Thursday, December 3, 2009

Post No. 142: A Funny Thing Happened to Tiger on the Way to the Altar

© 2009 the Institute for Applied Common Sense

One can not resist asking, "Is there anything beneficial which society can take away from this Tiger Woods 'infidelity during marriage' situation (regardless of one’s position about the propriety or impropriety of the conduct of the various participants involved)?

An argument could be made that society should constantly re-evaluate all of its institutions, including the institution of marriage, to determine their continuing viability and value, and that unfortunate events such as the still developing story involving Woods, should prompt us to re-examine that institution now.

Arguably, every time society determines that something is not quite working the way that it was envisioned, it should re-visit the original reasons and expectations underlining the creation of the practice.

Marriage (as we currently view it in America, particularly its restrictions on sex with others) is a relatively recent convention, which has evolved and changed over time. When difficulties arise, especially involving celebrities and public figures, society has a tendency to examine the event from a static perspective, using the rules and expectations of the current culture.

Perhaps looking at it from a dynamic perspective, and determining whether it still performs a valuable societal function, including an examination of its costs and benefits, might be the way to go.

Many soundly criticized the CEOs of the Big Three auto companies and the investments banks, and the Federal Reserve for being asleep at the switch and not paying careful enough attention to business fluctuations which led to our current economic recession. "How could they have let this happen?" we asked. Why should we expect any less diligence from society in terms of monitoring and responding to fluctuations in societal values?

Is marriage really for everyone? Why do we expect virtually everyone to marry at some point during their lifetime? Why does society have a tendency to question the “whatever” of people who haven’t been married by a certain point in time in their lives?

A suggestion on our part was previously made that marital infidelity had at least some biological component, which went beyond the simple exercise of discipline or personal responsibility, or religious beliefs for that matter. That suggestion was soundly and emphatically criticized by our readers.

Assuming, for purposes of argument, that there is no biological component, then simply examining the conduct of golfer Woods, Albert Einstein, Gov. Mark Sanford, Sen. John Edwards, Sen. John Ensign, inventor Henry Ford, Presidents Wilson, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Clinton, would strongly suggest that many do not respect the institution as presently constituted or evolved.

And this is not to suggest that the rules of the marital agreement have only been violated by men. And that’s not to mention that the “other women” are also members of society, who obviously do not respect the current form of the institution.

Some of the best and brightest minds of our culture, people who have excelled in their various pursuits, and who have served their countries and improved the quality of life for millions, have chosen not to adhere to their marital vows. And why not?

There must be something there. For us not to re-examine the real issues, or for us to simply dismiss them as “aberrations,” or even examples of “selfishness,” would serve little value.

Perhaps people today are marrying for all of the wrong reasons.

Are potential loneliness and a desire to grow old with a companion sufficient enough reasons to justify marriage? And what about security? Are the reasons that most people get married so self-serving, in terms of underlying motivation, that the majority of marriages are bound to fail at some point?

One of the wrong reasons might be public and peer pressure. Many a professional person has felt compelled to get married in order to advance professionally.

Imagine the questions which would be raised about an unmarried presidential candidate.

Back in July of this year, we featured an article about the risks associated with conformity. The article suggested that group-think may delay our addressing certain problems and crafting solutions. If the group thinks that nothing is wrong, or that the current model still works, then it continues to deny the existence of problems.

Some years ago, Charlie Rose interviewed a very prominent member of Indian society and an Indian family dynasty. The young man had been educated in some of the best institutions in the world, and had grown up in both the Western and Eastern worlds.

Since the man was recently married, Charlie asked whether he thought that family arranged marriages or marriages where the participants were romantically involved were better. His answer was quick and unequivocal – arranged marriages. He explained that one felt more responsibility to society and to one’s extended family in an arranged marriage.

He also added that if one actually fell in love with the designated spouse, then that was like “icing on the cake.”

And with all of the talk about infidelity in connection with the Woods marriage, we still do not have a clear picture of whether there was any violence.

However, there is little question that when a spouse disappears or is murdered, attention is first directed toward the other spouse. An editorial in Time magazine some years ago suggested that marriage is one of the most dangerous places for an adult woman to be in terms of physical violence.

Tiger Woods has done a lot of good in the world, and has made many of us proud. This is obviously a blemish on his career, for which he has taken full responsibility and apologized.

However, in the same way that Magic Johnson’s AIDS condition may have done much to focus society’s attention on that disease, perhaps Tiger’s “indiscretions” may help society focus on whether marriage is still a viable institution for the majority of its citizens.


