How to Pick a Lover

Archive for the ‘infidelity’ Category

Paranoia, Projection, Protestations

A man does not look in the closet unless he has stood there himself.
—Leonard Levinson

The English have a saying that it’s reformed rakes who make the best husbands. One wonders at its veracity, but whether or not it’s true, it’s certainly true that it’s reformed rakes who make the most suspicious husbands.

If a man is himself a veteran of many affairs of the heart, with many ladies married and otherwise, he knows what duplicity can lurk in the hearts of women and how unflattering and even ridiculous the imposed role of cuckold can be. One might hope that such a man of the world would be wise enough to turn a blind eye to suspicious circumstances. If he doesn’t choose to do so, then he will be very difficult to deal with. It goes without saying that his own behavior, past and present, does little to increase his tolerance for yours.

The best defense against jealousy in simultaneous affairs is to keep one relationship as far away as possible from the other in terms of time and of space. The point is to avoid confrontations at all costs. In the abstract, the idea of another relationship may be vaguely upsetting. In the flesh, it may be enraging. Whether the man in question is a husband or a boyfriend or something in between, he should be protected as much as possible from having to deal directly with the reality of another affair.

The double standard isn’t just a masculine flaw: it’s part of the human condition. If you are having another affair, even if he “knows” that such might be the case and even if he “permits” it, he should never have to deal with finding the wrong brand of underwear in his underwear drawer or a package of incriminating snapshots or a carelessly displayed love letter or e-mail.

The best advice, and very important advice it is, is simple: at all times, act as your own detective.

Cover of "Same Time, Next Year"

Cover of Same Time, Next Year

In Same Time, Next Year, the hit Broadway comedy by Bernard Slade, George and Doris have an affair for twenty-four years. They meet every year in a hotel in California, he supposedly on an annual business trip, and she supposedly at a retreat. As the play unfolds from one year to the next, we see how they share their lives and how the affair is a meaningful part of them. Apart from illustrating how an affair can be incorporated into a marriage and may actually strengthen it, the play provides an ideal circumstance for a tryst. When they are together, both are away from their respective homes and routines, and they relate only to each other. The more separate one affair from the other is, in time and space, the better.

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The Rebound Effect

A Frenchwoman, when double crossed, will kill her rival; the Italian woman would rather kill her deceitful lover; the Englishwoman simply breaks off relations—but they all console themselves with another man.
—Charles Boyer

One would think that when suffering the pain of having been rejected in love, a rational woman might foreswear love forever and give up on the whole game. At least, one might expect her to walk around for some time muttering, “Never again, never again.”

In reality, it’s only when a woman has left her man because she’s bored with him or offended or outraged that she thinks seriously of giving up men in general. If the man leaves her, then it’s quite another matter—even if she didn’t much want him anyway. If he leaves her, it becomes a matter of pride. To prove that there’s nothing wrong with her, that although unloved she’s not unlovable, she needs a new love affair—or at least the option of one.

ON THE REBOUND

ON THE REBOUND (Photo credit: Neal.)

To paraphrase the nineteenth-century novelist Barbey d’Aurevilly, “Next to the wound, what men make best is the bandage.”

The rebound love affair involves not so much a quest for love as a quest for reassurance. If you’re acting on such a motive, it’s helpful to be aware of it and to take it into account. When a middle-aged man seduces a young girl in order to prove to himself that he’s still young enough to be a macho swordsman, we tend to think that he’s exploiting her. Although it often occurs that men use women and hurt them badly in the process, it’s necessary to remember that women may also use men and may also hurt them badly.

If your motive in an affair is mainly to seek consolation and reassurance after an unfortunate love affair to bind up your wounds, so to speak, then be sure you don’t exploit the lover you pick. He might well delude himself that you loved him for himself alone and not for the incidental fact of his propinquity.

Don’t Have An Affair To Get Even

Revenge is like a boomerang. Although for a time it flies in the direction in which it is hurled, it takes a sudden curve, and, returning, hits your own head the heaviest blow of all.
—J. M. Mason

One of the most usual circumstances that propel women into an affair is the discovery that their lover or their husband has been playing around. Sometimes, they learn only in midlife that while they have been being faithful, their partners have been playing around for years.

It’s commonplace to observe that women have the gift of expressing themselves and their emotions whereas men have no such gift and are emotionally inarticulate. While this is often true, there’s one major exception: anger. Women who feel sad or hurt can cry more readily than men; however, women who feel rage have fewer outlets for it than do men. After-all, ladies aren’t supposed to feel rage, and when training little girls to be ladylike, we also train them to deny their anger and to suppress it or turn it inward.

The trusting girlfriend or wife who discovers her man’s infidelity is usually enraged as well as hurt. Even people who don’t know much Shakespeare are familiar with the idea that “hell has no fury like a woman scorned.” However, the woman scorned has few ways of expressing her anger. Lord Byron, in Don Juan, contends that “revenge is sweet—especially to women.” The sweetness comes in part because of her relative powerlessness.

