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September 16, 2014

Good News and Bad News

The good news is that, if they're willing to admit fault and want to change, domestic abusers can learn better ways to resolving marital disputes:

While both men and women commit acts of intimate-partner violence, as experts call it, approximately 85% of victims are female. Decades of studies show that about 60% to 70% of abusive men who complete a comprehensive batterer treatment program can reform, says Jeffrey L. Edleson, professor and dean of the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley, and an expert on domestic abuse.

One of the most thorough and well-designed studies on the topic was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and conducted by Edward Gondolf, now a professor emeritus at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. It was summarized in 2004 in the journal Aggression and Violent Behavior. The study spent four years following 618 men who entered batterer-intervention programs in one of four cities, as well as their female partners starting when the men entered the program.

The study found that at the 30-month follow-up, more than 80% of the men had not re-assaulted their partner in the previous year, and at the 48-month follow-up, 90% of the men had not assaulted their partner in the past year. The treatment programs were small education-therapy groups, meeting at least once a week for between four months and a year. "Men who completed the program were much less likely to abuse their partners," Dr. Gondolf says.

The study also showed that at both of these follow-up points, two-thirds of the women (some the original partners of the men, some new) said that their quality of life had improved, and 85% of the women said they felt very safe.

One of the main reasons the blog princess stated up front that she would leave if she was physically threatened was the fear of having her children grow up in a home with a violent father as an example. That kind of conditioning is hard to overcome.

On the bad news front, it turns out that forgiving a philandering spouse can cause other people to view you as weak:

Forgiveness has been linked to health and happiness. But it may be dangerous to your social status.

That’s the conclusion of a newly published study, which finds people—particularly those in leadership positions—pay a price when they forgive a mate for infidelity.

“Even with a clear indication that the romantic partner apologized, and the recognition that to forgive is a mature reaction, observers viewed a victim who forgave to be weak and incompetent,” reports a research team led by psychologist Heather J. Smith of Sonoma State University. “This research suggests there are negative consequences for victims who forgive.”

...Why the harsh judgments of the wronged person?

“A victim who forgives a romantic partner can fail to affirm shared values about how people should respond to sexual infidelity,” the researchers write. They add that the importance of upholding such values increases “if other audiences might view the victim as a group representative.”

Furthermore, they note that third parties could feel that “victims who forgave their romantic partner failed to address the power and status inequity that the original offense created.” Doing so, in some people’s eyes, is a sign of weakness.

So if you’re in a position of prominence, your actions have symbolic value whether you want them to or not. And the symbolism of forgiving a straying mate is decidedly double-edged.

We found this interesting in light of the oft-expressed belief that women are especially hard on cheaters out of some purported, gender-specific insecurity and/or desire to control men. That theory has never really made much sense to us. For years, most studies consistently found that men were less likely to forgive infidelity.

But I've always wondered how much of that tendency was innate and how much was influenced by culture and/or circumstances:

"Women are more likely to take into account their children, their economics, their general survival," Schwartz said. "Men are just crushed or upset about what happened to them. They won't think as quickly about their children as the first or second issue; but they will eventually consider that." She added that men generally experience a flooding of anger over the violation.

That rise in blood pressure could result from a guy's perception of cheating as something done to him more than something done to the relationship.

"Men are less willing to forgive," said Ruth Houston, founder of www.InfidelityAdvice.com and author of "Is He Cheating on You? - 829 Telltale Signs." She added, "Men view infidelity as a statement about their manhood, so it's such an affront to him that most men cannot get over this hurdle."

Practical concerns can also steer a woman in one direction or the other.

"Wives are also less likely to consider divorce if they are economically dependent on their husbands, have children or hold strong religious views," Amato said. "Nevertheless, most wives at least consider the option of divorce. And, in fact, infidelity is the marital problem most likely to lead to divorce."

Thank Gaia we have scientists to tell us these things:

In three studies, “individuals who were poached by their current romantic partners were less committed, less satisfied, and less invested in their relationships,” reports a research team led by psychologist Joshua Foster of the University of South Alabama.

Those who reported they had been poached from another partner began the study with lower levels of commitment to their current mate, “and in general these functioning differences grew wider as the study progressed.”

“They also paid more attention to romantic alternatives, perceived their alternatives to be of higher quality, and engaged in higher rates of infidelity.”

Shocking, we know.

Posted by Cassandra at September 16, 2014 07:51 AM

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Comments

I have no idea if I'd succeed in forgiving my husband for an infidelity, but if I did, the least of my concerns would be whether other people might think I was weak. It is so not their concern. In any case, if I succeeded in such a feat I'd be more likely to feel strong about it.