  1. First, let me take issue with this statement:

    Marriage is a relatively recent convention.

    It isn't. It is something which predates recorded history. Therefore, we have no way to determine its date of origin.

    Desmond Morris (in The Naked Ape posits that it may a factor in, and of, evolution. He called it "pair bonding" and suggested evolutionary reasons for its existence. They seemed reasonable to me on that level.

    I think we do (and should), however, re-examine the concept of marriage on an ongoing basis. We are, after all, constantly evolving culturally. I think it is a healthy thing to do, culturally speaking, to constantly re-examine rituals and cultural practices.

    I would like us to separate the term marriage from that cultural practice. In my mind, marriage is a religious practice. As our culture tries (and often fails) to separate the purview of the state from the purview of religion, separating the concept of marriage from the secular grouping of individuals is a natural evolution for our culture. People could still get married but it would be something entirely under the religious aspect of life. If one wished the State to be involved (for purposes of civil benefits and rights under the law) then it should be registered with the State. The State should, in my opinion, only recognize "civil partnerships" and only those legally registered with the State.

    I realize that this "civil partnership" concept might lead to legal contracts, written out and agreed to by all parties involved. I do not see that as a Bad Thing. We seem to be moving toward that with "pre-nuptial agreements", anyway.

    I also think this concept would resolve a number of issues facing our society today.

    But I am just a voice in the wilderness on that.

    As for transgressions, such as Tiger's... well, some people have problems with temptation. Actually, I think all people have problems with temptation. Some are better at resisting it than others. I think Tiger's problems are a matter for him and his family to work on. His profession is not impacted by what he does off the course. Same for movie stars and late night TV hosts. I draw the line at those we elect to office because character is a trait that is important in our selection. And adherence to vows is an important indication of the depth of character.

  2. Douglas: Your point about our broad use of the word "marriage," is well taken. We have modified our statement to read, "marriage (as we currently view it in America, particularly with respect to its restrictions on sex with others) is a relatively recent convention...."

  3. Out of curiosity Douglas, would the restrictions on sex outside of the marriage apply in the civil, non-religious marriage, as it does in the typical religious pairing?

    Perhaps marriage rules and expectations should be all contractual and memorialized in a written document before tying the knot.

  4. He never should have gotten married in the first place. No man at the top of his game or profession should do so. The same applies to leaders. It is incompatible with being the best, which requires a commitment to excellence in his chosen profession, not a commitment to a woman.

  5. Your poll requires (at least) one additional option, which is, Yes but only if both parties agree voluntarily, i.e., open marriage. Not that I have a lot of faith in the viability of open marriages, but to each his/her own.

    And I don't know that we need to take a second look at the institution of marriage, so much as many people preparing for marriage need to take a second look at their ability to maintain honesty and healthy intimacy.

  6. PhD in Yogurtry: Thanks again for visiting us. We made the suggested change to the poll.

    As for the notion that no change in the institution is needed, but rather a re-evaluation of the commitment on the part of people before they enter into a marriage, you are correct. There is always the option of not getting married.

  7. I remained puzzled at the fascination of people regarding the intimate details of the lives of "celebrities". Perhaps in the case of politicians and governmental officials there is some merit in that these persons should be held accountable to a higher standard. To whom much is given much is expected etc. But why would an entertainer or sports figure be subjected to this kind of scrutiny? Having said that, as long as the subject of marriage itself is being brought into question I will add my 2 cents worth. No one in this day and age and society is being forced into marriage. It is a state entered into by 2 persons not more than 2(at least legally in the U.S.) with certain vows including exclusivity. It is a contract willingly entered into and violating the terms because of some alleged biological imperative is no excuse. Some of us have murderous impulses but manage rather nicely not to give into them because it is WRONG. That is right, I am saying I believe in right and wrong and in controlling our behavior. Shocking I know but why not swim against the tide and honor our commitments? Even if it isn't always convenient.

  8. Inspector, you ask:

    Out of curiosity Douglas, would the restrictions on sex outside of the marriage apply in the civil, non-religious marriage, as it does in the typical religious pairing?

    But you answered it yourself, I think. It should, if all parties agree. You will note that I said "all parties" and not "the two parties".

    If I could go further in my "civil partnerships" concept, I would explain that there may be no limits beyond the requirement that all parties be consenting adults judged to be competent (if necessary) to engage in any legal transaction or contract. This would include, but not be limited to, two or more males, females, or any mixture of the two sexes regardless of previous relationship.

