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Dr. Susan vs. Dr. Laura: Surviving Infidelity

Another week, another interesting set of beliefs by Dr. Laura. This week, we actually sort of agree. In the big picture. But the devil is in the details, right? The topic: infidelity. This is taken from Dr. Laura’s blog, which I would advise staying away from in general unless you have a strong stomach.

Dr. Laura
Dr. Laura: living a life made possible by feminism, and then bitching about feminists.

The gist of Dr. Laura’s blog post is that infidelity is on the rise; somehow when it is done by a woman it is gross and the male partner is a sad sad victim who is a hero, and when it is done by the man, it is the woman’s job to forgive! Forgive! Forgive! Also, just so we’re on the same page, families are falling apart because of feminism.

I know, big surprise.

Let’s jump right into the blog post. Because it is a blog post, I am not going to post the entire thing, but rather, important excerpts.

Did you know approximately 3% of all kids are the product of infidelities? A lot of the time, the dads don’t even know. Most of these kids are unknowingly raised by men who are not their bio-dads but they are going to be their fathers, if everything holds together. Interestingly, yet sadly, infidelity is becoming more common among people under 30 and many experts believe this increase in cheating is due to greater opportunity and young people developing the habit of having sexual partner after sexual partner after sexual partner. That gets to be a habit too.

“Most of these kids are unknowingly raised by men who are not their bio-dads” is questionable, at best. I tried to find statistics, and the best I could find was 1.7% of those who believe strongly that they are the biological father of their children are not. It would be nice if Laura would back up her speculations.

Speaking of not-backed-up speculations, here’s an expert who “believe[s] this increase in cheating” is due to a world where it’s safer for women to talk about infidelity, instead of some bullshit theory of slutiness begetting sluttiness. Here’s another one. There is definitely something to be said for women entering the workplace and having more access to other people, and so having more opportunity to cheat. Despite what Dr. Laura’s disdain would lead us to believe, though, increased access to other people is a good thing. A marriage doesn’t become happy just because one person has limited ability to express their unhappiness.

There is something about this paragraph that sets the hair up on the back of my neck. Something about the poor, poor husbands who are duped, and the mild slut-shaming; the rest of her blog post is about moving past infidelity, so the start of it feels very judgmental.

Emotionally, it is possible to have feelings for more than one person at a time. But pragmatically, you can’t be loving two people at one time.

Bullllllllshit. Bullshit. Bullllllshit. Look, I don’t consider myself to be well-versed in the idea of open marriages, and academia doesn’t have a lot to offer in the way of studies. But there are some studies, and preliminary research is showing that it is pragmatically possible to be loving two people at the same time.

[M]any couples are able to recover and most of the time develop an even stronger relationship.

This is where, shockingly, Dr. Laura and I agree. I don’t see physical infidelity as the end of the world. Am I allowed to say that out loud? Am I begging to be cheated on if I do? I just don’t see how, if I love somebody, and they make a mistake, that necessarily means that That Is The End No More Goodbye. If you can be with somebody for 50 years, and there is a physical indiscretion or two, isn’t that”¦ pretty impressive?

But we disagree fundamentally on the details. I tend to forgive people for all sorts of things, because I want to believe the best about people. Except, apparently, about Dr. Laura, who makes my blood boil. Dr. Laura thinks forgiveness is the right thing because, duh. You’re married. And marriage is FOREVER OR ELSE.

What makes the difference between those who can get past it and those who can’t? Early on in the relationship, was the quality of the relationship really, really, really good? I don’t mean way in the beginning when you both were just ga-ga, but for years was it good? If that’s a “yes” then we can lean on that. “We were once like that.” If we don’t have a time like that, it’s less likely the relationship’s going to work.

And here is where I admit that Dr. Laura is right.

The first thing you should ask when you go to a marriage counselor is how many times they’ve been divorced or what percentage of their clients get divorced after marriage counseling, because it’s important to know that.

But not too right. Because it’s possible to be good at your job and your personal life has nothing to do with it.

