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socks and cat

marriage/cheating/divorce

Tori & Dean

I'm not a fan of gossip, celebrity or otherwise. But I'm not posting about this for the gossip content. I'm fascinated by marriage, relationships, and what happens to them. And I'm having trouble understanding what happened here and what's right and what's wrong.

Originally when the reality series "Tori & Dean: So Inn Love" (the "Inn" refers to their B&B) I was shocked and disappointed. There was a time in our culture when adultery and leaving your spouse for some one else was a shameful thing and you were shunned by society for it. My thought upon first seeing this show is that we are rewarding these two people who left their spouses for one another. Dean in particular left his wife of 12 years and two children to be with Tori. I thought that glamorizing it with a t.v. series was despicable.

Then last night I saw clips of their wedding and listened to how Tori talked about it. That's the first time I started to notice how really in love they were. Tori described their wedding and said that she was full of adrenaline and excitement and at the same time was more calm and at peace than she had ever been. Dean described it: "It was very moving, very powerful, very freeing." I also noticed that they seemed so at ease with one another after only a year together and talked about how they felt like they had been together for much longer. Dean even has a Tori tattoo on his wrist. I can't remember the last time I saw two people who seemed so right for one another, so happy together, so comfortable.

I try to withhold judgments on situation in which I only have one side of the story (such as the press' or only one of the parties involved but not the other). And I suspect that cheating and broken marriages may be the same. What if the marriage wasn't working (not just in the case of Tori and Dean's marriages, but anyones marriage)? What if Tori and her husband Charlie were already unhappy? What if Dean wanted out of his marriage long before he met Tori because things just weren't right? Obviously neither should have slept together until they ended their marriages. But skipping the issue of sex, was leaving their spouses for one another okay if they really are the soul mates they describe one another as? Or should Dean have stayed in the marriage he was not happy in (for the rest of his life) for the sake of his 7 year old son and newly adopted baby daughter?

What do you base this decision on? What if you are facing a lifetime of discontent with the wrong person? Do you pass up the chance to be with some one you are truly, madly, deeply happy with so you can be a good parent? On the other hand, cheating is cheating. Leaving your spouse for some one new you just fell in love with definitely strikes me as very wrong. But I see how their relationship is now and how right they seem together and I'm wondering if they just had to do it because they can't stand to be without one another. I don't have all the facts, so I'm not in a position to judge these two people. But I'm using their situation as an opportunity to question the situation as it happens to thousands of people every day. What are people in this situation supposed to do?

Comments

It is a ludicrously difficult decision, to be honest, and the more people that are involved, the harder it gets. If it's just you, and someone you love...well, you see if it can work. If they're with someone else, there's an entirely different calculus...can you still be in love and them be with someone else? Are you the sort of person who would break up an unhappy marriage (contract) because you thought you were better.

The second kids get involved, it gets a lot easier. You can love someone like they're your other half...but once you start treading on parenting, you don't belong.

A certain experience, here.
I don't think staying for the children is necessarily a good thing. (Though leaving and then fighting over the children ain't so hot either.) Unhappy families aren't really a barrel of fun to be a kid in.

For the rest... too much complexity for there to be a single neat answer. I am a little leery of leaving for someone else... just because there seems to be so much more potential for confusion. If you need to leave, you should need to leave regardless. Think things through, and go slow.
I think you have hit on two big myths in our society:

One--that relationships fail because something about the relationship is not right

and

Two--the glisten (the NRE) of falling in love is the _real_ relationship, and anything different than NRE is a sign of something going wrong, and either needs fixing or means you should begin to question the relationship.

I really believe that we bring our entire self and history to every relationship. Whatever makes it work or doesn't is what we bring whether we know it or not. It is very tempting (given the above myths in which we are deeply socialized) to believe that we can leave a bad relationship and find a better one and start fresh, but the truth is, we will bring every single one of our issues with us to the new relationship--it may seem totally different at first, but even if the other person is quite different than our previous partner, we will tend to reinforce whatever ways they act that fulfill our internal script--our set of fears and expectations about the world--until we recreate an interaction very like the one we fled.

Is there hope? Of course--it is just that it lies in attending to our own issues and going through the pain of self-confronting growth, not in the illusion of finally finding "the perfect partner."