Posted by: Texan99 at September 16, 2014 11:45 AM

Years ago I read a book (can't remember the name) where a woman was having an affair with a married man. When a friend said that the man seemed perfect and perhaps the woman should convince him to leave his wife and marry her, the mistress replied something along the lines of:

I'd never marry him. He's the kind who cheats on his wife.

Posted by: Elise at September 16, 2014 12:02 PM

When a friend said that the man seemed perfect and perhaps the woman should convince him to leave his wife and marry her, the mistress replied something along the lines of: I'd never marry him. He's the kind who cheats on his wife.

That's head exploding :p


Posted by: Cassandra at September 16, 2014 12:15 PM

In any case, if I succeeded in such a feat I'd be more likely to feel strong about it.

Me too. I am very much afraid that I would not be able to move on from that, but I would like to think I was a big enough person to do that.

I did read, in googling for this post, that people who have cheated themselves find cheating easier to forgive :p

Posted by: Cassandra at September 16, 2014 12:17 PM

I have to say, honestly, I have no idea how I would react because I can't imagine it happening. It could be that the anger that men feel is not just some petty 'affront to manhood,' as the article paints it; but rather, as it would be for me, a kind of shattering of the world you believe you live in. It might be very difficult to put that back together.

Or not. It could be that I am so secure in my faith because I chose a woman who deserves my trust, and that those who chose less wisely are also less sure.

Posted by: Grim at September 16, 2014 12:49 PM

The attitude we've always taken is that we're either together or we're not. Neither of us is much interested in being in suspense. We don't toy with each other. It also helps, perhaps, that neither of us forms attachments easily. We're not likely to stumble into a relationship with someone else and describe it later, as so many people do, as something that "just happened."

Posted by: Texan99 at September 16, 2014 12:51 PM

I just saw Grim's comment and must say I completely agree. On the other hand, the commitment I feel to my husband is so all-encompassing that I can almost imagine seeing my way clear to rebuilding the relationship. It's almost as though nothing he could do with someone else would really touch the heart of what's between us. That's probably naive, though, and too easy to say from the perspective of not having had to confront the betrayal of trust.

Posted by: Texan99 at September 16, 2014 12:54 PM

The study found that at the 30-month follow-up, more than 80% of the men had not re-assaulted their partner in the previous year, and at the 48-month follow-up, 90% of the men had not assaulted their partner in the past year.

And what about in the 18/36 months before that?

"Don't worry miss, he'll stop beating you in 18 months. Well, except for the 20% of men who won't stop for at least 30 months. Of course, if you can make it 3 whole years there's only a 1 in 10 chance you'll get beaten in the 4th year."

This is the *good* news? Those don't sound like very good odds or any kind of inducement to stay. I'm glad that the rate isn't 0%, but let's let someone else find that out first, mmkay?

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at September 16, 2014 01:03 PM

Likely inducements to stay aren't needed. As mentioned in the other article, there are often children and security issues to consider. Sometimes these are serious -- we probably all saw the article on the rape problem in tribal Alaska, where the investigator mentioned that generally the offender is also the guy who chops the wood and carries the water and carries home the caribou that feeds you.

Even in lighter climates, there's a lot of security that comes from not being alone.

Posted by: Grim at September 16, 2014 01:15 PM

We're not likely to stumble into a relationship with someone else and describe it later, as so many people do, as something that "just happened."

I've always been utterly mystified by the way some (not all, by any means) men will say, "But it didn't *mean* anything!" about a sexual affair.

My thought process generally goes something like this:

1. So..... you never lied to your spouse in the process of meeting up and having sex with this other person?

2. So.... obviously that whole vow you took didn't "mean anything", either????

3. Regardless of whether the relationship "meant anything" to him, how utterly callous and disrespectful does a person have to be to ignore how it would make their partner feel?

I think that would be the real deal killer for me. It's unimaginable to me that my husband would either claim not understand how hurt I would be (and that goes for me understanding the effect on him of my own possible infidelity), or claim that I somehow shouldn't mind because it wasn't important to him. Who cares?

And in a way, isn't it really insulting to imperil your marriage over something that meant *nothing* to you? Frankly, I'd be more understanding of having an affair where you genuinely cared for - even loved - the other person. That would still be incredibly hurtful, but I've never been under the illusion that loving one person precludes one from having feelings for another person.

Only that marriage precludes one from acting on such perfectly natural and normal emotions. To risk your marriage over casual sex... that's unbelievable to me, and would be harder to forgive.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 16, 2014 02:39 PM

YAG, I found it interesting that the recidivism rates were lower when the woman moved out during the treatment. That makes perfect sense to me.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 16, 2014 02:41 PM

Well, you can't beat a spouse that isn't there. The question would be the rate after returning on normalized for time.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at September 16, 2014 05:12 PM

Well, you can't beat a spouse that isn't there.

