Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Not So Fast

I'm not sure I have anything useful to add when it comes to discussing the extra-marital affairs of Tiger Woods. The whole wide world has been writing and talking about him, and I will say I am now officially bored. (I'd rather talk about actor Meredith Baxter, Alex Keaton's "Mom" on sit-com Family Ties, who disclosed the same day Tiger came clean, that she is now officially out as a lesbian. She was afraid to talk on national TV, but did it anyway with Matt Lauer on the Today Show. It turns out she got overshadowed in the media by Tiger's failures, and I'll bet she is glad, glad, glad!)

Three observations about affairs, though:

1.  Affairs are not about sex. They're about chronic anxiety, and people taking that anxious energy out of the marriage (triangling), creating a new relationship that they believe can soothe or contain their emotional muddy water. Affairs don't and can't. 

2. It's very difficult to repair a marriage after a partner stomps all over the intimacy. And that is because affairs are secrets. Intimacy is about clarity, vulnerability and emotional trust; it dies with secrets. Getting that trust back is something only about 50% of the couples who seek therapy after affairs achieve.

3. Affairs are a bit like emotional barometers; they often indicate that a couple's emotional system is stressed and broken. Each partner owns a part of that problem. While the "fault" lies with the one who does the cheating, the repair must come from each partner, looking at his/her own emotional life, and working on the parts they can improve.

We live in a culture that so distorts sexuality it is used to sell everything from cars to bath soap, phones to teen music videos. Why are we so surprised when someone who makes his living by that media culture acts out sexually? We have a part in Tiger's mess. And it's not just that we have put him on a pedestal and are dying to watch him fall.  We have made this sexualized culture, and this is how many people in it dysfunction.



 

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