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Can 'Negotiated Fidelity' Save Marriages?

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Dr. Wendy Walsh: There's a new voice on American self-help bookshelves this week -- an Aussie gal with an undergraduate degree in psychology and a history as a mistress. In her memoir "Sugarbabe," Holly Hill (not her real name) tells a tale of how she advertised to become a $1,000-per-week mistress after a married boyfriend dumped her and left her penniless. If you believe her tale, she received 11,000 replies to her ad and worked as a mistress for a few years, mostly for older men.

Holly Hill

From this experience, she now seems to think that she understands male psychology. She believes that all men are meant to sexually stray, and that the best way to have a healthy relationship is to "negotiate" fidelity.

She told, "One of the main things that I have learned is that a woman that negotiates infidelity with her partner is far more powerful than a woman who is sitting home wondering why he's late from the office Christmas party. It's better to walk the dog on a leash than let it escape through an unseen hole in the back fence." 

Holly says that her current boyfriend can have sex with any woman he wants, though he is not allowed to spoon or spend the night with his extracurricular women. (That must be Holly's bid to circumvent the inconvenient emotional intimacy that often crops up during straightforward sex.) As for her deal, she's allowed to have sex with other men, but is not allowed to wear clothes or underwear that her main man has purchased for her. (Ah, yes: He's  protecting his assets. Don't use his money to attract competitors, thank you very much.) 

What Holly Hill fails to see is that her "research study" was not based on the diverse male population, but only on one specific group: men who stray. (Remember, she embarked on this journey after she chose a married boyfriend over a career.) According to Los Angeles-based psychologist Dr. Adam Sheck, men and women who stray do it for one of four reasons. First, "a person isn't getting their needs met in the relationship, can't express this in a way that can be heard, understood and responded to and seeks the connection outside of the relationship, yet doesn't want to end the relationship," he says. Second, "one partner isn't getting their needs met in the relationship and uses the affair as the final 'wakeup call' to their partner, expecting to be caught and finally taken seriously. Third, a partner may feel that the relationship is hopeless, is over, and has an affair to cross that line and pass 'the point of no return,' to convince themselves that they need to end the relationship. And fourth, some people have deep attachment and connection issues and are high in narcissism and low in empathy. They use their partner -- and their affairs -- to meet their own needs, oblivious to the impact on others." 

The other flaw in Holly's hypothesis has to do with her notion of what constitutes a powerful woman. In my book, a powerful woman isn't one who negotiates a deal that could bring her a sexually transmitted disease or a heartbreak. A powerful woman is one who sets boundaries for herself and chooses a partner with the same sense of commitment. No matter how you couch it, affairs undermine trust in relationships. Most people do not have the emotional fortitude to bypass nature's instinct to be wary of sexual competitors. I think Holly is rationalizing her inability to stay faithful and get a man to be faithful -- which, by the way, is only done through selecting carefully, not by placing an ad for a finances-for-love arrangement. 

Are you listening, Miss Aussie "power woman"? 

next: Chelsea and Marc: Celebrating Interfaith Families
4 comments so far | Post a comment now
Angie B August 16, 2010, 8:20 AM

How sad and disturbing that this is what this woman makes a living off and has somehow created a story for herself to make it seem ok. She’s just a high dollar prostitute if you ask me.

Ashley August 17, 2010, 3:05 PM

You might be willing to let your man sleep around but chances are he won’t let you do it. Men are pretty posessive about their women.

Annie November 5, 2010, 1:33 PM

Well said, Dr. Walsh & Dr. Sheck! I have no problem with couples who have an open relationship but promoting that everyone do this because “one can’t be faithful anyway” is close-minded. And Holly Hill has a terribly low self-esteem.

Ten Tees January 8, 2011, 9:24 PM

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