    Marriage, on the other hand, would have the imposition of rules required (or accepted) by the religion involved.

  9. From my experience, there is something positive to said regarding arranged marriages, same-gender education, and uniform dressing in school.....(sm)

    Am willing to expound on those views privately with the Inspector.


  10. Thanks much for your comments June. Several thoughts:

    Regarding the intimate details of the lives of "celebrities:" You're in the "fantasy" business and we suspect that lots of folks live out their fantasies through celebrities. In some instances we suspect that it envy or jealously. In many instances, we suspect that it is a drive or desire to make oneself feel superior or better off than others. One of our recent commenters suggested that some judgmental religious types are in competition to get into heaven, and thus must condemn others to ensure that the limited seats available are not taken by those less worthy (as if humans are the ones to make that determination).

    Regarding the higher standard to which our politicians and governmental officials ought to be held: Some might argue that the higher standard applies to the safeguarding and prudent use of taxpayer dollars, and the careful consideration of policies and such, not their personal life per se, unless it directly impinges on their ability to lead and govern. We're not sure that we should want our politicians and governmental leaders to be considered role models or examples of "good human conduct," however that may be defined.

    There is some conduct which is arguably universally regarded as "good human conduct," such as pulling a kid out of a burning house, or enabling a dying kid to take a trip to a special place before his or her death. However, many other aspects of "good human conduct" are in the eye of the beholder, the particular community or culture involved, or the particular deity to which people pray depending on their particular religion.

    That's enough for now. We'll address your other comments later.

  11. June: This is Part 2 of our response to your comment.

    You wrote: "No one in this day and age and society is being forced into marriage. It is a state entered into by 2 persons not more than 2(at least legally in the U.S.) with certain vows including exclusivity. It is a contract willingly entered into and violating the terms because of some alleged biological imperative is no excuse. Some of us have murderous impulses but manage rather nicely not to give into them because it is WRONG. That is right, I am saying I believe in right and wrong and in controlling our behavior. Shocking I know but why not swim against the tide and honor our commitments? Even if it isn't always convenient."

    First, you are correct, in a literal sense, that no one is forced into marriage. However, there are tremendous societal forces at work prompting people to get married. Arguably, if people were purely logical and analytical, they would not get married, considering the potential complications and the probability of failure. There are also tremendous societal costs associated with marriage, particularly legal costs and emotional scarring. However, there are emotional, familial, religious, and professional pressures, apart from simple peer pressure.

    Second, a marriage is most certainly a contract, but typically it is an oral contract, and a relatively short one at that. (The marital vows are also very general and relatively short in terms of content and narrow in terms of breadth.) It does not contain a lengthy and detailed itemization of the expectations of the parties and their respective duties and responsibilities. Additionally, it does not contain terms which change over time as the parties changes and the environmental circumstances change.

    There are assumptions made on the part of both participants, some spoken, others not. Although we suspect that most people assume that there will be exclusivity, we doubt that very many actually negotiate that and explicitly state it.

    Which leads us to our third point: we suspect that many do not feel that having sex outside of the marriage is wrong, just that they do not wish to get caught.
    They know the difference between right and wrong. It’s just that they don’t think that outside sexual affairs are wrong.

    Perhaps society might benefit from having a negotiated, written contract outlining the expectations and responsibilities of the respective parties. It might save everyone a lot of trouble down the road.

    Aren’t all relationships arguably the same, whether business, legal, or marital? It’s just the interests which are different. In some situations in life, parties purposely keep the terms vague and unwritten so that there is some wiggle room for them to do whatever they want. Is that the case with marriage?

  12. Response to "part 1" I am indeed in the fantasy business but I think it very problematic to blur the line between fantasy and reality. Fantasy about an Orion slave girl is not the same thing as stalking a real person. One is relatively innocent fun the other creepy to the point of criminal. While I think it is OK to be curious about the rich and famous the media goes way beyond the bounds of what used to be considered common decency. I know they do it for the almighty dollar but that is cold comfort to me.

