This is by no means a comprehensive list, but now with Jesse James pulling a Tiger Woods, infidelity and damaged marriages and families are on the collective brain. A lot of talk has been out there about how men are wired to cheat and these guys have money and opportunities to cheat — to that I say BLAH BLAH BLAH — because at the end of the day, that’s a bleak and insulting way to view the male gender.
It’s like saying that some men, most men or many men (however you want to paint it), when given money and opportunities, automatically ditch their moral compass and love for their families and decide to stick their junk in bad places. That kind of attitude not only strips men of responsibility, respect and values, it depicts men as animals with no self control, and I don’t buy it. I think it’s time to give men more credit than that, and to call Jesse and Tiger what they are: dirt bags.
Anyway. I’m not here to talk about them, but about our own relationships and the kinds of ideas that these sensational tales of infidelity bring about. Here are a few ways to keep that relationship happy and humming along:
1. Don’t Stew.
I read an article in the April 2010 Oprah Magazine called “The After Wife.” It was written by an anonymous woman whose husband cheated on her. They had two small children and for their sake, she didn’t want to file for divorce (which is another topic altogether – I’ve never thought “staying together for the sake of the children” sounded like the obvious answer to me, but what the hell do I know.) The article talks about what she went through to pull her marriage back together when she hadn’t even known it was broken until her husband confessed his affair.
I am not, and she is not, blaming the husband’s affair on the wife by any stretch. That would be ridiculous. But she really explores what her marriage was like while she was oblivious to the affair, and while her marriage had appeared utterly shiny and rosy and trust-filled on the surface, she acknowledges that there was a “cloud of disappointment and annoyance that had become a permanent feature of our marriage…A habitual mild bitterness, a casual scorn, became my default attitude towards Sam.”
The long and short of this heartbreaking – yet fascinating and well-written piece – is that the wife had carried resentments and to save herself the repeated, petty arguments, came up with this attitude shield. And the husband, feeling the scorn, rather than acknowledging his vulnerabilities, went off and secretly porked some whore on a regular basis for three years before realizing he was figuratively porking his family and marriage in the butt.
So clearly they should have communicated with each other to maintain their marriage. Expressed their needs and their vulnerabilities yes, and also kept their admiration and love for the others’ qualities fresh in their minds as they got knee-deep in day-to-day household crap. It sounds like a tall order, but it sounds like an impossible horror if you don’t — even if there’s no affair and you’re both simply trapped in this unnamed, dingy melancholy.
The moral of the story: Don’t get all quiet and bitter and resentful; work out your issues, no matter how small they might seem. Love the one you’re with and be vocal about it.
2. Ask for What You Need.
Asking for what you need is not the same thing as Don’t Stew. You can Not Stew, but still not make your needs known. I was listening to a radio show yesterday afternoon. The show host said that a male friend of hers confided that he was about to break up with his girlfriend. This guy is gone for work a lot and isn’t around all the time. He had gotten into an argument with his woman because the girlfriend wanted to spend more time with him. His stance was, “You knew what you got into. Buck up, Buttercup.” This guy told the radio show host that his girlfriend, who he had once considered marrying, “ruined” the relationship by being “needy.”
Look. This toolbag doesn’t need to lay blame on his girlfriend. She is entitled to want to spend more time with him, and doubly entitled to ask for it. If for whatever reason he can’t or won’t give her more time, then these two aren’t a good fit. No blaming necessary.
If this girl had kept her mouth shut about her feelings, then all she would have gotten was more disappointment and more time wasted on this guy. It’s better for this chick to find a guy who is going to give her the time and attention she wants. And likewise, this guy should find some girl-about-town who doesn’t give a flying fig about where her man is when he’s frequently not with her.
Moral of the story: Ask and you shall receive — maybe not from this guy, but from a better-suited one.
3. Ask for Praise.
Seth at Lifehack.org has his own list of ways to make your love life stronger, and the first one on the list sure is an interesting one: “Ask for Praise.” He gives a great explanation of why we should. I will add to this: because it will cause your significant other to consider positive qualities about you that might go unnoticed otherwise. This could cause your significant other to view you in a positive light more often, keeping that flame stoked.
Moral of the story: Fish for compliments when you think you deserve it. (Not when you think your butt looks fat.) If you do something praiseworthy, be your own publicist and call your mate’s attention to your awesomeness. Likewise, be generous with praise for your mate.