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The single family member who looms largest in my mind is my grandfather. As is true with many who lose highly influential figures at a young age, I am left more with a sense of loss because of his absence than a sense of joy for the short time he was in my life. I was nearly seven when he passed away after a traumatic, torturous bout with cancer. Often, I wonder what it would have been like if he'd lived to see me enter high school or even graduate from college.

In his lifetime, my grandfather was a force to be reckoned with and even today the memories of his deeds and words have reached nearly mythic proportions. He was a highly complicated person who suffered from bipolar disorder (undiagnosed and untreated), a Napoleonic complex, and the misfortune to have discovered the suicide of his first wife. He never spoke about the combined impact of each of these things, but in those days, men rarely did.

This latest Anthony Weiner/Huma Abedin controversy affects me in a way that may not be true for others. No doubt most people in monogamous relationships have contemplated, in the abstract, how it might feel to have a spouse or partner cheat on them. Others may not have to pretend, having dealt with infidelity a time or two themselves. The real question is a personal decision not likely made easily. Whether the wronged party will leave or go seems simple enough to us. That being said, what goes on behind closed doors is not as easily resolved as we might think.

My grandfather was the center of the universe in his household. His spirited, passionate opinions were gospel. He was as well-known for his encyclopedic knowledge of current events as he was for his almost comical impatience. In his prime, Grandfather possessed movie star good looks and kept them well into middle age. His height was a topic never to be discussed. To give himself an extra inch or two he wore shoes with elevated heels.

He was also routinely unfaithful to my grandmother. The first time it happened, his wife, my grandmother, strongly threatened to leave him. By then, they had two small boys together and a struggling family business. In no unequivocal terms, she gave him an ultimatum. Leave the other woman and return to her, or else. If he was not willing to do what she asked, she vowed to take the kids with her to a place where he would never find any of them again.

As family legend goes, a momentarily chastened man returned to his wife and all was forgiven, eventually. In truth, I'm not sure if he ditched his mistress or not. His wandering eye might not have been on the same level as Don Draper of Mad Men fame, but it was close. My grandmother eventually learned to live with it, making no further demands. After a while, she had no more energy left to expend and wasn't sure any efforts to curtail his behavior would be successful. Once he made up his mind to do something, no preventative measures made much difference one way or another.

My grandparents stayed married to each other until his death. My grandmother outlived him by nearly fifteen years, finally passing away when I was in my early twenties. No doubt she took many secrets with her to the grave. The family she'd kept up, sometimes in his absence, was good at brushing problems under the rug. In fact, it wasn't until recently that a close family member shared these stories with me.

Returning to Anthony Weiner and his faithful wife, I find I can't really blame her for staying. What she has decided is a personal decision on her part and, for now, I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. I recognize that women today are not bound by the same standards and social inequalities of their own grandmothers. But when it comes down to passing strong judgement, I look within my own family to form my opinion. I observe what happened back then and wonder what could have been done differently. Unwilling to speak truth, a family that keeps secrets stays this way forever.

In this day and age, it's more difficult to keep infidelity secret. Any politician intent on cheating in an era of the immediacy of electronic communication is playing with fire. They run a risk 1,000 times greater than any ordinary person of being caught and exposed. The question that might never be answered to anyone's satisfaction is "why?" Within my own family, I'll never be privy to that information, but the thought has crossed my mind many times over the years.

Six seasons of Mad Men have postulated that skirt-chaser Don Draper's behavior is a product of his own dysfunctional upbringing. I can't say that I understand the full significance of the perpetual flashbacks that reveal Draper's past, but it makes for interesting speculation. Anthony Weiner alone knows why he craved sexual partners outside of marriage, despite marrying the perfect political wife, a woman who happens to be quite beautiful as well. Until we hear some honest details, all our speculation is moot.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (13+ / 0-)

    I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I lead you in, some one else would lead you out. - Eugene Debs.

    by cabaretic on Fri Jul 26, 2013 at 11:21:09 AM PDT

  •  The mind is the most powerful (7+ / 0-)

    sexual organ. The imagination can be a wonderful way to get into trouble.

    It seems that Weiner's affairs were pretty much of the cyber variety; there's so far been no indication that there was any physical consummation, at least not that I've heard. I've known people who've had cyber affairs, from casual flirting on message boards and "Married but Looking" chat rooms to full-out cybersex sessions over Yahoo Messenger. (Skype was in its infancy when I knew these folks, but wouldn't surprise me if that was involved.)

    It's not up to me to determine how people should conduct their marriage. Perhaps Huma decided that allowing Anthony his cyber fun would keep him from seeking out an actual physical relationship. Maybe Anthony had enough judgement to know that a physical affair would be far more risky, and was able to limit his activity to bits and bytes and pixels. Maybe your grandmother figured that it was better to let your grandfather step outside the marriage once in a while than risk a divorce that would likely leave her with zero support.

    How infidelity is defined, and how it's dealt with, is up to the individual couple, but you're right that it can have far-reaching implications.

    There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

    by Cali Scribe on Fri Jul 26, 2013 at 11:45:26 AM PDT

  •  Every marriage develops its own folkways (6+ / 0-)

    I am of the view that no outsider can appreciate the inner workings of a marriage. Well, maybe good counseling may come close and that is a fine thing. But back to the point, I stay out, try to avoid judgment and allow each couple work the relationship as a couple sees fit.

    Now physical and/or clear psychological abuse may be the exception to the no opinion, or intervention rule, but even then it only applies to couples with whom I share a close relationship.

    In short, Huma and Anthony's marriage is none of my damned business.

    Roman Catholic by birth---thoroughly confused by life.

    by alasmoses on Fri Jul 26, 2013 at 11:48:44 AM PDT

  •  Humans are not a monogamous species (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chimene

    Hundreds of studies have shown that virtually no mammals are monogamous, and precious few other animals. Why do we think we are different? Trying to be what we aren't just sets us up for failure, and allows us to be guilt-tripped by governments, religions, and other institutions, as a means of control. Humans have been around for hundreds of thousands of years. Sex At Dawn, written by two academic researchers, surveys the literature and makes a strong case for concluding that before what we call "civilization" (beginning only 8-10,000 years ago) we were not monogamous either. IMO we'd be happier if we didn't try to be what we aren't.

  •  I find it interesting that (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alasmoses, Nannyberry, annan

    Weiner's wife is being subjected to just as much judgment about her choices as he is for his transgressions.

    Tolerating that sort of behavior is too soul destroying for me which is why I am divorced but I am not in the advice giving business on that topic for others. I like monogamy but maybe I am out of touch with the latest social trends.

  •  I don't think it's just the "latest social trends" (0+ / 0-)

    but the basic nature of the human animal. However, there are many completely faithful couples, and even some couples who are faithful and happy too. More power to them; my parents were one such couple and I admired them immensely.

  •  Having spent some time with (0+ / 0-)

    some major male politicians that most of us probably know of, the number of attractive women who throw themselves at these guys is crazy and it really happens around the clock.

    It might be funny to hear but I really do feel sorry for these guys and their families. That said, they have to know that they are being watched around the clock and it's best to stay monogamous. This is why I think Weiner (and Sanford) screwed up.

  •  I guess that’s why I’m a bachelor (0+ / 0-)

    Yeah, I know, to each his own.  If someone wants to stay married to a cheating spouse, who am I to judge?

    But as for me, I just don’t see what benefit I would derive from an unfaithful wife. Romantic love is a delicate delusion, easily shattered.  And nothing shatters it like infidelity.  After that, all you have is sacrifice, resentment, and misery.

    There comes a time in a relationship when it does not matter whose fault it is.  It’s over!

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