When Temptation Calls, Do You Answer?
A few months ago, I saw an advertisement for Tyler Perry's newest movie, Temptation, and was intrigued. I'm by no means what one might call a Tyler Perry fan; I've openly criticized his portrayal of women in most of his movies and the plays upon which they are based. I find his tendency to portray women as emotionally unstable and in perpetual need of salvation either by their religious faith or by a Prince Charming-type annoying. Despite that, my curiosity peaked when I saw the trailer, mainly because it didn't feature Perry dressed in drag and performing stereotypical southern hyperbole, and I decided I'd see it when it came out.
Image: Lionsgate via Yahoo! Movies
Temptation is about an aspiring marriage counselor, Judith, portrayed by the beautiful Jurnee Smollett-Bell, who was married young to the only boy she'd ever loved, Brice. Brice, played by Lance Gross, is a pharmacist at a small shop, trying to get his family established in a new city. She works as an in-house therapist at a millionaire matchmaker establishment, run by Janice (played by former Miss America and Desperate Housewives' Vanessa Williams), where she encounters Harley, a billionaire tech wiz. The two begin to work on a project together and an intense, whirlwind romantic and sexual affair eventually ensues between Judith and Harley, hauntingly portrayed by Robbie Jones, that threatens her marriage to Brice, her relationship with her mother, and even her career. I don't want to ruin it for those who've not yet seen it, but I will say that Perry touched upon some hot issues, however heavy-handed and lacking in nuance as he is known to be, and I think many women will understand and even relate to some of what the movie portrays.
What is a woman to do when she's enticed by a life that is completely opposite from her own? Quite a few women still get married or partnered at younger ages or even having only been with one, maybe two mates. Much of their adult experiences have included or have been centered around one mate with no real experiences to which they can make comparisons. The exciting lure of someone new, who might treat her in ways that her partner seems to have forgotten... or never did in the first place. It might awaken senses she never knew she had, and yet, she feels that the "right" thing to do is to remain loyal to the love she's had for so long. The temptation is calling, but...
What is the "right" thing to do when you begin to either regret getting into a relationship so young or you begin to resent how mundane and predictable your life has become? Some women opt to find ways to spice things up and keep the relationship fresh. Some women simply decide to end their relationships and try something new. Other women seek extramarital affection, distractions if you will. About nineteen percent of married women admit to having extramarital affairs, according to a 2011 study at Indiana University in Bloomington. That's approximately 1 in 5 married women. What's really going on? Is it women themselves, their partners, the impact of life circumstances, a combination of those, or something completely different?
Image: Lionsgate via Yahoo! Movies
Women are having more extramarital affairs now than in 20 years ago (up from 10-15%) for several reasons. They range from increased access and opportunity (due to the increase in women working out of the home and technological developments in cyber connections), to insecurity about sexual performance (theirs and their partners'), to unmet emotional needs. Why not just... leave? That's an overly simplistic approach to the cheating issue, because it doesn't account for marriage being more than a whimsical love match. Women are more likely to experience the negative effects of divorce, particularly when it comes to finances. While more women might be working, we're still not making equal pay and we still struggle to ;make achievements and achieve the same levels of success as our male colleagues. The struggle for child support payments is tough too, even when a woman was married to the father of her children, should she be awarded primary custody. The financial risks associated with divorce are significant for women.
There is also the stability and well-being of her children to consider, in many cases. While Judith and Brice had no children in the movie, many women do and believe that raising children with two parents is the best option for the children, even if it means sacrificing personal happiness. I faced this when my son was small and his father and I were still married. I felt obligated to try and make things work, or at least remain living with his father, because I didn't want him to become another negative statistic connected to single parenthood. My income wasn't half what I earn now and I felt that if I left, we'd end up homeless and destitute. That way of thinking almost destroyed me, so I can only imagine what it does to other women. So maybe, when they make the choice to stay, an extramarital affair becomes a more viable option to help cope with their marital unhappiness.
I'm not condoning cheating.
I'm simply offering ideas and understanding about why some women make that decision.
At the beginning and end of the movie, we encounter Judith, the older marriage counselor, so we know she's eventually made her career dream come true. She's giving advice to a woman whose been married for 10 years to a man who appears to adore her, but she feels like he's more of a roommate than a husband. The woman met a new man and Judith tells her story of being in a similar situation. As a result of Judith's story, the woman immediately decides to end her affair and stay with her husband despite having just given several reasons why she was miserably unhappy. Well, Perry likes to wrap things up neatly, what can we expect? What it suggests, though, is that sometimes women might need to re-examine where they are in life and where they want to be, to make the best decision when faced with this kind of temptation.
You don't have to cheat to gain a new perspective, however. It might mean taking a break and getting some space. It might mean seeking relationship counselor. It might mean making changes in career and family balance. It means being honest about your current state of unhappiness and really turning inward to get the best understanding of why you feel so unfulfilled. It means forgetting what family or society says and listening to the voices in your head and your heart for a while so when temptation calls, you know you'll be better prepared to send it directly to voice mail.