Therapists on 'betrayal and the modern man'

Double standard alive and kicking for cheating Israeli couples.

cheating couple 88 (photo credit: )
cheating couple 88
(photo credit: )
First in a series Several months ago, Dr. Rivka Nardi happened to watch an American talk show featuring seven men who talked about betraying their wives, while the women listened in an adjacent room. "One by one, they expressed surprise at their wives' sense of emotional shock and pain," Nardi told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. "None of them imagined their behavior could be that hurtful." Nardi, a clinical psychologist who specializes in individual and couple therapy and the author of both novels and books on psychology, said she has witnessed similar reactions among her own patients. "One man who was in therapy with me said that if his wife betrayed him, he would leave her because that would be 'really serious,' while for him it 'meant nothing,' and was 'only sex.'" Nardi said. "There are many women who have affairs just for fun, in which case their partners are deeply shocked," she said. "But men expect their spouses to forgive them and feel that nothing terrible happened, yet are terribly shocked when their wives behave in the same way." Earlier Wednesday, Nardi participated in a Hebrew University conference on betrayal in a range of social, political and other contexts, where she delivered a lecture together with her husband, Dr. Chen Nardi, an individual and couples therapist and the head of the Movement for New Manhood. Together, they examined marital infidelity from the perspective of both men and women. "In the past, men and women gave very different reasons for betraying one another," Rivka Nardi said. "Today, the reasons are mixed, but there is still the man's story and the woman's story." "Betrayal always starts with seduction, but the price is very high, both for the betrayers and for those who are betrayed," she said. In the fast-paced modern world, where people are exposed to a growing number of real and virtual seductions, she said, there is a constant need for more stimuli, and the "power of seduction" is omnipresent. At the same time, she said people's reasons for allowing themselves to be seduced were tied to two central issues. "Women may feel a sense of loneliness and despair regarding their relationship, and a sense of dissatisfaction with the level of communication with their spouse," she said. "Oftentimes a chance encounter can become a lifeline that is justified by these difficult feelings." Nardi said that an increasing number of men and women have devalue the very idea of fidelity. "You have to be part of this terrible experience of betrayal to understand what it really does to people," she said. "It's very far from the kind of light-hearted tone in which people often discuss it, and from the legitimization given it as a form of fun," she said. Nardi said that while statistics on men betraying their wives ranged from 50 to 90 percent, she did not find such numbers useful indicators of infidelity rates. "It all depends on how you define betrayal," she said, noting that men often defined the term in a very selective manner, limiting it to very specific forms of sexual behavior. Men, she added, have a more difficult time admitting they had done wrong and asking for forgiveness than did women, according to some studies. Chen Nardi said the emotional repression that men undergo plays a decisive role in cases of male betrayal. "The male ethos is not to 'cry like a woman,' not to show soft spots or pain," he said. "For men who feel their emotional life is blocked, sex becomes a unique and limited platform for expressing feelings of pain, distress and pleasure." Israeli men, he said, were no different than men everywhere in this respect. "The average age at which men are exposed to pornography is 11. When men are told to 'act like a man' this does not imply they should express themselves, take care of their kids and come home early. Rather, it catapults them toward violence, crude and pornographic expressions of their sexuality, and power struggles," he said. "The model of war is part of the relationship men and women entertain when they are in bed together," he said. "It's a power struggle that easily leads to betrayal. In the context of a war, betrayal is part of the game." At the same time, he said, men he worked with were often surprised that he defined their marital infidelity as "betrayal." "They defined betrayal as the act of betraying their country. In contrast, they described their own behavior as a way of saving their marriage, making up for lost experiences, or giving themselves something they deserved," he said. "The double standard for men and women is amazing. We wouldn't be willing to accept it in any other area." Chen Nardi was also hesitant to refer to statistics on infidelity. "Statistics are something very mean," he said. "Only one person can determine whether they can salvage their marriage after infidelity, and those people are us. There are no statistics that determine that betrayal must destroy a marriage. People can undergo very drastic and substantial changes. It's in the hands of each and every one of us," he said.