Seven Myths About Infidelity
Dr. Frank Pittman lists 7 myths about affairs that I think need to be addressed before going much further. According to him, these 7 myths are:
- Having an affair will improve my marriage
- If there is an affair, this means that one doesn’t love his/her wife/husband
- The affair partner must be sexier or more beautiful/handsome than the spouse
- Everybody does it, it is normal and natural to be unfaithful because we are susceptible to it and so it is human nature to cheat
- The betrayed spouse causes it to happen
- There is safety in keeping a secret and as long as the affair remains hidden it will have no impact on the marriage
- If infidelity is revealed a divorce is inevitable
Myth #1: Having an affair will improve my marriage:
There is nothing that indicates that an affair is a viable way to improve a marriage. It is one of the most painful experiences a person who has been betrayed can ever encounter in his or her life. Some have compared it to the loss of a loved one, even the loss of a child and others have likened the emotional trauma to that of rape. Though many marriages that have recovered from infidelity are stronger, better and more vibrant than before the affair it is the changes that are made by both husband and wife and not the affair that led to that result.
Myth #2: If there is an affair, this means that one doesn’t love his/her wife/husband:
Infidelity typically is not an indication that the cheater does not love his/her mate. An additional myth that this points to is that happy marriages are never affected by infidelity. Yet, because of the subset of Conflicted Infidelity I referred to in my previous post, it can be said that it is in fact possible to love more than one person and even more than one person at a time. We can explore various models for love and what it is and is not and how it comes about but that will be in another post.
Myth #3: The affair partner must be sexier or more beautiful/handsome than the spouse:
There is no evidence that even the cheater actually considers the affair partner to be sexier or better looking in most affairs. It has been observed that a person having an affair will often “affair down.” That is, a man might have an affair with a woman he doesn’t really want to have a lasting relationship with and even someone he might not be willing to take to public places.
This might not be true for all affairs but it certainly has been played out in reports of famous men caught in adultery that have come to light in our mainstream media. A recent example of this might be the case of Tiger Woods who was married to a woman who by most accounts was quite beautiful. Another even more recent example in the news could be Jesse James who cheated on his wife Sandra Bullock with a woman who is at the very least rather eccentric in her appearance. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I don’t think that either of these men considered his affair partner to be more physically attractive than his wife.
Myth # 4: Everybody does it, it is normal and natural to be unfaithful because we are susceptible to it and so it is human nature to cheat:
As I stated in my previous post, 90% of all adults surveyed indicated that they believed that infidelity is wrong. In most cultures marriage is designed to be exclusive and even in societies where polygamy or polygyny might be the norm, a married person who goes outside of the marriage to have sex with the spouse of another person is considered anathema. In some cultures adultery is punishable by death, and so it seems that almost everyone is not doing it. It does not seem to me to be inevitable that a person cheats on his or her spouse. When it comes to it being human nature, this too is really not a defense for having an affair. There are many things that might be within our very nature that we have learned to control or that are regarded as inappropriate behavior in most societies.
Myth #5: The betrayed spouse causes it to happen:
If you have been betrayed, rest assured that you did not cause it to happen. The choice to cheat was entirely that of your wayward spouse. No matter what the state of your marriage leading up to the affair, cheating was never a way to improve the relationship. Reasons people give for cheating will be discussed later but rest assured that the cheater is the one that allowed the affair to happen and many things could have been done to prevent the affair if they had chosen to act on those things rather than to cheat.
No matter what the conditions within a marriage, having an affair is never an acceptable response. If the marriage was truly a horrible one with abuse, neglect, failure to meet needs or any other complaint the cheater might give for having the affair, other options were available that did not involve going outside the marriage for a remedy. If a marriage is bad enough to end, then it should be ended. If the marriage is broken, attempts can be made to repair it and address complaints of both spouses. The affair happened because the cheater believed incorrectly that having an affair would somehow fix or supply what was missing from the marriage and that it was perfectly acceptable to find that solution with someone else. It was not an acceptable solution and only traded one set of problems for another.
Myth # 6: There is safety in keeping a secret and as long as the affair remains hidden it will have no impact on the marriage:
In a typical affair, the affair partners don’t really spend a lot of time together. Most of their efforts and time are used arranging to be together. It is often the thrill of the hunt or the “naughty” nature of the affair that gives the affair its luster and attraction. When the affair is discovered, it is most often not just the act of betrayal but the lies told to cover it up that inflict the greatest damage on the betrayed spouse and on the marriage.
What always amazes me is that, when caught in adultery, a cheater will sometimes speak of seeking greater intimacy as being the reason they had an affair. To be really known and to know another person at a deeper level is said to be the driving force that led to the affair. Yet, many times things the person having an affair has complaints about have not been communicated to the betrayed spouse and once the affair is underway, secrecy becomes the hallmark in the marriage.
One other thought on secrecy and cheating before I move on is, I think, in order. At times a person caught in infidelity will say that the new relationship is right for various reasons. They will express undying love for the affair partner or claim that they are soul mates and other such apparent nonsense. They will make many efforts to make the affair not only reasonable but also acceptable. Yet these very same individuals have kept the affair a secret, and if it were either inevitable or reasonable and acceptable, why was it necessary to prevent others from knowing about it? The reasons for keeping it a secret are obvious to most outsiders of the affair. It was kept secret in order to minimize the possibility of personal loss or being considered something horrible if the affair were to be discovered. If it were the right thing to do, those involved in an affair should be shouting it from the rooftops, yet many fear the discovery of their secret more than the loss of the affair itself.
Myth #7: If infidelity is revealed a divorce is inevitable:
The final myth of infidelity I’d like to talk about is that it inevitably leads to divorce. There are some here for whom that was the case and others posting here that did not experience that to be true. Each affair, each couple are unique in many ways and though affairs often have many things in common that can make them seem uncannily similar, one thing that is not always common is the ability to repair the relationship as opposed to getting a divorce.
If your wife or husband had an affair, it does not need to spell the end of your marriage. As the betrayed spouse the choice of which way to proceed is up to you but weigh your choice carefully. Recovery from having been cheated on is possible though it will take significant amounts of time and effort if you choose to pursue it rather than jumping to immediate divorce.