The Rewards of Betrayal

An essay in the New York Times on Sunday offered an excellent analysis of the destructive power of lies, of secret activities and identities within relationships. It all rang true, and much of it I’ve already written myself.

What struck me most was the assertion by the author, a psychiatrist named Anna Fels, that it is much less common for the victims of such betrayals – the wife, for example, who discovers her husband’s secret relationship, secret expenditures, secret drinking – to receive communal sympathy and support than it is for the perpetrator of these acts. She notes that people will often try to distance themselves from feeling sympathy for victims by dismissing the idea that they are truly devastated by the revelation, saying that they must have really known all along. Meanwhile, the perpetrator is celebrated for throwing over the old life (of deception) and starting over. 


I thought it was the element of knee-jerk political correctness in my situation that led to the perpetrator-as-hero result.  The notion that this is far more common than supposed is interesting – and very sad – food for thought.

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One response to “The Rewards of Betrayal

  1. Kaethe Voherden

    Just before I came here to take a look at your this post I had a conversation with a friend about something similar. If you are the creator of deception as described in this piece in the NYT then you are in a privileged position. It may be hard to follow this line of thought but in a society in which information is power the silent perpetration of a fundamental lie about the foundations of a relationship creates power in the hands of the liar. You are privileged because you control reality if you will.

    When the gig is up so many embrace victimhood while no one looks at the abuse of power during the gig. And claiming victim status cements the privilege, the revelation of the lie becomes like a seamless renewal of the powerplay of withholding the information. It is the slight of hand of the magician of reality, by distracting the audience from the abuse. They point to the victim status and say “I am the injured party”. You know more than anyone of what I speak. And because we were all raised with more or less humanitarian outlooks we fall for it every time, until someone says “wait a minute”.

    While this may be very controversial, I find that this is not by and large a female survival strategy but one of men. It is Machiavellian, offense is the best defense.

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