She’sAHomewrecker on the Bethenny Show

Infidelity & Public ShamingYesterday I happened to catch the segment on the Bethenny Frankel talk show that discussed the site She’sAHomewrecker. It featured the owner of the site and two women who have posted to it after their partners had affairs, and a woman who had been named on the site as a ‘homewrecker’.

Part of the discussion had apparently been edited out, but what was left was saddening.

Who’s the Homewrecker?

To be clear: This site does not support, vindicate, or excuse the affair partner for their knowing participation in an affair, but neither do we support the wholesale blame for an affair on the other person.

While the affair partner is accountable for their contribution to an infidelity situation, they are not solely or primarily responsible for it. Regardless of their pursuit, seduction, or coercion to persuade (ahem) the cheater into an affair, they are not responsible for the cheater’s actions.

The CHEATER invites an affair partner into their life, relationship and mess. The CHEATER is the one who owns the responsibility of their commitment to their primary partner/spouse. The CHEATER is the one whose activities and choices cause the assault to their relationship.

The affair partner is complicit in the harm and detriment caused to the faithful partner. He or she may well be predatory, amoral, destructive, and just plain revolting … but it doesn’t make them the person who enabled, chose, and engineered the assault on the family and relationship the cheater already had. The CHEATER was the only person with the power to do this; the affair partner was just there cheering them along.

The affair partner isn’t the homewrecker – the CHEATER is.

Misinformation

The show centered on a view opposing the concept of the She’sAHomewrecker site, exploring the negative aspects to all involved in public shaming of this nature.

The woman who had been posted on the site as a homewrecker asserted that the information there about her was inaccurate, and that her life was being negatively affected by the inaccurate portrayal of events by the cheater’s wife. It’s a valid point that the stories on the site may not be accurate, and that it could be easy to fall prey to someone deliberately posting malicious misinformation about someone.

As the site owner said, this is the same type of criticism that applies to many social media websites. If details of your life become a matter of public record there should of course be a process to get them removed. However, it’s probably safe to say that while there may be inaccuracies in some of the stories posted on the site, it’s probable that (hyperbole aside) a substantial number of stories are largely accurate.

Public Shaming

The issue of public shaming is an interesting one.

The level of shame and embarrassment felt by the faithful partner when their cheater’s affair is discovered and exposed can be acutely destructive. Affairs can be entirely humiliating, they can affect financial security, job security, reputation and self-esteem.

It seems somewhat unfair that the other woman (or man) expects the right to not endure the consequences of shame and humiliation, when their choices and actions colluded to bring the same upon the cheater’s wife (or husband).

Ladies who play with fire must remember that smoke gets in their eyes.

~ Mae West

Perhaps it’s the organized, conscious and deliberate posting of the other woman’s details that seems so unpalatable to some. Yes, the other woman did contribute to the cheater’s assault on the primary relationship (where they were aware that the cheater was in another relationship), but is their primary intent really to cause harm to the cheater’s wife?

Yes, during an affair there are often competitive and vicious elements to the affair partner’s behavior (particularly in women it seems), and there are undoubtedly those who do seek or participate in an affair with the primary intent of causing the spouse harm. In reality though, many affair partners are as equally self-absorbed as the with whom cheater they’re involved, and only tend to see the spouse as an obstacle and a threat when the affair is long-term and has been fueled by promises of a future with the cheater.

The spouse is often just collateral damage to both the cheater and the affair partner – it’s not personal. In posting the details of the other person to the She’sAHomewrecker site (or others who similarly ‘out’ the affair partner) it is clear, deliberate and targeted. It smacks of vengeance and wrath and retribution. It is understandably personal.

These stories are posted by people who have been hurt and devastated, lashing out at someone who contributed to that harm to them. Maybe they see it as an accessible and cathartic way to exact some redress for the other woman’s part in causing them pain.

Shaming the Cheater?

Infidelity and Public ShamingNotwithstanding the responsibility of the affair partner, all roads do lead back to the issue of the cheater: Why is the cheater so notably absent in the public shaming? It is the cheater who is at fault, so why are they not the ones whose personal details, intimate photographs, and sordid stories are splattered all over the internet for all to see?

It’s a question of self-preservation on the part of the faithful spouse. Damage to the cheater often means further damage to them. Affecting the cheater’s reputation, job, and life can cause more difficulties for the faithful spouse, their children, and their family when they’ve already faced the mess of infidelity. The faithful partner has to weigh further consequences to themselves and their family against any benefit to outing the cheater publicly.

Yes, it’s a double standard and yes, it affords the cheater a greater protection than they deserve. The only winner in these circumstances is the cheater. The affair partner loses, the faithful partner loses, the family loses.

Perhaps the take-home message here is a cautionary one, based on the inherent nature of a cheater: Having an affair is a selfish and entitled choice that disregards the potential damage it could do to others.

