We spend so much time planning the wedding and very little time on how to deal with issues that may arise in the marriage.
At the beginning we are all consumed by the rings, the dress, the bridesmaids the guests. But few of us talk about the actual agreements to the marriage. Sure, we have wedding vows. Love, honour and cherish but what does that mean?
Rarely do we have the conversation about cheating, extra marital affairs, infidelity an indiscretion. Call it what you want it remains to be the biggest betrayal a person could experience in their lifetime. And today with social media, it is so easy to cheat but by the same token it is even easier to get caught.
In my clinical practice, I focus largely on the sexless marriage and infidelity. Many clients present to my office and whether it be the one who has cheated or the one who has been cheated on, one thing is true. None of them are “cheaters.” In fact, no one is a cheater until they are one.
With the exception of the serial cheater, no one is a cheater. But everyone is at risk of becoming one. You see, although life is filled with many joys, there are problems that arise along the way. But many people enter a marriage troubled and they may not share that secret. This may set them up for cheating.
Elizabeth was always the people pleasing good girl. She did as her parents expected. So when she fell in love with a tree faller complete with tattoos and a titillating lifestyle, she knew she could never bring him home. So she married the dull but decent Dave. He fit the bill, boring as he was. He had a good job as an engineer and came from the right social class. Her parents were delighted. Her? Not so much. But she did love Dave and felt that her life would be stable being married to him. He would make a great father. She also wanted to please her parents and do the right thing.
Their marriage was classified as “good” much like Elizabeth. They had two children and she was a stay at home mom. Then the teenage years hit and she found her children were seeking their own independence. She was bored in her marriage which was lackluster a common occurrence in long term relationships. Surfing through Facebook (responsible for much infidelity), she stumbled upon Tony her former tattooed lover. He appeared to be a very successful defense attorney now. She sent him a friend request. That was the beginning of the end.
An emotional affair ensued. She started chatting to him on line. It was exciting and arousing for Elizabeth who had previously always followed the expected course. The arranged to meet for a drink. It had been twenty years since she’d seen Tony. He looked even better and the embers of yesteryear were reignited. They went from the bar to the car. Well, I don’t have to tell you what happened next.
Elizabeth had a smorgasbord of emotion after her indiscretion. She was nervous, happy, sad, guilty, confused, empowered and scared. She couldn’t believe she’d crossed over to what she felt was a “bad girl” state. On some level she was glad she did because she had always been the good girl. That said though, what had she done to her husband the sweet, trusting Dave? Every time he made a kind gesture toward her like installing a basket on her bike or bringing her flowers, she was consumed by guilt.
By the time this couple presented to my clinical practice, Elizabeth had told Dave of her indiscretion after having a near emotional breakdown. Dave was devastated however he wanted to make things work. As did Elizabeth. She realized it was love for Dave and lust for Tony.
In order to do so both needed to take the proverbial mirror and look at themselves. An extramarital affair needn’t end a marriage. It’s important to understand the real reasons for the indiscretion which often is more about the person than the partnership. It’s the partnership which is made of memories from a long-term marriage, magic and much commitment that will be critical in moving forward after an affair. The lesson? Know thyself and be true to you.Published in