"If you don't have anything nice to say about anyone ... come sit by me and tell me everything!"
So, allegedly, said Alice Roosevelt Longworth, socialite and daughter of Teddy, at a Washington dinner party. Times may not have changed much since the days of Mrs. Longworth. Infidelity among public figures was, and still is, fodder for the gossip mill.
Talking about intimate problems may be good but, today it seems that putting the details down on paper seems to be even better for some people. Writing a tell-the-truth book is cathartic for them.
Truly, just about anyone who has ever had a messy relationship will tell you that you can get rid of a lot of anger and pain by writing it all down. But while your best friend or colleague will in all likelihood destroy what they have written after a period of time, that's not always the case with people who lead very public lives. They get it published -- and perhaps rightly so.
Yes, of, course, there is a certain amount of money to be made from this type of book, everyone is curious about the "warts and all" details. But sometimes that is a secondary consideration to being able to publicly vent all your anger and frustration at a partner who has humiliated you. Some people may call it revenge but others call it setting the record straight and reclaiming self-esteem.
If the recently divorced Sandra Bullock decided to write a tell-all book, who would blame her? The pain caused by infidelity is enormous. Nothing destroys a marriage more than when a spouse cheats. The sense of trust on which all solid relationships are based is shattered, the love you thought you had is permanently maimed, and the idea of continuing to live together in the same house becomes a nightmare.
There's a long list of betrayed women who have written books. They zapped the public smiling, good-guy image of the "man who done them wrong."
Lita Grey Chaplin, Charlie Chaplin's second wife, detailed his affair with her best friend as well as many, many others, in Wife of the Life of the Party.
Tammy Faye Bakker Messner's Telling It My Way portrays ex-husband Jim Bakker as a crazed philanderer who destroyed their life, marriage, and what she termed their "holy empire."
Robin Givens wrote about her violent marriage to Mike Tyson in Grace Will Lead Me Home.
Angela Bowie, the ex-Mrs. David, penned Backstage Passes, replete with tales of his drug use and bisexual proclivities. (Because of a court-mandated gag order, Mrs. Bowie had to wait over ten years to spill the beans about David, but her wait and her tenacity paid off handsomely in book sales.)
While not technically his wife, Mia Farrow wrote What Falls Away, a poisonous tale filled with thinly veiled accusations of pedophilia, about her relationship and breakup with longtime love Woody Allen.
Are these women just scorned, angry "girls" who simply want to vilify their guys for cheating on them or using them for a punching bag? Do they have a right to make private issues, no matter how bad, more public than the press has already done?
Scorned they may be, but legally they have every right to tell their story and the courage to do so. Angry? More than likely. Anger and pain are a potent mixture. However, in reality these women are taking control of the situation. They, themselves, have nothing to be ashamed of because they did nothing wrong. Their partners did. Being Mrs. Nice-Guy does nothing to alleviate the hurt; getting it off your chest is the first step towards freeing yourself.
No one can pinpoint any specific reason for cheating except to say that it is not something that "just happens." Nothing "just happens". A cheater plans to cheat. Saying no to an opportunity for infidelity is never an option for a cheater.
Marriage is sacred and not just in the religious sense. Forget religion for a moment. Marriage is a personal commitment between two people who vow to love and care for one another and share a life together. Once you make that commitment, you don't stray. It's a trust, a promise, a no-brainer. It is what it is -- monogamy. What's not to understand?
The simple act of writing down what has hurt you takes away some of the power of the person who caused you the pain. Perhaps these women did the right thing in letting the public know what has happened and how they have managed to survive. Kudos to all women, and men as well, who survive the heartache and pain of infidelity. You deserve better. Write those books, do those interviews. You're the survivor after all.
To read more from Kristen Houghton, peruse her articles at Kristen Houghton.com and visit her Keys to Happiness blog.
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Copyright 2010 Kristen Houghton