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Keep it to yourself

Marital struggles ... Andrew Ettingshausen and his wife, Monique.

Marital struggles ... Andrew Ettingshausen and his wife, Monique. Photo: The Australian Women's Weekly

I can't be the only person who feels a little ... icky about former rugby league star Andrew Ettingshausen's public self-flagellation over his affair with an ex-teammate's wife ...

When it comes to infidelity, I'm firmly in the camp of "what they don't know, won't hurt them" - not because I condone cheating on your partner but, if you're piss-weak enough to do it, don't then dump the pain on to your other half.

The cheat's bleating of "I just wanted to be honest with them", "I didn't want to lie any more" and "It wasn't fair to them" are completely valid but are really just another way of saying "I can't deal with the guilt".

Dealing with an affair ... the Ettingshausens told their story.

Dealing with an affair ... the Ettingshausens told their story. Photo: The Australian Women's Weekly

It strikes me as reprehensible firstly to betray your partner, then to think you can absolve your pain and dishonour by shifting it to the other side of the bed and making your squeeze feel like crap.

Talking about it to a national women's magazine, humiliating your missus, and trying to pass it off as an act of contrition? Wow.

Fairfax columnist Bettina Arndt argued on Sunday that many high-profile men face temptations the average bloke does not - and men of all stripes may also be pushed into infidelity by sexless marriages.

Both of these are valid points but neither justifies a public confession which, in Ettingshausen's case, Arndt characterised as "brave".

I disagree completely - I think it's the antithesis of bravery.

There are three reasons people "confess" to infidelity.

1. They are gutless and can't deal with the guilt.

2. They want an excuse/catalyst to break up with their partner.

3. They get caught (which usually results from the first two).

In my books, reason number two is the most legitimate because people seem to like nice simple answers to complex problems and "they cheated on me" is far easier to process than "they fell out of love" or "they're not attracted to me any more".

People rarely break up for one reason, just as plane crashes rarely happen for just one reason.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says the typical aircraft accident "involves seven consecutive human errors ... the result of an accumulation of minor difficulties and seemingly trivial malfunctions" and I reckon you can apply the same explanation to most relationship breakdowns.

A bunch of things stop working between a couple, which is often why people choose to cheat and the discovery of this fact is simply the relationship's wing clipping an icy mountain ridge and exploding into flames.

But when the cheat instead initiates the "I have to tell you something" conversation because they want to "clear the air" and "start fresh", well, that's just serving the other person horse shit with a fashionable salad dressing splashed on top.

If you know with certainty your partner will leave you because of your infidelity, you're confessing simply to end the relationship and feel better about yourself that you were honest.

However, if you know they are the type to forgive you, I'm betting there's a part of you that also thinks "I've got the upper hand", "they won't leave", "I can get away with it".

So not only are you a cheat, but you're a coward and an emotional weakling, unable to suffer for your own misdeeds.

Sam de Brito's latest novel Hello Darkness is in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter here. His email address is here.

263 comments so far

  • Agree completely Sam, nice blurt. Also, thanks for giving me a laugh every time you manage to work in a plug for you books, and also manage to somehow obscurely reference the book you happen to be reading at the time...

    Commenter
    Mero
    Date and time
    June 04, 2012, 8:52AM
    • No, don't tell your partner you've betrayed them. It's much better to have a relationship built on lies and deceit than honesty and trust any day. After all, your partner probably has no capacity for understanding or forgiveness and only deserves to be treated with contempt or, at best, like a child. Your relationship will flourish, especially when your guilt fades (and it will) and another opportunity presents itself.

      Commenter
      Too simple
      Date and time
      June 04, 2012, 12:23PM
    • I couldn't figure out what Bettina was trying to say.
      For example: "Fairfax columnist Bettina Arndt argued on Sunday that many high-profile men face temptations the average bloke does not" A bloke having an affair with his mate's wife, that story is played out in every suburb every day, it's hardly the strict domain of "high profile men".

      What I saw was a guy trying to take his own shame and guilt and torpedo pass it to his wife. Now she is the one in a "dark place" and "making decisions that would never have happened if she was in a normal, stable mind", like for example, agreeing to this magazine article.

