Monday, April 12, 2010

Tiger Woods, Jessie James and Romance Heroes

Doesn't seem like we should be lumping all these guys together in one title, does it? But I have to admit that something has been tinkling around in my brain every since we had our discussion on what makes a book work and not work for you all. Many of you won't remember, but we've discussed reader hot buttons before, both on my blog and on the old eHarlequin boards (yep, it's been a couple of years) and never before have so many readers made it known that they find infidelity a hot button.

Now, we postulated in our last "chat" that perhaps so many of you felt the need to list it because infidelity had become de rigeur in some romance novels. I remember that when we discussed this particular hot button a few years ago, Lidia mentioned that certain things reminded too many American readers of Bill Clinton's sexual escapades as our President.

I'm wondering now, if all this news of icons like Tiger Woods not only being caught out in his infidelity, but the subject of former mistresses' tell alls has something to do with our more front of the brain aversion to unfaithfulness in romance. When an international favorite celeb like Sandra Bullock has her husband (Jesse James) admit not one, but numerous affairs on the night of one of her greatest triumphs, you can't help but have a visceral reaction to her pain and ugliness of his actions.

But what really shocked me spitless was the response to a question on Susan Elizabeth Phillips FB fanpage. She asked readers, keeping in mind none of it is really our business anyway (I love SEP's classy approach even to gossip - she's a true role model.), if they would forgive Tiger if they were his wife. At last count she had almost 300 responses to this question, about 3 times the number she gets on her other daily status questions for readers. I found this more than interesting, I found it extremely telling. Not only was the overwhelming majority of answers in the negative, the sheer numbers of people wanting to make their voice heard on this subject was astonishing to me.

You can't deny that kind of statistic, you simply can't. When that many readers show such deep disapproval for infidelity, I have to hope my fellow romance authors are listening. This isn't just a hot button for a few of their fans, it's a major issue for *most* of them.

Can a hero be truly heroic when he's been dipping his wick in someone else's candle? Euphemisms aside, I have to say that for me, it's a near impossible to imagine feat that an author could redeem the hero enough I'd keep the book. In fact, I can think of only one book on my keeper shelves in which the hero was unfaithful to the heroine. It was a very early Lynne Graham and she did a complicated set-up that most authors would not be able to pull off.

I know most of you have already said this is a major hot-button for you in books, but I am real life, would you forgive and try to move forward, or kick your SO to the curb for infidelity?

Hubcap is too much of a true hero for me to even imagine it. Unlike celebs like Goldy Hawn and jaded sweeties like my niece DeAnna, I do not believe "all men cheat." I do not believe all men even think about it. I do believe that heroic men that I want in my life - as my spouse and the heroes in my books - are not going to cheat. Does that mean I don't have friends that have cheated? Nope. I do believe in forgiveness and love too! And I don't believe in judging another person's relationship, but I know what makes mine tick and that's what matters. :)

I'll admit too, that it's a heck of a lot easier to have sympathy for a guy like Tiger Woods, who is so likable than it is for a man like Jesse James, who...well...isn't.


Monica Burns said...

OMG, Jesse James is even more of a sleaze than most, probably because I adore Sandra Bullock. I feel her pain.

I don't think I could ever write a romance where infidelity was part of the conflict. It's too painful on a personal level (the first guy I was engaged to cheated on me).

I do believe a women's fiction "love story" might be possible, but it's going to have to be done exceptionally well, and I know I couldn't do it.

And the DH knows that I'd make him pay through the nose, in more ways than one if he EVAH cheated on me. I'm too Italian to forgive.

Lucy Monroe said...

Oh, Mon...I hear you! On so many levels. My dad was a serial adulterer and my tolerance level for cheating is way lower than a lot of people's because of it, I think. :)

Andrea Becraft said...

Here's a question for you why is tiger so much likable then jessie?

I agree this is so not our buisness just because they are in the lime light they deserve to have a little privacy. And where is the integraty in the misstress going on public television in the hopes of furthering herself and totally depricating the one who cheats. In the old days affairs were private wonder what happened to those days!

On that note I don't think I could stay with my spouse if he cheated. Once a cheater always a cheater. That being said if he can't be faithful then it would be best for both of us to just go our seperate ways. But I was forth coming on this to my hubby. He knows the score and he knows I won't tolerate it so he can add that to factor in before he makes the decission.

