I recently completed a virtual session and got me thinking. My client was distraught, her husband of 12 years left her for his mistress. She was angry with good reason, of course. But she was mostly angry with the mistress. She admitted that forgiven her husband will be hard, but was willing to do it. Forgiven the other woman, as she put it the "Jezebel" who seduced her husband was impossible. It got me thinking, why is it when husbands cheat, or leave their wives we are keen to put the blame on "the other woman?"
Let's dig down to some of the roots of blaming the other woman aka homewrecker dynamic. We live in a world that has conditioned women to think and feel about themselves in ways that lead to constant competition with one another. Always comparing, blaming, shaming and even degrading one another to be the prize. The truth is another human being can not be held accountable for someone else's actions so, why put the focus on them. Let's take a look at the many reasons why we tend to blame the "other woman" why we need to stop.
1. We Often Think of Relationships as Property
“He’s taken.” “he's mine." We use language of property and possession to talk about relationships.We do it because of the sense of security it gives. We treat our relationships like we do to everything else that we own. Once we pay for it, it belongs to us, we claim it as ours and count on it to be there as long as we want it. The reality our partners are not objects, we can't buy nor own them. A relationship is a choice. Every day we can choose to stay committed, invest, cherish and honor that relationship or detached. We can't let the partner who chose cheating and leaving the relationship off the hook. They made a committed and chose to break it, the other party is/can't be held accountable.
2. It Plays Into "The Jezebel Spirit" or "Temptress Stereotype"
From the beginning of time women have been viewed as dangerous seductresses that have all of the control. If a woman comes onto a man, he has no choice but to fall prey to her charms. I often hear church folks refer to some women having the "jezebel spirit" leading poor helpless men astray. It is the idea that the “other woman” is an immoral temptress. Making women responsible for men’s sexual behavior is a key component of rape culture. The same concept that says a woman is “asking for it” if she dresses a certain way. Women are not sexual gate keepers. The truth is men are perfectly capable of making decisions about who to date and who not to. Just as they are able to hear and understand a woman’s “no,” they are able to turn down an attractive woman because it’s more important to them to honor their existing covenant with their wife.
3. It is Easier to Get Angry with Someone We Don't Know
Anger is a natural response to negative situations. An affair, the break up of a marriage can and will trigger anger. When our partners have behaved terribly to us, or have badly hurt us a part of us are still attached to them. We have a long history of love and closeness with them that makes anger difficult and complicated. We have no connection to the other woman. That anger is rage and hatred. Somehow that hatred may give some temprary but won't fix the problem.
4. It Hurts Less
Cheating is the ultimate betrayal and when you’re the one being cheated on, or being left for another woman I would imagine, it's excruciating. None of us want to believe the person we loved made a choice not to be with us. It’s much easier, instead, to think as though the other woman is the "Jezebel," "the witch" who cast a spell that your husband was helpless to resist. It is difficult to admit “My partner didn’t value me enough to stay with me” or “The other person has something I don’t.”We simply avoid the hurt by choosing to be in rage with the other woman. After all it is easier to blame some one we don't know. It's easier to believe the other woman is responsible for the misery brought on as a result of the affair. It is tempting to believe if it were not for that other woman, the affair would not have occurred or the other woman was aware of his family and still chose to be with him. It simply hurts less than to deal with the shame.
5. We Assume Men Are Bad Anyways
I often hear both men and women say "men are dogs and women are the nice ones." The assumption is men by nature men can't help their sexual urges but women can. Therefore, when women do something that we deem as inappropriate, such as cheating, mean or vulgar it is so much easier to get angry at them because we somehow think they're acting outside of their nature. That woman is viewed as a witch, a home wrecker while the man is viewed as having made a mistake. Yet in reality he is the only one who has broken a sacred bond, a contract with his wife. It's not to say the other party involved is blameless, because if she was aware of his marital status, she has some blame as well but at the end of the day, no woman is responsible for keeping someone else's man faithful. A cheater will always find ways to lie, cheat and conceal their deceit. However, going after the other woman or being angry at her won't solve the problem nor would it help with the healing process.