Monica Lewinsky was only 22 years old when she fell deeply in love with President Bill Clinton, and shared what she called “tender moments” with him in the White House. She confided her agony over her love for him to her girlfriend, Linda Tripp, who secretly taped 20 hours of their conversations. Tripp later betrayed her friend and turned the tapes over to a Special Prosecutor collecting evidence of any wrong-doing by the President.
In the transcripts of the tapes, Lewinsky talks about her love for the President and having oral sex with him, and yet at one point, she tells Tripp she’s unsure whether he even knows her last name.
To therapists who specialize in extra-marital affairs, there’s nothing new here.
“Most affairs are high opportunity and low involvement for men,” says Dr. Barry McCarthy, a professor of psychology at American University. “For women, affairs are more emotional. President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky are prototypes.”
Many psychologists believe that the reason for the discrepancy is that men and women are just wired differently when it comes to romance and love. A common theory is that this sexual difference has a basis in evolution. Men are “programmed” to have as many partners as possible, but women are looking for emotional involvement with one man who will stick around long enough to help them raise children.
“Going into an affair and leaving it just isn’t a woman thing,” according to Dr. Marcella Weiner of Marymount College. “Men can walk away more easily because their emotions are just different.”
Israeli Professor Aaron Ben Ze’ev, author of Love Online, would agree. His research has found that women are more likely to become totally invested in online affairs, whereas men are often in them “just for fun.” In fact, this affair might be just one of three or four he is conducting simultaneously, while meanwhile, the woman thinks she has found a once-in-a-lifetime soulmate.
As a marriage counselor specializing in infidelity, Dr. Frank Pittman spent years listening to thousands of married people talk about their sexual affairs. One thing that struck him in his years as a counselor was that men would talk about the full sexual details of their affairs, whereas women will confess to “total consuming love and suicidal desire to die with some man, while insisting no sex ever took place.”
Dr. Pittman believes that women are not more romantic than men, but they are more likely to talk about their romantic feelings than men. Like Monica Lewinsky, most women seek advice on their love affairs from their friends. “Men are more likely to isolate themselves from everyone except their affair partner,” he writes, “and turn their thinking and feeling over to her, applying her romantic ways of thinking (or not thinking) to the dilemmas of his increasingly chaotic life.” It is usually the woman who pushes a relationship from friendship to love and from virtual to actual, according to Dr. Pittman.
Apparently, the emotions from a love affair can last for years.
It’s been fifteen years since the Clinton scandal. Monica Lewinsky has never married and allegedly told friends that she is still in love with the ex-president. She has also said publicly that she considered their relationship “mutual,” expressing dismay at his 2004 autobiography and calling him “a revisionist of history.”
“He could have made it right with the book, but he hasn’t,” she said. “…Instead, he talked about it as though I had laid it all out there for the taking. I was the buffet and he just couldn’t resist the dessert. […] This was a mutual relationship, mutual on all levels, right from the way it started and all the way through.”
In any event, President Clinton probably knows her last name by now.
“I’m Still in Love with Bill,” The UK Daily Mail, March 10, 2011.
“The Lewinsky-Tripp Tapes,” The American Experience, National Public Broadcasting, see http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/primary-resources/lewinsky-tripp/
Pittman, Frank (psychiatrist). “Beyond Betrayal, Life after Infidelity.” Psychology Today, published on May 01, 1993 – last reviewed on November 28, 2012.
Teich, Mark. “Love But Don’t Touch,” Psychology Today, March 1, 2006.
Worth, Tammy. “Why Women Cheat.” The WebMD, http://women.webmd.com/features/why-do-women-cheat