Sunday, October 03, 2010

My Generation

For better or for worse, the new TV show, My Generation, is canceled.

As it turns out, this is a tremendous sociological coup for everyone, the cancellation of My Generation, a show marketed by ABC in such a way that a person of acute sensitivities and sensibilities did not need to see.

Watching the show was not on my to-do list, did not make it to Google Alert, did not even rate a  'don't forget to record this one' on a napkin, but someone told me it was already legend, had a huge following, which I guess, in the end, it did not.

A couple of weeks ago I took a walk and passed a bus stopped at a stop light.  And on that bus,  splashed across the entire length of the vehicle, drawing one's eye in such a way that nobody can look anywhere else but, is an advertisement that hypnotizes in the way that the Calvin Klein underwear ads once did, perhaps need not anymore. The riders, human faces of all sorts, excellent faces, staring at us or into Iphones only a foot above the ad, framed in cloudy but in the right light, decipherable glass, are insignificant. (This is a process statement for those of you who study process in your family therapy or psychology classes, laced with content for those who ventral process).

The enormous face on the ad, in a knowing pout, is a seductive brunette.  
You may have his hand, but I have his heart.
The caption is a glorification of the art of seduction, validation that partner-capture is okay, indeed it  is a competition, who knew, and may the best woman (sure, it has to be a woman, perhaps the networks first mistake) win.

Nobody could like this I'm thinking, knowing that that's not true..

But, you might think, if a person is in a good marriage, rests comfortably in a safe, secure, supportive relationship, the best of all possible s-words, and the r-word, why then, how can, a bimbo, threaten this? More to the point, why be sickened by a media event that explores relationships like this? Shouldn't someone draw attention to the fact that all marriages are vulnerable because people are human? 


There are marriages that are secure and solid, safe, the rubber bands so thick that the literal death of a mate does not affect the integrity of the relationship, not in the mind of the survivor. And then there are the rest.

It is the rest that we need to talk about, if only for awhile, and no, we're not going into everything, not even talking about abusive partners who cheat and brag about it, or mentally torture, or suffer huge character deficits (AA language) or as we way in the biz, personality disorders that will take forever to turn around.

When one partner opens the marriage, even covertly, with no intention of hurting the other, perhaps, for this is usually the case, but the other finds out, for the other inevitably will find out, there is permission, a big fat letter from an unapproachable court, no appeal,  a din, (Hebrew, rhymes with tin) a judgment, that this is something that we do in this relationship, we have sex with others. The seemingly irreparable crack is reparable, but the scar remains.

And when the extra-marital relationship has petered out, the other woman, the other man gone, the thrill, the glitter in abatement, the fissure might still fizz, crackle, and the jury is out, if either partner will now feel free to indulge in extra-marital relations, for this is only beginning, a new marital norm, and sometimes there's no stopping this boulder of a rolling stone.

You may have his hand, but I have his heart?! #


The Post Script:  The truth is that most marriages survive infidelity, with or without therapy, and some defined as open marriages seem to work out quite happily.  We're dying to hear more about these.  It is the subject of much hard work in marital therapy, repairing relationships that have cracked under the strain of too many intimates, and it only takes about a year for both partners to feel that the marriage is on the mend, barring those severe character defects mentioned above, and a lack of desire to change them.


Ms. Adventuress said...

Gah. Devastation, these things cause. But it's a beautiful person who wants to self-analyze and take the steps to ensure they never again hurt another in such a way. I applaud them.

Anonymous said...

I would like to exchange links with your site
Is this possible?

lynette said...

therapydoc, the marriages that "recover", do they really? i have known other women (my mother included) who stayed in a marriage where infidelity happened (on the husband's part) at least once. the marriages did not recover -- they simply became a new "normal" that for one reason or another was acceptable to the woman (whose self-esteem, i would argue, was in the gutter).

my abusive husband i recently discovered was soliciting sex on craigslist, and had engaged in sexual activities that he took pictures of with his phone and left lying around where the kids and i could find them. i kicked him out, got a lawyer. when he started threatening about money, i filed for divorce to freeze assets. this is not the kind of thing one recovers from, i don't think. he calls me at least every other day to scream at me about how all this is my fault. i try to get the support i need and be strong and civil to him for my kids.

i am afraid that not only can this marriage not ever recover, but that the damage done is severe enough that future relationships are not possible. all the support in the world is not helping me feel like i am not drowning.

i just don't believe a relationship ever heals from such a betrayal. it just changes into something different, even if the two people stay together.

therapydoc said...

