Monday, April 7, 2014

The advice they give: Affair-proof your marriage/relationship in eleven steps

You have to love the stuff you find on the Internet sometimes. I just love the WikiHow page, How to Get a Man to Leave His Wife. In eleven steps! With pictures! This is so wonderfully perverse it is refreshing.

The key point to get here is that what is good advice on one side of the column, is equally good on the other. Think of it as double entry accounting: every credit must be matched by an equal amount in the debit column. Once you grasp that, you can see that this isn't a lesson for the woman having an affair with a married man, she is either a pathetic loser or she is a killer shark who is out to get what she wants. (That's a wonderful experience, by the way, I was once on the receiving end and it remains to this day the very best thing that ever happened to me.)  To get back to the point, any lesson of use to the other woman is going to be more useful for the wife. (Look at the ads on the page if you don't believe me: the top ad when I logged on was, "How to stop your divorce" Advertisers always know who the content is really for.)  I know, that seems like a crazy way to approach the problem but the sad truth is that you couldn't write an honest advice column to a woman in that situation because our culture will never accept that a woman in that situation might partially or even largely be to blame for her situation. We all, especially her, know that she is, but you can't talk about it.

The reverse isn't the case. Men are told over and over again that it is their fault if their wife cheats on them, loses interest et cetera. That isn't a problem so much as a powerful clue to how relationships actually work. More on this below.

Anyway, read the original and then come back.

Tick, tick, tick ...

Here is how to rewrite the advice for the other woman as advice for the wife:

Step 1

Original: Stop having sex with him

Rewrite: Stop using sex to mollify, pacify or cheer him up. He wants a woman who wants him. This is basic. Fail at this and you deserve to be cheated on. 

Step 2 

Original: Don't try to convince him or manipulate him to leave.

Rewrite: (you shouldn't need my help on this one) Don't try to convince him or manipulate him to stay. Conversation won't help and neither will therapy.

Step 3

Original: Treat yourself as the prize.

Rewrite: Treat yourself as the prize. 

This is the whole lesson in one step. This can be hard for women to see because women and men operate differently when having affairs. When women have affairs, they tend do so with men whom they believe to have higher status than their husband. (They aren't necessarily right in thinking so, but that is what they believe when they start an affair.) I know, you wouldn't have an affair, but if you did, it would be with someone you saw as a step up in some way. Men don't work like that. We marry the woman we believe is the best we could want—you are the prize.  If he has an affair, it will be with a woman whom he believes has lower status than you. 

The point here is this: don't project your outlook onto him. The other woman is to be pitied not feared. As difficult as this is to grasp, he doesn't go looking for things you can't deliver better. He is firmly convinced that you are the best at giving him what he wants. You already are the top prize in his eyes. What he wants you to do is start acting like it really, really, really matters to you to be the prize.

Caveat: Which isn't to say that you can't make your worst nightmare come true. Stop believing in yourself and he will too.  If you start thinking of yourself as no longer worth pursuing, then so will he. What makes it hard is that to really think of yourself as a prize, you have to work at being a prize. You know, like you did back when you were dating? (BTW: The picture that goes with this step on the WikiHow site is worth a thousand words. Does it offend You? Too bad, for a man, marriage is a sexual relationship and if you didn't figure that out before getting in, you don't deserve to be married.)

Step 4

Original: Figure out what benefits he is getting from staying in the marriage. After listing some possibilities—children, money, emotional support, reputation, mutual friends, having someone to do stuff with, her cooking and cleaning—the original text goes on to make two rock solid points. "There is no point in competing with the wife in these areas. Don't make the mistake of wasting your time trying to be a better 'wife'." 

Rewrite:  Figure out what benefits he is getting from staying in the marriage. In case it isn't obvious enough, the lesson for the married woman is, don't try harder at the things that are already working for you. Don't make the mistake of wasting your time trying to be a better "wife". Now go to step 5

Step 5 

Original: Figure out what his wife isn't doing right. The original goes on to say, "Most likely the wife has emasculated him over time, and therefore he is no longer attracted to her. There are a lot of articles and books on what this means. Do your homework to find out how to make him feel more masculine (and you to feel more feminine)."

