

Esther Perel "wants to redress a traditional bias against cheating spouses, to acknowledge 'the point of view of both parties—what it did to one and what it meant to the other.'"

"In practice, it must be said, her method seems to demand heroic levels of forbearance on the part of faithful spouses. They are asked not only to forgo the presumption of their own moral superiority but to consider and empathize with what has been meaningful, liberating, or joyous about their partners’ adulterous experiences. The affair that has caused them so much anguish may have been prompted by boredom or a longing for sexual variety, or it may have been a bid for existential 'growth, exploration, and transformation.'... They are also asked to control their vengeful impulses, learning to 'metabolize' their desire for vengeance 'in a healthy manner.'... They must resist the desire to 'know everything' and avoid demanding details about the physical acts involved in their partners’ betrayals. (They can ask 'investigative questions' about feelings but not 'detective questions' about hair color, sexual positions, or the size of genital organs.) Americans, Perel observes, are particularly inclined to believe that a process of forensic confession is a necessary forerunner to the restoration of trust, but 'coming clean,' she argues, is often more destructive than it is salutary, and 'honesty requires careful calibration.'"

From "In Defense of Adulterers/Esther Perel’s new book argues for a more compassionate understanding of our unruly desires," by Zoë Heller in The New Yorker.

The book under discussion is "The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity." I'm trying to think who would be inclined to read this book. But the article about it caught my eye.

67 comments:

etienne said...

Poppycock.

carrie said...

I agree, Poppycock. Either you are married or your aren't.

CJinPA said...

Simple people understand right and wrong. Deep thinkers understand that wrong can be right. We all want to show people we're deep thinkers. And if we can charge $29.99 to assuage people's guilt for chasing tail and wrecking families, that's impressively deep thinking.

mockturtle said...

Well, fine. Let's just make everything OK. Adultery, fornication, sodomy, pedophilia, bestiality, sex with plants [there must be a term for it]. But it's a recipe for misery for all concerned. God laid out rules for our own good.

Fernandinande said...

it may have been a bid for existential 'growth, exploration, and transformation.'

As Dave Barry says, "In that case, you are free to go."

buwaya said...

People can be very creative.

joshbraid said...

Heaven forbid I should feel bad because I betrayed my spouse to whom I promised my body for life. Really, $29.95 is pretty cheap.

Rick said...

It's fine if a spouse does or wants to understand and forgive. But to set that as the societal norm means a decision not to do so justifies social opprobrium on the cheated upon spouse. That's crazy.

David Begley said...

Liberals can rationalize anything. Every thing is relative.

TerriW said...

Some books sure are red flags if you see your partner reading them. (Though Kindle had made this harder to spot, unless you have Family Library and don't keep on top of things.)

Jupiter said...

On the plus side, people like this probably won't make a very substantial contribution to the gene pool. On the minus side, the few kids they have will be all fucked up, and mine will have to deal with them.

Jupiter said...

mockturtle said...
"But it's a recipe for misery for all concerned."

Actually, sex with plants is sounding better and better.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

This sound like the perfect Christmas present for my wife...

Jupiter said...

"I'm trying to think who would be inclined to read this book."

I suspect the author is counting on a lot of people buying it for someone else. Just in time for Christmas!

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Jupiter said...

Actually, sex with plants is sounding better and better.

The ficus are practically asking for it.

Caligula said...

It will become increasingly difficult to ignore the coming hard cultural nudge in favor of open relationships (including marriage) and other forms of polyamory.

Such a push seems all but inevitable, in part because (1) we now have marriage "equality," yet few expect a majority of gay marriages to honor or even value strict exclusivity, and (2) what did you think would come after the transgender jihad?

Arguably the law has not cared about sexual exclusivity in marriage since the no-fault wave in the 1970s; now, the cultural push will be to marginalize those who still think its benefits outweigh its costs.

The image that comes to mind of an enduring heterosexual "open" marriage is one where the she-spouse demands openness following discovery of her affairs, and the he-spouse acquesces, figuring their bedroom's gone dead anyway and if he demands a divorce he'll lose his children and be ejected from the household yet remain responsible for most of its expenses.

Although the scenario could happen with the sexes reversed, the favoritism of the courts toward mothers and the relative ease with which even unattractive women can obtain casual sex argues that this would be less common.

What the proponents don't wish to discuss: how well does all this adult sexual freedom work for the children?

Renee said...

No one just falls into having an affair, you have have to make a lot of smaller decisions before you end up being a cheater.

traditionalguy said...

No Fault Divorce laws sort of demands her No Fault Adultery philosophy.

