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Lust in Translation
The Rules of Infidelity from Tokyo to Tennessee
by Pamela Druckerman

Reviewed by Peggy Vaughan

This book is an examination of the "rules" regarding extramarital affairs around the world, describing differences in attitudes and behavior in many different cultures. I could have enthusiastically supported a book that objectively reported differences in the way cultures deal with affairs. But I can't recommend a book where the author (with no expertise in the area) goes beyond reporting to offering her own opinions/conclusions about the validity of the professional methods used to address this issue.

Opinions about affairs based on collecting "information" provide very little insight into this complex issue. The information needs to be organized in such a way as to allow for "knowledge" that can be integrated with experience to provide "wisdom" on the subject. Unfortunately, this book provides information, but only a little knowledge, and no real wisdom.

I would not normally review a book that I don't recommend, but I'm making an exception in this case because of my initial cooperation with the author in gathering information about affairs in America. And I will restrict my critique of the book to her comments about the U.S.A.

I was first contacted by the author in January, 2005, followed by a telephone interview and emails over the next few months. Then that summer I met with her in person at the SmartMarriages Conference where I arranged for her to interview other professionals and some lay people for the book. In fact, I was so helpful that she lists me first among those in the U.S. that she thanks in her Acknowledgments.

Unfortunately, those of us who cooperated with her effort now have grave regrets about having done so. Our disappointment is based on several key themes in her sections on dealing with affairs in the U.S. For instance, she adopted a generally critical (even sarcastic) tone in reporting on the SmartMarriages Conference.

Here's her initial observation about the Conference:
"Opening night at the Smart Marriages Conference in Dallas feels like a carnival. In a room the size of a football field, entrepreneurs stand in booths and shout over the mariachi band about their remedies for fixing broken marriages."

She also repeatedly discredited the need for honesty that most experts in the U.S. recognize as essential in dealing with the fallout from affairs in this country. While her comments about me personally were generally positive, she made disparaging comments about the approaches of some of the other experts at the conference. But her harshest criticism was aimed at all of us who are part of what she termed the "marriage-industrial complex."

However, there is a glaring disconnect between the huge "marriage-industrial complex" that she decries and the extremely low statistics she quotes re: affairs in America, saying:
"Only 16 percent of American adults say they've had an affair in their lifetimes. In a given year, just 3.5 percent of adults will commit adultery."

Below are a few more of her comments about the "marriage-industrial complex:"

"America's relationship entrepreneurs seem sincere about wanting to help people, but they're also in business. Just as the military-industrial complex needs wars, the marriage-industrial complex needs adulterous couples to believe they require help from professionals. If people think they can handle it alone—as they used to in America, and as they still do in most of the world—the entrepreneurs are out of a job."

"If you've ever sat your partner down to discuss your relationship, or if you believe that after your wife cheats on you it's best to talk about what happened, or if you treat infidelity as a problem that can be solved, the marriage-industrial complex has gotten to you."

"People in other countries didn't believe me when I told them about America's confession cure. They assumed that knowing the details would make a cuckolded spouse feel worse. But the truth-telling cure has become so widespread in the United States that it's now gospelů"

"This quest for all the details of the affair is also, of course, straight from the playbook of the marriage-industrial complex."

I specifically want to draw attention to the following excerpt:

"Although the wisdom of the marriage-industrial complex is ubiquitous, little of it has been tested. There's no empirical evidence that telling your spouse all the gory details of your affair helps him get over it or that couples are happier the more truthful they are."

In rebuttal to this last statement, I offer not only my personal experience in working with couples during the past 27 years, but also the statistical results of my survey on affairs with 1,083 respondents. This survey was undertaken for the specific purpose of determining any correlation between "answering questions and thoroughly discussing the whole situation" and "healing and rebuilding the marriage."

The analyses of the results indicate:

--The amount the affair was discussed with the spouse and the extent to which the spouse answered questions were significantly associated with the current marital status and quality of the marriage.
--The amount the affair was discussed with the spouse and the extent to which the spouse answered questions were significantly associated with recovery.

Below are the Results of just 2 of the 8 hypotheses all shown to be "statistically significant" with a p value of <.001 (statistical significance being defined by p values less than .05).

Hypothesis: A couple is more likely to stay married when the spouse answers their questions.
x2 (2, N = 1083) = 66.58, p <.001

59% of those who refused to answer questions were still married
81% of those whose partner answered some of their questions were still married
86% of those whose partner answered all their questions were still married

Note: The extent to which the spouse answered questions was significantly associated with present marital status.

Hypothesis: They are more likely to have healed when they thoroughly discuss the whole situation.
x2 (4, N = 1083) = 33.27, p <.001

35% of those who discussed the situation very little felt somewhat or mostly healed
51% of those who discussed the situation a good bit felt somewhat or mostly healed
54% of those who discussed the situation a lot felt somewhat or mostly healed

Note: The amount that the affair was discussed with the spouse was significantly associated with the degree to which they had healed.

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