When I think about the woman who my husband committed adultery with I am always puzzled by her motivation to participate in such a miserable experience. To give herself to a married man in return for crumbs fallen from the table of our ten year relationship. Why was she prepared to put up with being second to me? Why was she prepared to be sexually available at his convenience? Why, if she had been betrayed herself would she want to inflict this on to another woman? Why would she willingly embark on an affair with a married man when she had already done so for three years previously and had been unsuccessful in getting him to leave his wife for her? It makes no sense to me.
Pig Shit was/is a single woman. Twice married and divorced with a string of unsuccessful relationships under her belt. If she wanted a relationship with a man (and she certainly did) why didn’t she seek available men on dating web sites? Why was she prepared to ‘date’ a married man who lived with his wife? How did she handle the jealousy? Why would any woman engage in something so destructive as a relationship with a married man unless they were desperate for something that they felt they could only have with somebody else’s husband. I suspect that Pig Shit is either unable to attract an available man for a relationship and/or unable to function effectively in a committed relationship. Therefore when a married man shows interest she eagerly reduces any aspirations for a single, available man because here’s an opportunity to get what she wants. A man in her life. At a price that she is willing to pay because she considers herself nothing without a man.
Some women do not need a man to feel complete and are able to live autonomous lives, capable of living alone and liking it. I personally enjoy a committed relationship and prefer to share my life with a significant man but not to the exclusion of all else. There are other aspects to my life that are hugely valuable and which shape my selfhood. Feminism, without doubt has improved the lives of women in the west but it appears to have been unable to silence the internal chatter of many women which focuses thoughts on finding a man with whom to complete their identity. I don’t think that men have ever felt they needed women in quite the same way. Historically, men have always been able to establish their status and fulfil their potential outside their relationship in ways that women in restricted lifestyles were unable to. We may have freed ourselves from many of the restrictions placed upon us in the past but I fear that some women have maintained the mental chains that tie them to a patriarchal view of womanhood. As Penelope Russianoff in her book; Why do I think I am nothing without a man, aptly states “women have, indeed, come a long way – socially, sexually, and to a lesser extent, economically. Emotionally, however, they still have a long way to go.” The late Russianoff was a psychologist, feminist therapist, writer and an expert on teaching women how to assert themselves, all in addition to maintaining a private practice. She said that about 95% of her female patients thought they were nothing without a man. She characterises the ‘void-without-a-man’ feeling as “desperate dependence”.
My husband’s OW was a single woman and this is a particular form of infidelity. In fact Richard Tuch describes it as a syndrome; “the single woman-married man syndrome”. Initially the man might be viewed as having the more powerful position than the single OW but this is just something the OW goes along with. Permitting this illusion is something the single OW offers in return for his continued interest and involvement with her. However, at a later point this control shifts and he starts to fear that if he were to break off the relationship she would retaliate in order to hold on to the relationship at any cost. It is interesting to note that within 48 hours of my husband dumping her, Pig Shit retaliated by texting me with information about herself and my husband. I often wonder if this was a last ditch attempt to keep my husband. How many single OW manipulate their married lover in this way along with their little caches of sexual tricks. This is not romance it is desperation.
The unabashed narratives that OWs create to justify their involvement with a relationship that clearly has no future are remarkable. However, they also offer a glimpse into the desperate nature of these illicit sexual encounters. The sexual revolution that occurred with free oral contraception and women’s entry into the world of work seems to have gone awry for some women. Mistaking permissiveness for liberation, women’s sexuality, especially when applied to adultery, has simply provided men with what they desire – sex without strings. I’ll accept that for some women permissive sex may be perceived as liberating but it does not need to happen with married men. When was there ever a shortage of men wanting causal sex? The type of feminism that supports women having sex with married men is a feminism that lacks female imagination!
Elizabeth Gilbert in her article: Confessions of a Seduction Addict, in the NYT magazine in June of last year illustrates the point. Her indiscriminate permissiveness is dressed up as seduction. “Seduction was never a casual sport for me; it was more like a heist, adrenalizing and urgent. I would plan the heist for months, scouting out the target, looking for unguarded entries”. She says that seeking out men for sex had nothing to do with either love or sex; it was the thrill of seduction that she sought. If the man was already involved in a committed relationship, she worked at being ‘different’. If he needed to sneak out of his house after midnight in order to call her she believed she was his “irresistible treasure”. Nice way of putting it Gilbert but I’d say that you could just as easily be called “easy pussy”. She goes on to say “But over time (and it wouldn’t take long), his unquenchable infatuation for me would fade, as his attention returned to everyday matters. This always left me feeling abandoned and invisible; love that could be quenched was not nearly enough love for me” – or for him, clearly. She says it took her twenty years to recognise that stealing other women’s boyfriends didn’t make her a revolutionary feminist; it made her a menace. To whom I wonder?
