"She loves another. She thinks it is you."

When better than Valentine's Day to discuss adultery? Belladonna Rogers at PJ Media ran a column last week about whether an adulterer should make a clean breast of things to his/her spouse. Honestly, I don't know. I'm inclined to think, as I commented there, that you can camouflage part of yourself, but you can't replace it with something real. So your spouse will detect the blank, dead spot without necessarily knowing what's wrong. I suspect the dead spot is more dangerous than the adultery.

In today's follow-up column, Ms. Rogers holds to her original advice that confession is merely self-indulgent and cruel to the wronged spouse. Checking again on last week's comments, I found this very thoughtful one:

[To] carry off an affair, [the adulterer who started this discussing by asking Rogers for advice] had to feel entitled to this misbehavior. To what does he feel entitled? Not all entitlements are bad. He might feel entitled to be swept away by a grand passion. He might feel entitled to lots of worshipful attention. He might feel entitled to more sex. He might feel entitled to stress relief. Who knows? It’s worth asking, framed that way -- to what does this man feel entitled, enough to violate the terms of one of the very few vows he’s made in his life. Seriously -- we watch vows from Crusaders, and comic book avengers, and nuns and scarlett o’hara’s calorie count . . . but we only make one or two in our life. What sort of entitlement makes it easy to disregard that vow?

Sinner is also in thrall to some particular bad ideas in circulation. Love conquers all, love excuses all, I couldn’t help myself, affairs are sexy, while married love is boring . . . who knows? It’s all on sale in hollywood, so there’s a chance the guy is just a sucker for pop-culture. He might want to consider what influences he succumbed to. Did he go looking? “Dear penthouse letters. . . . I never thought it could happen to me . . . .” I think it’s kind of funny, b/c what I get out of it is nearly an animist belief that the whole world is one pulsing orgasmic reality slightly covered with clothes and manners. If he keeps the attitudes, without examining them -- he might think he’s enslaved to the boring woman and has heroically given up wildly satisfying sex, sacrificed any possibility of his own happiness . . . it’s worth checking, to see what he thought about all of this . . . .

. . . The pain is realizing that [your wronged wife is] in love with a different man -- the good man you might have been. You are experiencing, possibly, a form of jealousy: she loves another. She thinks it is you. That’s a poetic form of justice, don’t you think?

Why not fit his face onto yours, and pretend to be him? A good, honorable, decent, loyal, faithful man. At some point, the mask might become true, and your smaller, meaner, more selfish self will have crawled into a corner, to not be appreciated, or see the light of day in all his meagre dragony glory. To be unknown, as you sought to reveal yourself, you must admit, is a sort of punishment. To not be accepted just as you are, as incontinent, weak, helpless . . . it’s every infant’s nightmare. you’ve just dressed it up in grownup clothes.

Your wife loves another man. You could have been him, but you aren’t. That’s the burden you are trying to cast off -- you’re jealous of him, the one she knows and loves . . . .

Don’t confess, and kill the other, honorable man. Behave as if he were you. You are his doppelganger. Do him proud, Joseph Conrad tough-man proud. You’ll have the chance to grow to be honorable.

10 comments:

Bob said...

Yes, let's! Good post.

Grim said...

Back when we were first married, my then-new wife gave me direct instructions on this subject. She would not mind, she said, if I had an affair; only, I was to make sure she never found out about it. If there was something I needed I wasn't getting from her, she wouldn't ask that I live without it; but she would ask that the adultery never came home.

My wife is a very honest woman, so I trust that she seriously believed that she meant every word of that. I always doubted, however, that it would really prove to be true if put to the test.

There's something to be said for pretending to be the man you want to be, until the day you find that you've become him. If it does not come earlier, that day will be the day after you're dead, since at that point only the man you pretended to be will be left -- his deeds, and public words, in the memory of those whom he touched.

Nevertheless I believe, as the Bible says, 'confess yourselves to each other.' It may be that confessing to your priest is enough, as the article suggests; but I have always wanted my wife to know my heart.

bthun said...

Sage advice in this post.

To honor, to swearing the oath of fealty, and to then upholding one's oaths for as long as one lives.

Grim said...

Fealty is a two-way relationship, whether it is the fealty of a knight and his lord, or the fealty of a knight and his lady. It is ultimately a relationship of mutual support. Sometimes the knight rides out to defend his lord; sometimes he calls upon his lord to come to help him against an aggressor.

This is the way love works too. Sometimes we are strong, and protect or defend our lady; and sometimes we need her to support us. That is why I think honesty is the best path here: taking it all on yourself, even in cases of adultery, is likely to lead to collapse. It may be harder on her to know, but only if you trust her enough to tell her can she help you.

There will be times when you need her help -- maybe never more than in these matters.

bthun said...

"Fealty is a two-way relationship..."

Indeed it is.

"There will be times when you need her help ..."

I never appreciated that truth as much as I did after I became, ah, busted up.

As I mentioned initially, there is much wisdom in your post, but I would expect no less at The Hall.

karrde said...

Ya'know, I grew up with the traditional morality of marriage hammered into me by my parents. It took, mostly...in the formula of vices to be avoided.

However, it never took the form seen here. The statement that virtue and honor are challenges to live up to.

I prefer this formulation. The life of virtue is a thing to be pursued.

Pursuing virtue means avoiding vice; but pursuit of virtue is a positive goal. Avoidance of vice is a negative goal.

karrde said...

[NOTE TO SELF:
it looks like you are trying to speak ill of your own parents...perhaps they figure you were smart enough to understand the pursuit of virtue on your own.]

Grim said...

I'm sure they'd be proud to realize they have a son who has both grasped the nature of virtue, and for whom the preservation of their honor is no small matter. Well done. :)

MikeD said...

I have long maintained that the best way to avoid having to lie to my wife is to not have anything to lie to her about. I am always completely honest with her; partly out of necessity (since I'm a terrible liar) and mostly out of the fact that if I cannot be honest with my better self (her) then what good am I as a person (much less, a man). I made a vow in front of family, friends, and my deity to love, honor and cherish her, forsaking all others. It's actually only the second vow I ever made (to the best of my memory), and I've managed to keep to both of them quite well (the other being the Oath of Enlistment). I cannot imagine the pain I would cause her were I to have an affair, and I do my utmost to prevent causing her pain. Thus, it's pretty easy for me to resist temptations. When in doubt, think of her.

Texan99 said...

I appreciated the commenter's point that to lie to your intimate other is to choose to be unknown as you really are, in the relationship where that should be most important. "It’s every infant’s nightmare. you’ve just dressed it up in grownup clothes." The commenter takes that to be poetic justice, which it surely is, but much better not to go there at all.