Sexual vs. Emotional Infidelity....
"Believing in yourself is the biggest factor in success."-Unknown
Beautiful people, let's go!!!
Apparently, it’s official–in the largest study ever conducted on the subject, it was confirmed that heterosexual men were more likely than heterosexual women to be most angered/upset about sexual infidelity, while their partners were disproportionately hurt by emotional betrayal. The reason for this is touted by researchers as “evolutionary” rather than psychological or social.
I guess this makes sense on a very primitive level–but the study was in no way confined to people who shared children or who hoped to one day have a child, so what gives? If sex is merely about reproduction, why would we experience jealousy at all? Is jealousy a learned behavior or is it intrinsic to the human experience of love and lust? Also, this evolutionary perspective does not explain in any way why women are so threatened by emotional infidelity.
I believe that gender stereotypes and societal norms are more to blame for this disparity than anything else. After all, don’t we collectively agree that women are more likely than men to withhold marital sex (“Not tonight, dear, I have a headache”) and men are more likely to avoid emotional intimacy/labor? So this heightens the sense of betrayal the partner feels–why can she/he open up sexually/emotionally to someone else and not me?
But the bias runs even deeper than that–a woman whose man has “cheated” sexually is ALWAYS perceived as an innocent victim by social rules, and the “other woman” is perceived as a “ho”. But a wifey isn’t going to gain much sympathy or traction if her man is getting emotional (but not sexual) nurturing elsewhere, because that must mean she has neglected her primary feminine role in the relationship. Likewise, a man who has a wife stepping out on him sexually will NOT be perceived as a victim so much as a failure.
Now you can argue about this or that case because I am painting with broad strokes but this is societal conditioning that we all accept on some level. We believe that men crave sex and women crave connection, so a man is, therefore, more threatened by sex and a woman is more threatened by connection. But doesn’t all of this just amount to excuses for not honoring your primary relationship?
More statistics show that a whopping 80% of divorces are initiated by women, for various reasons, many of which somehow include the notion that their husbands are not “connecting” with and responding to their needs, whether because of infidelity, substance abuse, workaholism, or, in extreme cases, abuse. This feeds into our collective belief that men are incapable of true intimacy–but again, that is not an inherent quality of masculinity–it is learned and modeled. It ultimately boils down to a “boys will be boys” mentality where we shrug and say that he has nothing more to offer.
But if that were true, why would emotional “affairs” exist? Why would men be out seeking emotional intimacy if they are incapable of it? For that matter, if women have less interest in sex than men, then why are they pursuing it outside of marriage in increasing numbers?
Our stereotypes are giving us all a whole bunch of built-in excuses for forming dysfunctional attachments, to begin with, and then betraying our commitments when our dysfunctional attachments fail to satisfy. It is a vicious circle that keeps men and women from healthy, happy love and allows for a lot of finger-pointing instead of looking in the mirror. Infidelity, whether emotional or sexual, has got to be the biggest relationship ending scapegoat there is–but make no mistake, it IS a scapegoat.
Listen, I ***GUESS*** a one-night stand type betrayal MIGHT happen in the context of an otherwise healthy relationship (nobody’s perfect?) BUT anyone who engages long-term in an ongoing relationship outside of their relationship is NOT happy in it. Full stop. UNLESS it is part of the relationship agreement (zero judgments if it is, btw), stepping out to get your sexual or emotional needs met means you are otherwise not getting your sexual or emotional needs met in your primary relationship hence the "agreement".
But then we like to toss around our gender stereotypes to excuse our behavior and to vilify the betrayed partner, don’t we?
She was frigid.
He didn’t listen.
All she cares about is the kids.
All he cares about is work.
And so on.
Until we are willing to toss the notion that our behavior is NOT our choice, we will be unable to solve the puzzle of what makes for a great relationship. Personal responsibility is the biggest piece of the picture that ends in happily ever after. When we stop using our gender as an excuse and our partner’s gender as a directive, then we start unpacking what it means to be in a true partnership.
Infidelity is the worse. But it is also, in many cases, entirely understandable. Marriage is seen as the holy grail of relationships but really it is just a patriarchal institution that dates back to the days when women were property to be bartered and unfortunately it still smacks of this; in a recent study, 70% of participants felt that a woman should still take her husband’s last name.
Apart from the amazing tax benefits (hmm, doesn’t sound like separation of church and state, but okay), marriage was once at its core, just an agreement to never change your mind and/or evolve and/or assert your own best interests for the rest of your life. A truly healthy relationship is freedom, I have said this before, as individuals partnering as a collective, the both of you have the power to redefine what marriage is or should look like COLLECTIVELY-that is what constitutes a healthy relationship free of archaic ritualism or norms.
Sorry, I’m right about this.
We like to believe that “failed” relationships are always the result of “bad” people making “wrong” choices, but nothing could be further from the truth; and YES, JUST as often, long-term toxic relationships are the result of weak people making unhealthy choices, so there you have it.
Ultimately we have to take individual responsibility not only for our actions and behaviors but for our own happiness. Playing the blame/shame game is not for grown-ups. If you are in an unhappy/unhealthy/stagnant relationship, infidelity, whether emotional or sexual may seem like a good short-term solution to get those needs met, but it’s like slapping a bandaid on a wound that needs stitches (or possibly surgery).
Face the problems head-on, do the work to heal the rift, and then, whether you decide it’s happily-ever-after or not, you will have the tools to form a more perfect union going forward.
Let's keep the dialogue going, join me at the Go Pro Revolutionary Party every Friday 8-10 pm to discuss this and other topics from my blog. YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED! Come with an open mind and heart!
Meeting ID: 87580285536