Why all this hard work? Charlotte Allen writing for the Independent Women’s Forum suggests a more likely perspective on events. “Um, Elizabeth, there’s an easier way to accomplish this trajectory. Here it is: Go to a bar an hour before closing time.
Another way of phrasing ‘his unquenchable infatuation for me would fade’ is: ‘I’ll call you.’
And if there’s someone specific you’ve got your heart set on to ‘win,’ here’s another tip for making it easier in 99 percent of the cases: Invite him over (or drive over to his house) and be wearing something scanty and lacy when the door opens. See! You don’t need to ‘plan for months’ after all!”
Allen suggests that Gilbert was behaving in this way as a sort of desperation at not feeling desirable. “The most desirable women don’t need to scout; they have men orbiting around them like GPS satellites”. For Allen, Gilbert is not a ‘seduction addict’ but a gal who has made the mistake of thinking it was a big deal to get some men to go to bed with her. In agreement with Allen, I really don’t think it’s difficult to get men to have sex with you.
Miss Sarah J Symonds is another desperado. She is now, allegedly, an ‘infidelity analyst’. What qualifies her? Well, not qualifications. She proudly claims that she spent fifteen years of her life as a serial mistress. Looks like desperation for attention to me. Symonds claims to fame include an affair with Jeffrey Archer and a so called 7 year affair with the celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey. Ramsey denied it but even by her accounts it didn’t amount to much – 7 shags in 7 years to be precise. Symonds, like Gilbert considers her behaviour to be an addiction. She set up ‘Mistresses Anonymous’ a website for helping women to wanting to get out of a toxic relationship with a married man and has defined 12 steps with a 13th step being alcohol. Apparently, she is swamped by women in despair! All these helpless women in unhappy relationships with married men not knowing how to get out. Oh pleeeeease! Of course, there is a book – Having an Affair published in 2007 and she has appeared on Oprah. When asked if she ever thought of the wife and possible children at home she replied that she didn’t because he wasn’t thinking of them either! She now considers herself reformed. If she is, there’s no humility in the mix. The arrogance is breath-taking.
Finally, a third single OW who appears equally unable to successfully form a committed relationship and who contents herself with being second best. This time, a feminist academic who charts her miserable and toxic relationship with a man in a committed relationship. This has dispelled one of the myths that I had built up around Pig Shit. I had thought that only an unintelligent , uneducated and socially unaware woman would allow herself to be treated so poorly in a relationship that she could walk away from. Lauren Rosewarne is living proof that none of these attributes protect a woman from making a fool of herself. It is also clear that feminism per se does not support the committed relationship. Perhaps it should. Rosewarne also recognises as did Russianoff that “many female identities are defined by the absence of a male partner. These ideas reinforce that coupling – however achieved – is the single woman’s raison d’etre.” She also points out that “inequalities that plague committed heterosexual relationships are often amplified in infidelity”.
Rosewarne writing in her book: Cheating on the Sisterhood, has also recognised the limited choice of some women that may prompt them to become the OW rather than be on their own. “For some, involvement with a committed man empowers them to design a relationship to suit their needs. The limited nature of infidelity matches their low needs and demands, but for others a limited relationship is imposed when the choice for more is not available.” For Pig Shit, where there is no available single man, her relationship with my husband could never have been called empowering. She probably considered herself hopeful when in fact she was merely gullible.
Rosewarne continuously wanted more from the committed man than he was willing to offer. “The reality for many single women and certainly for me, is that they want more from the committed man.” This in part explains the willingness to accept so little. “She fears offending the man, of causing him to dislike her and abandon her. It prevents her from asking for more. She accepts crumbs because they are better than nothing. No matter what he might be doing now, some contact is better. This rationalisation means she lowers her standards of what constitutes acceptable behaviour.”
Not only does the OW accept minimum contact, the irony is “the single woman wants to understand why such a good decent man is cheating and will analyse his relationship to find cracks.” Rosewarne felt sorry for her committed man and actually empathised with his situation. However, there was no opportunity, ever, to feel for his betrayed partner. She goes on to cite Michael Vincent Miller from Intimate Terrorism “We have grown careless with one another’s lives to an unprecedented degree, more willing to take each other for granted, more able to destroy one another on almost any pretext of meeting a need, from wanting sex to wanting someone else’s Nike Basketball shoes.”