Picky, picky, picky....

What are youse? Some kind of statistician fellow?

Posted by: Cassandra at September 16, 2014 05:24 PM

Well, informally I have picked up the following notion:

Women who run away from an abusive male are depressingly likely to run right back to him (my sis used to work at Alabama DHR and noticed this with food stamp recipients in the battered women's shelter; this article suggests it's common in the English underclass as well; I've had a few observations of my own in that regard...in my practice, not my family). They're a lot likelier to stay away from a cheater than a beater.

This happens in modern, irreligious, PC-soaked countries with generous welfare benefits, so I suspect it is innate rather than cultural. Per YAG it really doesn't make sense as a rational calculation; but if that abusive swine is appealing to sexual instincts that don't get reasoned out, it makes a lot more.

And I think Grim's last comment gives a hint as to why; also, in a more primitive environment, a rough man is both a likely provider and likely to sire the same. Though only among the Yanomamo have I heard that wife-beating is outright a sign of affection....I read about one female anthropologist who visited them, and was told that her man mustn't care about her...since she had no scars.

Posted by: Joseph W. at September 16, 2014 10:27 PM

Per YAG it really doesn't make sense as a rational calculation; but if that abusive swine is appealing to sexual instincts that don't get reasoned out, it makes a lot more.

I don't think sex (or sexual attraction) has much to do with the phenomenon at all - mostly b/c most women I know don't think that way.

If you were raised in a home where the father is abusive, that seems normal to you. And abuse has the effect of sapping self confidence and initiative: it makes a person feel powerless/helpless (it's intended to). People in situations like that are often daunted by things that wouldn't deter someone in a healthier environment. Often, they blame themselves and don't feel ... not sure of the word... "sufficient", maybe?

I had a friend many years ago whose husband was abusive. She looked so defeated and tentative when I met her.

One day I saw a photo of her when she was still single. She was supermodel-gorgeous. I found out that she had had a good job (which paid better than her future husband's). She gave it all up for him, and he set about systematically making this beautiful, energetic, smart woman feel worthless, ugly, and stupid.

He threatened to kill her or the kids if she left him.

I can't imagine how scary it would be to live like that. It's depressingly easy to make a lot of women feel this way - my generation were taught to be caring and loving and not expect too much.

I can see the huge shift in attitudes/expectations between my mom's generation, mine, and my sons/daughters in law. That's one reason I get so irritated at some of the over the top criticism of feminism. People just don't realize that things weren't as peachy keen as they want to believe they were for women in that golden age they want to return to.

Me, I prefer a time when women are encouraged to become whatever they have it in them to become. I prefer the freedom to make up my own mind about what direction my life will take. Culture can amplify our innate tendencies, sometimes beyond what is sensible. I think of this when I watch old movies where the male character is incapable of showing emotion (even when that harms everyone including himself). And I think of it when I see older women who don't seem to believe they deserve as much consideration as other people do.

That wasn't healthy, the sometime overreaction into self absorption/resentment of men isn't healthy. The right balance is somewhere in the middle.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 17, 2014 09:20 AM

That's head exploding :p

No, what's head exploding is the concept that you could trust "the kind who cheats on his wife" if you were to marry him. I never will understand that.

Posted by: MikeD at September 17, 2014 10:09 AM

She looked so defeated and tentative when I met her.

This, at least, aligns with my limited experience. We're actually rehabing my sister through this exact thing.

Broken bones heal. A broken soul does not so easily mend.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at September 17, 2014 11:54 AM

No, what's head exploding is the concept that you could trust "the kind who cheats on his wife" if you were to marry him. I never will understand that.

You know what that argument reminds me of?

Guys who brag about sleeping around before marriage, but are repelled by the notion that their future wives might do the very same thing. Apparently, having sexual experience before marriage is bad if you're a woman (and means you'll never be satisfied with one man, or some other really stupid argument) but the floggers of this particular dead horse never apply that same logic to their own actions and character :p

I'm with you, Mike -- I don't understand thinking you could trust someone like that either.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 17, 2014 12:39 PM

Good luck with your sister, YAG.

I saw so much of this in 3 decades in the military that it really hits home for me.

I know that when I married, I put my whole heart and soul into making the relationship work. We had a lot of things working against us, and I was so lucky to have stumbled on a guy who was just as serious about marriage as I was. It's hard for me to imagine myself in that situation, but not impossible.

I will keep her in my prayers, if that doesn't offend.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 17, 2014 12:42 PM

The more prayers the better. We could all use them.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at September 17, 2014 01:15 PM

thanks

Posted by: sohbet at September 27, 2014 05:39 PM