The caption of this cartoon implies that the lover is so smooth that he can make love to this man’s wife while he is in the same bed with them. We can all laugh at a man so clever as to be able to cuckold another man before his very eyes and apparently get by with it. But, consciously or not, the cartoonist raises another very important issue that really isn’t funny at all – the spouse (either man or woman) who is determined not to see something that is virtually in front of them. There can be a variety of reasons for this – some conscious and reasonable, others that are unconscious and irrational and usually based on fears. In a healthy marriage, spouses often consciously overlook things that bother them. There are all sorts of daily living issues where spouses can conflict that are not worth making an issue of – how the dishwasher is loaded, how the clothes get folded, how cluttered the house is, etc. Spouses often wisely and consciously overlook many of these issues. I have even seen times when a spouse may have concluded that an affair took place in the past and consciously decided that nothing was to be gained from confronting their husband or wife.
This cartoon, however, points to a much more problematic situation – where we overlook something that requires our urgent attention. In this case, the husband is determined not to know that his wife is having an affair. If he knew it, he would have to face something he finds unbearable. It could be that his wife no longer loves him and wants to divorce. It could be that his wife is sexually frustrated and to face that issue opens up all kinds of very uncomfortable questions about himself and his masculinity. It could be that his wife is very lonely because he spends all his time and energy absorbed in books and he has no desire to have a genuine, intimate relationship with her or for that matter, with any one. If he is interested, he could find out in a good therapy.
Marriages are not the only place where people employ this kind of wanting to not know something. An incest survivor reported that her mother would return from working the nightshift to find her husband sleeping in her daughter’s bed and her daughter sleeping on the sofa. She had no idea that incest could be going on! Sometimes a child is being physically hurt by a sibling or a parent, yet the other parent knows nothing. Unconsciously it serves a purpose not to know this. Unfortunately the price of not knowing is ultimately greater than to know and to find a way to address the problem.