All the OW really gets is the married man’s non-exclusive dick. She offers low maintenance appeal to the man which is “a direct result of the restricted nature of the relationship – not what she’d tolerate in a committed relationship”. But I wonder if this is true. What wouldn’t Pig Shit tolerate in a committed relationship? Would she really expect more? Why can’t Pig shit establish a long-term relationship? Is it because she allows men to treat her like shit, so they do?
How about the jealousy, knowing that your lover is going home to his wife? Rosewarne says that “for most of the time I simply saw her as the cause of his problems and my impediment to being with him.” She pretended she didn’t exist and boxed out the woman who was being betrayed. “In my case, not thinking about their sex life had nothing to do with a fear that I might be affecting a happy relationship. In fact, it had nothing to do with alleviating guilt at all; it was simply about alleviating my pain.” Rosewarne is searingly honest about her affair. There is neither romance or glamour in the narrative. She, like Gilbert suggests that the man is seeking not better than his wife, just different.
The lying and deceit of the married man is also rationalised away. “Although the clandestine relationship is built upon her lover’s betrayal of his wife, the OW is unlikely to imagine he may also be betraying her – that his relationship with his wife might be more emotionally and sexually satisfying, as well as more frequent than he lets on.”
I keep coming back to the notion of desperation as the only understandable motivation for being the OW. “Perhaps the self-esteem of the OW is so impaired that she is content that any man is interested in her and instead of construing the relationship as abusive, accepts it as ‘as good as she will get’.” What if she’s never experienced a loving committed relationship?
For Rosewarne, as for the majority of OW, it did not end well. He left his partner but chose not to be with her. Sadly, she does not regret a minute of it and would, if asked, return to him in a heartbeat. She was entertainment, companionship, sex and conversation for him. She functioned like a second car or holiday home; a pleasure within the illicit encounters but put back in the box afterwards. But this was enough for her!
How many desperate single women are just waiting in the wings until the opportunity presents itself to snare a man? I find my whole relationship with women and with feminism shifting on the sands of adultery. What is it, about women, that allows such hostility towards an unsuspecting and vulnerable wife in the name of sexual liberation and freedom of choice. It’s not good enough to say that the sex doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter to whom? My husband’s sex with Pig Shit’s sex mattered a lot to me. It’s not good enough to say that if he doesn’t think about his wife, why should you. Firstly, you don’t know that he is not thinking about his wife (he’s hardly likely to tell you) and secondly, when did two wrongs ever make a right? Being a single woman is not a deficit model of womanhood. Desperation is not attractive and only sexual in the short-term.
I was never desperate to have my husband stay with me. I asked him to leave when his strangeness became a problem. I did not engage in any ‘pick-me’ dance; I didn’t even know that there was anyone else on the dance floor. Pig Shit offered to buy husband a new bed, get her breasts enhanced (I am well endowed), buy a kitten (we have a cat) and have central heating extended to the room that he would use as an office. He told her there was no hurry. No hurry, because he wanted to come home. He did not want to live with her. She must have luxuriated in the feeling of having won but never realised what she was really competing with – the power of our love, our history and memories, our traditions and our hope for the future. She was not concerned that I did not know about her UNTIL he dumped her. It was then, that her faked indifference to me took the form of hatred. Pig Shit cut me with a million cuts. I guess that in her desperation it made her feel better.
Let me leave you with the words of Laura Tracy from her book; The Secret Between Us; competition among women cited by Rosewarne. It makes for depressing reading but I think it forces us to face the unpalatable truth about ourselves as women.
“The notion of feminist sisterhood often leaves us with an aching sense of distress. It denies what women know: that we can be spiteful, mean and malicious. When we think of each other as sisters, we dwell in the dream of sisterhood… sisterhood is not a dream at all. Sisterhood is painful, incomplete and occasionally humiliating. It is marred by distrust, disapproval, rejection, bitterness, envy, jealousy, despair and hatred.”
As Rosewarne goes on to say; “womanhood in reality is a bitchy, catty, backstabbing dystopia. At the same time, it is a wonderland of closeness and intimacy and the kind of understanding that frequently fails to traverse the sex lines.” Isn’t this so true? I’ve found the blogosphere to be such a wonderland of closeness. Perhaps we are a micro-sisterhood?
Image credits: Cake Crumbs by artur84; Cartoon Character Pig Angry by saphatthachatDownload via freedigitalphotos.net