A woman may be unable to demand justice from her man for real or imagined wrongs. One way she can get revenge, however, is through her sexuality. If her man has a double standard as most men do, then doing the same thing herself will hurt him and will hurt him where he lives. Making him a cuckold gives her a weapon to be used or to be saved and used sometime later.

Revenge can take many forms. Taking a new lover in order to punish the old one may work as an effective punishment, but it’s not likely to work as a basis for a satisfactory love affair. The man involved was selected, not for his intrinsic charm but to make a political point in another relationship. The decision process is likely to be one of expedience. The woman may even select someone she does not particularly like because she knows that choice would be particularly galling to her philandering lover or husband.

English: Photograph of Sophie Tucker

English: Photograph of Sophie Tucker (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The popular burlesque performer, Sophie Tucker, had a number of stock comic routines about a boyfriend named Ernie. One of them went something like this: On the occasion of his eightieth birthday, Ernie called and announced, “Soph! Soph! I took myself a twenty-year-old girl. What do you think of that?” “Ernie,” Sophie countered, “when I am eighty, I shall take a twenty year-old boy. And let me tell you something, Ernie, twenty goes into eighty a helluva lot more than eighty goes into twenty! So think about that, Ernie!”

The woman who has an affair out of revenge is, in fact, prostituting herself. She’s doing sexual things for nonsexual reasons and isn’t likely to enjoy them very much. The man involved is being used. He may be quite willing to be used, but if he does not understand his role as supporting actor until later, he has a legitimate right to feel resentful.

If you discover that the man you thought was monogamous is, in fact, playing around, you may feel justified in playing the field as well. If and when you do, be sure you do so in order to give yourself the pleasure you deserve, not in order to punish him.

Having an affair out of vengeance may work in that it may inflict reciprocal pain, but it’s likely to increase your own disquietude rather than appease it.

Rule Four: Pick the Right Man for the Right Reasons

It is more important to be aware of the ground of your own behavior than to understand the motives of another.
—Dag Hammarskjöld

When you approach a new love affair, stop for a long moment to think carefully about what you’re doing. Examine your own motives. Interview yourself the way you imagine a psychiatrist or a reporter might. Ask yourself: Why do I want to have an affair? Why now, this month, rather than last month or next month? Why this particular man?

affairs of the heart

affairs of the heart (Photo credit: derpunk)

These kinds of questions never have just one answer. Our motives for acting as we do are always complex and are often interrelated. It’s important, nevertheless, to at least try to puzzle them out. Are you trying to avoid something you don’t like in your life? Are you seeking an affair as a means of running away? Are you simply drawn to an appealing prospect? Would a love affair offer some comfort and consolation when other things have gone wrong? Would it fill an empty place left by a vanished man—or child or job or parent?

If the Freudian psychoanalysts are correct, the motives we think we have for how we act may be superficial and trivial, and the important motives in our lives may be subterranean forces of which we’re unaware. The link from motive to action is an endless puzzle. Nevertheless, it’s important to try and understand the motives a potential lover may have for seeking you out and the motives you may have for being drawn to him or for rejecting him.

Sometimes, an otherwise promising love affair becomes a long shot because either one or the other of you is approaching it for the wrong reasons.

Will discuss some of the wrong reasons for having an affair in upcoming posts.

Incipient Divorce Potential

Though many, whose church forbids it, believe divorce is a sin, it may be said that aside from these groups, two marriages with a divorce are thought normal; among the rich, three are normal; and in Hollywood four are normal.
—Edmund Wilson, The Cold War and Income Tax

If you’re already married but are nevertheless contemplating an affair, you need to consider how you feel about maintaining your marriage.

Some women who aren’t very satisfied with their husbands are nevertheless determined to maintain their households intact. They have other considerations to think about. Often, the main marital glue is a child, but it can also be financial considerations or other family obligations. “How can I leave my husband?” a woman friend of mine lamented to me recently. “He’s paying for my mother’s nursing home care. I could never afford that, and what would become of her?” A fair and legitimate question for which I had no answer.  Then there are some women who are simply afraid of being single again and don’t think they can manage on their own.

Cover of "Love Affairs: Marriage & Infide...

Cover of Love Affairs: Marriage & Infidelity

An affair can be the first rebellious step on the way to a woman’s freedom. A woman I met at a cocktail party several months ago quipped to me, after hearing about my blog, “Wanting an open marriage is nature’s way of telling you that you need a divorce.”  An affair is one way for a woman to test her wings or to bide her time until an opportune moment arises. The wife of a close male friend of mine confided in me that she intended to leave her husband and that she had a definite timetable. She calculated she would be finished graduate school in fifteen more months and would then be graduated and gone in sixteen. Her departure would coincide almost to the day with her first paycheck. You can well imagine the dilemma this confession put me in. I found myself avoiding my male friend for the next sixteen months.