It’s short-sighted and foolish to get involved with a cheater with the expectation that you should somehow be exempt from potential damage.

Myths

Whilst rational thinking should conclude that the affair partner is a low-value target, so many faithful partners spend considerable amounts of time and energy focusing on them. Spending your time criticizing the way the other person looks and behaves not only saps you of emotional energy that is hard to recoup, but it is founded in a basic misunderstanding of the nature of affairs.

Many cheaters ‘affair down’. She’sAHomewrecker demonstrates quite clearly that the other woman isn’t necessarily a ‘better model’ than the wife.

Affairing Down

The other woman isn’t necessarily a ‘better model’ than the wife. Affairing down can be about any number of  subjective perceptions of traits and characteristics of the other woman: attractiveness, education, intellect, personality … and it’s very common.

It’s also a question of availability – the available pool of ‘other women’ is limited because it is only populated by those who are open to having a relationship with someone already in a committed relationship. 

The cheater doesn’t cheat because the other woman is inordinately special. They are not ‘better’ than the wife; they’re new, available, meet something that the cheater wants, and is willing to be a dirty secret.

IHG: The Other Woman: The Zoology

The cheater didn’t cheat because the other woman was inordinately special. Cheaters cheat with people who are open to having a relationship with someone already in a committed relationship. The people who willingly enter into relationships with someone ostensibly unavailable are not better than the faithful spouse; they’re new, available, and willing to be a dirty secret.

The Bethenny show audience who made comments that blamed the faithful partner, the relationship, or not ‘keeping your man happy enough’ are buying into uninformed but pervasive notions about infidelity. It’s not stupid or a failure to believe that your partner will honor their commitment of fidelity. Trust is not a ‘disorder’ to be derided.

An unhappy or imperfect relationship is not the cause of infidelity. Infidelity causes infidelity. Personal narrative and world view sanction the cheater’s internal justifications to have an affair. The faithful spouse has very little influence or control over the cheater’s rationalizations to cheat.

 Justice

There is very little recourse for a faithful partner in today’s society with the abolition (or lack of teeth) of most adultery and alienation of affection laws. Even if divorce is the outcome after an affair, it doesn’t deliver any measure of justice or recompense for the harm, pain and upset that an affair (and its attendant behaviors) inflicts.

Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.
~ Benjamin Franklin

The affair couple have deliberately chosen selfish behaviors that have harmed other people. Affairs make people angry. They change people. They are painful, and there are very few outlets for that pain. Without some form of societal justice for the faithful spouse, many see the only available alternative as personal vengeance.

Whilst it is far loftier to take the position that revenge solves nothing and corrects nothing, is it any more righteous to blame and criticize a betrayed spouse for reacting to an onslaught to their lives that they did not invite and over which they had no control?

Support

The satisfaction that might be had by posting details to the She’sAHomewrecker site is probably short-lived. The site is a conduit for venting and expressing outrage and disgust. It’s an understandable reaction, but other support might help move the faithful spouses out of the mire. Support sites that focus more on positive personal outcomes after an affair than trashing the other woman might be a better option.

In the wake of an affair, the only productive use of your energy is to invest it in yourself. Regardless of the outcome of your relationship after the affair, you have to live with yourself. Redirect the anger, pain, and humiliation into redefining your own life and working towards your own goals.

Whilst the women who appeared on the Bethenny show might not have been received sympathetically by the audience, they were clearly angry and hurting. Unfortunately their upset was expressed in terms that seemed detrimental to their agenda, and the show did seem to raise valid issues. What it failed to do however, was portray how these women’s lives were so severely impacted by the actions of both their cheater, and the other woman.

I may not share the views and opinions of the women on the show, but I do extend my sympathy and support for them in this difficult period of their lives.

Wayfarer

“I'm not a teacher, only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead - ahead of myself as well as you.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

2 Comments:

  1. On the one hand, I do understand why you emphasize so much that most affair partners are a “downgrade”. This i a very common argument which can be found on many websites. On the other, it is very hurtful to read, especially when considering the fact that we are all complex human beings with different abilities, talents, who do not fit simply intolerant an “upgrade” or “downgrade” box. I am not sure if especially this argument is rationalizing too much.

    • Hi Lara

      Thank you for the comment.

      As the article pointed out, ‘affairing down’ is entirely subjective. It is also a similarly subjective assessment when the affair partner views themselves as an upgrade to the spouse; this is remarkably common despite how hurtful that characterization may be to the spouse concerned.

      I understand that it may be upsetting for an affair partner to see themselves characterized in this way so frequently. However, appealing against that characterization on the basis of hurtfulness is ludicrously tone deaf and unlikely to garner support or compassion from IHG’s primary audience.

      Ultimately, knowing participation in an affair is a clear demonstration of unethical and damaging conduct. The majority of faithful spouses would, I am sure, hold that conduct alone as an indication and measure of ‘affaired down’ – and it requires very little (if any) rationalization to do so.

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