Friday, March 2, 2001,
Chandigarh, India




I N T E R F A C E 

When your partner goes astray...
By Rajshree Sarda
A
FTER a week of intense moneymaking, many testosterone-charged titans, flush with cash and success, are ready to party. "I work hard and I deserve to party hard too," rationalises a married, 40-plus executive who hires girls on a regular basis. This was disclosed by his wife who is fed up of his philandering and womanising.

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When
your partner goes astray...
By Rajshree Sarda

AFTER a week of intense moneymaking, many testosterone-charged titans, flush with cash and success, are ready to party. "I work hard and I deserve to party hard too," rationalises a married, 40-plus executive who hires girls on a regular basis. This was disclosed by his wife who is fed up of his philandering and womanising. Yes in his case money provided the access, opportunity, freedom and a sense of excitement to indulge. But itís not just money that makes the world go round. Itís adultery. Itís the most cruel betrayal. It creates a deep sense of distrust that is difficult to overcome and forgiveness may take it's own time. Itís confusing and itís heartbreaking.

So what is infidelity? In simple terms it means being disloyal or unfaithful to oneís husband or wife. Men and women react differently to infidelity. Sexual infidelity is more difficult for men to accept than it is for women. Women feel more betrayed by their husbandsí emotional involvement outside marriage.

Having clandestine affairs is the closest people can get to real adventure. Peggy Vaughan, author of Monogamy Myth, says any rich and powerful man who does not have an affair is the exception to the norm. For such men, infidelity goes with the territory ó women admire them, make themselves available to them, so the question is Ďwhy not?í rather than Ďwhy?í

Success and money are a very seductive combination. Women are more likely to be drawn into an affair with a rich and powerful man than an ordinary man. If a man has the moolah, his age does not matter. As a man becomes successful, the chances of his cheating his wife become greater. Mona, a housewife who feels betrayed by her husband, says: "When I married Rakesh, he was a struggling businessman and we faced all the hardships together without a frown but now that he has become incredibly successful, he is becoming increasingly intolerant, arrogant and shameless. He does not respect me as a person. I know he is seeing young women and I find the whole thing so demeaning and ugly."

Rakesh is a typical case of a man who upon making it big in life leaves or ignores his wife who was good enough when he was earning less.

Sexual experimentation is one of the reasons why women go astray. Not a good reason, but thatís the way it is. For the most part, women still choose the parlour games of flirtation and fantasy over the high stakes of adultery and many a husband would be surprised to learn just how many wives enjoy fantasising about the dramatic possibilities of adultery without leaving the marital bed. But there can be moments of weakness when a woman might be feeling vulnerable ó when she feels she is getting old and wants to know if she is still desirable, when she is lonely, stressed out or depressed. Often this kind of cheating may be nothing more for a woman than a manifestation of her boredom or loneliness. Women in their late thirties are most likely to experiment with casual sex. They have been married for long and have slightly grown-up children. They crave excitement. Their sexuality isnít dead, just lying dormant. Others who are likely to indulge in casual sex are the really young women who are adventurous, curious, very sexually aware of themselves.

Certainly the attitudes towards virginity and infidelity have changed dramatically in the last decade. Kirti, a 22-year-old-girl from a middle class family looks very simple ó the kind who you think would marry the man chosen by her parents and thereafter would live submissively ever after. She, however, confessed she had been out with a man when she was 21.

Author Jim Richardson interviewed 2000 men and women while conducting the study ĎTo catch a cheatí (conducted in the UK in 1988). The study indicated that 65 per cent of the men had been unfaithful to their partners. He said, "When we started talking, most men denied infidelity to their present partners but after they relaxed, they admitted it. Most of them also admitted that it did not damage their relationship because they just saw it as sex." Richardson also said that 45 per cent of the men had had an affair but he differentiated between infidelity and an affair by gauging the "degree of emotional attachment the man feels. If he believes he has been in love I would class that as an affair." Statistics also show that women are more likely than men to forgive a cheating partner. Women place more emphasis on a close relationship and less in the act of intercourse.

According to Peggy Vaughan, most women believe that if they loved their partner, they would not be interested in an affair. But when it comes to men, her research shows that there are many men who do love their partners and enjoy good sex at home and yet never turn down an opportunity for an extramarital fling. In fact 56 per cent of the men she sampled, had happy marriages and yet were promiscuous. Being a woman, I earlier believed that if a man had an affair, it meant that he had a bad marriage. How wrong I was! I found from extensive research done by psychologists and psychiatrists and from my counselling that all this was a big myth. I have found out that a woman could be everything ó beautiful, intelligent, caring, wonderful ó but her man could still stray, if that is in his value system, his family background, or his psycho-dynamic structure.

