Tuesday, March 6, 2012

10 Simple Truths about Marriage and Infidelity

I was reading a blog today that got me thinking about some simple truths about marriage and affairs that people often get wrong. Okay, I'll admit that I was inspired because so many things I read today on that blog were just flat wrong, and I felt the need to set the record straight.

So here they are.  10 Simple Truths about Marriage and Infidelity:

  1. It takes two.  If there are problems in your marriage after many years, it's not just your spouse's fault. It takes two to build a strong relationship and it takes two to let one deteriorate. I completely understand that after a while you just get tired of pushing a boulder uphill when it seems like your spouse is pushing it downhill, but if you quit you are just as responsible for the state of things as s/he is.
  2. Infidelity doesn't automatically mean the marriage is over. If it does end the marriage, it's because one or both of you doesn't want to be married anymore. Many marriages survive infidelity.
  3. You either take "for better or worse, until death do us part" seriously or you don't. If you have a list of conditions that you won't tolerate, you are hedging your bet against "the worse" part and you're not all in. If your spouse has an affair and is sorry for it and has asked your forgiveness and you  choose divorce, the divorce is not your spouse's fault. She may have cheated (probably a violation of the vows), but you chose to cut and run (also a violation of the vows). Remember your mom saying that "two wrongs don't make a right?"
  4. No one has an affair because everything is fabulous at home. This goes along with the "it takes two" truth. If your spouse has an affair, you are not an innocent victim.  I'm not saying that it was right for her to cheat, but if she was getting her needs met at home, she probably would have stayed there. It's easy for the non-cheating spouse to feel like, and thus play, a victim, but there are no victims here -just two people trying to lead a fulfilling life while dealing with the challenges of life and marriage.
  5. It is possible to love two people at once. I'll hear people say, "Well, if you love your mistress, you must not really love your wife."  Bullshit. We have a huge capacity for love. There is no doubt that I love my husband. I also love JJ. 
  6. Having an affair does not necessarily mean that a person wants out of the marriage. To the contrary, it is usually a way of trying get some needs met so he doesn't have to leave the marriage. How do you know that a person wants out of the marriage? It's when they either say they want out of the marriage or they leave.
  7. Affairs almost never end well. There really isn't a "happily ever after" in the world of infidelity. It is extremely rare for affair partners to stay together in the long run, whether or not they get caught. This reminds me of a joke I like to tell about marriage. Well, it's sort of a joke, but not very funny. While affairs almost never end well, marriage never ends well. Why? Because marriage always ends in divorce or death.Get it? Death or divorce are the only choices....haha....Of course, there is nothing funny about either death or divorce.  Moving on...
  8. A wife who is "frigid" does not want to be that way. Women want to please their husbands. They either want to have a vibrant and passionate sex life or they want to want to. For a woman, desire is about hormonal balance, emotions, energy, and many other things. Sexuality is a much simpler formula for men. Daunt reminded me recently that "women need to feel loved to have sex; men need to have sex to feel loved." Okay, it's not a perfect statement because I have no problem having sex without feeling loved and I know men in sexless marriages who are certain they are loved, but the point is that most women can't just have sex without dealing with other conditions - most in her own body. A woman may act like she doesn't need or miss sex, but there is sadness and an awareness of something important missing brewing under the surface. She probably needs help, but is too embarrassed to ask because she doesn't know what is wrong.
  9. In a long term relationship, talking about sex will lead to better sex. I didn't say "arguing about not having sex," but talking about sex itself. In the beginning, you don't need to talk about it much because it is new and hot and exciting, but as the years fly by, talking about it is how you'll keep it fresh. I know. Talking about sex isn't easy.  I'll give you some suggestions in one of my upcoming posts. Here are some things to consider - most women who give lousy head and most men who suck at giving oral sex will say they don't like it. Researchers who went further learned that most don't like it because they don't know what to do or how to do it, and they are too embarrassed to ask. Talking about it and learning more would make all the difference.
  10. Marriage isn't easy. The payoff comes in day-to-day victories and in looking at the person across the table from you decades after you were married and realizing that there is someone in this world who knows you better and loves you more than anyone else on the planet. Those who advocate for giving your spouse an ultimatum over sex just don't understand that marriage is not supposed to be easy. Hormones fluctuate wildly through a woman's body over the course of her life. There will be good times for sex, and bad times for sex. Children require different levels of care at different times of their lives.  This affects sex, too. While building their careers, many men (and sometimes women) work longer hours than are best for a marriage. Family members die.  Depression or other mental illness strikes. Stress and advancing age make it harder for a man to perform sexually. So?  Life happens. We don't get married so we can avoid dealing with life.  We marry so we can have a partner to go through life with us.  If we're lucky, it's our best friend.


