You’re running late. You look at your watch nervously and you watch the seconds turn into minutes. You’re breathing more rapidly, your eyes anxious and expectant at the same time. Your pulse is racing and your heart is pounding…pounding…the exhiliration is incredible. The prospect of meeting your…your heart’s pounding again…that undeniable euphoria.
Your cheating heart. That’s what it is.
You’re having an illcit affair, or maybe a number of illicit affairs at the same time and you can’t stop, despite the awareness that it’s wrong to be cheating in marriage.
You’ve never cheated before, certainly not while in university. You believe in settling your debts promptly and you have an enviable credit score. You were at the top of the class and your professors loved you…but here you are ten years later. Your parents still fondly remember your graduation speech after you were declared summa cum laude by the faculty. You spoke of integrity and the sanctity of our institutions, and the need to have strong families for communities to prosper. Everyone in the audience cheered you for those eloquent words. They wished then that their sons and daughters would live by your words.
But you’re cheating on your spouse. What happened to the sanctity talk all of a sudden?
Cheating in marriage goes on at all levels of society. You’re certainly not alone.
But why are you – of all people - cheating in marriage?
Cheating in Marriage - Why Spouses Turn the Wrong Way
Disenchantment. Repetitive arguments and frustations. Hesitant compromises. Boredom. More boredom. And still…more boredom. We don’t mean to paint a doomed picture of marriage. Millions of couples have felt the enriching benefits of a union, and wish to keep that union intact. Past generations have spoke glowingly of companionship and friendship, a deep mutual trust between two people who could never think of themselves as independent of their spouses.
Marriage has a completing effect. That much we know. It performs a refining process that many husbands and wives could not survive without.
Jillian Straus who wrote Unhooked Generation (2006) remembered the time when she was lazing around on the rug in their living room, she watching a TV show and her mother knitting by the fireplace. Out of curiosity, she turned to her mother and asked,
“Mom, who do you love more? Me and my sister or dad?”
Her mother put down her knitting and said without wavering: “You are my child, I could never love anyone more, but your father is my life.”
This is, without any doubt, a marriage made in heaven, and we still hear stories of a wife or husband dying weeks after their loved one passed away because of profound nostalgia and sadness. It’s certainly reassuring to know that there are individuals in society who still believe in loving one and only one person, long after the romance and passion have dissipated. In place of the passion, a mature friendship grows – the kind that stays entrenched in their heart and soul.
Alas, some of us can’t be faithful. There is a strong urge to stray, to add some spice and to compensate for the resentment we feel about being trapped in a situation which we find increasingly difficult to tolerate and cope with. Our cheating hearts tug at us to save our sanity, to bring some happiness, albeit temporary, into our drab existence. One prolific writer called it “silent desperation.”
Many factors – what we call “life situations” – cause cheating in marriage. Let’s start with sex as one of these so-called factors. Jillian Straus’ glossary of terms makes you laugh. And think. She said in her book that there are three categories of sex:
- Hot sex – this is the casual kind. It occurs outsdoors or in public places and is usually considered the best kind.
- Romantic sex – sex within a relationship (not marriage) that often occurs after an elegant meal or in a dreamy setting and is considered as more sweet than hot.
- Married sex – sex that is almost non-existent because it is considered a chore. It is THE sex at the bottom of the food chain.
So if sex is driving you to take detours, perhaps it’s just a question of telling your spouse that your needs are not being met and that it’s time to address them. If you’re the husband, you could tell your wife that the lack of sex in your marriage is something you find unacceptable and that you’re no longer going to take her headaches and illnesses as sufficient excuses. And by the way, those headaches seem to come at the same hour at night. If you’re the wife, you can sit down with your husband and ask him calmly why he’d rather work long nights in the office and not have the energy for sex.
There’s a problem, however. Most couples have stopped communicating, and if they do communicate, they find it difficult to be 100% honest about their feelings. How many people would be prepared to discuss sexual fantasies with one’s partner or admit a fetish that he or she would really like a different brand of lovemaking – if there is such a thing? Let’s face it. If you asked your best friend – in this case – your spouse – “what turns you on?” Do you really expect to get a totally candid, no holds barred kind of reply?
Cheating in marriage is also caused by other factors, not just sex: divergent values and practices in those areas where husband and wife are expected to agree on, the frequent absences of one spouse, the demands of the workplace and at home (which can give anyone that feeling that one is trapped in a humdrum existence) and the environment. Oh, before you misunderstand us, it’s not the air pollutants or mold and mildew that provoke cheating in marriage, but the other men and women in your sphere of influence and in your community. A young, dashing executive for instance could be carrying on with his boss’ wife, or an insecure, bored secretary could be swinging her hips way too much when in the presence of her boss. You can’t deny these little daily pleasures that can evolve into huge temptations.
Let’s not forget too that cheating in marriage could very well be the result of a sudden change or revelation of a different sexual orientation; that is the husband is having an affair with another male, and the wife happens to delight in well…lesbianism.
Cheating in Marriage - Ways of Avoiding It
Relationship experts keep harping at the communication issue between husband and wife, but it really isn’t the be-all and the end-all of the relationship. Cheating in marriage can be avoided if we perform small, meaningful gestures that keep the marriage alive and exciting. You need not go out and spend your savings on a Gucci necklace studded with stones or buy your husband an expensive set of golf clubs. These are great gifts, by the way, but if the problem of cheating or potential cheating is not dealt with at the core, that necklace and those golf clubs are not going to make you fall in love with your spouse all over again.
Dr. Barton Goldsmith offered some tips that might help. We’ve picked some that we like and that you can probably think about:
- Balance the work and the rewards – Dr. Goldsmith suggests that you perhaps forget about some household duties for the time being so that you can create a balanced relationship. He says that if one spouse works and the other spouse is a stay-at-home partner, the stay-at-home partner must have equal access to the household income.
- Allow your partner the opportunity to be his/her best – after a few years in the marriage, you’ve learned what tasks or hobbies your spouse takes pride in. You can support these tasks and hobbies and offer full encouragement, not just a half-hearted one. “If you have to take that course in university, then do so if you have to, but I have my reservations” sounds more like a let down than “it’s great that you’re developing interests outside the home. You have my full support. Let me know how I can help!”.
- Keep it interesting – Dr. Goldsmith says that it takes effort to do something extraordinary every now and then. Keep the interest and motivation there and build on it. Be spontaneous in your relationship and perform acts that your partner does not expect from you.
- Recognition – this is an excellent motivator for relationships to flourish, says Dr. Goldsmith. He says that if one spouse told the other every now and then how much their marriage has been made stronger, this would go a long way towards showing appreciation – and meaning it.
- Of course cheating in marriage is NOT an incurable disease. It’s a temporary mental aberration that occurs when a spouse is under stress or feels repeatedly thwarted in his efforts to make the marriage work. Throwing in the towel is a sign that all hope is lost, and the temptation to cheat becomes stronger.
Maturity is a noble quality that takes a lot of work but it is sometimes the hard work that fetches the best and most enduring rewards.