When the news about Congressman Anthony Weiner sending lewd photos of himself to a teenager via Twitter broke out, everyone lamented upon the misfortune of his pregnant wife, Huma Abedin, a highly-respected personality in her own right and aide and advisor to Hillary Clinton. Weiner is one of the many high-profile personalities that have made sexual faux-pas in the recent past. It wasn’t too long ago that the shocking revelation about Dominique Strauss-Kahn hit the headlines, and when Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted to fathering a child outside wedlock, betraying Maria Shriver, his wife of 25 years.
Go back a few years and you have the infamous Monica Lewinsky scandal, which saw the impeachment of the then president Bill Clinton. In fact, many have gone on to say it was the sympathy vote that Hillary Clinton won from the people that enabled her to run for president. Take a look at sporting celebrities around the world and you find people like Tiger Woods, whose impeccable reputation was flung into murky waters after he confessed to unfaithful behaviour towards his wife. A flip through glossy show-biz magazines reveals that celebrities too, constantly find themselves in such scandals.
As a people ever on the lookout for scandals, we generally express grief upon what the wife must have gone through in such situations, and truly it is a most disturbing thing. Their story is told and retold and they are touted as pillars of strength if they stand by their philandering husbands. If they decide to file for divorce, the support they find from the media is overwhelming. The standing ovation Maria Shriver received only 24 hours after Schwarzenegger’s stunning confession, on stage in Oprah Winfrey’s last show was a testimony of the support that people extended to her. I do not mean to say that we should not empathise with wronged celebrity wives, rather we should also look into the affairs of the common housewives because they too, go through similar heartaches.
They are the ones who do not get noticed – neither in the media, nor in their own homes, the simple housewives who live through each excruciatingly painful day knowing their better halves have a mistress. Women who do not have a media presence of any kind, women who have nowhere to go except their husbands’ homes, often take the injustices meted out to them and accept them as a ghastly reality of life. My heart goes out to the women who keep up a façade of ‘love’ in front of their social circles and at times, even their children, just so no one will ‘talk’. We hear about such things all the time, don’t we?
Anthony Weiner is a high-profile personality, and he did issue a public apology for his misbehaviour online. Many men (and women) in today’s day and age betray their partners by entering into an extramarital relationship. How many are convicted and made an example of? How many issue tearful apologies in public? The issue of extramarital affairs is probably one of our society’s worst-kept secrets and continues to cause agony to millions of people around the world.
The advent of social networks and video chat services has made an extramarital relationship just that much easier. When people do not have to necessarily face one another except virtually, they are much more comfortable crossing the limits they would adhere to in person. There is intimacy and yet there is distance, as Tara Parker-Pope wrote in The New York Times – Digital Flirting – Easy to Do and to Get Caught.
Also, what social networks breed is a sense of narcissism, a sort of bizarre and undue importance on one’s own self; and people become obsessed with their own personas. For some people, an online indulgence merely satisfies a desperate need of knowing how wonderful they are - an assurance that they are indeed irresistible.
It is an established fact that more men than women indulge in such dalliance. Recent studies reveal that 45-55 per cent of married women and 50-60 per cent of married men engage in extramarital affairs at some time or another during their relationship. All this begs the question – WHY? Many men may argue that our environment is a hypersexual one, and that it is easy to get tempted into a relationship with a younger, or perhaps more beautiful woman than their spouse, especially if the women present themselves in a provocative manner. Yet people in the West ban hijab and niqab? Even then ‘modesty’ in dress is frowned upon?
I take this opportunity to invite the readers to give their opinions on the following questions: What causes infidelity in a seemingly secure relationship? What causes our society to accept it like we do? More importantly, what is the secret of successful relationships in this digital age where a virtual partner is only a click away and divorce rates are alarmingly high? Through this , let us aim to make some kind of sense of the social and moral quagmire that we are currently residing in.
Mehmudah Rehman is a Dubai-based freelance writer who blogs at Ummanaal’s Musings.