– In the last ten years, I have seen a downward flow of protocols for dealing with cheating in psychotherapy. Most of them look at cheating as a traumatic situation, accordingly, healing steps are proposed. It seems to me that cultivating the concept of “trauma” here is partly a marketing strategy. Each approach of psychotherapy, which is also a segment of the service market, slightly “nightmares” the public: first, they tell her where she should be in pain, offer matrices of feelings and meanings, and then offer help in getting rid of this pain. A person who finds out about a partner’s betrayal is under stress, vulnerable and inspiring, which means that he will easily go where he is explained what happened, give expert promises about correcting the situation, effectively returning partners, and so on, right up to love spells and cuffs.
However, psychotherapists are also people with their own attitudes, and we live in an era of serious rethinking of intimate relationships in general, and the role of infidelity is being revised: it has now begun to hurt in a new way. And I want to understand where this attention to the topic comes from and is it true that cheating is now more traumatic than before? It seems that yes. But why? This is the question I am trying to answer.
– CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE RUSSIAN SPECIFICS OF BETRAYAL?
– It will sound crazy now, but in Russia there is no culture of treason, just as there is no culture of good parting at all. First, there is a very sad, economic specificity. Especially if you go beyond the very 1% of the population who can afford the help of a psychologist. For the poor and vulnerable, betrayal is primarily a survival story. 70% of divorced fathers do not pay child support , and the fear of losing a partner is not about general meanings, but about the fact that there is nothing to live without him. It kills both equality and the possibility of intimate, candid disclosure to others.
And Russians also have a complicated relationship with personal boundaries. It is not customary to take into account the feelings of the third person whom we involve or, if you will, through whom we are involved in treason. You don’t need to show your mistress photos of your children with your wife, and you shouldn’t ask your mistress to choose a gift for your wife on March 8. If you have common finances and planning in your family, you do not need to accept financial help from your lover. Why? Because doing something behind your back is one thing. And making sure that the unsuspecting partner in this way participates in supporting your connection, shares or receives with you, is another thing. At this point, someone always says to me: “Don’t you just want to say that there is no need to change?” I want to, but I have little faith that it will work.
Do not show your mistress photos of your children with your wife, and you should not ask your mistress to choose a gift for your wife on March 8
– HOW DOES THE CULTURE OF TREASON LOOK LIKE IN OTHER COUNTRIES?
– In Uzbekistan, where I come from, I know many stories when a wife goes to her mistress and asks to come as a second wife, to settle with her and her husband. The calculation is simple: in another woman you can find relief in housework and a friend in conversations and leisure. The husband has nothing to do with it. And the wife does not have suffering, but hope. This is a different frame, another woman in the house – this is another living person who is awaited. In Russia, too, it could be different. After the war, there were many stories when women did not compete, but created something like a mini-commune with one man and a large number of women, this is something similar to a modern “Boston marriage” – when two women settle together for the sake of mutual emotional, everyday and financial support.
What does mom have to do with it
– WHAT OTHER FINDINGS DID THE STUDY FIND?
– I wonder how my respondents explain the very concept of treason. There are two non-overlapping view groups. The first one understands treason as a violation of the agreements and the terms of the contract – “we did agree.” The other is like the fear that your loved one will have a space where you yourself are not. The latter experience treason as the disappearance of themselves.
Why these notions do not overlap remains to be understood. My hypothesis is that for some the motive to be in a relationship is about cooperation, while for others it is about themselves, about their identity. Then, in the first case, treason strikes by agreements, and in the second, directly by identity and can cause a serious crisis. And it also seems that gender socialization for the perception of the fact of infidelity plays a much greater role than, for example, the experience of relationships with parents in childhood. Women in any case suffer from infidelity much more than men.
– BUT WHAT ABOUT THE STORY THAT MOM IS TO BLAME FOR EVERYTHING?
– Mom is important, but you can’t reduce everything to her alone, because there is not a spherical vacuum around. Expectations that the partner “completes” will give what the parents did not give – they are potentially conflict-prone. Either they add to us and we still have to look for new meanings, or we have to reproduce this “underwhelming” permanently.
