I am not an advocate for infidelity. Infidelity can cause permanent injury to a loving relationship (yes, a loving one). It usually results in devastation, upheaval and deep trauma. All members involved are victims of the affair – the betrayer, their affair partner(s), the betrayed and sometimes children.
Many of you have seen the latest headlines about the Ashley Madison website, an affair-enabling service linking affair seekers together. The Impact Team, a group of hackers, hacked into their database, retrieved and subsequently revealed, member data to the public. This act of public humiliation is now possibly linked to 2 suicides, emotionally destroyed families and a growing list of lawsuits.
Affairs are as old as the day is long. This is nothing new. What the Impact Team thrust into the public has less to do with Ashley Madison and more to do with an ugly reality we struggle to face. It takes more than “I do” to keep a marriage fulfilling. “I do” does not guarantee monogamy.
In 2011, a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior focused on heterosexual couples cited that 1 in 5 individuals admit to cheating behaviors.
The Ashley Madison website had as many as 37,000,000 married people on the site. In my opinion, the focus should be less on taking a moralistic high ground and more on confrontation and prevention.
We must confront the reality that this could have been any one of us. As I’ve written before, we are all vulnerable to the allure of an affair. I’ve worked with many loving caring partners who, for complex and unconscious reasons, engaged in an affair. Their regrets were painfully evident.
Affairs more often than not reflect a deep dissatisfaction within the marriage. A long-term, monogamous commitment for decades upon decades requires refueling at the marital pump over and over again.
Couples often call me when their marriage feels lifeless. Their marital fuel tank is empty and it feels like the pump is off the map. These couples are most vulnerable to affairs because affairs invigorate and enliven a person. An affair often re-energizes a marriage because it wakes the cheating partner up. Really.
How do we prevent marital stagnation and/or affairs?
- Face the reality. No one is immune to an affair.
- Everyday commitment is a choice that can be compromised or changed at any given time. Do not take your marriage or your partner for granted.
- Show up!
- Give each other SPACE to breathe, grow and follow passions.
- HAVE JUICY SEX. Make sex an important part of your marital connection.
- Communicate Express yourself. Let yourself be seen and heard.
- Create NEW experiences. Life is more than the daily grind.
- Respect the ebb and flow of marital connection. Disconnect does not give you affair permission. Go to your partner first. Work it out.
I hope that by accepting the idea, “this could have been us”, you let go of relational complacency. Even good people break vows. This does not make them bad people. However, for those striving for monogamy, it sounds alarms that require your attention.
I know that the Ashley Madison incident has shaken up a lot of people. Send me an email and let me know how you are doing. Remember, I’m always just an email or phone call away.