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Paula Ravets, Ph.D. Headshot

Calling All Women: Just Cut It Out!

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No, I'm not talking about "bad carbs." I'm talking about bad behavior.

I just got off the phone with a dear friend who discovered that her husband of many years has been cheating on her. Sadly, this is not even the first time he has betrayed their relationship with an outside dalliance.

It is a common story that certainly goes both ways; women cheat too. Conservative statistics reveal that 60 percent of all men and 40 percent of all women have affairs.

So why am I calling all women and not addressing this call to action to all men?

Because I believe in us! I believe that women can and are changing the world. From raising children to running companies and leading governments, we are capable of cultivating positive change from the bottom up.

As the mother of two boys, I am profoundly aware that my sons' initial sensitivity to and respect for women begins with their relationship with me. They observe how I carry myself in the world. They see what their father (my husband of 23 years) and I strive for in our relationship. And they hear my feminist political bent (sometimes mild, sometimes not.)

When they (and their adolescent hormones) come home from school and talk about who's "hot" or "how sexy so and so" is, I try to balance that by teaching the importance of not "objectifying women." I hope some day they will call themselves feminists, too.

But beyond teaching our boys to be respectful and our girls to expect equality, we can and must be responsible for our own adult behavior.

In no way do I mean to make this topic of adultery just another "just say no" issue. I have sat with enough of my patients experiencing the grief of a destroyed trust to know that fixing this particular form of betrayal is anything but simple. There is no single reason why people engage in affairs: They are intoxicating, they alleviate boredom, they're a distraction from the painful parts of reality, and ... well, they can just seem easier than putting in the work required for a lasting, intimate relationship.

Despite these pushes and pulls, there is one force potentially even stronger: the quintessentially feminine quality of caring -- of simply caring for each other.

We do it all the time. We care for our families, we care for our friends, and we care for friends of our friends. It should not be much harder to expand that caring to people we don't know and may never know. Expand the caring to each other - to all other women we have never yet had the pleasure of meeting.

When my friend told me that she confronted the "other woman," it was because she needed the other woman to know she was real, and that her heart was now breaking. The story broke my heart too. She hoped the "other" unknown woman could care for her just enough to wake up and cut off her actions. My friend's brave vulnerable reaching gave me hope and a different way of thinking about this issue.

It's time to stop pointing the finger at men and waiting for change. This is not about the blame its about the fix. It's about knowing that women innately are caring, and that we can recognize our mutual humanity. That's where this healing must begin.