Now that is traumatic, and of course you wouldn't get over it, and makes me think I'd better edit the post, ASAP. The fact is, it isn't the infidelity, it is the person, and you don't have to sign up to keep a person who is abusive and insensitive. Therapy addresses abuse and insensitivity and works if those who are guilty of such systematic aggression sincerely want to be different.

That said, personality is very hard to change, and the want has to be more on the order of longing, real contrition, insight. And that can and will likely take longer than a year.

Syd said...

I think that it is hard to regain trust once lost. But it can be regained. The amends process, which is a change in behavior, is something that I know can work. In alcoholic relationships, we hurt each other with a million little cuts and sometimes huge gashes. Trust is lost. But eventually, one can venture forth again to be open and loving, albeit on guard somewhat, but with commitment to the relationship.

Atay said...

"You may have his hand, but I have his heart" sounds to me like someone who is afraid to have both, and idolizes the better one.

Cat said...

Why else would they choose someone who's hand was already taken?;)

Mound Builder said...

This is hard to talk about and I feel a little uneasy about it as it is clear that there is a lot of judgement about people who get involved with someone else. It is clear that a majority of people see this in a very black and white way and I guess there are relatively few issues that are like that to me, though one that comes to mind is that emotional abuse and child abuse and physical abuse are wrong. There are others. But here goes and let the judgements begin. I've been married for a little more than 30 years. I had an emotional affair, a relationship, if you will, that was not ever consummated but was a loving relationship and mattered to me a lot at the time. My children were fairly young and I had not been working, was instead staying home with my children, had not really had a solid career path at that point. This was about 18 years into my marriage. Leaving my marriage didn't seem like an option because I didn't know how I would support myself, let alone taking care of my children. But, I was emotionally starving to death in my marriage. I kept trying to make a meal of emotional crumbs. This is not because my husband is a bad human being, nor is it that he is abusive, he is not, let me say that emphatically. Nonetheless, for reasons I did not understand, the depth I had supposed would come with time, the growing closeness I thought would be a part of a long term marriage, gradually and over time, just hasn't ever come. I did not understand what was wrong. part two coming as my message is too long.

Mound Builder said...

part two of my response:

The other person, the person I felt drawn to and who felt drawn to me, was somewhat older and in a marriage also, one that had grown distant for the two of them. I think he was emotionally starving to death, too. And he was of a slightly different generation, one far less likely to divorce so he had stayed for many years. At the time, that relationship was like finally getting enough to eat and drink when I'd been starving for so long. I'm hardly some vampy seductress who only cares about "holding his heart" or stealing someone else's man. I eventually ended the relationship because I felt a need to stay married and finish raising my children. And the other person, the man, eventually moved back to his home town with his wife to take care of his parents and to retire. And I eventually delivered a kind of ultimatum to my husband, told him that I needed more depth, as I'd been saying in one way or another for a long time. He said he couldn't be that person but rather reluctantly agreed to go to a therapist, something I'd been doing for quite some time. My husband went to his therapist and then quit, without telling me, though I eventually figured it out. But what I also eventually came to understand is that it is pretty probable that my husband is someone with Asperger's or possibly schizoid (distinctly different from being schizophrenic) and he really doesn't have the capacity to connect emotionally with someone, not in a relationship as intimate as a marriage, though certainly not an unkind person. I married fairly young, had never even heard of any such thing as Asperger's, didn't really know about autism in general when I married at 22. So I didn't really know what it was that I would have to deal with, nor how hungry I would get over the years. And to this day I'm kind of stuck at this point, married to someone who is not unkind but with whom it is hard to be close, very hard. He knows that about himself, I think, has stated that he knows he has problems with intimacy. And the thing is, this problem is one that pervades everything about the relationship, including the sexual part. I'm not sure what other people expect out of marriage, sometimes it seems as if many or even most of the women I know are interested in having a husband because they want a fix it guy, a handy man, someone to help with the household stuff. Over the years I've yearned for some warmth, conversation, a loving attitude, the things it seems to me that a marriage ought to contain. So there you have it in a nutshell, the not black and white world of why people might get involved with someone else. Like I said, let the judgements begin. I hear them all the time, as if people are certain there is only one reason someone will connect with another human being and that it has to be because they are some sort of "evil" person, some sort of tempting seductress who gets off on having that power or control over a man. Sometimes it's because people get really hungry and there is no easy solution but we still all need to be able to feel warmth somehow, to connect with another human being and marriage is like a long long journey. If you didn't pack enough food you can starve to death.

