Cheaters: Is Society Tougher on Women?
Infidelity: Meg Ryan ‘vs’ Dennis Quaid — Gender Inequity in Cheating?
Actress Meg Ryan thinks women have it tougher when they get caught cheating on their spouse. She should know. The actress lost her title as “America’s Sweetheart” when it was discovered that she had an affair with actor Russell Crowe — while she was still married to actor Dennis Quaid.
Ryan raised the question of gender inequity for cheaters during recent interviews to promote her new movie, “The Women,” which chronicles how Ryan’s character deals with the discovery of her husband’s affair. During interviews, Ryan admitted that she’d cheated on Quaid, but that he’d done so long before her — and for much of their ten-year marriage.
The couple, who have a son, Jack, 16, have been divorced since 2001. Quaid has since remarried to actress Kimberly Buffington, with whom he has twins.
During a recent magazine interview, Ryan admitted that Quaid “was not faithful to me for a long time, and that was very painful.” She told InStyle magazine that she blamed herself for their divorce for a long time: “When the woman cheats, it’s the woman’s fault. When the man cheats, it’s the woman’s fault,” she said.
Divorce360 expert Tina Tessina, Ph.D, said Ryan’s commentary about the gender inequity for cheaters rang true, at least in American society. “Everyone gossips about both men and women straying, but men get extra credit — it’s seen (especially by other men) as a coup on the man’s part,” said Tessina, author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things that Can Ruin your Marriage. “Women hide infidelity better, usually, but they’re seen as sluts and bad moms.”
“Men have a sense of entitlement about sex — many of them feel that they have a right to sex, wherever it’s available. The more powerful the man, the greater the sense of entitlement. Women seem to be blind to this idea and incredibly shocked when they find out it’s happening in their marriage. I do believe that many men are less apt to stray if they are sexually happy at home, and their marriage is going well.Women seem to think that ‘being friends’ is enough to make a marriage work, men don’t. Sex is a much simpler transaction to a man than it is to a woman; emotional intimacy is usually much easier for women than for men,” Tessina said.
The problem is simple, according to relationship expert Brenda Della Casa, author of the book, Cinderella was a Liar. “We live in a society where both genders vilify women and women vilify themselves. Women tell one another and themselves they need to be poreless, wrinkle-free, thin, successful, beautiful, nurturing, sexy every day in order to be loveable. They tell themselves and one another they need to have a man and a ring by 35 and that if their man cheats, it’s because they didn’t satisfy him sexually, keep up appearances or give him something he needed. If a woman makes the painful and heartwrenching choice to stay in the marriage and try and forgive a cheating husband, she’s vilified for being weak or pathetic when a man who stayed with a wife who had been unfaithful would likely be looked upon as a good man or strong.”
Who’s at fault really? Despite her agreement with Ryan on the issue of gender inequity, Della Casa thinks anyone who cheats — regardless of sex — is at fault. “While it might be more comfortable to blame our partners for our own bad behavior, the fact is that cheating is a choice to betray your own word, your partner’s trust, health, and heart — and there are many better ways to deal with unhappiness than becoming a deceitful liar,” she said. “If you are unhappy with your marriage, communicate with your partner and take steps to heal the tears by going to counseling or changing your own behaviors. If you decide to sleep with another person and/or start a new relationship, the only thing you are doing is adding to the destruction of your union.”
“Responding to a spouse’s cheating by cheating — what Ryan may have done — isn’t the answer”, Della Casa said. “The fact that your partner cheated on you does not serve as a free pass to engage in the same behavior that hurt you so deeply. If you want to work through infidelity, there are ways to do it and many couples have been successful. If you don’t want to or try and cannot move past it, no one is ever forced to stay in a marriage. You don’t have to choose to be a liar and humiliate and disrespect your partner in that way,” she said.
Infidelity expert Ruth Houston agrees. “If what Meg Ryan says is true about Dennis Quaid being unfaithful to her throughout their marriage, it sounds like her affair with Russell Crowe was a retaliatory affair that backfired. Revenge cheating never has the desired effect….Being divorced by her cheating husband after he found out about her retaliatory affair, and subsequently being dumped by her lover when the affair became public knowledge, must have left her with serious self-esteem issues.”
Who cheated and why isn’t important to Quaid, who — eight years since the split — has created a new life and family for himself. He responded to Ryan’s recent confessions by expressing concern over how they might be couple’s teen-age son. “I find it unbelievable that Meg continues publicly to rehash and rewrite the story of our relationship,” he said, adding that he was upset that his son had “to be reminded in a public way of the turmoil and pain that every child feels in a divorce.”
Dr. Gilda Carle concurs. “It’s been eight years, and enough is enough! The fact that Ryan continues to discuss this shows that it is still part of her life,” said Carle, author of How to Win When your Mate Cheats. “The more she hangs onto the past, the more it keeps her connected to it and to Quaid.”
Houston said harping about Quaid’s infidelity “serves no real purpose at this point other than allowing her to finally vent about it after all these years. But one has to wonder why she would bring it up after all this time. It sounds like she still has unresolved issues regarding his affairs. That’s why it’s so important to discuss the cheating with the cheater regardless of whether the two people stay together and work things out, or go their separate ways. Otherwise, they’ll carry unwanted baggage into their next relationships.”
Carle said, “the bigger issue is what Ryan’s doing to her son by making the allegations public: “Quaid is right about raising this issue again in public in front of their son who is at the age of trying to make sense of his own relationships with the opposite sex. Why add to his burden? Meg Ryan told Diane Sawyer, ‘I just feel like every now and then you have to fill in the gaps for people. ‘I say, ‘Why?’And who are the ‘people’ she feels she must impress?”
In her book, Carle said, “she points to the difference between people who handle their problems internally or people who are driven by external influences.” “Having an internal drive will get you to soar above the vicissitudes of those around you who criticize your behaviors. But being externally affected places you at the mercy of such ‘people’ who you will never be able to please. My advice to Meg Ryan is get a thicker skin, forgive your ex for the past, and get on with your own life. Letting go is a necessary trait for anyone who opts for greatness.”
TIPS TO WORK THROUGH INFIDELITY
Are you working through marital problems? Before they become overwhelming, Dr. Mark Goulston, author of “Get Out of Your Own Way,” offers some advice.
Who’s to blame? If Quaid is like most men he’ll say he fooled around for the sex, but still loved his wife. If Ryan is like most women, she’ll say she did it for the love she wasn’t receiving or feeling toward her husband.
Here is the real problem: in most relationships, the honeymoon fades and each partner experiences disappointment not just in that, but in the other person. And neither is skilled at addressing the disappointment effectively. Left unaddressed, disappointment becomes frustration and irritability until familiarity does really lead to contempt.
The key to addressing this problem is to learn how to confront each other when disappointed and before it hardens into something much worse. This skill could very well save many marriages. Tips for doing that include:
1. Proactively set a time to speak at least once a month to see if the relationship is on track for each person.
2. Set ground rules of only focusing on observable behaviors, how it made you feel and think, and what you would like the other to differently going forward.
3. Do not go into character assassination, make presumptions about their feelings or intentions without really knowing for sure.
4. Do not use words like “Never” or “Always.”
5. Balance your criticisms with things that you really appreciate about the other and thank them for those.
6. Realize that an unforgiving attitude is incompatible with any relationship lasting.