The Tiger Woods affairs and his confessed sense of entitlement have revved up an ugly old myth: “if I’m not satisfying my man, he’ll look elsewhere.” Low level, anxiety-provoking brain chatter for many women goes likes this: “Keep the sex lively, or at least frequent, or he’ll stray. He’s only a man. Men have needs. My man’s needs are my job.”
The pressure of this expectation can be as tight around the loins as too tight control top pantyhose. (I love the line from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” The mother of the bride shrieks to her sister, heading to the store to buy pantyhose. “But not queen size. They make me look fat!”) The expectation that a good woman satisfies her man leads right into blaming the woman if her man has an affair.
When couples show up in the therapist’s office after he has committed a Tiger, inevitably he is penitent about straying and she is equally penitent about neglecting him. Nearly 100% of the time, in her head the “shoulds” and “if onlys” abound. “I should have enjoyed sex more.” “If only I was less tired.” This puts men into the category of one more person women need to take care of –and/or police. Not equal partners in a relationship, both committed to preserving that imperfect union.
This blaming stance is an outdated view. Personal responsibility comes first. If either party is dissatisfied with how needs are met — or not –in the relationship, it is that individual’s job to address the problem in the relationship. Problem= no sex? Not enough sex? Not the right kind of sex? Talk about it together. No emotional connection? Feeling neglected, secondary to kids or other life demands? Solve it within the context of the relationship.
In Tiger’s apology last week, he rightly claimed total responsibility for his behavior. When cheating occurs, physical or emotional, it is the sole responsibility of the cheater. Not the wounded party. Women need not blame themselves if the problem was never offered up as something to solve. No blame game. (See caveat #2.)
Differentiate sins of omission from sins of commission. He strayed because he made a bad decision about how to solve his unhappiness or his horniness–NOT because she was too busy, too tired, or too angry for sex. The cheater made a choice and wasn’t “driven to it.” A couple may need to solve underlying issues, but responsibility for the transgression still falls with the cheater.
Caveat #1: The above assumes an unfaithful “he,” because women frequently fall into blaming themselves if their significant other strays. I don’t know how commonly men blame themselves if she cheats. Women are unfaithful in lesser percentages than men.
Caveat #2: Exceptions exist. Sometimes, la Scarlett and Rhett, she banishes him from the bedroom, declaring “I don’t care about sex — or you — just leave me alone.” With this action, it’s arguable that Scarlett has relinquished the right to complain about Belle Watling.
What about women and sex? Why does sex end up last on the list? Tune into the next blog for an exploration.