Beyond Babedom

We're (way) over 40. Deal with it.

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.

This entry was posted on Saturday, July 11th, 2009 at 1:05 AM and is filed under No Curves Zone, Relationships. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  1. Anna Maria says:

    Maybe YOU aren’t going through a mid-life crisis, but the zillions of guys who have wives that “don’t understand” them – forcing them to have affairs with younger women – isn’t just a coincidence. They turn 40 – 50 – 60 and suddenly realize that they aren’t as successful as they thought they’d be (whatever that might mean to them), or they aren’t the center of their wife’s world and, suddenly, the idea of a young, admiring female to look up to them and be impressed by them is just too much to ignore. Come on; we’ve all seen it. The somewhat overweight guy who’s now wearing open necked shirts and gold chains – ugh – and driving a Corvette.

    How many of us know guys who divorce their wives, marry the younger woman, then after a few years, are miserable – and want their wife back (or at least admit they made a big mistake).

    WE may go through menopause – losing a lot of what society values in a woman – but we do it without having to screw around.

  2. David Alexander says:

    Anna Maria,
    None of the examples I gave fit into the “overweight guy in gold chains driving the Corvette” example. Talk about an overworked stereotype!! What about the successful man who, like Mark Sanford, has the support (including financial) support of his wife? What about the man who gets involved not with a young female, but with a woman his age, who just might be a friend/associate of his wife?

    By the way, do you believe that men are FORCED to have affairs?

    I will tread lightly on the menopause question. But don’t women express their frustration over their loss in other was besides “screwing around?”

  3. Melissa says:

    What we have here is simple instinct and Human Nature. Both men and women are hard-wired to expand the gene pool with many sexual partners. Monogamy is not natural; it is socially acquired. However, it is extremely hard to override instinct. Just compare animals’ instinctual territorial battles with our own wars, or efforts for peace.
    In the animal world, adolescent males are usually cast out of the group to fend for their own territory and mates. Witness the lion pride: One male defending his several females and offspring from threats such as other lion males. Our closest genetic relatives in the ape family live their sexual lives in this way. How are we so different? Because we create “values”? There are several reasons “why”, and arguments over “when”, but it has become “natural” for humans to choose one mate for life, trumping instinct.

    Add to this instinctual drive is power, money, and sexual availability. Hell yeah, why wouldn’t a man or woman feel flattered over a younger, more virile lover giving adoration? No man nor woman enjoys the prospect of mid-life and menopause. It signals the end of sexual desirability. So, many men and women alike leap at the chance to hang on to their sexual youth a little longer, be it that they buy a Corvette, get hair plugs, face lifts, Botox, tummy tucks… mistresses and lovers.

    Wow, we sure have been screwed by instinct, and punished by Human Nature!

  4. David Alexander says:

    I had a conversation with an old friend a while ago, and he raised many of the points you mention. He gave a long and interesting history of the institution of marriage, its evolution from a simple property arrangement,to a socially acceptable way to procreate, to whatever it is becoming in a world where men don’t “own” women, and more and more single women are having children without the benefit of marriage.

    In our conversation we were unable to decide what comes next — interestingly enough, a lot of this discussion pops up in an unlikely place. A few years ago, Chris Rock starred in (and produced) a movie, called “I Think I Love My Wife.” Although billed as a comedy, it is thought-provoking. If folks haven’t seen it, it’s worth a look.

  5. Judy says:

    The people who choose to be in public life are no different than any one else, except maybe their egos need to be fed more often. Once in the public eye, their life becomes more public than if they lived in the private sector.
    Yes, there seems to be a lot of news about politicians having affairs. But, it really isn’t anything new. Thomas Jefferson had several children with one of his slaves, John F. Kennedy had affairs, there was Clinton and Monica, the New Jersey Governor and his male partner, the New York Governor and his prostitute. And, these are just the ones we heard about.
    I don’t know why this happens, it just does. Some people can stay devoted to one person and some cannot. Many species of animals mate for life – wolves, some species of birds, penguins etc.. And, for other animals, it’s a free for all. I don’t know why this happens either, it just does.

  6. Davida2647 says:

    I’d like to think there’s more to it than “it just does,” but as you say its been going on forever. This may be the best place to leave this issue — until someone famous, or someone we know in our own lives, experiences it first-hand.

  7. Dave H says:

    I think it’s because (OK, we) lack either the courage to address what must be a lack of communication with their spouse, or the determination and commitment to fix it. And yes, they are getting what at first appears to be ‘free’ attention from another. My question would be: do we people (in your examples women) disrespect the sanctity of marriage and become intimate with someone who has pledged their heart to someone else?

  8. Judy says:

    Yes, there is more to it than “it just does”. BUT, trying to figure out “why” it happens is a long and complicated story. I have experienced infidelity, and I spent a ton of time trying to figure out “why”. I finally got to the point where I decided to put all that time and energy into moving forward instead of trying to figure out what happened in the past. It wasn’t time wasted because I learned a lot about myself. I don’t dwell on it anymore. So..when I hear about infidelities..I do feel for those left “out of the mix”, and hope they can move forward just like I did.

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