Kevin Hart is just the latest in a long string of celebrities that have been caught in compromised positions or otherwise had their extramarital dalliances exposed for the world to see. It seems the higher profile the celebrity the bigger and more salacious the story. There’s the messiness of T.I. and Tiny (They’re having another kid). The career re-defining incident between Beyonce and Jay-Z (which between Jay-Z, Beyonce, and Solange produced three albums) and most recently we have Kevin Hart.
Overall I’m not that invested in the gossipy aspects of this story but here it is just so you know what I’m talking about: Kevin Hart got married to his first wife Torrei before he blew up. He cheated on Torrei and got divorced. He then married Eniko whom he cheated on his first wife with. Eniko is currently pregnant. Now there is a sex tape with a Vegas stripper named Montia and someone tried to extort him for the ludicrous amount of 10 million dollars. The potential extorter obviously knows nothing about marriage as I don’t think there’s a wife in America who would be more upset about you cheating than they would be about losing 10 million dollars.
When trying to deconstruct Hart’s predicament we have to examine the institution of marriage and what it means to most of us. Marriage for people of a certain age is largely an aspiration. But most people don’t see it for what it truly is. Strip any pretext of romance from the idea and marriage is a financial agreement. (And of course I’m speaking of legitimate government recognized marriage not when two hipsters get tattoos on their ring finger and move into a studio apartment together.) You sign paperwork and your fates are tied together in a way that will bond your fortunes in this world for eternity. That’s the practical aspect.
Now for the emotional aspects. First and foremost we have this concept of romantic love. That became intertwined with marriage somehow, someway and now it’s supposedly the most important thing. If you don’t love someone then you probably won’t marry them. Built on top of that romantic love there is the familiarity. The establishing of a sort of order between you and your partner. What roles do you fulfill for each other? To paraphrase Jerry Maguire how does that person “complete you” and vice versa. This is the most complicated part of marriage. Because broadly speaking men and women do different things for each other. We have different instincts and different expectations. Everyone is unique of course and there are situations that require divergence with gender norms. What do women want from a man that they can’t get for themselves? They want someone to think of them for a change because they’ve been socialized to think of others sometimes to their detriment.
Most men start out aloof and not proactive when thinking of their partners. We will not inquire about your health, wealth and career prospects when we are just dating for instance (that usually comes later if at all). I’m speaking very generically here and I know you reading this will probably have a 1000 examples of where this is not true but when it comes to relationships one thing women do better than men is care. I’m not quantifying it. I’m not saying they care “more”. I’m qualifying it, I’m saying they care “better”. A man meets a woman and sees her for what she is and doesn’t consciously participate in making her better. Unless it’s for selfish reasons. A man will encourage you to do the things that make him happy and then afterwards will look at that and see “growth”. That is not to say that men don’t validate women’s emotional needs because we definitely do but that’s mostly up to the women if they tolerate anything less, then we’ll give less.
What do women get out of this arrangement? Well besides the obvious I would say they are hoping to get back a small fraction of the effort they put into it. A man’s ability to restrain his indulgences and modify his behavior in some way is usually part of the deal. If you like to drink a lot, she wants you to drink less. If you like to smoke a lot, she probably wants you to smoke less. If you spend money frivolously, she probably wants you to spend less. Think about the fact that at the point of marriage the man chose this woman to commit to (forever!!) so on some level he knows he needs to do these things and she believes that he can do it. Another thing women want from men is some semblance of ambition. And above all women want to be secure in the knowledge that they have a partner. If exclusivity is a condition of that partnership they want a man who will honor that.
When it comes to fidelity again this is where the situation is as simple or complicated as the people in the relationship. If both parties have agreed tacitly that the nature of their commitment is to be in exclusive monogamy usually that has been established well before the point of marriage. In that case a partner would have to refrain from any outside sexual relations or otherwise conceal them for the relationship to progress. (Although there is a sad “all men cheat” acceptance of infidelity that some women subscribe to in order to extend a privilege to men that no man would ever extend to a woman). When you get married you stand up in some sort of official ceremony whether it be just the two of you at City Hall or in a lavish ceremony surrounded by extended family and friends (or any sized group in between) and you promise to commit to the standards you have set for each other forever, no matter what. You promise that no matter what happens you will remain committed to each other and honor the conditions of your marriage for the rest of your lives….NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS. But who knows what’s going to happen? All you know for certain is that some things will happen. Because even if you just sit there on the couch life continues to happen.
Celebrities are a different breed of course. They live in some of the most extreme conditions that human beings endeavor on. With both fame and wealth the preponderance of willing and able sexual partners increases. Yes they are still human beings and they still have the same basic needs of love and security that the rest of us have. But when the volume of temptations increases so does the opportunity to act on them. Whenever one of these famous men gets caught out here cheating I hear two different types of criticism. The first is the base moral judgement. Cheating is wrong, famous man A cheated therefore he’s wrong his wife should leave him and take a gazillion dollars a month in alimony. The second type of criticism is “damn you dumb how you get caught”. The people with the least to say about it though tend to be married people because we know two things. A younger version of yourself promised to do the right thing forever no matter what happens and also things that you can’t possibly account for happen.
Maybe Kevin Hart (or Jay-Z or T.I.) didn’t realize that traditional marital concepts such as fidelity weren’t necessarily compatible with their vision of success. But that’s highly unlikely. The way our culture treats women has to be reconciled for anyone on a career track that will make them wealthy. Women are objectified and treated as accoutrements to success. You get more money you get a bigger house, you get a nicer car, and you get “women”. In Kevin Hart’s case his success is the manifestation of everything he worked for. He feels entitled to these benefits. It is for this reason why his apology rings false. What Kevin Hart is sorry about is the public embarrassment. The cheating in and of itself isn’t the problem to him. He has female fans though. The majority of his films are solid date movies. Could he withstand the scorn of his female fanbase? I don’t know if enough of them subscribe to the “all men cheat” philosophy. I don’t know how many care that a comedian/actor treats his wife like trash.
When judging Kevin Hart though maybe we should check ourselves first. If you are unmarried try to imagine making the most intense commitment you’ll ever make with nothing to stop you from violating it but your own principles. If you are married try to imagine a world where beautiful women are aware that you’re rich and part of your job is being out in the world alone without your wife for weeks and sometimes months at a time. Marriage is for you if you know that no matter what happens you’ll be the person your spouse needs you to be forever.