I am a strong believer that something should be done to address the high divorce rate in the United States. I just as strongly believe that social scientist Catherine Hakim’s suggestion that having an affair is the best solution to this problem is absolutely nuts.
In her new book, The New Rules: Internet Dating, Playfairs and Erotic Power, Ms. Hakim likens sex outside of marriage to eating at a restaurant:
“The fact that we eat most meals at home with spouses and partners does not preclude eating out in restaurants to sample different cuisines and ambiences, with friends or colleagues,” she writes. “Anyone rejecting a fresh approach to marriage and adultery, with a new set of rules to go with it, fails to recognize the benefits of a revitalized sex life outside the home.”
She suggests that having an affair might make for a better relationship, however she isn’t in favor of letting your spouse find out about it. And that is just one of the many problems with her position. Lying to your partner, not to mention putting their health at risk, is not conducive to a happy marriage. It’s just another way to have your cake, and eat it too.
The Toxic Fallout of Affairs
I see the fallout from infidelity in my office on a regular basis. I also witnessed it in the marriages of two people very close to me. If you have any experience with it, you know it is not a pretty sight. The devastating pain of betrayal is agonizingly visceral. And, often, completely destructive to the relationship.
There is, however, one way that infidelity can help a marriage. It can even result in it becoming stronger and happier. This happens when both partners recognize the affair as a symptom of a floundering relationship. Unfortunately, it is such a drastic blow that many couples never make it far enough to consider that possibility.
When couples stop taking the time to focus on the marriage, and turn their attention to other aspects of their lives, they leave the marriage vulnerable to outside influences. Maybe there are major disappointments or disagreements a couple isn’t willing to address. Maybe there is nothing really wrong in the relationship; it’s just been left on auto-pilot too long. Maybe, like Ms. Hakim suggests, another opportunity just presented itself and it was taken. It doesn’t really matter because the damage is severe.
Sometimes, if the infidelity was emotional or never went past kissing, couples can see beyond the initial pain to the possibility of reconciliation. Even if it was a one night stand, partners can often use it as a wake-up call. It takes incredibly resilient and mature couples to survive anything beyond that.
The Upside of Infidelity
The truth is that most affairs happen for two reasons. The first is the kind Ms. Hakim is suggesting. It is when an opportunity presents itself, or is created, to be sexually intimate with someone who is not your spouse. It is when one partner wants the safety and security of a marriage, but not the responsibility that entails. It is the epitome of “it’s all about me” selfishness. It is this sense of entitlement that allows for a choice about when to be married instead of honoring your commitment.
The second occurs when the partner who steps outside the relationship has felt lost and alone in the marriage. Sometimes it’s not even a case of being obviously unhappy, just more going through the motions. Either way, someone enters their life and makes them feel alive and important again. They often don’t even know something has been missing until the new person rekindles it. It is more than just a physical attraction or a sense of infatuation. It is the recapturing of a deeper emotional connection that has dimmed in the marriage.
This is where the benefit can come in. If, instead of turning away from their spouse thinking that the marriage must be over if they are attracted to someone else, they use it as a foundation for overhauling the marriage. This can be a challenge because of the pain associated with the betrayal. Instead of recognizing the affair as a symptom of the state of the marriage, it becomes the problem itself.
I have been honored in helping couples rebuild the foundation of their marriage and take it to a higher, happier level after infidelity has laid waste to it. However, it is tremendously hard work for everyone involved. It definitely is not a path for sissies. Not getting into the situation where this work is required in the first place is a much wiser course.
Unlike Ms. Hakim, I believe there are better ways to increase happiness and maintain excitement within a marriage than having an affair. If you want a “sex life outside the home”, there are ways to have it. One, be in a relationship that isn’t marriage. Two, have an open marriage. Anything else is just giving yourself permission to pretend that choices don’t involve either responsibilities or consequences. Not just to you. But to those that believed your promise of enduring love.
If your marriage has gone stale, I invite you to have a conversation with me about how to re-ignite the spark before it’s too late. Call me at 1-919-924-0463 to schedule a free 1-hour consultation today or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a private discussion about how to make your marriage thrive!
I’d love to hear from you. Do you expect monogamy in your marriage? What would you do about an affair? What do you do to protect your marriage from infidelity? Let me know in the comments below what questions you have about this extremely important issue.
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