Jon & Kate (plus 8) Divorcing?
I’m tired of smiling in the outside and crying on the inside
After photos and rumors of infidelity, Kate and Jon Gosselin, from the’Jon & Kate Plus 8′ reality show,announced that they would be divorcing. When talking about the pending divorce, Kate did state that “she was worried about the label” and “being a statistic”. She added that “It’s going to give me a whole new empathy for people who do it.”
What drove this couple to divorce? Was it the alleged infidelity or the pressures from the reality show? When asked if the show contributed to this divorce decision, Kate said that she believes “it’s a chapter that would have played out had the world been watching or not.”
The process of divorce is painful. Jon described the day to day situation as “we don’t have anything now. It’s just like two people who happen to live here. t’s just not good for our kids, for us to be arguing in front of our kids. We can’t be cordial in front of each other, so we decided to separate. I was too passive, I let her rule the roost and went along with everything and now I stood up on my own two feet and I’m proud of myself.”
Kate explained that she is “tired of smiling on the outside and crying on the inside. I’ve been doing that for a long time. I had a half a day where I let myself fall apart and hyperventilate and sob harder than I’ve ever sobbed in my life. By the time I woke up the next morning, I decided I need relief.”
She described how she is “kind of lost. He won’t hold a discussion with me. I don’t know that he knows what he wants.” Still, both said that they don’t “hate” each other and that divorcing was the best decision for the kids.
If the Jon & Kate divorce is about infidelity, why did it happen? Was it the pressure from the reality show or is there something else that drives people to cheat?
Matthew Titus, a relationship expert and dating coach, did not cheat on his first wife because she was not pretty or smart or loving.Titus, of New York City, says he cheated because he could. “Monogamy is a morality case a man cannot fit into,” he says. “The institute of marriage does not fit. It’s flawed.”
Although Titus, now happily married and the author of “Why Hasn’t He Called?”, has put his years of adultery behind him, he also understands that cheating is a part of many marriages. According to a few recent studies, somewhere close to half of all married people will be unfaithful at some point during the course of their married relationships.For men, that number is slightly higher, anywhere from 50 to 60 percent.And, of course, the statistics may be even higher because, as Titus says, people lie. “They lie especially about these kinds of issues.”
Many experts may not agree with Titus’ assertion that men are not able to fit into the monogamy box. But many do agree that monogamy is more uniquely challenging for men and that there are huge gulfs between the reasons men cheat as opposed to women. “The biological differences between men and women do not get us very far in terms of understanding affairs,” says Framingham State College sociology professor Virginia Rutter, who specializes in marital relations and sexuality. Both men and women have different levels of societal permission.”
Tina Pittman-Wagers, a psychology professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder who studies infidelity and has written many articles and papers on treating it, agrees. “There are many different reasons why people cheat,” she says. “Women are more likely to connect with loneliness, they are more likely to enter into affairs when they are already done with their marriage.”
Many men who talk about infidelity, on the other hand, report coming from marriages that were mostly happy. “Men are much more likely to say their marriages were fine,” says Pittman-Wagers, who says that often it is the affair itself that places the stress on the relationship. “Clearly, once an affair is entered into, some dissatisfaction starts,” she says.
For men, once the excitement of new love fades, they are less likely to get the same validation that women get from a long-term relationship. “There are hormonal as well as social reasons for this, explains Pittman-Wagers. “In the heady days of new love, our bodies are filled with the adrenaline and testosterone that make it hard to focus on much of anything else.But as that fades and we settle into long-term relationships, it is back to regular programming,” Pittman-Wagers says.
Scientists have shown that women secrete more Oxytocin, the so-called feel-good “hormone” as they move through the stages of life and of a long-term relationship.Oxytocin is the same hormone that mothers release when breastfeeding that helps with bonding with the infant. It relaxes the body and allows women to feel settled and content.
Further, women also receive much social validation for their family-oriented choices, says Pittman-Wagers. “Meanwhile, men sometimes flounder and miss the old days more than their spouses, making them slightly more vulnerable to affairs. Men don’t have the same opportunities for validation,” she says. “They report feeling off track and that they miss admiration and appreciation, especially.Sometimes they can get involved with a woman who will be all about them and give them back some of those old feelings.”
Look no further than the Internet to see just how prevalent infidelity has become. With social networking sites like Friendster and Facebook, infidelity is as simple as clicking on a profile of an attractive person. Many single men and women on these sites are actually married. But Ashleymadison.com is a dating Web site specifically for those seeking affairs. “When Monogamy becomes monotony,” is their tagline and many people are buying into the idea. The Toronto-based site has 1.95 million users in the U.S. and Canada.
