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Le Affair: To Forgive or Not

les-amantsUnless you’ve been living under un rocher, it would be pretty hard to miss all the recent headlines sprawled across entertainment and mainstream news websites. “Jesse James Cheats on Wife Sandra Bullock.” “Tiger Woods Cheats on Wife Elin.” And in France, there was a spurt of news blasts about how Nicholas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni were each having affairs, he with a cabinet member and she with a fellow musician.

But there’s a difference between the American and French reactions to these headlines. In the U.S., people were shocked. Women were furious that Tiger and Jesse had sexual liaisons with multiple women. Some called for castration. How could they break their marriage vows?

The French reaction to the Sarkozy-Bruni rumors was far more subdued. Sure, it was grist for the gossips in cafés across France, but in a country where adultery is typically shrugged off, there was certainly no public outcry. While there has never been any proof of the alleged affairs, and three people were fired for posting the rumors, an affair by the President of the French Republic would never lead to one of those “I did not have sex with that woman” moments.

Truth is, the French have a very different approach to matters of sex than most Americans. Sex is something to be celebrated. It’s a part of life, part of the everyday, and they don’t try to wrap it in shame or taboo. That said, they do treat sex with much discretion, and many Frenchmen I’ve spoken with have said that the thought of more than one mistress is both exhausting and inconceivable.

Former French President François Mitterand had a mistress and even had a daughter with her. Both were present at Mitterand’s funeral in 1996, along with his wife and other children. A friend of mine, a 72-year old Frenchwoman I’ll call “Claudine,” once told me that she encouraged her husband to take a mistress, if only to appease his male libido. “He wanted too much sex for me,” she said.

It’s certainly a different attitude that what Americans are used to. So what do you think? Would you be able to forgive your significant other if they were to have an affair? Where would you draw the line?



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8 Responses to “Le Affair: To Forgive or Not”

  1. Lili says:

    As someone who’s partner was having an affair for 18 months and knowing the incredible pain, shock & devastation that ensues when someone you love has been doing this, you would never ever want to go through it again.

    I think many rships/marriages skip along, happy that they are happy, no hassles, even if there’s some doggy doo most people just expect its normal. Well yeah it is but… if you know there’s issues, deal with them.

    Ultimately after getting through shock we went to counselling (Imago, courses and now come out shiny and new. Its been like being to hell and back, worse pain than even a kidney stone truly!

    I hope no one ever has to go through it. As much as there is to be said about open rships and being laissez faire with your sexual life, it takes much more courage and grit to actually have a fully loving rship with someone and do the work to get you there. We now have a much fuller rship, though its taken and is taking time for my trust to grow!

    Thanks for listening! Love your blog! Salut!

  2. Linda Donahue says:

    Thank so much for sharing Lili!

  3. Lindsey says:

    As someone who holds grudges (personal flaw), I don’t know how I could ever forgive….

  4. Virginia says:

    Whew, well it’s been a long long time but I’m with Lili, it takes its toll. My ex hit the door running and has plowed through 2 more wives since then. Here in the US I’m sick of reading all the gory details. I’m with the French, it’s private. That said, I wouldn’t want my lover or husband to have another relationship. I couldn’t live with the doubts.

    And Lili, I salute you for the hard work you’ve done to keep it all together.

  5. [...] rather interesting take on differences between reactions to affairs between French and American. What say [...]

  6. Renee says:

    i told my husband to please have an affair and give me a reason to divorce him. Also feeding him donuts to see if that will push his health over the edge. Not a chance, I have a devoted, loving husband who looks like a million bucks, so I guess I’ll keep him.

  7. suedoise says:

    As for the Mitterrand household, madame Mitterrand wanted a divorce several decades ago according to a recent book and was not allowed to leave as monsieur Mitterrand made clear that this would harm his career. Similar marriage arrangements exist also in the States with the JFK situation.

    Mitterrand pushed the situation a bit further wishing to die
    in his mistress´ Paris apartment and did too
    The scandal was that Mitterrand had arranged for the taxpayers to carry the expenses for the upbringing of the daughter he had with his mistress.
    It is not to his disadvantage that he had time for a great deal of women, preferring them to be in their early 40s.

  8. Emwella says:

    I like renee’s comment. You’re lucky.

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