If “John” leaves his wife, “Sue,” to marry the woman he is cheating with – “Violet” – can Violet ever fully trust that John won’t eventually do the same thing to her (i.e. cheat) once the initial sheen of their new couple wears off?
When John and Sue – pseudonyms that I use to depict a composite of real-life men and women who I’ve encountered in therapy – were first married, presumably Sue trusted him fully to be faithful. Violet can have no such illusions about John’s character.
By the very nature of their hookup – infidelity – John and Violet have undermined one of the most basic foundations of a lasting relationship: trust.
Having an affair is a lot different than being married. It’s a distinction too few cheaters recognize so long as the “anesthesia” of infatuation, novelty, and illicitness is still numbing the partners to the realities of committed couples.
When the anesthesia wears off – and it always does – the realities of setting up a household together; balancing career, finances, and romance; seeing one another unkempt; and watching each other with runny noses, rashes, or an upset stomach, often yield to the searing pain of regret.
The Sex Will Be Free
The psychology of affairs reminds me of the tale of the young single professional who visits a high-class prostitute and has a mind-blowing time in the sack with her, costing him $500. “Wow,” he thinks to himself. “If this is what a one-night stand feels like, just imagine what marriage will be like – and better still, the sex will be free.”
It might be funny if this mode of thinking wasn’t so sad, and so true.
Too many men and women who cheat on their partners mistake hormonal honeymoons for relationship reality. The even bigger mistake is that many cheaters leave their spouses and partners – rather than work to improve their committed relationship – chasing an illusion that very few will ever catch.
In February 1990, The New York Post, known for its grabbing front-page headlines, proclaimed “Best Sex I’ve Ever Had” – supposedly quoting the utterances of Marla Maples who had an affair with Donald Trump when he was still married to Wife #1 Ivana Trump, but before Marla Maples became Mrs. Trump #2. The Donald and Marla married in 1993, had daughter Tiffany later that year, and divorced in June 1999. Now President, Trump did not marry Mrs. Trump #3 (Melania Knauss) until 2005.
It is not my place to judge anyone on their choices in life and relationships, other than to note many people – not just those in the public spotlight – make bad choices. One of my definitions of a bad choice is to turn to infidelity, period. Some people do it with plenty of forethought, while others stumble into it, spontaneously, when the opportunity presents itself.
Either way, it almost always works out to be a major blunder, causing unanticipated pain and chaos for everyone involved.
A Lifelong Affair with Your Spouse
What men and women seek when they have an affair – including passion, intimacy, companionship, and adventure – often is available right under their very roofs – if they’d only put in the effort (and heart) that is required.*
A good marriage or committed relationship is science. You just need to know the formula.
In my book, The 8 Marriage Rules for a Passionate Marriage, I spell out the skills you need – and can acquire in about eight minutes a day – to transform your negative relationship experiences into happy times talking, playing, planning and making love.
Our divorce courts are overflowing with instances of men and women who thought that infidelity was the answer to their needs when it turned out to be their undoing – emotionally, financially, professionally, and otherwise.
Rather than seek a hormonal honeymoon with a new partner, the best advice I can offer is to stay loyal to the partner you already have, embrace the 8 Marriage Rules for a Passionate Marriage, and enjoy a permanent romantic oasis with the one you’ve already committed to.
* In 1979, Rupert Holmes wrote and recorded the song Escape, often referred to as The Piña Colada Song. It was so popular it rose to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 hits list.
The song, which could serve as the anthem of this column, tells the tale of a man who feels his relationship has become routine, so he places a personal ad in the newspaper seeking a woman who likes piña coladas, getting caught in the rain, and making love at midnight. The ad invites any woman who fits the bill to meet him the next day at a local bar.
Of course, the woman who shows up turns out to be the man’s current partner, who also was looking for adventure.
“It was my own lovely lady, and she said, ‘Oh, it’s you.’ And we laughed for a moment, and I said, ‘I never knew.’”