This one ought to raise a few people’s ire…
So, it’s like 2007-ish, right? And the rumors begin to circulate that Brad Pitt has left his wife, Jennifer Anniston, for his Mr. & Mrs. Smith co-star Angelina Jolie. Suddenly, the tabloids and press and groups of women are on fire everywhere with vitriol for this hussy who stole away the innocent Jen’s husband.
Well…what always surprised me about this phenomenon is how rarely Brad’s part in all this is mentioned (and, yes, I’ve now gone generic: Brad and Jen are any committed couple, and Angelina is any “other” woman). There were two people in a committed relationship, two people responsible for their fidelity — and, yet, Brad got none of the blame, while Angelina — who had very little responsibility for another couple’s relationship, I might argue — took the brunt of the mass outrage:
- She lured him.
- Look at her! Who could blame him!
- She’s a home wrecker.
And what of Jen and Brad in their relationship? They were responsible for nurturing, loving, communicating and compromising with one another. Somehow, it broke apart from within first. A strong and solid committed man would be impervious to external influences, right?
Well, even I admit that Italy and Angelina could be tempting…
I’ve personally experienced or witnessed many shades of this hue — from my own parents’ divorce (which ended in infidelity) to the temptations I encountered while feeling vulnerable while in my own marriage to feeling completely helpless when I couldn’t seem to recapture any of my husband’s wayward energy. I never cheated, and I don’t know that my ex did, either…but we weren’t equally committed at all times (or ever). And yet I was always conscious of our responsibility for our relationship.
If my ex had been unfaithful (and I suppose it’s possible that he was), I can assure you I would have held him squarely responsible. This does not mean that I would have had any positive or warm feelings toward the other woman; only that I wouldn’t automatically assume malicious intent on her part. What if she had done nothing to lure him? What if he had made the first move?
When I was younger, my attitude was far more cavalier. I had a few encounters with married men myself. I don’t condone this behavior; I now view it as wrong. At the time, my behaviors were foolish and naive, with no intent to hurt others. I never made any first moves. I assumed these men just didn’t value their marriages. And if they didn’t, why should I bother? (And, of course, I see how such dalliances hurt me most of all in the end.)
Having lived through more than a decade of commitment, I certainly see how misguided my perspective once was. I believe those around us — our friends, our families and society in general — ought to be generally inclined to support us in our commitments, whatever they may be. Still, I lean toward placing the greatest onus for any marriage or commitment on the two people in it. And, while I hope others around us will adopt behaviors that support those commitments, I’m not sure the support of those outside of our commitments is the relationship glue we should rely on.