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May 30, 2003 - Image 69

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-05-30

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they'd never considered having an affair.
But if I said, "What do you think of
The Bridges of Madison County?" they'd
say, "What a wonderful love story."
The faces we wear and the lives we
lead aren't always in sync. A few
women told me they made certain to
have sex with their husbands the same
night they'd seen their lover, which I
thought was interesting.
Hooper: Isn't the thrill of living dan-
gerously part of the allure of affairs?
Glass: Yes. And when people leave
their marriages, and the relationship's
in the light of day, a lot of the passion
disappears. The divorce rate for second
marriages is about 60 percent, higher
than for first marriages, but for people
who marry their affair-partner, it's the
worst: 75 percent.
Hooper: But some of the women in
your book, Susan, aren't in any hurry
to marry their lovers. They like having
a husband and a lover.
Barash: I see women today deciding to
have affairs the way they decide to go
back to school or get a job or have a
baby: If you don't get what you need
completely from marriage, you go and
get it from a lover.
In my study, lovers and husbands
are always opposites. If you're married
to a brain surgeon, you want a stud on
a motorcycle.
Glass: Right. It's a chance to take on a
different role. For me, the sad thing is
that if people brought that part of
themselves into their marriage, their
spouses would probably be delighted
to see it — the free, loving part — or
the striving part. Or whatever it is.
Barash: Well, women get so stereo-
typed as wives and mothers that they
can't feel sexy. They'll say, "I felt like
my husband appreciated me and it
was really romantic. By the time we
had three children, he was wearing
this dirty green robe, and I was too
tired to even look in his direction.
"Then I met this man, and he made
me feel so terrific. And I look in the
mirror, and I'm 35 or 40, and I won-
der — how many good years am I
going to have left? Three hours in a
hotel room can be pretty thrilling."
Hooper: Are you building a case that
women have more of a right to have
affairs than men?
Barash: No, but I am saying that
affairs often have some value, whether
or not you think they're right morally.
Hooper: I don't imagine you'd look on
a middle-aged guy falling for some
pretty young thing with the same
empathy.

Barash: I'd say we're all human. But
what I identify with is how women
feel in our society — what it's like to
be raised to be good daughters, good
wives, good grandmothers, and then
you die. Now, we get lots of choices.
Glass: Women sometimes think they
have to sneak into the alley to be
somebody different.
Barash: That's exactly what I'm saying.
Glass: But I don't think they do.
Women need to find a way to experi-
ence all of their wildness, their fan-
tasies, in marriage. Nobody goes to
work and just thinks that by showing
up, they're gonna be successful. You
have to be creative and put some ener-
gy into the relationship that you were
once so passionate about.
Hooper: At the end of the day, isn't
there still what Freud called a "libidi-
nal deficit"? We can't get everything
we want from one person.
Glass: So maybe we have to lower our
expectations, without cheating. And
maybe there's a sense of loss in that, of
grieving. What we gain compensates
in some ways — but not totally.
Men feel this much earlier in mar-
riage. Women are usually very happy
with the idea of getting married, while
men are thinking, "What am I giving
up?" Women get to that existential
issue later.
Barash: Yes. By the time the wife is
ready to embark on an affair, often her
husband has grown pretty complacent,
comfortable with the marriage. And
she's just wanting to spread her wings.
Glass: This whole issue of excitement
bothers me. People who have a need
for excitement are people who are
empty inside — depressed — and
with an affair, the adrenalin is pump-
ing so hard that, temporarily, they
don't have to deal with whatever
they're actually depressed about.
Barash: Maybe. But by the time a
woman embarks upon an affair, there's
something really missing from her
marriage. And in my research, it's not
just women in cities having affairs. It's
women. And every time I read the
Kinsey Report or some study with low
figures for female infidelity, I think
women are just lying — I really do.
Hooper: Well, 300 years ago, a
woman might be burned at the stake
or stoned for having sex outside mar-
riage. They still are, in some places.
Barash: It's been a hard, long haul for
women. How can you completely con-
demn them for doing what men were
always allowed to do? ❑

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