Should anyone ever leave a bad relationship?--of course--it is just that that person needs to understand that whatever made that relationship bad will not be left behind with the old partner.

Is NRE not valid? Of course not--NRE is wonderful (and a great part of being poly), but long term committed love is wonderful too. NRE is great because it gives you a heightened rose-tinted reflection of how great you are in the eyes of your new love (the psychological term for this important relationship stage is mirroring). Long term love doesn't always do this, but it is long term, committed relationships that really bring us up against our stuck places and forces us to take a good hard look at ourselves, and that is invaluable too.

It is in the nature of deeply committed love that we gradually polarize each other in some ways, and even (contrary to popular belief) bring out the worst in each other. But (also contrary to popular belief) this is no drawback but rather a wonderful opportunity. It is both the curse and the gift of deep long term love that partners stick around long enough to get to the bare bones of each other's most vulnerable defensive and sometimes hateful parts and still care enough to tolerate the uncomfortable but deeply rewarding process of both partner struggling to self-confront, take responsibility for our own shit, and grow beyond it. One of my favorite authors, Dr. David Schnarch, calls this "being in the crucible." (hence my okcupid name)

Really deep friendships do this for us. Marriages often do this for us. True mentorships do this for us.

Leaving a relationship when the NRE (otherwise known as elevated serotonin, low dopamine) wears off (maybe 2-3 years), or when we become so enmeshed that we begin to have to work really hard to hold on to ourselves and the shit really hits the fan (7-10 years--"the seven-year itch") doesn't do this for us. (This is often when couple issues start to play out in the bedroom in the form of one partner shutting down. It is also common for people who are desperately repressing awareness of unmet needs, to act out in secret affairs or in other integrity-warping ways.)

Our culture trains us to believe that these are signs of a relationship going bad. Actually they are red flags of opportunity.

This is why I have stayed with the same partner for nineteen years. This is also why I am in the process of becoming a relationship and sex therapist. These are incredibly powerful forces and their power to drive true change is profoundly life-changing.

I recommend a wonderful book called _Passionate Couples_ by the author I mentioned above. (He is not very sympathetic to poly and almost all his vignettes are about straight couples, but other than that, he has an amazing amount of great stuff to say in a very readable way.)

These are huge questions and very close to my heart. Good post.

Good points.

What's to say these new relationships will be any different? Or that the "problem" with the relationship wasn't Dean or Tori's expectations?
The flip side of this is that you do not create everything that is in a relationship. You can spend an awful lot of time trying to work through things and negotiate them, and be willing to accept your part in things... only to eventually realize that they aren't yours, and are things you can walk away from. Attributing all your shit to another person is one trap. Taking responsibility for all their shit is just as much of one.
Oh yes! As an overachiever, I'm intimately famliar with this one! Illusions of control are just another kind of defensive avoidance. Worse, they can be a kind of manipulative, pre-emtive self-strike--"If I get really down on myself first, how can you justify being mad at me too?"

My take in the post above was mostly a reaction to the romatic escapism I percieved in the TV show. Your point is very valid though--it is an equally dangerous trap.

Ah, we humans are just so dang complicated!
*sheepish* A recurring theme of the last year and a half has been looking at parts of my life that are working really well since I moved out on my own and asking myself "So, this never was a problem for me before I was married, why am I surprised this works so well now that I'm out of that relationship?" For most things it's pretty easy for me to just think eh, you learn, you grow, you go on... but it's uncomfortable to realize how willing I was to mistrust myself.
Wow. I agree with pretty much everything you said here. And it's not often I find others that understand this. You are going to be an AMAZING therapist!
Oh, I'm really glad you reacted that way!

After I wrote all that in your journal I was really having second thoughts, thinking, oh god, here I barely know you and I'm going off sounding like I'm trying to be all expert, and like I've got everything all perfectly worked out in my life (hardly--but thank goodness being a good therapist is much more about knowing what the work is _you_ still have ahead of you, rather than any book knowledge or theory you may have picked up).

Anyway, as my dear friend Tim would say, sometimes you just push someone's "Big Red Knowledge Button" and off they go...

