Susan Shapiro Barash has spent thirty years studying women, most specifically on the subject of infidelity. Theirs. Yes, remember when those who dared to cheat on their male partners felt embarrassed, shamed, guilty? Now, according to Barash, they feel very different things. “We were raised on fairy tales,” she says, “so there is always a price in expecting perfection with one person. Well, many women are now asking why not go for more?”
It’s not that the women want to leave the marriage, but to find a piece of themselves that’s been long gone.
Her new book called A Passion For More: Affairs That Make or Break Us, dives deep into why many women are choosing to cheat. She places these in four categories: Empowering Affairs (they are now an option); Sex-Driven Affairs (a key component); Love Affairs (they happen when women least expect); and Self-Esteem Affairs (they make the women feel alive). Readers can consume and follow the stories of women of all ages (from 20 to 80), races, and living conditions.
The interviewees remain anonymous, but Barash hopes you get sucked into the stories of those like “Abbie,” who confesses, “There I was trapped at a young age. By the time I was in my mid-thirties, it seemed natural to explore a little.” That one reminded me of a story a friend told me recently. She was visiting her parents, and her 70-year old mother pulled her aside to say, “I am ready to become a widow.” Susan Shapiro Barash is not surprised to hear tales like this.
Neither is one of New York’s top marriage psychiatrists, Dr. John Jacobs, who does not disagree with Barash’s findings. “In my practice now, there are as many women having affairs secretly as there are men,” says Jacobs. “I also find men feel more guilty about doing so than the women. It’s not that the women want to leave the marriage, but to find a piece of themselves that’s been long gone.”
The Facebook Effect
Barash looks at the impact of social media on the subject. If nothing else, all those sites make it easier to find an outside partner. And, as it did with everything else, the pandemic has also played a role here. “Suddenly, women were with their husbands 24/7 and he’s wearing the same gray sweatshirt constantly,” she says. “They are either growing together or growing apart.”
Suddenly, women were with their husbands 24/7 and he’s wearing the same gray sweatshirt constantly.
The author contends her book is “for women everywhere, in terms of what they long for and how they navigate their path.” Others who also investigate such paths appreciate her lifelong exploration. “I’ve always considered her my first interview for any story on love, marriage, sex and gender dynamics in relationships,” says Leslie Bennetts, author of The Feminine Mistake. “She really understands the gap between the romantic mythologies that shape us and the real-life experiences that defy our most cherished expectations.”
Barash hopes readers come away with key understandings. “The takeaway is what relationships mean to women now,” she says. “It also offers the truth. This is happening, and it won’t go away anytime soon. Women feel confident and entitled to the decision to take a lover. For those who have done so, or are about to embark on an affair, the book tells them that they are not alone.“