Valerie said...

I couldn't. I might forgive them as my Christian duty (which I would definitely need help with) but I would not take them back. My dad, until about 10 years ago, was a habitual cheater and it has influenced and colored too much of my life. My mom always forgave him, tried to justify it, and took him back. She even tells me now that she wishes she never had and when she hears about someone who is thinking of taking back a cheater she tells me, "Don't do it. You'll regret it, because you can never really trust someone after they have done that." It colors the entire relationship from that point on. My personal feeling is why would I want to trust my most intimate self to someone who can not value it the same way I would value their most intimate self. It's disgusting, and frightening when you think of all the STDs out there. It just turns me off completely.

sonya said...

I can't imagine being strong enough to forgive infidelity and continue the relationship; even with prayers and counselling.

To me, infidelity is such a basic moral characteristic in a person's nature. For that person to change, would be like the proverbial leopard changing spots to tiger stripes.

Lucy Monroe said...

Andrea...I think Tiger is more humble as a person and I find that more appealing than the bravado ego Jesse often exhibits in the limelight. I also admire Tiger's dedication to his craft, his desire to make things right with his wife (whether or not I could personally have accepted his desire to change)and I've always felt that his dad pushed him too hard, so I had a soft spot for Tiger. :)

And nothing seems to be private anymore. I remember an author commenting that she didn't want her editor to join her friends on FB because she didn't necessarily want her seeing what she posted there. I thought the other author was dear, but naive to believe anything she posted on her "private" wall really was. Sigh...

Valerie...I've known a couple of "cheaters" that were one time offenders, but most adulterers aren't. Stats and our personal experience back that one up.

Sonya...I'm with you. Well, I think I could forgive - but not stay with someone who cheated. I simply wouldn't be able to trust again after being raised the way I was. I'm so blessed to have Hubcap and I remember that every day! :)

Marilyn Shoemaker said...

Had that ever happened in my marriage I don't know if I could have survived it! I'm amazed how strong some women are and how forgiving.

Like you Luc, I also believe I don't have the right to judge, that's for the man above!

Andrea Becraft said...

See I am not put off by Jesses attitude I tend to lean more towards those kinds of men the outspoken loud obnoxiously good bad boys. Jesse has also put forward quite a bit of effort to his craft building a business is never easy weither its motorcycles or golf. Is he not wanting to work things out with sandra? Anyways I don't nessecarly like tiger all that much then again I am not a big fan of golf or sports for that matter.

Melissa said...

I don't believe in cheating ~~ and No, I don't have much forgiveness in my for the men that do it. I kicked my ex to the curb for that very thing. It's not only the hurt of having someone go behind your back, it's the humilation of him not thinking enough of you or respecting you enough to confront you w/ his feelings.
We used to do this retreat every year, up in MI w/ a group of friends from work, and most wouldn't bring their spouses. I had alot of respect for some of these men, and seeing them cheat on their wives and say Shhh...what happens here stays here really made me loose alot of that respect. I just think it's a betrayal, in every sense of the word. And I REALLY don't want to read about it in a book I'm reading for pleasure.
And yeah, what the HELL was Jesse James thinking? Sandra Bullock is the greatest, beautiful, nice, sweet, loves his kids ~~ his total loss, and I hope she doesn't give him a 2nd chance.

Tee said...

I really do not know how I would react and I hope that is not something I will have to deal with. I have had this happen to a family member and she did forgive. But they worked as a couple to figure out why he did what he did and how or if all the work to repair the damage was worth the work. I can honesly say that they are still together today and working on 31 years of marriage.

Lucy Monroe said...

Marilyn...I think it is so key to examine our own lives rather than someone else's. :) I was honest when I said I simply couldn't picture it with Hubcap. :) Though I know my past would make the situation untenable for me.

Andrea...the only thing that matters for either men, I'm sure, is how their own wives feel. And I truly hope for all parties to find something good out of all this. But I can say that all the discussion has cemented my lack of desire to try to "challenge" myself by "redeeming" a character guilty of infidelity. ;-)

Melissa...that is really hard - to spend time with people you respect and learn they think a certain type of behavior is okay as long as they don't get caught. I've run into that with copyright abuse and friends - watching pirated movies and such. I'm rather outspoken about the subject as it is so dear to my heart. LOL

Tee...I too have family/friends that have made their marriages work after infidelity. Like I said in my post, I do believe in love and forgiveness, but what one person would want to do or *could* do is not necessarily the right path for someone else. I'm very, very glad I've never had to make that choice on a personal level.

lidia said...

