Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cheating and Abuse

I was pondering about what—and if—I should post any more about abuse. At the same time, I was still mulling over Dr. Oz's recent show (yes, it was still bothering me.) I finally think I've put my finger on why his show impacted me so strongly.

According to the show, 90% of men who cheat claim they do so not because of lack of sex or attraction to a prettier woman, but because they do not feel appreciated at home. Something about that ached like a sore tooth, and I just couldn't stop pushing it around with my figurative tongue. It bothered me partially because "not feel[ing] appreciated" seemingly puts the responsibility on the men: after all, realistically no one can make another person feel anything, and yet it carries the implied assumption that if only the woman had done more in the relationship, the man would not have cheated. In other words, it places blame for cheating squarely on the spouse's shoulders.

Now, why would this be, and why does it bother me so much?

The answer came as I was re-reading a document profiling abusers in custody disputes. It reads, "most batterers do not have an inordinate need for control, but rather feel an inordinate right to control under family and partnership circumstances."

In other words, it is generally not an emotional lack on the part of a batter which drives him to abuse, it is a feeling of entitlement: that for whatever reason, the batterer deserves control.

That is when it came to me: cheating is only another form of abuse.

If a cheater truly felt an emotional lack at home, there are many honest means open to him to deal with that lack. Instead, the cheater uses that supposed emotional lack from his spouse to justify his behavior, to make himself feel entitled to sex with another woman.

Add to that the fact that many cheating men still have sex with their wives, opening them up to sexual disease without disclosing their philandering to them, (a fact which Dr. Oz used to emphasize the importance that every woman be tested for sexually transmitted disease yearly,) and a very ugly and strange picture of emotional and sexual abuse is painted. How disgusting is the concept that a woman who is legally married must fear for her health and safety, let alone that she must carry the responsibility of detecting sexual infidelity?

As a woman who was in an emotionally abusive relationship, I can testify that the last thing I would have done was confront my spouse or tried to determine the truth of his behavior. I didn't want to know. I felt that I was nice, a good wife, by looking the other way and allowing him to repent in his own time.

So I call baloney. 90% of men might claim they cheat because they don't feel appreciated at home, but in reality they are just like abusers. They cheat out of a complicated tangle of low self esteem, a childish inability to accept responsibility, and a sense of entitlement.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dr. Oz and the Science of Cheating: Are Men Worth It?

If this is how men really are, I don't want one.

I don't usually watch Dr. Oz, but a lazy day off contributed to more TV time than normal. I only caught about half the show before I couldn't handle it any more and I switched channels. The topic does seem to be rather out of what I thought were his usual healthy lifestyle tips, however. Basically, the essence of the show was that men cheat for two main reasons: 1) they have a gene that predisposes them to it and 2) they don't feel appreciated at home.

The other crux of conversation was how a woman can tell if her man is lying to her, involving detection of various body language cues, and summed up by claiming that a woman's gut intuition is the best indication, putting responsibility for detection on her. My stomach wrenches literally even now when I think about it. I am surprised by my emotional reaction to this. Normally I can just shake these sorts of shows off my back.

I admit that I am particularly sensitive because of a relationship where I suspected cheating at various times over six years, and looked the other way because I believed that if I only gave him time and space, he would realize his errors on his own. I also believed strongly in making my man feel appreciated, and ripped myself to shreds trying to do just that, with the end result that nothing I gave was enough. He was convinced he was both underappreciated and worthless (a strange dichotomy!) and nothing I had to say on the subject mattered or was even heard by him. I faced many accusations of not being there enough, and so I'd try to "be there" more . . . until there was little "me" left in the "being there."

Add that his "gut intuition" was convinced I was cheating on him, despite his being horribly wrong—a gut intuition which eventually contributed wildly to the destruction of my marriage—and no wonder I have severe reactions to this idea of a suspicious and fact-checking relational climate.

At any rate, I don't normally post this sort of topic here, except that in struggling with this issue I came to something that I thought of some eternal worth.

I feel the Spirit brought to my mind Jacob's speech to his priesthood brethren. Perhaps there is something to the studies Dr. Oz quotes that roughly 54% of men cheat because they have a gene, because they are just naturally more prone to that behavior, (which also brought to mind the online outcry against the tendency of Conference talks to praise women's righteousness.) In verses 31-33, Jacob quotes the Lord as saying,
"For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people . . . because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands. And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people . . . shall come up unto me against the men of my people . . . For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people because of their tenderness, save I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction . . . ."

For nature is no excuse. This is just another iteration of argument that demonstrates the insidiousness of "my genes made me do it" approaches to human behavior. There are many people with a genetic predisposition to anger. This does not mean that murder is okay. And yet, so many people seem to believe that if they have a gene which predisposes them to promiscuity or a host of other traits, that somehow Nature's seal of approval justifies them. And yet, both the Bible and the Book of Mormon teach that nature is unable to receive God . . . in fact, that nature is an enemy to God. Because of the Fall, nature leads to sorrow and sin, rather than lasting pleasure, eternal pleasure.

And, as I struggled with a surprisingly strong cacophony of emotions, I realized that this is part of Satan's great wedge driven between the genders and through families. After all, if most men are unfaithful, and if that is justified in their eyes, what is the point of having men at all? Why should women even bother with men other than on a very limited, physical basis, when their real, emotional needs are ignored and trampled to the ground by them? Why?

Because I have to believe God when He gave the priesthood to men. I have to believe that there are still men out there who honor Him and their priesthood. I cannot believe that God would give His authority to a people so wholly undeserving. There must be men who love Him the way I am learning to love Him—perhaps not perfectly, but wholeheartedly—men who seek the Lord and "take delight in approaching to God". Even if He never leads me to such a man in marriage in this life, I have met a few such men, men who do not look at scientific studies to excuse behavior, but lift their eyes to that Savior who gave them life. I know they exist, and for that, I am grateful. Further, I have to believe that God's promises to me regarding such a marriage will be kept. I may have no evidence of such a relationship for me, but I have faith.

And faith trumps Dr. Oz and all the studies in the world.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Valentines Day for Singles

Last year, Valentine's Day was nearly one week after I had been attacked by my spouse. Although, by this time, I had begun to recover (speaking of emotionally, as I had no physical wounds), I was still having bouts of uncontrollable trembling. I suppose that on some level, I knew that the worst was still ahead of me. Needless to say, I had things on my mind besides valentines.

Now, almost a year later, the fear comes less often, and I find myself wanting to reach out and tell the people I care about how much they have meant to me in this past year, especially since many of them are also single. I think that, perhaps, it has taken a deep betrayal of love for me to treasure genuine love and caring, and know how to genuinely love and care.

I imagine this is what is meant when the Lord teaches that by tasting bitterness, we learn to prize what is sweet and good. After some time suffering outside of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve rejoice, saying, "Were it not for our transgression we never should have . . . known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient." I think I understand a little more how they felt.

Although I was never a fan of Valentine's Day (I still strongly dislike pink), this year it has caused me to reflect on love, and how real love almost always comes bittersweet, through sacrifice. I hope that I will be better able to "comfort those that stand in need of comfort . . . " as a better disciple of He who indelibly demonstrated love, and that I can "bind up the brokenhearted" and bring healing into the lives of those who need the Savior, the way I have been comforted and healed.

And someday, I hope that if I ever have a chance to love a spouse again, that I will be wise because of my experience, and choose to love someone who understands love.

Even if that means he has also learned by experience.

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