“What, do you think I’m having an affair or something?”
Well, if she hadn’t thought it beforehand, she sure did then.
It was over. Forget the three happy years. Forget all the future plans. That was it.
At least until the petite 26-year-old brunette walked into a bar they used to visit together and saw, dangling between the ample cleavage of the buxom blonde bartender, her gold necklace. Without thinking, she wrenched it from the woman’s neck, spun around and rammed right into Him.
“You should have seen little Mel, five foot nothing, giving it to this 250-pound hockey player. He was so stunned he just stood there and took it. The bouncer had to pull her off!” said Rose’s friend Heidi Haltrich.
Of course, not everyone reacts to infidelity with such violence and hostility. Nor is it only men who cheat.
Joe McInerney is a a victim of an unfaithful girlfriend. He recalls merely freezing on the spot when he came home early from a business trip to find his girlfriend passionately engaged with his roommate. Between expletives, he explained it was effectively the end of both the relationship and the living arrangement.
However, not everyone is ready to end a long-term love so easily despite such transgressions. Many may choose to work it out either on their own or through counseling. There are almost countless resources available to couples in need, through private therapy, group counseling and even online counseling over the Web.
One such Internet site is that of Dr. Don-David Lusterman, a clinical psychologist specializing in marital and family therapy in New York and author of “Infidelity: A Survivor’s Guide.”
He says that the key to surviving an episode of infidelity is to avoid placing blame on either party and to, above all, talk it through. Yeah, ’cause guys just love to talk.
“Look at how your behaviours contributed to a situation where an affair was possible but don’t blame yourself,” said Lusterman.
What? Like it’s your fault they cheated. I don’t think so!
Another site where couples may find a wealth of information to help them sort through the aftermath of an affair is www.marriagebuilders.com, a site written and managed by Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr., a marital and family psychologist. Through the site he offers several formulas to help “couples in conflict.”
One of the most helpful is his explanation of why affairs start in a marriage or other romantic relationship. Harley agrees with Lusterman that the recipe for a happy relationship is talking honestly, and often, with each other, explaining that affairs begin where conversation ends.
Couples loose touch with each other’s need and emotions and seek to fill the void elsewhere. This pattern is particularly true for women who have affairs, but is not untrue for men. What they are seeking is intimacy, a feeling of belonging and of being cherished. Contrary to popular belief what they are not necessarily seeking is sex. Really?
“Sex is actually not the driving force in most affairs – it is conversation and affection. In fact, most people who have affairs regard the sex as a minor player. What they appreciate the most about the relationship is the love and acceptance that is communicated in their conversation,” said Harley.
So why then does the physical intimacy gain the most attention, and produce the most hurt?
According to Peggy Vaughan, author of the renowned self-help guide, “The Monogamy Myth: A Handbook for Recovering from Affairs,” it comes from the Judaeo-Christian tradition in which monogamy is emphasized as a social norm.
She writes that the effects of this belief force individuals to view infidelity as personal failures of those involved, which leads to “personal blame, personal shame, wounded pride, and almost universal feelings of devastation.”
She continues to explain that it is an unfounded norm in contemporary North American society where estimates show almost 60 percent of men and 40 percent of women will cheat on their lovers.
“These figures are even more significant when we consider the total number of marriages involved, since it’s unlikely that all the men and women having affairs happen to be married to each other,” Vaughan explains.
In her view, it is unrealistic to expect a relationship to be completely monogamous as the result. OK. So it may be hard, but not impossible! Come on!
Monogamy has not always been a social norm. While anthropologists agree that pair bonding, that is the union of a man and woman, dates back to our hunter-gather ancestors, it cannot be assumed that they maintained intimate relations with only one partner. The union was merely a matter of convenience, an assurance for the male that if he was unsuccessful in the hunt he would have some nourishment at the end of the day.
For the female, it meant a guarantee of a share in a successful hunt as well as the protection of her young by a male. Throughout human history pair bonding arrangements have persisted but it was not until modern times that these agreements came with exclusivity contracts.
Vaughan suggests monogamy is not even a healthy ideal, indicating that for some individuals it may be impossible. After all, in the famous words of William Cowper: “Variety’s the spice of life. That gives all its flavour.”
Whether or not he was referring to relationships is up for grabs, there is one thing that not only experts, but most people, agree on. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best, and although she was speaking of marriages, it applies to all intimate relationships:
“The key to a good marriage is conversation. After all, over time you may loose interest in other things, but you will never give up talking.”
Or if you don’t like this philosophy adopt the view of Simone de Beauvoir : why stick to one lover when you can have one for every day of the week?