Greg Hlatky said...

After 25 years in the dog show sport, I have concluded that the capacity people have for self-delusion is almost unlimited.

mockturtle said...

Ignorance is Bliss quips: The ficus are practically asking for it.

Good one!

Jupiter said...

"The image that comes to mind of an enduring heterosexual "open" marriage is one where the she-spouse demands openness following discovery of her affairs, and the he-spouse acquiesces, figuring their bedroom's gone dead anyway and if he demands a divorce he'll lose his children and be ejected from the household yet remain responsible for most of its expenses."

When feminists speak of "Patriarchy", they are referring to the collection of laws and social norms that used to prevent this outcome.

Oso Negro said...

If only we had mainstreamed this sexual deviancy instead of homosexuality this past 40 years.

Martin said...

Another "intellectualoid" tearing down another social norm that exists mostly to protect women.

I am sure she will also scream whenever she thinks a woman is "disrespected" sexually, even as she tears down the social framework that tells us all to respect women and their sexual identities.

Sick, sick sick.

Really, given the state of the law and the disintegration of social norms, if it were not for the residue of chivalry there would be very little reason for a man to commit to a woman. Sex is readily available and anything like a legal commitment is so heavily weighted against the man, he shouldn't do it short of intense mutual love.

Then they wonder why some men treat women as if they are little more than sexual objects, and shy away from commitment that women say they want (but don't act like they want.)

Anonymous said...

"...but to consider and empathize with what has been meaningful, liberating, or joyous about their partners’ adulterous experiences. The affair that has caused them so much anguish...may have been a bid for existential 'growth, exploration, and transformation.'... They are also asked to control their vengeful impulses, learning to 'metabolize' their desire for vengeance 'in a healthy manner.'...

But if we're being asked to "empathize with what has been meaningful, liberating, or joyous" in the indulgence of one kind of impulse, why the tight-ass attitude toward the experience of the whole range of other impulses and desires that can also be "meaningful, liberating, or joyous"? Vengeance, for example. The desire for it is natural, human, and it's consummation, by all accounts, sweet.

We need to redress the traditional bias in favor of sexual passion that results in such a lack of appreciation and sympathy for the other passions.

n.n said...

Illuminating the path to social progress.

buwaya said...

"We need to redress the traditional bias in favor of sexual passion that results in such a lack of appreciation and sympathy for the other passions."

True. Greed is good. Also heroin addiction.
Being fat is already approaching a level of beatification as it is.

Quayle said...

Don't denigrate your drug addicted friend. Take joy and rejoyce that a few times a day he is absolutely euphoric.

walter said...

re sex with plants..reinventing the "fern bar".


"They must resist the desire to 'know everything' and avoid demanding details about the physical acts involved in their partners’ betrayals."
I used to vist a friend in Milwaukee and crash on his couch. Actually, the couch was so poofy the floor was preferrable. Just fine..except the night I realized that put my ear literally to the floor.
The couple below were having a blowout over her cheating. The guy was in full bellow...at one point fixating on the question "Did you suck his cock?"
Over and over and over.
She apparently finally gave in and answered..I could only hear the suggestion of her talking.
But based on his response, he didn't seem to like the answer.

Sebastian said...

What we need is a meta-reckoning: Do norms and promises and commitments matter? Do they need to be celebrated and enforced consistently and universally? If so, we have a moral order; if not, we have something else.

This is more of the something else.

Jose_K said...

And the innocent spouse who will pay 18 years for the care of the child of another man?

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...
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I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Working through the aftermath of an affair can certainly lead to extraordinary growth as a couple and as individuals, and a lot of that requires more honesty and emotional generosity than many people are able to give. People who have been cheated on often don't have the interest or wherewithal to understand why the person cheated in the first place/wasn't happy in the marriage (understandable) but it's necessary to move forward if that's what you both want to do.

I will go against the grain here a little bit and observe that some married people think that they can just rest on their spouse's reliability and character and assume that they are entitled to lifelong fidelity with no effort to take their spouse's needs into consideration. That gets a lot of otherwise good and well meaning people into trouble. You can't just say 'well he/she would never be unfaithful' and go for years without making any effort to attend to your spouse's need for emotional and sexual intimacy and caring. But people do it all the time, and then when someone has enough and doesn't want to spend the rest of his or her life in a prison of obligation with no rewards whatsoever, then they're the bad guy. No, cheating is not the right or honorable way to do it, but let's just acknowledge that a lot of people are selfish or checked out or tired or whatever and put no fuel in their marriage gas tank, and then think it's 100% the other person's fault if they don't want to sit in a motionless car on the side of the road anymore.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

But if we're being asked to "empathize with what has been meaningful, liberating, or joyous" in the indulgence of one kind of impulse, why the tight-ass attitude toward the experience of the whole range of other impulses and desires that can also be "meaningful, liberating, or joyous"? Vengeance, for example. The desire for it is natural, human, and it's consummation, by all accounts, sweet.

