It's been two months, and this is still bothering me. So let's discuss it, shall we?
When I went into the juvenile circuit court to file the paperwork for custody of the Bots and child support, I spoke with a gentleman who was really very knowledgeable and helpful. (I mean that truly, and without sarcasm. He made me feel much less powerless in the situation and much less like a terrible person for starting the process that will make me the first of any of my blood relatives to be divorced.)
He gave lots of advice, including these little gems:
1) Whenever a man cheats, emotionally or physically, with a woman who is less attractive than his wife, he has manhood issues.
2) Based on point 1, Separated Asshole has manhood issues, which are the root cause of his drug addiction and other problems.
3) Because of this, I need to do whatever I can to make Separated Asshole "feel like a man" in order to make the separation/divorce process easier.
OK. Let's take these one at a time.
1) Manhood issues? What exactly does that mean? He doesn't "feel like a man." I'm going to go out on a limb, here, and assume that this guy was not trying to say that Separated Asshole is having problems pinning down his gender identity. What he's saying is that Separated Asshole doesn't feel "manly" in the relationship, with all the stereotypical connotations of that word. He doesn't feel like the strong one. The one in control. He doesn't feel needed. But, don't we ALL want to feel strong and in control of ourselves and needed by our partners? Aren't these really just self-esteem issues?
No. They're not. Because it's not that he doesn't feel strong, it's that he doesn't feel like the strong ONE. Singular. Only one person in the pair is allowed to be strong. It's not that he doesn't feel in control of himself, it's that he doesn't feel in control of the RELATIONSHIP. And yes, it IS that he doesn't feel needed. Because one can ONLY be needed or needy, but not both. And if one partner is not needy, then the other is not needed.
And since a man just has to feel manly, or he can't function, if his wife isn't needy and reliant enough on him, then he's going to find someone who is.
Which is bullshit. So much bullshit. First, this concept is dependent on the idea that a marriage is a construct in which one person is in charge, rather than a partnership between two equals, and that that one person who is in charge must be the man. This further takes the responsibility for straying away from the man who did the cheating, because he's a poor man! He wasn't needed! He had to feel needed!
2) Ummmm.... Thanks for assuming I must be the pretty one? I guess?
3) I need to make him feel like a man? Yeah, no. That is not my job. It wasn't my job when we lived together, and it isn't my job now. It is NO ONE'S job to make any man "feel like a man."
But that's what it all boils down to, isn't it? This idea that it's a woman's job to make the men around her "feel" like men. It robs us of our humanity. We are no longer people, autonomous and independent, with goals and passions that come wholly from within ourselves. We are simply vehicles through which men - any men, from our romantic partners to our employers to our colleagues to the random cat-caller in the street - can achieve a feeling of accomplishment and power.
And the bottom line of all of this is that, in general, through the eyes of our culture, when I don't make Separated Asshole "feel like a man," no one thinks he has a problem within himself. It's a problem within the relationship, or it's my problem, but it's not HIS. It's not something HE has to work on. At most it's something WE have to work on.
And again I say: NOT MY FUCKING JOB. It's my job to support my partner as he works through his issues; it's my job to help him; it's my job to provide encouragement and love. It is NOT my job to make him feel like a man. Nor, just for the record, is it his job to make me feel like a woman.