Disrespect – One obvious reason they’re cheating is because when you were dating there was cheating and you forgave it. When you were engaged there was cheating and you forgave it. When you first got married there was cheating and you forgave it. When you had your first kid there was cheating and… need I say more? Because when you repetitively forgive a cheater, that person now respects you less – they know they can get away with it, you’ll continue to take them back.

Wait. What? Isn’t she advocating forgiveness? But now she’s saying that if you forgive, then you will get less respect, and then they will do it again, and so it’s your fault that they cheated because you forgave them? But you should forgive them anyway? Dr. Laura, you make my head hurt.

But here’s the kicker: when you get to that point and you’re willing to acknowledge what’s inside your head, heart and life, you really need to work with your spouse as a team. “How can we approach this?” That gives the victim a sense of power and participation. It’s very good when you start becoming a team.

In the end, Dr. Laura’s advice this time is not terrible. Infidelity happens, and it sucks. It’s not because women are slutty sluts who joined the workforce and then got even sluttier, but if you can get past that, she raises some good points. It is possible to get past infidelity. The question that should be asked, though, is not “how can I fix this?” but “how can we fix it, and is it something that is worth fixing?” If two people can work together towards healing, and a relationship is worth the trouble that it takes to heal, everybody can move forward, maybe even together.

By Susan

I am old and wise. Perhaps more old than wise, but once you're old, you don't give a shit about details anymore.

14 replies on “Dr. Susan vs. Dr. Laura: Surviving Infidelity”

I definitely think there should great exploration of how we see our monogamy. I’d like to think I would be able to overlook infidelity, but there are still so many power things that play into infidelity that’s it’s difficult to separate how we react to it to how our genders are constructed in society.

I think we may have talked about it before co-editrix Lawton, but has anyone here read Sex at Dawn? It’s a look of the biological / anthropological / cultural roots of marriage, sex drive, and infidelity. It can be problematic and stray into the “noble savage” stereotype, but it is an interesting read on the way constructs play against our “nature” (loosely speaking).

To me infidelity comes down to being defined as your relationship, your rules. Thats a hard line to walk for many reasons, but there are folks out there who go into marriage knowing they cant just sleep with one person and are open about it (Margaret Cho and her husband are a great example). Infidelity is also not just about cheating, but just being emotionally honest and telling each other what you need. Not doing so creates a power imbalance. Does that make any sense (I’m on my first cup of coffee) Point being, no one can define infidelity but the couple at hand.

Anyway, this slutty slut slut just saw her slut signal go off in the sky (a giant dildo) and is off to her slutty job. Slut powers activate!

I don’t think I could possibly love you more.  I want to read Sex at Dawn – there are so many things that I want to read, and haven’t managed to find the time.  That is one of them, and it’s high on the list.

Infidelity would be a dealbreaker for me (and for Mr. Donovan, too, for that matter). I just know myself too well…I wouldn’t ever fully get over it, and I wouldn’t be doing him any favors by trying to keep things together while always resenting him for it. Maybe that makes me a bad, unforgiving person, but at least I’m a self-aware bad, unforgiving person.

Well, you’re nice (as always). It’s not the same as marriage, of course, but in college, I cheated on a boyfriend and we wound up staying together. He didn’t really forgive me, although he had the best of intentions, and he wound up subtly punishing me in different ways, again and again. It would have been so much better for both of us if we’d made a clean break.

I don’t think folks go to Dr. Laura for advice, they go to her to validate their terrible feelings. That said, I agree that her advice here isn’t going to ruin anyone’s life and may come from more of a common sense place than her default of trying to make people who make different choices than Dr. Laura would feel like shit.

Regardless, I’m glad to live in a time where there is more than just Dr. Laura’s viewpoint in the world.

Yea, nevermind the casual racism/sexism/homophobia that she pawns off like a bad radio, but is not advice that challenges you or that you can grow from. Advice, though freely given, can only be taken if it offers some value in solving a problem, not cementing your tiny world view.

True story: my mom used to listen to Dr. Laura in the car when I was young and yell at the radio. I figured it was good therapy/stress relief after coming home from a  crappy job and perhaps without the internet and 24 our news channels, we had yet to live in a world where asinine and ignorance was freely peddled.

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