Myth #2 – Affairs are about sex.
“The nurse of infidelity is sensuality.” – Lord David Cecil
Contrary to what many of us assume, affairs are a lot less about sex and a lot more about desire. A desire for attention, a desire to feel special, to feel important — a desire to be desired.
The very structure of an affair: the secrecy, the ambiguity, the fact that you have to go days or weeks without seeing each other, that you can never have your lover — these things keep you hungry, they keep you wanting. “This in itself,” she says, “is a desire machine.”
Of course, affairs are not just about sex. Many people — hundreds…thousands — find themselves crossing a line that they’ve never imagined crossing. They risk everything… for what? An erotic text message? The kiss of a stranger? A hot night in bed?
Esther’s hypothesis: the one thing people all over the world have told her about their affair — it makes them feel “alive.”
A friend dies. A parent dies. Someone is diagnosed with cancer. They themselves have a health scare. And they think, is this all there is? Am I simply going to go on living this way for another 25 years? Will I ever feel passion again? Death and mortality often live in the shadow of an affair because they raise existential questions like these.
Questions that are more about life and death, about passion and desire, than about when and where and with whom I’ll get laid.
Myth #3 – Infidelity will destroy a marriage.
“It’s easy to deny the seriousness of an emotional affair but it can be extremely threatening to a marriage.” – Dr. Gail on MSNBC
For all couples, an affair constitutes a betrayal, a crisis. For some, the crisis is a relationship deal-breaker, while for others the crisis becomes an opportunity.
The vast majority of couples stay married in the wake of an affair. I’ve seen statistics that suggest that as many as 75% of couples survive. Some will do that and no more. They’ll “survive.” Others will embark on a process of growth, of self-exploration.
“Every affair redefines the relationship,” Perel says, “and every couple will determine what the legacy of the affair will be.”
In the immediate aftermath of an affair, many couples “will have depths of conversations with honesty and openness that they haven’t had in decades,” she says.
My clinical experience bears this out. I’ve seen it time and again with the couples I work with, many of them saying that post-affair their relationship is better — as in healthier and more rewarding — than it had ever been.
Myth #4 – Monogamy is a set up for infidelity.
“The new infidelity is between people who unwittingly form deep, passionate connections before realizing that they’ve crossed the line from platonic friendship into romantic love. Infidelity is any emotional or sexual intimacy that violates trust.” – Shirley Glass
Everyone’s got an opinion about why people have affairs. They blame marriage, monogamy, testosterone, porn…
Marriage is too hard.
“Most of us are going to have 2 or 3 relationships or marriages, and some of us are going to do it with the same person. Your first marriage is over. Would you like to create a second one together?”
Monogamy is a prison sentence.
Men, they just want sex all the time.
Here’s what Esther has to say:
Affairs happen even in open relationships. The conversation about monogamy is not the same conversation as the one about infidelity. Even when we have the freedom to have other sexual partners, we still seem to be lured by the power of the forbidden. If we do that which we are not supposed to do then we feel that we are really doing what we want.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
It’s been said that the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. If that’s true, then “Rethinking Infidelity…” is going to give your intelligence a workout.