There are always Puritans. They just seek to control different behaviors.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

I remember reading a Dear Prudence where a guy wrote in that his wife spent all her time and energy tending to their children, then spent the evening eating junk food on the couch (with the attendant weight gain and effects on behavior and mood) because that is how she preferred to relax at the end of the day. He wasn't particularly attracted to her anymore, and she evidently not to him either, and their sex life was nonexistent. He described having encouraged her to be screened for depression, planned date nights, bought her lingerie, taken her on no-kids vacations, sent her to get massages and pedicures, tried to get her into a couples gym habit, and none of it was having any effect whatsoever. He didn't want to cheat and didn't want the disruption of a divorce but was also looking down the maw of the rest of his life with no intimacy. What would you guys advise a fellow in a situation like that to do?

Or a woman who is married to a man who is more interested in his hobbies than in spending time with her and masturbates to porn every night?

Obviously the answer is that cheating is a very destructive response to all of that, and sometimes the answer is divorce, but among all the marriage is for life what is the point of taking vows if you're going to break them you piece of shit crowd there is very little acknowlegement of the fact that some vowbreaking is invisible to outsiders, and happens before the visible vowbreaking.

JPS said...

"then when someone has enough and doesn't want to spend the rest of his or her life in a prison of obligation with no rewards whatsoever, then they're the bad guy."

Meh. I never thought my first wife was the bad guy. I was a crap husband. Even so, I would have appreciated it if she had taken me aside and said, "Look, I feel homesick and lonely and taken for granted" before it was too late, rather than by way of telling me why, after it was too late.

She never should have had to, but I sure would have appreciated it. I might even have made the desperate effort to fix things that she deserved, back when it could have made a difference.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Meh. I never thought my first wife was the bad guy. I was a crap husband. Even so, I would have appreciated it if she had taken me aside and said, "Look, I feel homesick and lonely and taken for granted" before it was too late, rather than by way of telling me why, after it was too late.

She never should have had to, but I sure would have appreciated it. I might even have made the desperate effort to fix things that she deserved, back when it could have made a difference.


In my view this is a very mature response, and I wish for you that your first wife had had the maturity to communicate her unhappiness and unmet needs to you so that you could have faced them together and worked through them.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

You can't just say 'well he/she would never be unfaithful' and go for years without making any effort to attend to your spouse's need for emotional and sexual intimacy and caring.

Well said.

mockturtle said...

There are always Puritans. They just seek to control different behaviors.

The Puritans have gotten a bad rap. Their 'Puritanism' was a mocking referral to their understanding of Christian doctrine, not to personal behavior. Not to say they were in any way lax in that regard.

JPS said...

I Have Misplaced My Pants, 1:20:

Thanks for your kind comment. It's all good, all these years later. We have our families and are largely happy; not in touch but would always help each other if it came to it. I can't regret any of the path I've taken because that would mean regretting my kids, and I'm sure she feels the same.

I'm just trying for perspective, and your comments - well, they remind me not to fall into that trap again. Not putting fuel in the marriage gas tank is a very good one.

Paddy O said...

"there is very little acknowlegement of the fact that some vowbreaking is invisible to outsiders, and happens before the visible vowbreaking."

Very well put, and has been my attitude about divorce or other vows. In conservative church circles they demand that even abused wives have to stay in the marriage. My response is that any guy who abuses his wife (or vice versa) has already broken the covenant of marriage, so divorce isn't a new step, it's an acknowledgment of reality.

Oso Negro said...

@ I Have Misplaced My Pants -

I have long held that no one knows what goes on in a couple unless they are a member of that couple. And even then, they only know half the story.

Rick said...

In conservative church circles they demand that even abused wives have to stay in the marriage.

Sure they do.

MaxedOutMama said...

Adulterers would naturally like their spouses to read it. But I think it would make most injured spouses even angrier.

Freeman Hunt said...

"In conservative church circles they demand that even abused wives have to stay in the marriage."

This must depend on what conservative church. That wouldn't fly in mine. They'd be telling the woman to leave.

MaxedOutMama said...