Some women contemplating an affair are already thinking about what a second husband would be like. Many others have had enough of marriage, at least for now, and are looking for a lover for the sake of a worthwhile affair and nothing more.

For a start, a first requirement that you owe your paramour is to be honest about the state and prospects of your marriage, at least as you understand them at the time. If you’re determined to maintain your marriage at all costs, then don’t let him hope that someday you’ll leave your husband and run away with him. Men tend to feel they’re irresistible, so if you’re serious about remaining married, you cannot stress it too much or too early in the relationship.

On the other hand, if you’re more or less looking for an excuse to get out of the marriage, and perhaps someone who is willing to act as a co-respondent in a divorce action should you be found out, then it’s only fair to say this as well. When later you do leave your husband, you have precluded any potential guilt on the part of your lover that he was a home wrecker who broke up an otherwise satisfactory marriage. Being honest here also warns him that you may not always take the need for discretion very seriously.

Love affairs do sometimes change things, and you may decide later that your initial intent needs to be revised. All you can do is to level with him about how you feel at the time.

Rule Three: Be Honest About Your Intentions

You need not tell all the truth, unless to those who have a right to know it all. But let all you tell be the truth.
—Horace Mann

It would be nice to make a rule that everyone should always tell the truth. It would also be hopelessly naive. The social world depends in part on the white lie and, often, on the blackest of the black in order for the daily round to be maintained. And yet . . . with your intimates, it’s important to believe that they tell you the truth as they see it.

truth

truth (Photo credit: Erick-Pardus)

To your lover, you should tell the truth. You don’t need to tell everything, but what you tell should be the truth even if you must say, “I truthfully don’t want to answer the question now!” He has no right to cross-examine you, but he should have reason to trust you. Trust in this situation doesn’t mean fidelity in the sense of sexual monogamy. It does mean that you can depend upon the accuracy of what your lover is saying.

It might even mean saying up front that your intentions aren’t honorable, if indeed they aren’t. You have a right to change your mind, but meanwhile, you should tell the truth as you see it.It might even mean saying up front that your intentions aren’t honorable, if indeed they aren’t. You have a right to change your mind, but meanwhile, you should tell the truth as you see it.

Rule Two: Accept Responsibility for Birth Control

Without the full capacity to limit her own reproduction, a woman’s other “freedoms” are tantalizing mockers that cannot be exercised.
—Lucinda Cisler, Sisterhood Is Powerful

The sexual mores of the later half of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first century are indeed different from what they were in the past. One important development which permits such differences to flourish with a minimum of harm and maximum of pleasure is that of adequate birth control.

When women were at risk of getting pregnant, then the choice of a lover was usually also the choice of a father for one’s child; and a father for one’s child, for the sake of all concerned, had better be also one’s husband. If pregnancy occurred, then the only acceptable solution was a so-called forced marriage. Better, under such conditions, not to sleep with anyone you wouldn’t be willing and able to marry.

There’s no longer a need for these conditions to apply. Adequate birth control is, for the most part, available to everyone who seeks it. There are a variety of different techniques for women of different ages, circumstances, and experiences. Although there’ a powerful segment of social conservatives who want to prevent a woman’s right to birth control, and thereby, to deny her the right to control her sexuality.  As a society we need to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Romney Ryan Plan Birth Control

Romney Ryan Plan Birth Control (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

Putting aside the misguided efforts of the few to take away a woman’s right to birth control; whatever you and your physician decide, you should be on the pill or use a diaphragm or a sponge or trust an IUD. It’s, of course, theoretically true that birth control should be the man’s responsibility as well; and as a desirable lover, he should be concerned and cooperative. Nevertheless, no matter how unfair it seems to you, he never risks getting pregnant. You do. You run the risk unless he’s known to be sterile and has had a doctor say so or has had a vasectomy.

A number of years ago at the height of the “zero population growth” movement, men who had had a vasectomy were proud of the fact and would wear a little male symbol of a circle attached to an arrow, but with a break in the circle. Cute and chic and often done in gold, it was worn as a tiepin or label button. It was not unheard of for a man on the make to borrow his friend’s vasectomy pin and wear it as a conversation piece at the local pickup bar. You can’t exactly see his scars but . . .

In every instance, getting pregnant should be a deliberate decision, not an accident or an oversight. Retroactive birth control, such as the morning-after pill, is available for situations in which sex may take place without any birth control. And in the case of contraceptive failure, abortion should be considered as a backup emergency procedure.

You run the risk of getting pregnant unless you have had a doctor say that you are naturally sterile or you have been surgically sterilized or you are already pregnant. As long as you are at risk, you must protect yourself and assume responsibility for birth control at the same time that you assume responsibility for your own sexuality.

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