Anonymous said...

Hey Kat.

The rationale of the second point is a little infirm is it not? How does one conclude that a divorce following an affair is indicative of a desire to be rid of the marriage itself as opposed to the need to be rid of that which ceases to be a marriage? As I see it, the spouse initiating the divorce is not rejecting married life so much as he or she is rejecting the taint of infidelity.

Also, with respect to the third point, the "two wrongs don't make a right" aphorism does not necessarily apply to the situation that you outlined. If the divorcing couple has firmly established what is tolerable in their marriage and what is not (effectively creating their own meaning behind whatever vows they adhere to), and one partner chooses to act against those limitations, then divorce is in no way "wrong". It is simply a consequence.

Does forgiveness have to equal reconciliation? If my spouse confesses to me and asks for my forgiveness, I believe I would be inclined to grant it. That however doesn't mean that I want to remain in what has become of our marriage. I think of it as being somewhat analogous to a rape victim's perspective toward their assailant. The victim may certainly forgive his or her attacker (as forgiveness is largely an internal process), but that doesn't mean he or she wants to strike up a friendship with the perpetrator.

I agree that it is possible to love two people at once...but I'm not sure that it is a universal trait. My research into polyamory leads me to believe that those capable of loving (in the romantic sense) more than one person are simply predisposed to it. I don't think it's something that can be adopted...at least not comfortably.

As always, thought-provoking post.

Ryan Beaumont said...

Excellent thoughts as always. I saw this article this morning. Not directly related but thought provoking as well.


As I suspected men want tranquility women want to share emotions and thus don't shrink from conflict as much.

Than again I saw another article, apparently March is Divorce Month.


Ponyboy said...

Nice job Kat.

As you know I read the same blog yesterday, your thoughts here are dead on.

Ted D said...

Say what you will, but I clearly state prior to engagement that ANY cheating will mean the end of the relationship, regardless of its status. Dating, engaged, married, makes no difference. Indeed it is in the vows we used, and it is there intentionally on my part.

Since I clearly outline this as a "one and done" offense, I have no moral issue with walking out the day I find out cheating occurred. Although, to be honest, I wouldn't be walking anywhere. She would be looking for a new place to live. I am rather flexible in most things, but infidelity is simply not one of those. You can call it "hedging my bets" if you want, but I view it as the rules and regulations for our marriage. Outlined in full prior to agreement.

And, as far as I'm concerned, any women desiring sex outside of her marriage has already decided its over. At that point, it is no longer a marriage IMO, it is at best two friends living together that may or may not occasionally have sex. It is mostly sexual exclusivity and legal BS (power of attorney, etc) that make a marriage at all. Other than that, there is very little difference between being married and being friends.

Kat said...

Ted - If you have made your expectations clear prior to the marriage and your wife agrees to those terms ("one and done"), that's fine. The two of you have every right to interpret the fidelity issue as you choose and as you agree.

However, to say that "any women desiring sex outside of her marriage has already decided its over" is just wrong. It's not a marriage in *your* interpretation, but your interpretation is not the issue. You have put a higher value on "forsaking all others" than "Til death do us part." Ok, you have that right. Others, like my husband and I, put a much higher value on "til death do us part." That does not make our marriage NOT a marriage. It simply makes it a marriage that will probably last longer than yours.

Anon - Much of what I wrote in reply to Ted applies to your comment as well.

As for "Does forgiveness have to equal reconciliation?" No, not necessarily. And you don't have to reconcile if you don't want to. I never said you should, but why would you look down on those who choose to forgive and reconcile? Choosing to stay married is a good thing, not a bad thing. As for the rape analogy, it's not the same thing and pretty inappropriate. I won't be commenting on it further.

As for polyamory not being a universal trait, I don't know. I think it has as much to do with the culture in which a person lives as it does with the individual, but it's not important to me. You know, I don't care if you don't ever want to be in a polyamorous relationship. That's entirely your choice and I respect it. But that doesn't mean that others can't love more than one person at once. IT doesn't mean that there aren't people who simply aren't programmed for monogamy.

Ryan - You are hilarious! March is Divorce Month? Hahaha Who knew?