Actually I was more disappointed in Tiger's cheating than Jesse's. Tiger projected a personna that was so false that I found it somewhat deceitful. In Jesse's case, I was more surprised and hurt for Sandra's sake.

In real life I don't think that I could forgive and forget. Eventually the forgiveness would happen only because without it you could turn into a very bitter person.

However, trust is a very key part of any relationship. Without trust a relationship probably will not survive. I don't know how anyone going through this type of betrayal could ever completely trust the other person again.

As someone already said, it is the person's integrity that is now being questioned. Main reason why I don't understand how people can say that what someone does in private only affects their family and that they can still be excellent at their job, politics, whatever. How can you have different "integrity" related to different facets of your life? I don't get that.

Lucy Monroe said...

Lidia...I tend to agree with you about integrity. Though I've actually known people who were rabidly honest in every other area of their life, except when it came to fidelity. They weren't personal friends that I knew for years, so maybe I was just seeing a different part of the picture, but as impossible as it is for me to personally comprehend or adhere to, perhaps there are people who have selective levels of integrity. Eventually, put to enough of a test, that integrity will fail - but on the surface it looks good. Like the crime "families" who are loyal to one another to death, but are they really? Loyalty among thieves sounds appealing, but how real can it be when pushed to the wall?

lidia said...

Link to interesting article -- on topic.

Sherry said...

I've never been much of a Tiger fan I've always thought that he was a little bit fake so when I found out that he cheated on his wife I was really surprised. But I really don't think that its any of my business. These days a person can't do anything without everyone knowing and talking about it. I have friends that talk about cheating on their boyfriends/husbands and don't find anything wrong with it. I think that this shows how bad a lot of peoples morals have gotten to be. My mom was the one that did the cheating in my family and I can remember once when she left my dad him begging her to come back. If you think its awful to see your mom cry it's nothing to watching your dad cry and beg to this day a little part of me can't stand my mom for that. My sister also cheated on her husband and would laugh about it but it bit her in the ass a couple years later when he cheated and asked for a divorce. She calls him and his wife everything in the book for cheating and its like she doesn't remember she did the same thing. It's funny to me how people's memories work. I think after watching my mother and my sister I don't think I could ever trust anyone enough to get married.

Judy said...

Tiger is about the image he sold of being clean cut and straight arrow. He knowingly signed contracts with the understanding that it was about his character. He betrayed his wife, himself, the companies who hired him, and his fans. Ugly. Survivable? Yes, though it will never be the same.

Personally, I had a boyfriend who cheated on me. I suspected, but no one would tell me the truth. Why did I break up with him? He lied about how a movie ended. He didn't want to "ruin" the end, and I wanted to be prepared. If he lied about something so trivial (so he could see how I reacted to the REAL ending), what else did he lie about?

The diseases alone are terrifying. How could someone who says they love you so willingly put your life at risk? There is always a choice.

Anyone who cheats must lie, and lie often. To lie, one must sacrifice integrity and respect, for oneself and for all those with whom one interacts because the lie touches everyone, in one way or another, either being deceived or keeping the secret. What a horrendous burden.

Is it possible to move on? Yes, but how painful and difficult and totally unnecessary. It isn't romantic; it's a tragedy. The dreams that are shattered; the hearts that are broken; the trust that is shredded; the lives that change, forever, and too often not for the better. The ripples are immeasurable. I've seen couples who have overcome the devastation, but other family members, including children, didn't always survive it so well.

Someone once told me that it was exciting. Yes, so is jumping from an airplane without a parachute, but the thrill is brief, and the end is not only messy but deadly.

flchen1 said...

Huge hot button, Lucy! I definitely tend to avoid even reading stories where the hero/ine is unfaithful; even if there's justification (their spouse is horrible, sick, whatever), I can't stomach that.

As for if that was my reality? I don't know. I don't think I could leave, but it would be hard to stay unless I saw evidence of true repentance on his part, and a willingness to work together on whatever prompted the straying.