Happy walker said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

@Mound Builder....I cannot judge you and will not judge I have been in the same place. And the infidelity was triggered by the same emotional starvation. I too thought over time, we would become closer, deeper and better known to one another. The opposite happened. Also, the roles started to reverse, with me becoming the primary earner AND the super mom. And disparity breeds contempt. Then, a new man offered an emotional banquet, HEARD me and ACTED. On impulse he traveled across international borders to come to me. And fed in me something long ago withered and thought was a generous gift, given without demand or conditions. And it made me see all that I was losing in a marriage to someone largely ABSENT. When you have but ONE squander it on someone who does not appreciate it is a shame. I chose to leave. Not for the man who came for me but for myself. And choosing myself over the marriage generated the same rage and fury as if I had gone and shacked up with a new lover.

Mound Builder said...

@ Anonymous, I appreciate your story. I feel no sense of judgement about what others do. I know a number of people, most of them women, who've admitted to having affairs. Not a one of them seems to have fit this mold of some sort of seductress triumphantly "having his heart". A few men I've known have also admitted to having affairs, sometimes lasting a number of years, and typically because they feared that leaving their marriage would mean losing access to their children, and sometimes staying in what sounded like truly miserable, unhappy relationships, trying to make it work through therapy. And those few men who have admitted what they did are hardly don juans out trying to score just to satisfy their own egos. I don't doubt that it harms a marriage when someone strays. It also harms a marriage when one or both people in the marriage are destructive to each other and are either incapable of or unwilling to change.

lynette said...

i am not here to pass judgment on anyone -- we are all human, with human needs and desires and urges and yearnings. we all make choices and have to live with the consequences of those choices.

i have been in a 16 year marriage (18+ year relationship) that has been terribly unhappy from day one. i focused on trying to connect with and understand my husband, and on raising my kids. it took years, YEARS, to be brought to a traumatic realization that he did not care enough, if at all.

i am someone who first and foremost believes in integrity and honesty and honor and truth and kindness and compassion. if he did not want to be in the marriage, i wish he would have just left instead of treating me like total crap and making me feel it was all my fault, and THEN cheating on me in a way where he deliberately went looking for sex in a systematic way, leaving photographic evidence lying around. while i raised our kids, worked full-time, managed all the care for our chronically-ill daughter, and took care of him, the house, our finances, our lives. he behaved like a self-entitled, bratty 15 year old.

i too have been exceedingly lonely, i yearn for someone to touch me, to respect me, to want to hear what i have to say. but i also believe that you finish one thing before starting another, and i owed it to the family i helped create to give it my best effort. the damage you leave behind cheating on someone you have promised fidelity to, security to, is not WORTH it. if you are that unhappy that you cannot make the choice NOT to cheat, then GET OUT especially if you have kids. sooner or later, they will find out, and you don't want that damage and trauma on your back. you can't be in one relationship and say you are trying to make it work if your foot is in another.

therapydoc said...

Oh, blogger. Where did my comment go? I apologize, I dud respond, at length, from my phone, and it appears to be lost. Be patient, I'll get back on this.

therapydoc said...

I think what I wanted to say was that it's all about the honesty, not the stepping outside the relationship, and how to ease the pain of abandonment. At least if there's honesty, a partner can trust that what the other one says is true, even if what they hear is painful. Then coping with the abandonment anxiety, a process, begins.

lynette said...

therapydoc, i don't know if honesty is really the ultimate for me. some things i honestly don't want to know about :) however, i will say that lying and intentionally deceiving someone that trusts and has faith in you to honor a commitment engenders more than fears of abandonment. the pain of betrayal is more than a fear of abandonment, no? so many other character traits come into play, things that i personally respect -- commitment, trust, responsibility, honesty, love, respect. i have not been afraid that my husband would leave me -- he would not be honest with me about his wanting out of the marriage, and still blames it all on me -- i have been afraid that i carry the burden of all the unhappiness in the marriage, and that his words have been true, that it is my fault, the abuse. i would rather he would have left than make me be the one who had to end it, his disrespect and his anger and his treatment of me was far worse than any abandonment -- i would have been better off if he had left. i don't think i am making myself clear. i do believe honesty is important. i believe that being involved in two relationships is dishonest. it takes a heck of a person to hang in there and suffer through the betrayed partner's pain and anger and lack of trust. you might as well end one thing before you start another. stepping outside the relationship is dishonest right from the start. far better for everyone. and yes, i guess that is honest :)

therapydoc said...

Lynette, it's about time I did another post on anger in marriage. No matter how many times we talk about it, I feel there's still more to say.