Review

Infidelity: A Memoir

by Ann Pearlman

The
title INFIDELITY is a little misleading. In truth, the content of
the book can really be summed up as Being Cheated On. Ann Pearlman,
ironically a marriage and family therapist who had her 15 minutes
of fame appearing on "Oprah" to teach married women how to "keep
the flame alive," is the voice we follow throughout this lifetime
of coping with the agonizing rejection of unfaithful men. Not to be
too snide --- there is certainly real pain in this book, and the
deep wounds of a philandering father and an unfaithful husband run
deep in Pearlman, sometimes inspiring insightful meditations on the
influence of men on the lives of women. Unfortunately, more often
Pearlman seems to want to beat her readers over the head with how
"predetermined" her husband's affair seems and how unavoidable her
own drawn-out and often melodramatic reaction to it.
Pearlman's experiences with infidelity are not uncommon from
the everyday lives of many people: Her father was a Don Juan who
would unabashedly flirt with waitresses and scantily clad ladies in
front of her increasingly depressed and downtrodden mother.
Pearlman spent her formative years alternately loathing and
idolizing her dad, playing out, as she often indicates, some kind
of Freudian archetypal attraction and repulsion with him. While in
college and graduate school, Pearlman swears that she will not
suffer an unfaithful mate but still finds herself playing out that
dramatic pull-and-push with other dangerously attractive and
flirtatious men --- men like her father. Enter Ty, football star,
artist, and "poet" (although, Pearlman renders his speech in
Hallmark-like fashion). He is a towering sexpot of a man, adept at
both touchdown receptions and dancing the "mashed potato." Ty and
Ann embark on a 30-year marriage, one that appears incredibly
placid and ideal, even despite the fact that they are an
interracial match and, at first, are unable to conceive children
and must adopt.
Obviously, things fall apart fairly late in the game for these
two --- a situation that is doubtless deeply puzzling and shocking
for Pearlman. Here she has been on national television, pitching
her tried-and-true method for maintaining a marriage, and suddenly,
Ty begins sneaking off with another artist who insouciantly flaunts
her big diamond stud earrings and wealthy Japanese husband. It is a
startling blow to Pearlman, who assumed she could control her
husband and her marriage by being the dutiful wife, the happy
homemaker, the marriage "expert," while all the while she was
somehow in the grip of forces beyond her control.
Or
so she tells it. There can be no doubt that, for the most part, the
infidelity of a partner is something a spouse cannot prevent.
Moreover, there is some truth to the notion that a child who has
witnessed her father's infidelity might have a strong subconscious
pull to repeat the same pattern in choosing a mate who is somehow
prone to betray. But here's where Pearlman's explanation gets weak:
her argument rests too much on "proclivities," hidden tendencies,
and inevitabilities. Ty was destined to cheat on her both because
he had a troubled childhood of his own and, Pearlman avers, because
of the very fact that she --- a child of infidelity --- chose
him.
It's
all too pat and determined, and crushingly fatalistic. While it is
true that Pearlman was scarred by her childhood, that does not
necessarily mean that she was bound to have those wounds re-opened
in adulthood. Moreover, she has complete control over her own
reaction to Ty's infidelity; yet it is precisely her reaction that
evinces her most unexamined and puerile behavior of all. Instead of
trying to protect her own 10-year-old daughter from hearing of Ty's
affair, she openly and sarcastically tells the young girl that he
was doomed to stab them both in the back. Rather than entering into
therapy herself, or giving Ty an ultimatum, Pearlman walks about in
a catatonic state, barely eating, barely taking care of her life
and her c hildren, and still clasping to Ty --- up until he decides
to leave for good. While it is impossible to fault Pearlman her
actions --- and heaven knows how anyone would deal in such
circumstances --- it is rather necessary to fault her presenting
this as a sound approach to the ending of a marriage. Pearlman
dwells somewhat self-indulgently over dreams of herself crucified,
and the self-pity carries on far too long. The book, in the end,
reaches this unsatisfying conclusion: "You never know what's going
to happen next. A sudden storm or a glorious sunset." Surely, our
own actions do play some part in shaping our lives; we're not
victims of infidelity in the same way that we're victims of violent
rain showers.
Readers of INFIDELITY need not enter into this journey
skeptical of Pearlman's tale; they should merely be aware that this
is merely one woman's faulty journey. Although Pearlman is somewhat
of an authority on human relationships, she is, like all of us, by
no means immune to their pitfalls.

Reviewed by Meredith Blum on January 22, 2011

Infidelity: A Memoir
by Ann Pearlman

  • Publication Date: June 1, 2000
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: MacAdam/Cage
  • ISBN-10: 0967370124
  • ISBN-13: 9780967370125