Rewrite: Figure out what his wife isn't doing right. Oh yeah, that's you.  I couldn't put it better than the original, so I won't try. I will add, however, that the key phrase here is, "do your homework". Don't sit around over-analyzing your situation, you need to look outside yourself for ways to make him feel more masculine and you more feminine. There are lots of books and articles. Read them!

Step 6 

Original: This means getting to know him as a person

Rewrite: Look back at step 5. See the bit about emasculating him? Getting to know him as a person, means getting to know him as a man with power. Power is scary because a man with power is capable of anger, destruction or of having an affair. You may think that you will be more comfortable if you convince him to surrender those things for "the sake of the marriage" but you're wrong. A man without power isn't a man anymore.

This is doubly scary because letting him take back his power puts you in a vulnerable spot. Marriage and affairs are not an either/or situation after all; he could do both; a man who has recaptured his power is man who is going to realize that it is in his power to have an affair. You may not want to be in a position where you have to live with the knowledge that the only thing keeping him from cheating on you is his continuing to choose not to. That is why the emasculation starts; it feels more secure if he has as many restraints on him as possible. 

The first step along the path to emasculating your husband is to treat his power as a problem to be solved. But if he can't cheat on you, then he can't be faithful to you either. Or, to put it positively, faithfulness is only possible for a man who is capable of cheating.

This would be so much easier if only depraved or damaged people cheated on their spouses. The disturbing truth is that good people, loving husbands and wives who are also good fathers and mothers, area capable of having affairs and sometimes do. The only thing you can do about it is to trust and trusting means being prepared for the possibility of trust being broken. He has to live with the same risk; you should get over it!

Step 7 

Original: Date others.

Rewrite: Well, no. Nothing will make it easier for him to rationalize cheating on you than your doing it first. But read the original text and you will hit this line, "Men like to compete." He wants to win you and no matter how many times he has won you in the past, he will not tire of doing it again. (Or, rather, he will not tire of it if you are following the others steps, especially step 1 and step 3.) Don't be scared of stepping out a little and being the sort of woman who other men might pursue. Hell, let them try a little and let him know they are trying.

Step 8 

Original: Don't be needy.

Rewrite: Be wanty and not needy. Wants are sexy; needs are a chore. And yes, that is fair! Children and puppies have needs. Adults have wants. Be an adult.

Step 9 

Original: Don't be jealous of his wife or angry. It is good to feel compassion for her. It is not her fault. Don't be insecure.

Rewrite: Don't be insecure, jealous or angry. I appreciate that this may seem stupid at first. You may think, "I can't just turn my emotions off". And, no, you cannot but you can control and direct them. Direct your emotional energy elsewhere. Instead of being insecure, treat yourself as the prize. Jealousy is what needy people feel, desire is what a woman who is worth pursuing feels. Anger is a bit more complicated because there are different types of anger and the type you are most likely feeling towards your husband is resentment, which is the type of emotion we have when we feel like we cannot or should not retaliate. That makes you feel helpless and, again, needy. Feel your power and make him compete for you instead.

Step 10 

Original: Don't become his therapist or marriage counselor. .... Trying to "fix" things is a masculine trait. He has to do it himself in his own way.

Rewrite: Don't push solutions on him.  Instead, you should have the courage to be the problem or, if you prefer, challenge. Be like Russia:
"I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest." Winston Churchill
It doesn't matter if you hide your "national interest", nor does it matter how many chains and locked doors you put between him and it so long as you have a national interest and a strong one at that, and sex had better be part of your national interest.

Step 11 

Original: Don't confront the wife

Rewrite: Don't confront him about his "issues", or whatever other meaningless psychobabble you care to conjure up. If he is unhappy, the very last thing that he wants is to talk to you about it or, infinitely worse, argue with you about it. He doesn't want to justify his wants, he wants you to recognize them, treat them as legitimate and do something about them. 

Instead, try this: imagine he is seeing a therapist who makes him feel at ease so that he can talk freely about what is missing from his marriage and you have bugged the therapist's office. If you want to make it really painful, imagine him telling his lover! The thing is, you can do it. Think about it! You already what he would say. You even know the things he feels but would never dare say to you.

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