Saturday, June 10, 2006

Can Love Ever Be an Reason to Cheat?

In response to the last post, an anonymous poster heroically came forth to defend Grey's Anatomy--a revolutionary show--in the face of my vitrolic tirade against it.

I found this analysis particularly interesting:

...^^;; I'm guessing you are not a Meredith fan? Then I won't get into her scene, except that her having sex with McDreamy was caused by BOTH of them, and they love eachother, which- 'love' in this show, is not a choice. I suppose their emotions washed over them; sure, the viewer may be mad *more than likely if they are an Addison fan*, but it's a great part of Greys: people making mistakes. They both became carried away, and depending on your stance in their relationship, it can be a GOOD thing.

Actually, for me this had very little to do with playing favorites. I find Kate Walsh's "Addison" to be pretty tepid, and evoking more pity than outrage.

Instead, the scenes hit me very hard on a general relationship principles level. Starting a relationship and then saying, "I'm sorry, I'm actually in love with someone else" is a human mistake with a good human solution. "I'm sorry, I was actually in love with someone else, and then decided to screw them and now I'm telling you..." is a human mistake with a totally self-absorbed asshole cherry on top.

You see, I've been in that situation a half-a-dozen times in my life. Seriously, I fall in love real easy and real hard and it puts me in situations. But I've always responded in one of two ways:
1) Get over it because I still love my significant other and I'm not going to destroy what we've built together.
2) Peace them out and then get something started.

This is EVEN MORE important from the other side: Tell the person that the feeling is mutual but nothing's happening until they call up their significant other and peace them out. I've had them do it on the phone that very second.

That might sound wrong, "They broke up over the phone?!?!?" It's not ideal, but it's fricking utopia compared to getting cheated on.

I can understand how people can be in love with each other and in the middle of other relationships. I can understand trying to weigh it and realizing that you've got to act on it. There's just ways of doing it that show yourself to be a passionate, empathetic person, and there's way to deal with it that show that you are a self-absorbed prick who happens to like this particular person right now.

In my limited wisdom, I believe the best way to see how your relationship will develop is to see how the two of you treat others. If you are kicking off your relationship by say, having sex in the hospital while your boyfriend who just shared with you that you are the first person he has loved since his dead wife is waiting in the next room and doing it with the man who is so possessive that he started spitting sexist slurs when he didn't get to schedule your sex life and while his wife is in the next room, it's not a good sign no matter how good the chemisty might be.

But that's just my opinion. I'm curious how other people view these scenarios. Please share--I won't judge, in fact maybe I'll learn to respect other approaches more...


Blogger Matthew said...

This is an interesting topic of discussion.

You've basically presented two spectrum-opposite scenarios on how to deal with having another love while in a relationship, with accompanying spectrum-opposite judgement calls.

I'd say that the more human, empathetic response lies somewhere inbetween, and almost on a case-by-case basis.

I guess I say this because I know someone who was in a marriage that made them unhappy, and they fell in love with someone else while they were still married. They had an affair with that person, then told their wife. Their wife asked to go to counseling, to try and save their marriage. The person I know decided to go along with it, but soon realized that his heart was no longer in it, or the marriage, and he and his wife divorced. The man then took it very slowly with the woman he'd been having an affair with. He did not move to her same town at first. A year or so later, he finally did, but they did not live together. After a couple more years, they moved in together, and have been together ever since. This is over 15 years. He is 10x happier with her than he was with his ex-wife. The ex-wife has moved on with her life, as well.

I mention this true-life scenario (keeping everyone anonymous, of course) because it put a human face on the issue you touch upon in your post. Could the man I know have gone about things differently? Of course. He could have ended his marriage after weighing the options, and then seen someone else.

But we're talking about human beings here, Xian. And I just feel as though your two options aren't always realistic or applicable in the real world, with weak-willed and fragile human hearts. It's easy to sit in judgement and say that so & so should have cut things off with their significant other first, before starting something with someone else, but so often people don't work that way. They're often scared and afraid of the risk involved with doing that. Yes, it's a form of keeping a safety net 'just in case,' and yes it's awful to do to a spouse or s/o, but it's also a human thing to do.

You can decide for yourself if something is forgivable or not, but I will have to say that some of your rhetoric in this post doesn't sound like the Xian I know... or thought I knew.

If you'll remember, a couple of years ago I came to you with a personal crisis, and when I was at the crossroads of questioning someone's love for me, you said, "You can love someone and still fuck up." That has always stayed with me. The way you said it, the empathy, understanding and wisdom in your voice when it was said.

I can tell you that the person to whom we were referring that night didn't have "totally self-absorbed asshole cherry on top," and nor did the person whose scenario I described in the first half of this comment. They're human beings who made mistakes, who didn't follow the Xian Barrett line of logic, but are nevertheless good people, not assholes and, yes, flawed human beings.

As are we all. Perhaps the depth and grey areas of what it means to be human might be good to keep in mind when pondering something such as this?

1:20 AM  
Blogger Narc said...

