The “No Curves” Zone: Love is a Battlefield
The hoopla surrounding the death of Michael Jackson overwhelmed a number of other stories that raise the issue of how love and commitment is defined in today’s world. There were the revelations of Nevada Senator John Ensign’s affair with a campaign aide, and his alleged violation of state and federal laws by placing the woman, her husband and their son on his Senate payroll while the affair was in full swing. Next came South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s affair with a woman in Argentina, his extraordinary press conference, the publishing of personal and intimate letters between the two, and revelations of other affairs that have put Sanford (like Ensign, an early favorite for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination) out on a ledge. Now we have the strange case of Steve McNair, the former professional football player, who was shot by his 20-year old lover in what police are calling a murder-suicide.
Setting aside the political impact of Ensign’s and Sanford’s behavior, and the damage to McNair’s image as a football “hero,” one has to ask: Why would these successful men, who have lived their lives in the public eye and worked hard to cultivate a positive image, act so recklessly? Didn’t these guys learn from the mistakes of others? Gary Hart exhibited this behavior in the 1980′s. Bill Clinton’s legacy is forever linked with Monica Lewinsky. Imagine what life is like in John Edwards’ house these days!!
Most of my male friends can instantly think of someone they know who has been in this situation. The immediate response is: how could this guy be so stupid? But it’s the next response that often divides men. Believe it or not, 90% of the time it’s not about sex. So what is it about? Is it simply the attention a man gets from another woman? Is it a break from a familiar life that, for all its benefits, feels like it has gotten stale? Is it the thrill (and danger) of “getting over” on your woman, which often makes the”other woman irrelevant? Is monogamy just too hard? In the case of Jon and Kate Gosselin, another couple that (thankfully) receded from the headlines, if it is true that Jon was seeing another woman, I suspect he was looking for the chance to simply get a word in edgewise.
Often a man’s straying is seen as part of a “mid-life crisis,” but I think that’s too simplistic. The calendar surely plays a role in the equation, but all those other factors that are part of a man’s self-image and self-worth have to be considered. There’s no laundry list for this. Even if there was, women know most of us don’t follow directions well.
A tip for you ladies — we actually think about this stuff. Sometimes we talk about it with our close male friends, or it becomes the topic of the day at the barber shop. Some of us find ourselves in these situations, although the majority of us don’t. We may fantasize about it, but the reality is we love the women in our lives, and can’t think of too many good reasons to screw up what we have worked hard for.
But, here’s the weird part — we don’t need a good reason to screw it up! Ask Mark Sanford or John Ensign. Ask Steve McNair’s wife and family. Just don’t expect to get a good answer.