Well, anyway, you can tell this is stuff I really feel passionate about (and also, it truly is more than book knowledge or theory).

I like what many of your other comments have said too--good discussion.
Speaking from my own experience only... If you are THAT unhappy in a relationship and working on it just doesn't seem that it is going to make a difference, yes you should leave. But give the marriage and your partner the respect to hold off on beginning a new relationship until your divorced (unless its like a 3 year process or something). Jumping into a new relationship, no matter how wonderful it feels, isn't very healthy if you're still carrying around baggage from an unhappy marriage.

If only I'd stuck to this a year ago I would not be in the situation I am now. I believed that our love made everything okay. But after any long term relationship time is needed to heal, repair, and prepare for whatever comes next.
"Cheating is cheating and cheating is wrong" seems to be the general societal view--until the individual is embroiled in such complicated emotions themselves. Personally, I'm inclined to think that if people didn't generally hold such narrow views of what's acceptable in love and sex, things maybe wouldn't be so complicated. People have a hard time being honest with one another, especially when it comes to such a potentially explosive topic. I couldn't hold cheating against someone if they told their partner that they're unhappy and want to fix things, and nothing happens. Or that they're still happy, but need something that isn't being given or currently available in the current partnership. In those instances, fair warning was given, and if nothing happens, I don't see why it would be wrong or unfair to find a suitable partner elsewhere. But then, I also don't believe in marriage as a permanent contract between the couple and God or the government or what have you, but rather a spiritual bond between the people (two or more, even). Just like people, some bonds have longer lifespans than others.
I think the problem is that people tend to stay in dissatisfying relationships that they *already know* have an expiration date until they find a replacement.

If you realize you are with someone who is not right for you, it makes sense for them and for yourself to end it and save them the heartache of watching you leave them for someone else. Better to leave before you meet the special someone...

Cheating is disrespectful to all parties involved. Falling out of love, or thinking you are in love when you are not happens all the time. Sometimes it takes meeting the right person to give that spark of realization that what you are doing is not right for you. My ex and I were together for 5 1/2 years but we truly were done for years. I met Patrick and something sparked-I honestly never even thought of going for him or anything-and NEVER would have cheated EVER. I broke up with my ex solely because we were not right for each other. Patrick and I became friends and ended up dating months later...it was like I was waiting for the right thing to come along or something-it was weird.

Ack!

Too complicated....

Much to un-reasonable to place everything into a single person for a forever commitment based on them having to act outside base human nature, I always felt it was a set up...

Many eggs many baskets...

But then I'm not the one to ask about Monogomus relationships, I've never been in one that worked and I tried to make one work for 12 years much to miserable and I managed to get out of it without self distructing... My Poly ones though seem to be much more harmonious.

But that is just Me.
Marriage is a commitment. Plain and simple. If you cant live up to that commitment, than you should never get married. You are supposed to be willing to work at it. Not throw in the towel cause you THINK something better has come along.

Who is to say that Tori and Dean will not both change their minds again in another year? They were both married before. They both felt this way about another person before, but then dumped their spouses like they were yesterdays trash. They were greedy and selfish. And worse yet, children will pay the price for that.

It is my sincere hope, that anyone who does that, never again finds happiness. Because they dont deserve it.
Do you know more about this than the rest of us?

I'm sure people leave marriages for stupid and selfish reasons all the time. But there are plenty of other reasons to leave marriages, and I can't see judging unless one is intimately involved.

Disclosure: Fall of '05, I moved away from my husband of almost a decade. Does that mean that I can't keep a commitment? In my view, after a decade of broken promises and unfulfilled agreements I finally came to accept that being angry at him for these things was futile, and that getting angry at him for not following through on his word was like getting angry with a dog for barking. It was his nature, and if it bothered me I needed to remove myself from the situation.
I was dating for 2 years before I got married. We were married for 8 years.

On my birthday, my "X" came up to me out of the blue and said. "You know, (cocks head to side) I dont think I want to be married to you anymore."

I was like.. "huh?????"

And just like that, it was over.

My son was 4.5 years old. But, my "X" did not care about him. Only cared about sleeping around and getting greener pastures. Dident care about how much it hurt anyone involved.