I've read about a few real-life couples who have worked it out, and it's a long, hard road. And sometimes marriage is that, but infidelity is a real doozy.

Judy F said...

I think what makes Sandra's situation so bad was she thanked him for having her back. And praised him for being the one she waited to marry. Your heart just breaks for her.

A good friend of my sisters was married to a cheater. I saw him out several times at bars when I was out with friends. It took a long while for her to believe what people were telling her. They are now divorced.

I don't think myself I could forgive it. Esp the unprotected part too.

Lucy Monroe said...

Really interesting article, Lidia. Thanks for sharing that. :)

Sherry...I wish that people could truly understand the impact their actions have on those around them, especially their families. I think so many people believe they really aren't hurting anyone else, or it's okay - they "need" x, y, or z. But if they truly felt another's pain, they couldn't cause it. They just couldn't.

Judy...I do think that if people will lie about little things, they will lie about bigger things.

flchen1...marriage *is* hard enough (even when you're married to a living, breathing hero type ::g::) without infidelity, it just doesn't need adding in the mix.

JudyF...that's so hard, knowing someone is hurting someone else before the pain actually comes. I'm way too empathetic for my own good in some situations. I'm sure you are too. Sigh...

Hugs to you all and thanks for weighing in! :)

MrsRony said...

Well color me opposite. Women always hoop and hollar about how they wouldn't stand for this and that but look at reality. Its real easy to say what you would do when its not you. Women always say they would never be hit and look at how many abused women there are. But when you are looking the person you love and have built a life with in the face its a whole nother ballgame. A LOT of women tolerate...or have worked through...or excused....or turned a blind eye.....or joined in..ok thats another topic...but women have dealt with infidelity since the ice age. Many men(and women) cheat and the couple get over it. Cheers to them. For me personally, I have no clue what I would do. I talk alot of shit about guns and knives but am I really gonna throw my marriage of now 10 years out (when we obviously have had problems) out of the window over a ho..or two...or twelve??? I don't know....depends on his problems and mine. (I don't believe these things are one sided...IE...Sandra is all that innocent and not without faults)

MrsRony said...

How can you have different "integrity" related to different facets of your life? I don't get that.

I mean its not like priest preaching on Sunday and molesting children during the week. No one is breaking law.

Im sorry I just cant put infidelity on the same level as molestation and murder or drug addicts for that matter.

Who are we to judge? You dont know what anyone goes through to make the decisions they make. If I screw 7 guys a day except my husband does that mean I cant go to work and not steal money out the register? Can I not be a good accountant during the day and be a good mistress at night? I cant say my prayers and read my kids bedtime stories and swing from the chandeliers while they at school??? I can be a good mommy and a freak.

Lucy Monroe said...

MrsRony...I think each person is the *only* person that can speak for themselves. Whether someone would tolerate a certain behavior from someone else in whatever relationship is something only *they* know. And frankly, while I may feel another's pain, I don't presume to know what they should or would do with it. I appreciate your point that a longterm marriage/relationship may well be worth saving (and frankly probably are far more often than the effort is made), but only the people involved know if *theirs* is. Heck, I think a baby new marriage is worth saving if the couple really love each other and can find a way to happiness together again, but whether that would be me?

As I said in my post, I flat out know for a certainty Hubcap simply is not a man who would cheat. So, it's not a question I can personally answer except in the wholly abstract. ;-) His love is too real and he has a deep well of integrity I know I can rely on. :)

Lucy Monroe said...

Honestly? If I knew my accountant was somebody's mistress...I'd move my accounts. Immediately. Can you be someone who defiles a marriage (from whatever viewpoint) and be good at your job? Sure. Just like you can be a crooked accountant and never have cheated on your own wife or taxes. Doesn't mean I'd want to give you my business. My money. My perogetive. Would I reject a friend for infidelity, have already stated no. :) Different situation. One has an emotional investment, the other - no call to my extended loyalty. Simple truth for me. :)

Can you be a freak and a great parent? Yep. But do the sexual lives of their parents impact children? We've seen here in just these comments that they do. And I personally believe it's for both good and ill. My kids laugh all the time about how freaky their parents are - as children they rolled their eyes, as adults, they want marriages with the same level of fun and cohesion their dad and I have. :)

MrsRony said...