I think a lot of the Grey's Anatomy situation boils down to the bullshit Hollywood idea of "soulmates." That there is exactly one person in the world that you are "meant" to love, and that any other relationship (even if you happen to be in one at the time) will be a candle next to that all-consuming fire.

In some ways, I think it's a dangerous idea, but it makes for good opportunities for drama, and has been the basis for many a chick flick.

9:01 AM  
Blogger xian said...

Thanks, Matt.

I think I really needed that a check there and I think it's done exactly what constructive criticism ought to--moved me a bit.

Narc, your comments have helped as well as them have made my conviction stronger as to my original judgement of Grey's Anatomy.

I think Matt, you are right, we must reserve judgment and love folks for what they are, but as you know also love them into better people.

In the hypothetical case that you have helped turn real, I think it's important to do both. Rather than lean toward demonization, as I did earlier, we must look at the human side.

However, the problem is always what we learn from our experiences and how our media and our fictions reinforce those lessons.

I used to often tell one of the great mentors in my life about my problems and he ask me what I thought was the right thing to do. I would tell him, but when he asked, "Why don't you do that?" I would respond, "I just can't--I'm not strong enough to handle that!"

He would say, "Why? If you do it, will it kill you? If you don't do it, will you feel good about yourself?"

That really turned my life around.

I guess what I learned from that is that we are human, make mistakes and deserve love that encompasses (not "in spite of") those mistakes. However we also tend to spend a lot of energy justifying our weaknesses rather than overcoming them.

In doing so, the speedbumps on our illustrious journeys are transformed into confinements that imprison us.

So, I will take your advice and do a better job reserving judgement for human failings on this issue, as long as we can acknowledge that full, loving disclosure even of harsh, ugly truths is a goal we should strive for.

That still leaves the media issue, which is deeply problematic. It's one thing to empathetically portray people. I will leave for a moment the question of what it means when as a society we can portray, nasty, misogynist adulterers empathetically, but cannot afford people of minority background the same gift.

But we haven't just empathized, we've created a culture that goes so far as to derive pleasure out of the self-absorbed torture of others. Meredith and Derek are not cast as flawed people who we should empathize with, they are heroes who are struggling for love and willing to run over anyone else to do so. What good is "love" if you reserve it for yourself and the person you are focused on at this moment?

This is where Narc's point is so important. We are being sold a great lie on a daily basis in the form of this soulmate crap. It's not a little white (:)) lie, it's a catastrophic lie--beyond "the bus broke down" and more on the level of "Santa Claus is real".

It's a lie that says "love is something that's already been picked out for you, so be a cynical critic and the special person that's been picked out just for you will be delivered to your door".

It's a belief that helps people arrive at these ridiculous "there is a special man/woman for you, so we are going to define marriage in some narrow, bigoted way, and God will deliver" arguments.

It's a belief that pales in comparison to a beautiful truth: We are all soulmates and all connected and if we learn to love and live on the planet, we will find someone very close at hand who fits our orientation and with whom, through great work and dedication we can grow something far more awe-inspiring than anything we could possibly conceive.

It's a truth that I've rarely seen reflected or promoted in our media, and I'm always a little taken aback by how dismissive and mocking many folks are when I bring it up.

So I'll definitely take your advice and strive to be more empathetic. I certainly see the wisdom in taking it on a "case-by-case basis", as we should with any situation.

But I do think we need to critique this human choice to hurt others--both in general and in the specific case of someone we've made a commitment to--and at least not hold it up as a model to aspire to. I believe we have and it has left a wake of pain, suffering, excuses and denial of responsibility in its path.

I can back off on my rhetoric and say, "Derrick Shepard and all of the Derrick Shepards of the world are good human beings who are imperfect, but worthy of love", but I still can look at the actions--the misogyny, the self-absorbedness, the desire for instant gratification, and the wanton disregard for other human beings worthy of love who are in the next room, and feel ashamed.

Not with Derrick Shepard or Meredith Grey, but with humanity and myself and the narrow, treacherous path we walk in seeking to follow love and not falling into all of the qualities above.

9:23 PM  
Blogger dianne_lone said...

My ex cheated me with some hoar he met in a club. I was violated and cheated. And after he did that, I dont think he really did love me. And his new girlfriend either. One of my webdate friends gave me this book ( I forgot the author) What Men do not want women to know. Most of the time, men cheat because of several reasons: it either they are bored in the relationship or because they do not really love you. I am not sure why he did it, but the book enlightened me in that area. Thanks to one of my webdate friends, I had the courage to quit the relationship..

6:13 AM  
Blogger L7 said...

I think we need to reserve judgment but that doesn't mean checking our brains and hearts at the door. As long we look at only side, it's easy to be cheerleaders for love (go, cheaters!) or dudley do-rights for the victims. I agree that we should look at the whole situation, and the ramifications and consequences, and sometimes that means saying that, as much as you might love someone, you can recognize he behaved badly and hurt others out of his own selfishness/desire for instant gratification/what have you.

11:35 AM  

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