What is the tipping point that makes the public outraged about an affair? “Brothers and Sisters” star Balthazar Getty and his sassy seductress, Sienna Miller, are finding out.
After they were caught in flagrante on a boat off the Amalfi Coast by prying photographers, their affair was on display for the world to see and comment on.
And now a tsunami of negative press has been splashed their way.
It seems that children, thankfully, do have an impact on public opinion — as they should.
When a couple without children breaks up, it is sad, but few are impacted outside of the person who is left.
Perhaps that is why when Angelina Jolie lured Brad Pitt away from Jennifer Aniston, who had no kids with Pitt, the tabloids tittered with delight but did not hurl many negative judgments.
Not so here.
Almost all of the commentators on the Balthazar Getty story, from tabloids to TV shows, have referred to his children. Four children. Young ones. One still in diapers.
“When you are a parent, even a Hollywood parent, there is an expectation of being parentally responsible,” observes Fox News’ commentator Roger Friedman. “When someone gets divorced with one kid, that is bad. But four, that is terrible.”
This week the blogosphere was churning with speculation that Getty was trying to woo his wife back with plaintive mea culpas and apologies.
He flew to Los Angeles to begin shooting the next season of the television show “Brothers and Sisters,” and hopefully to return to reality.
“Infidelity is sometimes used as escapism,” says Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil, author of “Adultery: The Forgivable Sin.”
“Many marriages can survive an affair and often do. But it takes a lot of work and the recognition that there was a problem that needs to be fixed.”
According to a firstwivesworld.com poll, 51 percent said they would end a marriage because of cheating, and 35 percent said they would stay if the affair was the only problem in the marriage.
Studies also show that a man or woman rarely marries his or her extra-marital lover. Janis Abrahms Spring, author of “After the Affair,” said that 10 percent of extramarital affairs last one day, 10 percent last more than one day but less than a month, 50 percent last more than a month but less than a year and 40 percent last two or more years. Few, she adds, last more than four years.
In fact, a study by Dr. Jan Halper found that only 3 percent of the successful men she surveyed eventually married their lovers.
Another study by Frank Pittman also found that the divorce rate among those who married their lovers was 75 percent.
What did Pittman find was the reason for the high divorce rate? “Intervention of reality, guilt, expectations, and a distrust of the affairee.”
Getty has been married to his wife, Rosetta, since 2001.
Maybe he can learn from Ron Wood, of the Rolling Stones, who recently strayed from his wife with a Russian cocktail waitress. His son Jesse brought him back to his senses and restored him to the embrace of his family, which constituted a large part of his history.
Woods went into rehab and now the family is putting the pieces of their lives back together.
Getty also started having second thoughts by evidence of his statement last week when explaining his separation.
“The breakdown of a marriage is a very difficult and painful experience especially when children are involved,” he said.
That’s quite an understatement.
Having children is a lifelong commitment and, before couples consider divorcing, we hope they exhaust every possible solution, and not be swept away by a moment of passion (or anger).