Yesterday I spent some time counseling a couple who are working their way through some pretty heavy issues. Infidelity was the main cause, and for this couple, it seemed touch-and-go if they were going to stay together. Up until the time the affair was exposed, the marriage had been going really well, and there was little indication that there was anything wrong. It hadn’t been going on for long, but the fact that it had been going on at all was enough for the wife.
This couple had been married for around 10 years, and did not have any children yet. They had married young, and both were in their late twenties. I asked the husband, the one who had committed adultery, for an explanation of his reasons at the time to start the affair. I was intrigued by his reply.
It wasn’t about someone better looking. It wasn’t about someone younger. It was an opportunity that presented itself, and offered an experience that was a sharp contrast to the perceived monotony of the marital relationship. The person that this man had sex with just happened to offer it at a time when he really felt like the thrill of something different.
And that was it. Something different. The sex wasn’t better, or anything else. The other person offered something and in a moment of haste it was all over. On some level, he said, it felt good to be desired by someone else. It was nice to know someone else found you attractive enough to want to have sex with you.
So are our expectations of marriage realistic? Is monogamy a myth?
It doesn’t have to be. I would be willing to bet that the majority of men who have experienced infidelity and their partner finding out about it would have done things differently the second time. In many cases, I have had men or women tell me that if they had known the destruction and pain that resulted from infidelity, it would have never happened. I would like to think in those cases a lesson was learned, albeit at a very high price.
Other people expressed that their infidelity was a result of their unhappiness in their current marriage and that they were looking for a "connection". So the idea I took from this was that on some level the affair was justified by the unhappiness felt in the marriage. Is this credible?
The answers to these themes do not come easily, but one key idea comes through in many sessions we do: an affair addresses a need. It can be:
- the need to be desired
- the need for sex
- a need to be listened to
- escapism from the reality of an unhappy situation
- "the grass is greener" syndrome
Marriage is about more than just the needs of a couple. It is about fulfilling our individual, personal needs as well. Take the time to examine your relationship and whether your common goals are being met. After this, examine your own personal needs and those of your partner. How many of those needs are being met? How many of those needs do you forego in the pursuit of making your partner happy?
A happy marriage is a balance of both the goals of a couple as well as the goals of the individual. Remember this!
Do this exercise with your partner and give your marriage a quick examination. It may save your marriage…