Women Who Stray

Notes on the history and current practice of female infidelity

Financial Infidelity - The Latest Scare Tactic

Be very afraid. Your husband/wife/partner may be an independent being!

Be afraid! Be very afraid! Photo: Shelterpop.com

There are a lot of people out there who want to make everyone else insecure about themselves and their marriages. The magazines in the checkout line thrive on this - you can choose between a voyeuristic peek into the foibles and cellulite of your favorite celebrity, or you can choose to feel insecure about your body, relationship, or sexual skills. The 24-hours news cycle has got to fill the airwaves with something, and what better than "Extreme FEAR!"? It's like a horror movie - the babysitter should have checked the CallerID to find out the KILLER IS IN THE HOUSE! And the easiest method for these terror-tactics is to instigate fear that the person you chose to spend your life with is not what you think they are.

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The US military has manuals they follow, to combat Insurgent Warfare. Unfortunately, there seems to be no manual to combat the tactics of Insecurity Warfare, which we face on a daily basis. The latest stratagem in this desperate battle is the concept of "Financial Infidelity." Over the past few weeks, there's been a remarkable surge in media stories that are telling people to "BEWARE! Your partner may not be having sex with other people, but they are probably lying to you about money!"

The premise of the concept of financial infidelity is that your husband, wife, or partner, might be keeping secrets from you, around money. Either they are spending money in ways you don't know about, or they have money hidden away that they're not sharing with you.

Financial infidelity is the latest scare tactic by a diverse, octopus-like industry that makes money by keeping you constantly on the edge of your seat with fear that your mate has betrayed you. Not long ago, it was "Emotional Infidelity" - and the idea that "your partner might not be having sex, but they ARE becoming too emotionally close to somebody other than you!" Before that, it was the "Down Low" epidemic! "Your male partner might be having secret gay sex and not telling you about it!"

Historically, society has always invested community effort in managing infidelity - in European cultures, people would nail horns onto a man's door, to let that husband know that his wife is cheating on him, and that he is the only one in the town that doesn't know about it. In China, the gift of a green hat to a husband serves the same purpose.

But there is an insidiousness to the Insecurity Industry that is troubling and frightening. If they're driving couples into my doors for therapy, well, I guess I'll take the business. But, it takes a long time to combat those sneaky messages and assumptions that these tactics instill. The number one Sneaky Cognition that they foster? "You and your partner should have NO secrets from each other. If you do, your marriage is DOOMED!"

I'm all for close, supportive, partnerships between people, where there is an openness of communication. I like that in personal relationships, as well as professional ones. But let's talk reality. Your partner is another whole, independent person, who goes through their own twenty-four hour day. They have thoughts and feelings through that day, which you don't and can't know about. You just can't. You're living your own life. I've seen couples where there is such terror of secrets, such an intense level of distrust, that one partner is required to basically recount their entire day to the other, while the other one is scanning for loose strings and possible secrets. It's the equivalent of an enhanced patdown by the TSA, while being cross-examined by Perry Mason. Yuck. Not fun.

The Insecurity Industry thrives on these one-up tactics. There's always going to be another thing that you should be worried about. Cyber-sex, workplace relationships that are too close, emotional infidelity, financial infidelity, and on and on. They sell fear and worry, by convincing you that there is always another potential crisis and betrayal on the horizon.

Should couples talk about financial agreements? Absolutely. Should they expect each other to communicate about them? Yep. Can you expect that your partner, being human, might make a mistake and have difficulty taking responsibility for it? A safe bet. Does it mean you can never trust them again, and the marriage is over? Only if you give in to the "newspeak" of the Insecurity Industry. They want you to panic, they want you to divorce, and have greater mistrust and fear in your next relationship, so they can sell you even greater levels of fear and mistrust.

One of the stages of development for humans is the recognition in toddlers that other people have other lives, unconnected to your own. You are not the centre of the universe - these other people exist independently of you, and your tears and fears only have influence on them if they choose to let them. There is a similar level of development in relationships, that the Insecurity Industry doesn't want you to know about. Your partner is an independent person, with separate needs, thoughts, fears, behaviors and feelings, and yet they STILL choose, every day, to share their life with you. That's a much better deal than someone who is joined at the hip with you, absolutely unable to choose anything and anyone BUT you. Celebrate that. Tell the Insecurity Industry to peddle their panic elsewhere.

 

David J. Ley, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and author of Insatiable Wives, Women Who Stray and The Men Who Love Them, available from Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

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