An affair holds up a vanity mirror, the kind with all the little bulbs around it, it gives a rosy glow to the way you see yourself. By contrast, marriage offers a make-up mirror, it magnifies every little flaw. When someone loves you despite seeing all your flaws then that is true love. When one of the partners instead of dealing with the dissatisfaction and trying to work on the relationship, escapes it and seeks happiness elsewhere, the real problem arises. Usually the partner having an affair gives a lot of time and attention to the new relationship. If he would be investing the same in the marriage, such a problem would not arise. The popular notion is that a person has an affair when he or she doesnít get enough love and attention at home. The reality, however, is that he or she doesnít give enough love to his or her partner at home.

The good news is that the majority of marriages not only survive infidelity but can become stronger and more intimate after the couple involved undergo therapy. A wall of secrecy in the marriage and a window of intimacy in the affair characterises the extra-marital triangle. Reconstructing marriages requires reversing the walls with the affair partner and opening the window of honesty with the marriage partner. Recovery will begin once all contact with the affair partner is terminated.

Warning signals in marriage

1. Changes in sexual behaviour.

2. Emotional pattern changes ó gets hyper, distant or incredibly sweet.

3. Physical habits change ó works at the gym, takes more care of his body.

4. Lifestyle changes ó comes back very late from work. Long breaks away from home.

Tips for betrayed partners

Make your marriage couple-centred rather than children-centred

When in doubt, have an honest conversation with no accusations.

If betrayed, give another chance to your partner or someone else might do that.

Try looking realistically at your partnerís other endearing qualities.

Despite the hurt, love can still survive.

Should you forgive?

THE decision to stay and work things out or to leave the relationship is a highly personal one. For some, the decision is a relatively simple one. For many others, however, the decision is agonising. Several factors come into play.

When deciding whether or not to forgive an affair (assuming the cheating partner is asking forgiveness), one must consider what is at stake. Are there several years invested in the relationship? Are there children? What type of a lifestyle disruption is involved? When there is more to lose, forgiveness has more of an appeal.

Another important consideration is, what remains of the relationship? Was the transgression one very out-of-place event within the framework of a supportive, loving relationship? Was it the last nail in the coffin of a near-dead marriage? Again, the more support that exists within the relationship, the easier it will be to move beyond an affair.

History is an important consideration. Was this the first time? The tenth? Have there been lies before? It is important to look at the past to either find the confidence to believe it will (realistically) never happen again, or the confidence to leave before it does.

Top

 

TELLME...

WOULD YOU EVER BE WILLING TO BE THE ĎOTHER WOMANí IN A MANíS LIFE?

Readers respond:

  • Sure! Itís much more exciting and glamorous because the man seeks the Ďotherí woman and (unlike the wife) she doesnít wait for him.
    Suvidha M., an executive.

  • I almost became one but thank god better sense prevailed. The other woman is always an outsider.
    M.K., a housewife.

  • Never! Who wants to be used and discarded at will. The other woman can never get respect, she lives under perpetual guilt.
    Meena Sharma, bank official.

  • Why not? I am his. Itís the wife who becomes the Ďotherí woman. I wonít mind trying. No guilt, no regret, you live only once.
    Shefali, a student.

  • More than the Ďotherí woman, I would like to be an old manís darling ó which is definitely better than being a young manís slave!
    A.N., a freelance writer.

  • A woman is a woman is a woman. Itís stupid to put her into any category. The man has the best of all the worlds while she (be it as a wife or other woman) dances to the tune that he plays.
    Reena, a collegiate (recently engaged).

  • Why not? Itís like having the icing on the cake. You can have all the fun minus the responsibilities.
    Sarika, a working woman.

  • I object to the term Ďother womaní. Just because he didnít meet me before he met his wife, doesnít mean our love isnít real. After all marriage is just a legal formality while our love is true.
    Vandana, a marketing officer.

  • No, never. The position of the other woman is very insecure. If he can cheat on his wife, he can cheat on his girlfriend too.
    Monica, a single woman.

Next timeís queries:

Why do my parents have such high expectations from me?ó A disturbed child

Why does my daughter waste so much time talking to her friends on the phone? ó An angry father

(Responses are sought from parents and children on these questions, respectively. Mention your name, age and address.)

Dear readers, if you are having problems with family, friends or colleagues, send us your grievances and we will include them in this column. Responses from readers will also be published.

Send your queries and responses (word limit:50) to

Interface,
c/o The Editor,
The Tribune, Chandigarh.



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