As I reflect on the great wisdom of Tina Turner, I am reminded in the days of instant demand everything, from streaming, to social media, to online flirtations, maybe love and the promise of “death do us part” is a thing of the past.
Have we become so accustomed to getting what we want, when we want it, that it is not a matter of if one will cheat, but when? I propose we take a closer look at love, what we expect, what we think we want, and what we feel entitled to in our relationships.
Infidelity is a hot topic. It has been legalized, politicized, demonized throughout history. And throughout history on every continent and every era, despite its consequences, infidelity occurs. So how to we make sense of this time honored taboo, universally off limits but universally practiced?
Let’s be clear. I am not a couple’s therapist but I am a relational therapist and infidelity (whether fantasy or reality) is a conversation I have in my practice often. Affairs can teach us a lot about a marriage. Affairs force us to look deeply at our values, morals, expectations, and the power of Eros.
What is fidelity? Are there things that a marriage, even a good one, cannot provide? How do we balance emotional needs and erotic desires? Can we love more than one person at a time? For me, these questions are part of the conversation we must have with ourselves and with our partner. For my clients, the crisis of the affair is the first time they are talking about this.
I met with the viral TedX talker, Esther Perel a few weeks ago and the one thing that stood out for me about her talk was how she views infidelity. She says, “As tempting as it is to reduce affairs to sex and lies, I prefer to use infidelity as a portal into the complex landscape of relationships and the boundaries we draw to bind them.”
Divorce. With all the talk about marriage and infidelity, one word comes up over and over again. If you are unhappy, get a divorce. If your partner cheats, call the lawyer immediately.
When a client comes in and is teetering with idea of divorce after a betrayal, one of the many conflicts is found within themselves. “Am I weak for staying?” And the more perplexing, “What will others think?” I empathize with this part of them. I want to tell them so badly that their decisions are for them and them alone. And sometimes I do. What the rush to divorce does is, it makes no allowance for error. And to err is, well, human. It also makes no allowance for repair and recovery.
I know all too well what divorce does to a family. And my view of it now is vastly different than even a few months ago. I now steer my clients away from a life of blame. Many couples stay together after a betrayal and end up thriving because of it. And for some, a divorce is not only necessary but it is the natural progression of the relationship.
Addressing the next chapter in a couple’s life is important. And one does not need to stay stuck in the past (although feelings and wounds do need to be tended to) in order for the marriage to survive and thrive. We do not need to relive the hurts out loud so that the unfaithful can remember. In the words of Esther Perel, “You are going to have two or three significant long term relationships. Your first one is over. Would you like to create a second one?”
An affair can rob a couple of their relationship, identity, and happiness. I hope reading this blog helps you to explore your attitudes about love, infidelity, and commitment. If you enjoyed it, please leave us a comment by emailing us here or comment on the blog below.
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