– IT TURNS OUT THAT FAMILY HISTORY IS NOT SO IMPORTANT FOR UNDERSTANDING WHO WE ARE?
– Speaking about parents, we must look not at how they disliked us, but at how mom lived with dad and whether they had relationships with other people in general. In the Russian society, we will quickly come to the conclusion that mother felt motherhood as abandonment and separation from her partner, as a state of one-on-one with anxiety. Busy relatives, especially grandmothers, are not always helpful; often it is a functional substitution or competition.
Maybe it was this longing and isolation from the horizontal connection with a partner that we absorbed with milk? Even if mom really didn’t love (postpartum depression or something else), where are the rest of those who were supposed to pick up both her and the child?
Cheating is not the end of a relationship
– IS IT POSSIBLE TODAY TO UNAMBIGUOUSLY FORMULATE WHAT TREASON IS?
– The most obvious answer: sex with another person. But there are couples whose boundaries are not at all along the line of sexual contact, in them something else will be a violation of intimacy. Somewhere the wife is too close and intimate with her own mother, and the husband is nervous because of this, and somewhere there are couples who discuss their lovers with each other. Aside from morality, in the first case, the removal of intimacy from the couple is much greater than in the second. In fact, cheating is not about sex. This is about hiding, about a lie, about a secret, about the fact that you were not included somewhere, your loved one has a “secret garden”, on the fence of which there is a sign “No entry” for you.
Cheating occurs at the junction and mismatch of internal and external. In this sense, each cheating person is cheating on himself, or rather, his courage to go out and say to his partner: “I am like this” – and the courage to know that the other person may not accept it. And recently, the voices of those who do not want to lie have begun to be heard. So we get the field from open relationships and ethical betrayal to polyamory.
In fact, cheating is not about sex. It’s about hiding, about lies, about a secret
– HAS THE UNDERSTANDING OF INFIDELITY CHANGED AFTER THE APPEARANCE OF TINDER OR INSTAGRAM ?
– Social networks and mobile applications do their bit: what can be regarded as cheating is just one click away from us. You can be close to your partner physically, but not be with him thoughts. You can lie under one blanket and be virtually on your own Instagram.
And often it is betrayal that becomes the moment that launches a recheck of scenarios, meanings, and how much of my “I” is in this “we”. This rethinking can end in great rapprochement, and betrayal will not be the end of the relationship, but their new building material. True, this new role of betrayal is still poorly understood.
– WHAT ARE THE SCIENTIFIC APPROACHES TO UNDERSTANDING TREASONS?
– The overwhelming majority of existing research in this field is biased and immediately defines cheating as deviation and deviation. Life in stable, exclusive pairing relationships is taken as the starting point, the norm. At the same time, evolutionary biologists believe that humans as a species are not monogamous, although they are inclined to the strategy of mating for the sake of offspring. Remember serial monogamy itself. From this perspective, people are seen as hostages, trapped between social norms and the “animal nature.” Hence the declarations grow that marriage is a prison, a social repressive frame.
But we have long been talking not about marriage – not about a social contract between two people and the state. Its content and relationships became important to us. Regardless of what we are as a species, we all live in a culture for which belonging and agreement is of the utmost importance. We belong to each other, and we have eternal or at least long-term promises – this is where relations now begin. When they break, we are in pain, and the non-monogamy of the species is no consolation.
We lose sight of the fact that when a relationship begins, and it begins romantically, we have a fairly clear cognitive-emotional model in our head, ideas of how everything should be and exactly what we should feel. This is often a story about the fact that one person becomes very important to you, all the rest recede into the background. Sexuality, passion and intimacy are usually parts of this picture. But then a continuous field of mutual and self-determination begins. Without really noticing, people resort to limiting models and scenarios, often simply because it’s easier. Some part of “I” ceases to belong to this “we”. In fairness, this part is not always recognized by the person himself, because it may not be something to be proud of.