Pants wrote: "I will go against the grain here a little bit and observe that some married people think that they can just rest on their spouse's reliability and character and assume that they are entitled to lifelong fidelity with no effort to take their spouse's needs into consideration. "

Excellent observation - but the right response on the part of the neglected spouse is surely not to have an affair, but rather to first express their feelings of abandonment, and then, if no meaningful move to change things occurs, ask for a divorce. Having an affair does not fix the injured marriage, does it? And two wrongs don't make a right.

The worst of adultery is that it often creates three injured parties instead of one or two.

When someone picks your pocket, that does not imply that you have the right to steal the next time you see an opportunity.

Bob Loblaw said...

In conservative church circles they demand that even abused wives have to stay in the marriage.

This is wrong.

mockturtle said...

Bob, I agree and I know of no church that believes a woman should stay in a home where she or the children are physically abused. Even if a church is against divorce, separation is in order as well as criminal penalties for the abuser.

donald said...
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Quayle said...

Sin is always understandable.

It's just never helpful.

Ken B said...

In an odd way it’s related to victimology. By cheating on you your spouse makes you a victim: you should *thank* him or her. Being a victim is the best!

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Excellent observation - but the right response on the part of the neglected spouse is surely not to have an affair, but rather to first express their feelings of abandonment, and then, if no meaningful move to change things occurs, ask for a divorce. Having an affair does not fix the injured marriage, does it? And two wrongs don't make a right.

Yes, which is why I said that more than once above.

I have long held that no one knows what goes on in a couple unless they are a member of that couple. And even then, they only know half the story.

Amen, brother.

Ken B said...

Warren DID call for seating Jones illegally, before the election is certified. So she's either
1 completely ignorant of the law, or
2 completely stupid, or
3 a completely dishonest demagogue.

It’s not 1, since the same delay happened in her state a few years ago.

mockturtle said...

Sin is always understandable.

It's just never helpful.


Exactly so, Quayle.

William said...

Abuse, adultery, and addiction are absolute deal breakers, and can burn down a relationship in no time. Indifference and boredom move at a glacial pace, but they will suffice.....,Rubric's cube. If you solve one side of the puzzle, you create disorder on the other side. Alternatives exclude, and we all miss out on something valuable.

Anonymous said...

Buwaya and Pants: I see my tongue-in-cheek comment @12:22 failed miserably.

Wince said...

Esther Perel "wants to redress a traditional bias against cheating spouses, to acknowledge 'the point of view of both parties—what it did to one and what it meant to the other.'"

In the words of ZZ Top... she wore a Perel necklace.

Big Mike said...

If I cheated on my wife sh’d be terribly hurt, and I would rather die than see her hurt.

mockturtle said...

Big Mike, you sound like a good guy! Your wife is blessed. :-)

Big Mike said...

@mockturtle I am a looooong way from perfect.

mockturtle said...

@mockturtle I am a looooong way from perfect.

I didn't call you perfect ;-)

Meade said...

Big Mike said...
"If I cheated on my wife sh’d be terribly hurt, and I would rather die than see her hurt."

Something tells me the feeling is mutual for Mrs. Big Mike.

Mrs. Bear said...

Nothing that anyone can say, no matter how "smart" they are, is going to persuade me to approve of adultery. It is by no means the worst sin that you can commit, and it is not necessarily unforgivable - but it is still a sin.

Big Mike said...

@Meade, I think you married a good woman, but she’s nowhere near my lady love. She says she’s old and overweight, but all I see when I look at her is the raven-haired beauty walking towards me down a church’s aisle on her father’s arm. “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.” How did a playwright and poet who died in 1616 manage to so perfectly describe a woman living in 2017?

JAORE said...

If I cheated on my wife she’d be terribly hurt, and I would rather die than see her hurt.

Good on you, Mike.

I look into my bride's lovely eyes when she has spoken, reluctantly, of the pain caused by men in her past. In this brilliant, strong, remarkable woman I see a glimpse of a scared, insecure little girl trapped.

I am a terribly flawed person. But I can, and do, take immeasurable pride in saying I deserve her trust.

Ken Mitchell said...

One especially perverse form of marital infidelity is the wife who is only "Low Libido for her husband". They're in a sexless (or nearly so) marriage in which she refuses sex because she isn't turned on by her husband. But she meets somebody else who DOES turn her on, and she has a fling. I've heard the story from several men who have lived through that.

It generally doesn't end well.

Anonymous said...

I think we should just make all commitments optional. I'd like those who hold my debt to celebrate the experience of my joy and feelings of liberation when I just decide to do something else with my money.

ken in tx said...

In my experience, a man who cheats is seen as a low down rotten scoundrel. A woman who cheats is seen as a victim, as in, "What did he do to her to make her do that?"