I agree 100% Lucy. Everyone is different in what they can stand. I cant stand my BFs hubby...well...I wouldn't marry him but if she likes him...well...Ill tolerate him. LOL. Im sure many wouldn't be able to stand my polar bear but I wouldn't trade him for the world. He is human and so am I so I wont say what he nor I would never do but Id like to think that there is nothing we couldn't overcome together. Now that's some happy ending shit. LOL

Lucy Monroe said...

MrsRony...Oh it so is and your post just gave me happy ending chills. LOL I'm serious!

Serena said...

Would you believe just two days before Tiger's stories of his infidelity surfaced, a group of us were talking about how nice he is and what a role model. I feel for his wife and the children.

I can forgive just about anything - gambling, drugs (maybe) but infidelity, well, no, I couldn't. It's more personal than other things, isn't it? And I'm blessed with a gorgeous hubby just like you are, Lucy (please say Hi to him!). My dark hero is a keeper :)
Hugs from Down Under

Lucy Monroe said...

Ah, Serena...lovely to see you here. :) Your dh is a gorgeous man, inside and out! Hubcap sends his love back to you all. :)

Lettetia said...

Being married to my own personal romance hero, I cannot imagine that cheating would ever enter his mind. I do know friends who have cheated and have been cheated on; some have taken their spouses back and others have kicked them out the door, never to return.
I know I, personally, would forgive the person if I were in that situation but like most of you, I could never have an intimate relationship with them again.

Thank you, Monica and Lucy, for writing heroes that are one-woman men. I can always trust you both to write the kind of stories I want to read.

Valerie said...

You know, I've been reading a lot about Narcissistic Personality Disorder recently and I have to wonder how many habitual cheaters have NPD. Of course, I do not know Tiger or Jesse personally but given the context of what has happened in Sandra's life I have to wonder if it's possible she is in an emotionally abusive relationship with a man who has NPD. Or maybe not full blown NPD, but heavily narcissistic. I just have to wonder...and if that is the case, she would be fortunate to get out of that situation.

Valerie said...

Actually - she would be fortunate to get out now anyhow...

Lucy Monroe said...

Lettitia...your hubby *is* a hero. :) And I've always felt really blessed that what I love to write strikes a chord with a big group of readers. I'm far too stubborn to write anything else. LOL

Valerie...I think your theory on NPD being linked with habitual cheating has a lot of merit. NPD is a devastating disorder for the people around the person "suffering" from it.

Anonymous said...

Hey, y'all, I'm back to leave my comments here! Harharharhar!!!!

Anyway, serious topic is...kudos for the strong women who can forgive the cheaters. Also, this includes the men who were betrayed by cheaters. Must make it all-around, right?

For me, I don't think I can stomach reading unfaithfulness when the couple are in a relationship. I see too much of the infidelity in real life that I really REALLY don't want to read them in my HEA books.

My first impulse when I heard about the cheating that Jesse and Tiger did was to kick them to the curve. However, since I'm not their wives, I leave that decision to the spouses. It is sad that the media constructs the stories into a light where you don't hear both sides and the media just condemns the cheaters. And I will admit that I am swayed by how the story is constructed, but a part of me always reminds me that there are two sides of the story, and that I must not give my full support until I hear both sides. Yet this topic is such a personal one that I don't want to intrude. It is a private situation, and I want to respect the privacy of the couples' lives. Therefore, I'm just sick of hearing the Tiger/Jesse stories and want to move on, because it doesn't really pertain to me, and it really IS a private matter for the couples to work on.

Now if it happened to me...I'll kick the cheater out. And mind you, I have some relatives who had experienced it, and it saddens me that one half of the couple had to cheat, be if the other party is my relative or their significant other. For me, I'll try to forgive the sin, but I don't think I can trust the other person anymore. It will be hard for that person to regain my trust, and I'm pretty sure that in that moment I wouldn't want to be near that person. And if time passed by and I meet that cheater, I may be able to become more comfortable meeting that person, but I don't think I would want to be in an intimate relationship anymore. Just giving my opinion to this hypothetical situation.

And that's it for that topic.

Lucy Monroe said...

Thanks for chiming in, Erahime. :)