a passion for more, affairs that make or break us by Susan Shapiro Barash

Revised and Updated. Kindle Edition (2022)

Reviewed by LJ Frank 

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What is natural and or learned behavior? What do we learn as a male or female at an early age within the dynamic of the environment in which we exist?  Marriage and monogamy are a complicated arrangement that has evolved over the centuries. They and linked to tribe, culture, society, family and the geography in which we grow or not. Patriarchy and marriage vows are woven threads in the fabric of our growth – an investment (not un-similar to a property investment). It’s an ancient, outdated concept of power. 

The author: Susan Shapiro Barash, serves as vice chair of the Mentoring Committee of the Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard’s JFK School of Government and teaches gender studies at Marymount Manhattan College among other hats. She’s a scholarly acitivist, well-educated and experienced.

Barash begins her study by noting “Throughout my work on female infidelity, I have been asked how the women find the time with their overloaded schedules. Of course, they do because they are determined…Women are quite facile at sustaining the affair and separating it from other parts of their lives…The voices of the women in this collection are essential. Their stories of the other man are illuminated by their ardor, self-perception, and a striking absence of regret. And so, the lover represents choice, now more than ever before.”

Her work covers the choices women make, within a given context and situation. Examples of types of affairs include the categories of Empowering Affairs: Women have more opportunities today; an affair is an option; Sex-Driven Affairs: The major component of the affair is the sex; Love Affairs: These affairs happen when women least expect them; Self-Esteem Affairs: A lover makes the woman feels special and alive. The study reveals: how a lover helps a woman to remain in an unhappy marriage or relationship; renegotiating a monogamous or marital relationship, etcetera.

This study is primarily the result of the accounts of seventy plus women who were involved in extramarital affairs from their twenties to their eighties (individual therapists offer insight in each category). It’s a brilliant psychological study though may be considered narrow. The number of scholarly works on infidelity tend to focus on the patriarchal influenced male construct of monogamy itself whereas the author’s work dives into the potential value (benefit or negative repercussions) of a woman’s infidelity. Social and biological constructs of male infidelity take on a new vantage point in this work.

Affairs can help or break a marriage. It depends on the people involved and how they respond within a given situation. The accounts presented here are not without question but do offer a thought-provoking awareness.

Context: A woman’s sexual stamina is profound. And natural. Our tribes carefully teach us. Why? Control. Today’s environment appears to be struggle between adaptation and authoritarian posture affecting relationships of all kinds.

This is a discerning work moving beyond the social construct of monogamy and patriarchy associated marriage vows to the evolving nature of that which makes us human and the fulfillment of our basic needs.  

The downstream effects of our various technologies and certainly AI are and will continue to have a provocative influence on relationships.