Sex scandals are cultural catnip. We feed on them like drugs; perpetually jonesing for the next hit, then reminded of the foul taste, we just as passionately spew them out. The most titillating of these carnal transgressions is marital infidelity, or as I rather like- the Old Testament sin of adultery.
A castle industry has risen from the ash of marriages consumed by infidelity. Its aim is to curb such extramarital egress by instructing spouses on how to safeguard their marriages against the mate looking for a new place to scratch. Regrettably their efforts pay few dividends. Infidelity, at record highs, has so ravished the collective attitude towards marriage, the assumption of marital affairs isn’t ‘if’ but ‘when’.
As a victim of infidelity my biggest wonder has always been how someone ‘decides’ to cheat. What case must be made for a spouse to break such a hallowed trust? I’ve never bought into the notion that affairs ‘just happen’. People don’t wake up and over bagels and coffee determine today will be that day. I’m convinced those who cheat see that train in the distance, know where it’s heading, but through arrogance or indifference defiantly choose to hitch a ride anyway.
No one believed they would cheat – until they did. But after it’s too late, when looking back on the carnage of their poor choices, they suddenly realize that everyday infidelity isn’t accidental like Hollywood claims but a systematic and methodical process following certain patterns. It doesn’t take a Psychologist or Shaman to predict when a friendship will turn into a tawdry liaison. While I am neither, through experience and observation, I believe there are five steps that can virtually guarantee someone will have an affair. Five behaviors, when cultivated, provide the perfect conditions for marital disaster.
Believe it couldn’t happen to you: No one believes they could cheat walking down the isle. But such confidence in our integrity opens us up to risks as we see ourselves as more honorable than we really are. Not believing he could ever cheat a husband might put himself in dangerous positions believing his virtue will see him through.
Pass the buck: Cheaters cheat because they aren’t fulfilled in their current relationship and the blame for which is always the other person. It’s by laying guilt at the spouse’s feet the cheater often has all the justification needed to step out.
Deserve to be happy: when life’s worth is judged solely by our happiness anything that doesn’t make our life happy must be replaced. This is probably the most common reason people give for cheating – ‘I’m not happy. anymore.’
No boundaries: couples’ who trust each other should have no boundaries; ‘you should trust me’ is what we say. Besides ‘he’s just a friend’, ‘it’s only a drink’, ‘it’s harmless flirting’ what is there to worry about? Our willingness to trust each other so openly shows how progressive we are as a modern couple.
Comparison shop: is when we begin internally comparing our spouse to someone else. “Why doesn’t my wife respect me like his does?”, “Why doesn’t my husband pay attention to me like him?” Invariably, that internal comparison becomes open hostility, and a shared dissatisfaction with current spouses is the spark that sets a friendship into a lusty blaze.
While these are surefire steps leading any person to cheat, they can also be used to keep from it.
We must recognize that humans are horrible promise keepers and the promises we break most are those to ourselves. A healthy dose of humility and understanding that we too can foul up will help change our behavior and keep us out of dangerous situations that might lead us down wrong paths.
Affairs don’t happen in a vacuum. Actions within the relationship lead to reactions outside it. No relationship problems are solely one person’s fault. There is usually plenty of blame to go around, though not always equal, and one of the best things we can do is sweep our own porch before we worry about our spouse.
Happiness isn’t the kaleidoscope through which we should see the world. We weren’t born just to be happy and our joy and contentment isn’t our spouse’s responsibility. When we stop to think about it our individual happiness should never be another’s burden.
Boundaries are the glue that can hold marriages together, they signal respect for the relationship and honor for the person. Additionally, boundaries imply that the relationship is more important than individual wants or needs.
Comparison in any form is a loosing proposition. Comparing our spouse to another person is no different than comparing them to a runway model. In both examples we are only getting edited versions. We don’t see that person doing real life, leaving the toilet seat up, and burning the meatloaf.
To avoid being a marital statistic and feeling the pain that comes from infidelity, we must accept that we all have the potential to cheat. Even as virtuous as we think we may be,, we too have the necessary ingredients to have an affair. Knowing that, we can take a few necessary precautions to make certain we never do.