      Commenter
      Bogan Bill
      Location
      Syney not Syd-er-ney
      Date and time
      June 04, 2012, 12:44PM
    • @ Too Simple, tell me what good comes from telling your partner you've cheated? They feel like crap, lose trust for you, get angry, hurt and lose self esteem. I agree with Sam, it's just a way of dumping your guilt on an innocent party. I'm not afraid to hear the truth from my husband but only if something useful can be served by it.

      Commenter
      Helen
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      June 04, 2012, 12:45PM
    • I agree with your article but your three reasons;
      1."they are gutless and can't deal with the guilt.
      2. They want an excuse/catalyst to break up with their partner.
      3. They get caught (which usually results from the first two).
      are in contradiction to the rest of your article stating there are more than one reason. There is truth in these three,but they say one thing, cowardice. The unwillingness to take responsibility. It is all these and more. My experience is that woman hate the lies. Snaking around after admitting the affair with reasons of depressions etc..only add insult to injury. A judge takes into consideration extenuating circumstances before passing judgement but the crime has been committed and that is still the fact. People who pass on excuses because of depression keep the lie alive. Tell the truth and shut up and wait. If you don't love her anymore, tell the truth and leave her alone to start a new life. Get therapy,get help but give her the ability to heal and piss off instead of using your mental instability as a crutch to aid your rehabilitation.

      Commenter
      LyndonT
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      June 04, 2012, 1:12PM
    • @Helen Exactly. If you're ever at the point where you're looking to cheat in a monogomous relationship, then you're really in a relationship you shouldn't be in and should have the guts to do the right thing, no matter how painful in the short term it is. Whether that be attempting to repair the relationship or break it off. As Sam says, no point adding to the pain after you've already done the damage. If you have a conscious, it should be yours to bear, not the partners and you should still do the right thing after the fact.

      @Bogan Contrary to Sams comments, I think ET's hands were tied on this one. He should have copped the bad publicity because he deserved it and kept it private within the family. Unfortunately for him he has a squeaky clean image and needed to shore up his ET empire so that suburban mothers would approve of their sons receiving ET fishing combos for Christmas. Anyone who knows a little about psychological profiles, knows that only a miniscule percentage of clinically depressed people would conduct and maintain an affair with their best friends wife. This behaviour does however fit other more proactive psychological profiles.

      Commenter
      realist
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      June 04, 2012, 1:27PM
    • Generally agree but temptation is a matter of degree, not necessarily more offers because high profile (long-time out of league, doesn't he just do a fishing show now?) Think Bettina needs a 'bex and a good lie down' as this is how to keep your man 1950s style. Think AWW should be ashamed at making wife look subserviant and ET almost Byronic hero. Pathetic and what about the poor kids? You wouldn't want ET to phone home.

      Commenter
      Mas
      Date and time
      June 05, 2012, 3:58PM
  • Looking forward to reading everyone's comments - my own thoughts - the spectrum of grey is so broad I'm happy to sit on the fence and watch.

    Commenter
    Alix
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    June 04, 2012, 8:59AM
    • who pays for the extra pound of flesh...
      why?

      Commenter
      beno
      Location
      campin'out
      Date and time
      June 05, 2012, 8:05AM
    • What's more disturbing to me is that a publication would bother to make a story out of it. Tacky and exploitative, but I guess it meets the needs of the chubby-voyeruettes who read these crappy low-rent mags. Ettingshausen must be desperate for the cash, and I can imagine all the self-justifcation he and his family and friends are indulging in at the moment, calling it as you say Sam 'brave'. It's not brave, it's exploitative, fake-sympathy garnering, phony guilt-assuaging trivia, but I'm not surprised it hits its clientele's buttons. Your typical Australian sportsperson belongs to a very ugly breed, matched only by the readership of Women's Day and their need for schadenfreude in between articles on crash-diets and people famous for nothing other than their interest in being a celebrity.

      Commenter
      Pete
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      June 05, 2012, 9:03PM

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