There is more to MY story than that. But, basically, vows were said. But, in the end, they were tossed aside as if they never had mattered.

Of course, I actually BELIEVE in what marriage is supposed to be. And the harsh reality that is not that way anymore has slapped me in the face.

I am kind of black and white by nature though. To me, things are cut and dry. So, I expect that when a person says "I do" that they mean it.
A lot of my story was about when does one finally draw the line. I'm pretty exacting about myself and my own behavior, but I don't expect people to be like, or think like, me. The first few times major agreements were broken, I was hurt, but I was willing to forgive, and work through it as long as it seemed like there was a real chance of working things out. We talked a lot. (And fought a lot -- I don't take these things lightly, and I'm no one's doormat.)

What was strange is that the more time went by, the harder it was to know where to draw the line. If X and Y had already happened, and I hadn't left then, why should Z be that much different? I never promised to stay forever, no matter what (I'd told him for years that if the situation didn't improve I was out of there, in fact) but I'm damned stubborn.

And here's the bit that makes me a little more sympathetic to our philandering stars. Many of my friends had been quietly encouraging me to get out for years. But one in particular... he didn't encourage me to leave, as he had the sense when to know to mind his own business, but as we became closer I began to realize all the things in my marriage that I was ashamed of, and hid from other people. And how I was afraid to let my new friend closer, because I didn't want the stress and discomfort of my marriage spilling over onto him. Keep in mind, my husband and I were poly, and he was fully aware of my friendship. And my friend and I were never quite romantic partners, though we hovered on the edge of it for a while, and might be back to hovering now. (I have kissed his hand. Friends of mine refer to it as "The Victorian Courtship".)

For me, personally, I couldn't deal ethically with anything that was even slightly like leaving my spouse for another person. Maybe that's why I didn't move out on my own until some months after my friend left the state. It's fairly likely that I would have left earlier if I hadn't known him... but if everything was completely different, then everything would be completely different. Who can say?

It's been over a year and a half since I left my husband. We're still on friendly terms, though I don't think he's doing that well. Next month I'm moving across the country to pursue my PhD... at the same institution that my friend is working on an MD/PhD. We'll be living together. I still don't know if this relationship will involve romance... *shrug* He's my closest friend, and I'm sure we'll work something out. And I didn't leave for him, and yet I can't say that he had nothing to do with the process that finally brought to me to leave.

I don't have any doubts that leaving was the right decision -- if anything, I wonder a little that it took me so long.
Sounds to me, like HE broke the promises, long before you might have. You said, that you never promised to stay forever. If you did not have that kind of thing in your marriage vows, then you have not broken it. You can leave anytime you want.

If you and your friend, were not romantically ivolved, than there was nothing at all wrong with your relationship with him. And, since you were Poly, and your husband was as well, and everyone involved was ok with that. Then again, no harm done.

being Poly, opens up a whole different set of rules, and such I think. I myself for the most part, highly disapprove of the the poly lifestyle. But, that is cause I see it abused, for sexual gratification for the most part. An excuse to sleep around, be a sleeze and get away with it.

HOWEVER,

I had a girlfriend once, bout 8 years ago that was Poly. And I asked her about it, the same as I had been asking others. I wanted a reasonable non sleeze reason for it. She gave me the best reason that I have heard yet.

She said, "No one person can fulfill all of another persons needs. A, might be really good in bed, but sucks when it comes to being there emotionally. B, provides excellent companionship, but also lacks that emotional tie (no sex in the relationship) C, really really SUCKS in bed, but DOES provide that needed emotional connection. D, is ok in bed, but no Casanova. But is very supportive financially, or as a roll model for the child.

This explainatin I understand, and can actually see a point proven. We dated for many months. Then she moved away due to a lack of work in her chosen field. We did see each other when we could for a while. But, eventually, I moved away too. A LOT further than she had. I moved halfway across the country. She just got married almost a year ago. It was beautiful. I still love her and wish her all happiness.

Anyways, your break up, was not centered around you wanting to run off with someone else, as was the case with the couple in the original thread. I see extenuating circumstances in your case. But, that couple in the original thread, just pissed their marriages away as if they had no meaning. And took off with some one else.