Love & Sex

Pat Robertson Explains How to Deal with Your Husband’s Cheating

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This right-wing reactionary accidentally said something I kind of agree with.

Noted asshole Pat Robertson had some odd words of advice for the women of the world when answered a question from a concerned viewer of his religious television show. Her husband had cheated on her, and despite her prayers, she had not yet been able to process and move beyond her feelings of betrayal. She was looking for guidance in keeping her marriage together. "Stop talking about the cheating!" he replies, "He cheated on you, well, he's a man."

Robertson's answer to the question was actually quite surprising. For a public figure as obsessed with traditional marriage as he is, he's apparently a bit lax when it comes to the whole "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery" guideline. From Abraham to JFK, there's always been a tacit approval of the wandering male eye, but Robertson just plain came out and said it. This is interesting. It's an admission that a monogamous marriage doesn't always work for everyone all the time. 

In a way, I agree with the sentiment. Well, not all the weird rhetorical questions Robertson later asked the advice-seeker (Does your husband provide a house? Does he give you clothes to wear?), but the idea that someone cheating on you doesn't have to destroy your relationship or your life is an important one. Robertson is, of course, a hypocrite. There's no need to spend time unpacking how reductionist and reactionary he is. Because it's his very worldview, one obsessed with traditional, heterosexual marriage between two virgins, that convinces men and women alike that their partner touching another man or woman is such an overwhelming rejection. If we didn't convince ourselves that two people together forever was the highest aspiration, we might not be so wounded if we (or our partners) fell short.

So while Robertson is probably (definitely) just relying on an irritating standard of behavior that allows men some leeway while confining women to a traditional role, he's also unwittingly acknowledging a public shift. Though it's unlikely he would allow for the same understanding and forgiveness if the cheater was a woman, it's possible for us to extend this forgiveness to women as well (because we're smarter than Pat Robertson).

I understand the emphasis on trust in a relationship. I understand that the pain of a cheating partner often has as much to do with the lies as with the transgression. But when we're so obsessed and insistent on a relationship mode that's so difficult to maintain, there's bound to be a lot of disappointment. I don't think the answer is for everyone to enter into polyamorous relationships. That's not what works best for most people. But I do think that the it's time to begin to have honest discussions around relationship expectations. It might be time to consider lowering cheating from a Level 5, almost-unforgivable offense to something a bit more manageable and realistic. And it's time to end a cultural double-standard that allows men a wide margin an error while relegating women to the role of the reluctant dispenser of forgiveness.