    Politicians should be first and foremost held accountable for how they perform their jobs but we can often learn if they posses certain characteristics like prudence and careful consideration by how they conduct their personal lives. What was it Dr.King said about judge not by the color of one's skin but by the content of their character? Notice he didn't say by their job performance. Character does count and a person who will cheat on their chosen life mate, the one they vowed to be faithful to until parted by death is not the person I want managing my portfolio or my tax dollars. Fidelity is important.
    Part 2- Societal pressures and marriage? In western society in the ST century ? I think not.
    People get married because they want someone to have and to hold, and or because they want to make babies. Those reasons have always been at the core in almost every society and age. I'll grant that it is hard to be single when everyone around you is paired up. It is very isolating.
    " Arguably, if people were purely logical and analytical, they would not get married, considering the potential complications and the probability of failure. There are also tremendous societal costs associated with marriage, particularly legal costs and emotional scarring. However, there are emotional, familial, religious, and professional pressures, apart from peer pressure" Aren't those costs you are speaking of not do to marriage but FAILED marriages?
    The length of the marriage vow has nothing to do with the depth of them. They may be verbal but they are declared before witnesses and there are certain aspects that are very nearly universally accepted. Cleaving only to each other is part of those vows and I have never heard marriage vows that didn't include that part else adultery would not be grounds for divorce. It is no longer the only grounds for dissolving a union but is certainly the oldest.

    I do not agree about that sex with someone other than your spouse while you are married is not considered wrong. While it is anecdotal in nature I challenge you to ask 20 or 20,000 married people how they would feel if their spouse had sex with someone else while still being married to them. The ones that say it would be OK have already emotionally said goodbye to their spouse.

    All relationships are not the same. The level of commitment in an apartment lease, or a contract to do a roof isn't like one to join with another person for the rest of your life or to adopt a child. Somethings are temporary, some long term and others, just a few are meant to be permanent.

  13. Tiger, having been focused on achieving excellence in his chosen profession since the age of three and under the eye of his Father, never learned some very practical things about life.


    1. It's important to have a woman, who helps at home, who cooks from time to time, cleans up and has a job.

    2. It's important to have a woman, who can make you laugh.

    3. It's important to have a woman, who you can trust and who doesn't lie to you.

    4. It's important to have a woman, who is good in bed and who likes to be with you.

    5. It's very, very important that these four women do not know each other.

    Go you Tiger, you got 4, but you failed number 5. Your bad.

  14. Inspector, the vows once included "forsaking all others", I believe. That may not be in modern vows but I believe it is still implied. On the other hand, I have known "swingers" (aka "wife swappers") who had no problem with extra-marital sex. But there was a sort of code they abided by. No love affairs, only sexual liaisons without emotional ties.

    My wife has told me on more than one occasion that I "could not afford" an affair... assuming I survived.

  15. Thanks Douglas:

    We just looked up the definition of "forsake:" to give up (something held dear); renounce; to leave altogether; abandon.

    Does that means friends, families, occupations, pursuits, desires, foods, exercise, women, men, parents, travels, etc? How did it become about sex (at least in America pursuant to Christian values)?

    How did the Mormons once justify their different set of values?

    Whose values are correct and how do we decide?

  16. Frank Capra's "Arsenic and Old Lace" just started on Turner Classic Movies at 2:15 am Eastern. Cary Grant stars as Mortimer Brewster, who wrote the book, "Marriage, A Fraud and a Failure."

  17. Inspector, I think most religions that permit polygamy base it on the early cultural/religious practices. It was accepted in the old testament (mostly for kings and rich, influential persons) and I believe the Quran permits 4 wives. The current concept of pairing may, in religious terms (for Judeo-Christian beliefs anyway), be based on the Adam and Eve story. God did not create 2 or 3 women to be Adam's mates, did He?

    Society decides. How that happens is beyond my capacity to explain. We can, however, live "outside" of society by "doing our own thing" or by becoming part of a "sub-society" (like a commune, the "swinging" community, or a small religious sect). We do know that the greater society has accepted norms and that it applies a certain pressure on its members. We have a natural "herd instinct" that impels us to conform, to fit in. That's a generality, of course, individuals may rebel against that conformity, but that is what society is all about, isn't it?

  18. Thanks much Douglas. Some believe that Adam had a wife before Eve, by the name of Lillith. Click here to see an article about her.

  19. There is something about this Tiger Woods situation which has been bothering us.

    Tiger obviously carried himself a certain way, and projected a certain image. He also exploited that perceived image to his financial advantage.

    However, he did not, to our knowledge, profess that he was holier than thou and criticize others, like some fallen religious leaders and conservative politicians. That he would receive such intense criticism is interesting.

    Do you think that he was too pristine; too perfect, and that part of the ridicule and criticism is because he appeared to be "too clean?"

  20. Yeah, Inspector, Lilith was the ultimate ex-wife, wasn't she? Oddly, that John Collier painting looks like my ex-wife...

  21. Clearly in the case of an extra-marital affair, the husband bears at least 51% responsibility for the "indiscretion" and has breached the trust in his marriage; however, why doesn't society impose 49% (or close to that figure) responsibility on the women with whom the men cheat?

