By Erica Zaiser
Which is worse, your partner being sexually or emotionally unfaithful? For most people either an emotional or sexual affair can inspire feelings of anger or jealousy. However, “Sugarbabe” author Holly Hill argues that, for men, cheating is normal and thus women should accept that their partner will probably cheat on them. She says, however, that women can regain control by allowing their partners to cheat but controlling the circumstances. According to her, by creating rules about your partner cheating you can structure their infidelity and dissuade them from keeping their affairs secret. In particular, Hill seems to suggest that it is emotional affairs which hurt, and by allowing sexual infidelity she keeps her partner from having an emotional relationship with someone else. For example she says that in her relationship, her boyfriend is allowed to have sex with other women but not sleep over or go on “romantic weekends”.
Although her ideas may seem inconceivable for many couples, there is empirical evidence showing that women are more likely than men to say that emotional jealousy is more distressing than sexual jealousy. So, for some women (particularly if they accept the idea that men are “destined to cheat”, which is really an entirely separate topic for debate and not particularly well supported in the psychology literature), it might seem like the lesser of two evils for a partner to cheat sexually if that discourages a possible emotional affair. Hill also says that in her relationship she too is allowed to be unfaithful, but both sexually and emotionally because her boyfriend is “okay with it”. However, it isn’t very clear how this arrangement reduces potential sexual jealousy for either her or her partner. Sexual jealousy, according to research, is equally distressing for men and women. This is despite the assumptions by many evolutionary theorists that men should be more jealous of sexual infidelity than women. What do you think of Hill’s arrangement? Do evolutionary psychology theories about jealousy support her ideas or not?
Read More: ‘Sugarbabe’ favors negotiated infidelity
Posted in Emotion and Motivation, Gender
Tagged affairs, anxiety, boyfriend, cheating, distress, emotional, evolutionary psychology, infidelity, interpersonal relationships, jealous, jealousy, relationship, sexual affair, Sugarbabe, unfaithful
Tim Lott’s recent article ‘Men are suffering a depression epidemic…’ in the Daily Mail argues that one of the causes of men’s depression is the fluidity of the roles they are ‘expected to play in modern life, both professionally and emotionally, and as fathers and husbands’, which ‘can lead to a lot of painful doubt about what the role of a man actually is’. That is, men are ‘expected to be strong yet sensitive, successful but not materialistic, caring yet masculine’. Whether it is fair, as he does, to blame women for this is a moot point. However, the article does provide an interesting example of how ideological dilemmas may affect mental health.
Billig et al (1988) first introduced the concept of ideological dilemmas in a book with the same name. Their aim was to make a contribution to the debate surrounding the nature of ideology by questioning the notion that ideologies are always constituted by integrated and coherent sets of ideas. Although they did not deny that ideologies could conform to this classical Marxist definition, they argued that a different kind of ideology existed. These ‘lived’ ideologies are the beliefs, values and practices of a given society. In other words, these ideologies are a society’s ‘common sense’ ways of doing things. Unlike their Marxist counter-parts, these ideologies are often characterized by inconsistency, fragmentation and contradiction, which do not provide clear and concise ways for people to think and act. Billig et al (1988) provide numerous examples, such as the dilemma between ‘many hands make light work’ and ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’, or, ‘look before we leap’ and ‘he who hesitates is lost’.
Edley (2001) argues that the concept of ideological dilemmas can also inform our understanding of gender and gender relations. One such example is the dilemma of work versus family. That is, how do mothers and fathers fulfill their career aspirations as well as their parental obligations, and also find time to develop their own relationship by having quality time together away from the demands of children and work? In addition, men are today, confronted as never before with mediated messages that invite them to openly confront their emotions, be sensitive, caring and feel comfortable seeking help, whilst at the same time they are expected to be appear powerful, strong and self-reliant (Gough, 2009). It is these ideological dilemmas that Lott and MIND identify as often leading to men suffering depression.
Men are suffering a depression epidemic too… and some of it is caused by women
MIND – Men’s mental health
Ideological Dilemmas: A Social Psychology of Everyday Thinking
Gender fatigue: The ideological dilemma of gender neutrality and discrimination in organisations