“One-third of people in the singles dating scene were attached and lying about it,” says Ashley Madison’s Chief Operating Officer Noel Biderman. According to Biderman, there are three types of women who join the site. “We have the neglected housewife, the woman who likes married men and the woman who believes all the best guys are taken.”
Asked if he thinks the site contributes to the high divorce rate, Biderman says he thinks the opposite. “We are saving marriages, believe it or not,” he says, citing some of the same neglect that Pittman-Wagers says can often be at the root of affairs. Sometimes this is a solution to the problems.”
Pittman-Wagers would agree that affairs can save marriages, “but only if the cheating spouse is able to come to terms with what he or she did wrong and if both members of the couple want to change. A lot of marriages do stay together and are more connected and intimate following an affair,” she says. “But keeping secrets and never coming clean is not the road to greater spousal intimacy”, she says.
Most important, Pittman-Wagers says that there is not much that one spouse can do to keep the other faithful. “One cannot assume that it is possible to create the perfect marital environment,” she says. “It is not the spouse’s job to prevent their spouse from having an affair. That is the couple’s responsibility.”
As to whether the old age, “once a cheater, always a cheater” holds true, Pittman-Wagers says it is certainly not. According to her, there are several signs to look for in a mate one knows cheated before. Do they blame the former spouse? Do they take responsibility for their actions? “A sense of responsibility is a good thing to look for,” she says.
Finally, Pittman-Wagers says a cheating spouse ought to have learned something and thought about their vulnerabilities. “Is it women at work? Is it 7-11 clerks? Whatever it is, they need to recognize their danger zones.”
For Titus, reformation did not come easy. After eight years of marriage, he had become a serial adulterer he says. Titus had married his college sweetheart and they had never consummated their relationship until their wedding night. “This was the first mistake. I was already cheating on her when we got married,” he says.
“After discovering that the passion was not there, she felt like my sister,” he says. Titus settled into the marriage and decided passion dies anyway in a marriage. But he still missed it. To feed that need, Titus continued his affairs, until he finally fell in love with a woman who worked for him. “A lot of cheating has to do with ego,” Titus says. “And I would lie. I told these women I would leave my wife even though I had no intention of doing so”. In fact, it was not until he crashed the motorcycle his girlfriend had encouraged him to buy while on his way to meet her that he realized how wrong he was.
The crash was so bad, Titus died at the scene and had to be revived. He had a punctured lung and second-degree burns on his back. But the first thing he said to his nurse upon waking was that his girlfriend and wife could not meet. That was when he knew it had gone too far. “I was living in a world that did not exist,” he says.
Eventually, Titus made the difficult decision to come clean to his wife. He left her and went to his girlfriend.When their relationship ended, he tried to go back to his wife, but things had changed and the two finalized their divorce. Still, he has no regrets about ending the marriage. “My first wife and I did not have the passion a man needs to stay monogamous,” he says.
Newly married and much reformed, Titus says he has a lot of remorse for hurting his first wife the way he did. “I felt terribly about myself,” he says. “The whole time I just felt like I was ruining this woman’s life”. He has learned much from the experience, he says. In particular, Titus has learned how to identify the points where he was once weak. “There are a lot of beautiful women I see every day in this city,” he says. “But now I weigh it out and know it’s not worth it.”
For Titus, knowing his wife well and having a deep intellectual connection has proven much more meaningful and sustaining than physical attraction alone.He has learned that physical attraction can happen without acting on it, a very important lesson according to Pittman-Wagers.
“We assume that if we find someone sexy that there must be something wrong with our marriage,” she says. This is not necessarily true.”The most important thing is boundaries”, she says. “If a man finds a colleague attractive, the trick is to limit his time around that colleague and set conversational boundaries. The gate to an affair opens as people create intimacy. By not allowing emotional intimacy to develop, physical intimacy becomes less likely.”
“For many spouses, knowing where the boundaries are is as simple as asking oneself how they might feel if their spouse was doing the same. If you would be uncomfortable with your spouse being present while you engage in some kind of behavior, then it is probably crossing a line,” Pittman-Wagers says. “Just listen to that voice in yourself.You know when something is wrong.”
About the author: Sasha Brown-Worsham is a freelance writer in Boston, Mass. who has written for the Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Technology Review, Babble.com and many other publications.