    Is it just because the man is the celebrity or public figure generally involved?

    Is it because the man is perceived to have the power or choice, and the woman doesn't?

    Is there a perception that the men lure the women into their world of deceit by not revealing their marriages?

    What about the situations where the women should know that the celebrity is married since it is a matter of public knowledge?

    Is cheating a 50%/50% proposition involving the cheating man and the woman with whom he is cheating?

  22. Tiger Woods just posted on his website that he will take an "indefinite leave" from golf. To view an article concerning this, click here.

  23. You know, marriage is a great idea, been around too long not to be socially beneficial...

    . . . but, the real problem with it today is that society got rid of the long house. What's a long house you say? In many cultures, the men had a ceremonial house, hut, boma or whatever where they gathered and did manly things together, held sacred ceremonies, etc. It was absolutely off limits to females on pain of death. Sort of like the Masters Club.

    In primitive societies, it's where the guys go and hang all day when not out hunting elephants or something. You BS, fart, drink, brag and cut more farts all day. Hold sacred ceremonies like "I can drink more of that fermented stuff than you can... play poker, smoke big nasty rolled up things.

    After a day of palling around with a bunch of guys, bagging an elephant and farting, you go home for a few hours, drink some more, play with the kids then the wife. Fart and fall asleep until the next day the get up and repeat the process.

    The women all gather in the women's house - these primitive societies were no fools - with the kids and all sit around gossip and change diapers all day, marvel at the little wonders of little Johnny leaning to finger paint with feces and gossiping more. After a day of that and foraging for roots and stuff, they come back, cook together and bitch about the guys being drunk and farting. All agree that men aren't for crap but are a necessary evil. They feel fulfilled. Finally, the carry the food home, gossiped out, the kids have been running wild all day and have come down off the ceiling and home life achieves equilibrium.

    The kids get put away, the husband and wife actually talk a little, play around, and the guy farts and falls asleep and farts some more. Building up great stuff for the gossip sessions tomorrow. "My husband, Ugnorams, farts all night long, even the dogs have to sleep outside." Men are worthless they finally conclude, fall asleep then get up tomorrow and repeat the gossip, watch Jimmy finger-paint and conclude men are for shit once again ritual. Peace and tranquility prevailed across the domestic landscape.

    Harmony ruled the universe until we moved into cities and became civilized. What civilization really meant was a concerted effort to ban the long house - wouldn't fit in with the subdivision covenants and the women didn't like the idea of men having fun and farting anyway. So, that fine social institution went down the chute. Then the women all got jobs to help pay for the houses and the kids became delinquent ADD poster children and sociopaths, the women became psychotic with all that pent up gossiping building up and no where to go and everyone went home to the nuclear family where the wife started out bitching, the dad got into drinking more which exacerbated the farting, the kids discovered mushrooms . . .

    That's why they call it the "Nuclear Family" it's an explosive mixture of unrequited gossiping, farting, hunting and bitching stuffed into a small contained space and a lot like bringing matter and anti-matter together.

    Marriage ain't worked right since we got rid of the long house.

  24. A couple of thoughts since our initial generation of this post:

    On numerous shows since the Tiger Woods story broke, many commentators have noted that if he had never gotten married, the revelation of his multiple female entanglements would have far, far less significance. The same applies to Gary Hart, John Edwards, John Ensign, and Mark Sanford.

    (And as we initially noted, Wilson, FDR, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Henry Ford, Albert Einstein, Clinton, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others, have had extramarital affairs.)

    Additionally, society would have continued to receive the benefits of their otherwise positive contributions.

    Although marriage is not a prerequisite for stardom in the sports arena, some would argue that it is for purposes of political advancement. Should any man desirous of making a long term contribution to society, where there is a high probability of media attention, and who recognizes that he prefers interaction with multiple female partners, simply choose not to get married?

    Finally, there is an author on the Bonnie Hunt show as we type this, who recently wrote a book on marriage around the world. She noted that she traveled around the world and interviewed many women.

    To her surprise, when she posed the question as to how they had managed to have long and happy marriages, virtually all of them laughed and said, "Where in the world did you get the idea that marriage encompasses happiness?"

    They essentially said that it was a social contract not based on love, but more pragmatic, societal considerations. Such things as finding one's soul mate and friend were not considerations.

    Interestingly, the author also noted that when societies move away from arranged marriages and to associations based on love, the divorce rate increases dramatically.


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