Monday, September 19, 2011

Do Affairs Always Suck?

I used to babysit for a family.  The mom was a monster.  Even in the little time I spent there, I could see it.  She was so cold to her kids and mean to her husband.  One time he was driving me home after an another episode where she emasculated him in front of the babysitter and I made a stupid flippant remark in the car like "it can't be easy being married to that".  "You have no idea," he answered. 

And then he started to cry.

Every time people talk about the affair du jour (and I mean that literally), it is always a horror story.  After all, how could you betray the person you love in this way?  Isn't marriage a sacred contract?

I have been thinking alot about this the last few days. a) I just heard a story about people I know who are having an affair.  b) Even worse,  I am convinced that someone close to me is having an affair. 

Who it is or why I think so is irrelevant.  What I focus on is the why of it.

Why do people look outside their marriages?  I have spoken to a lot of people about this over the years.   The stories often take a similar trajectory and, in fact, almost always fall into one of 3 broad categories (or some combination of the three):

 - Boredom

 - Lack of love/fighting in the marriage

 - One of the 2 parties isn't fulfilling their bedroom obligations

I know that the "standard" perspective regarding marriage is it doesn't matter which category you fall into - you are in marriage for better of for worse and it's sacred and so on and so forth. 

I happen to not entirely agree with that.  Marriage is supposed to be a 2-way street - two people who love each other doing for each other - sometimes things they don't necessarily love to do - for the sake of the other.  If you don't fulfill your end of the bargain, why should your partner?  If you can't talk nicely to your partner, who shouldn't she go find someone who does?

I know, it's horrible to even contemplate such a thought process.  After all, an affair is cheating on the one who is supposed to trust you the most. 

But that trust is supposed to be earned.  Earned by talk, deed and action.  Earned, sometimes, by participating in the things you don't necessarily love, for the sake of the ONE you love.

Imagine marriage as a whole made up of many parts.  There's love, admiration, sense of humor, many many parts which form the marriage.  Ask most women what percentage of a marriage sex is and you often get a low score  - "oh sure sex is important - 1%!!".  Then ask a man.  He'll tell you sex is 10% 20% 40% some crazy number  (or at least crazy to women). The other percentage for him is looks  :)

The point is, men and women are extremely different.  And good relationships are built when both partners recognize that and make efforts to "see the other side".  It means listening to your wife with both ears instead of having one in the game.  It means having sex more or with more variety or whatever it is your partner wants.  Even if you don't want.

What it isn't - is assuming that you can do what you want and forever not have to worry because of the sacred bond of marriage.  It doesn't work that way.  It requires work.

This is a ramble.  I'm rambling.  Why?  Because I worry.  I worry about my relationship - I want it to work - both in the short term and in the long term.  I try to understand what makes him tick and I hope he's doing the same for me.  I want to make him happy and, through that, be happy too.  I hope he feels the same.

But I get it - I understand why these things happen.  And sometimes I can't even find fault.  I don't think it's automatically "bad" when an affair happens (outside of the collateral damage to the kids etc - that's ALWAYS bad).

Sorry again.  I needed to try and clear my head.


  1. I think # 1 thing is good communication. Instead of seeking outside the marriage when something is going wrong you make your concerns known to a partner, and drag them to counseling if necessary. And both people have to agree to listen to each other... I've heard horror stories where most of the problems start with one or both being dismissive of the other's concerns.

  2. I think you are conflating a couple of things.

    If for whatever reason you feel unfulfilled in a marriage, and you feel like you have given it the old college try, but it is still not working out, or even if you realized that you made a terrible mistake and married the wrong person, or found your true love elsewhere, or you're a kinkster and your wife can only do it missionary style in the dark, etc. it is very easy to get a divorce. Most states even have no-fault divorces so you don't even need to have cause. And if you want to focus on the Jewish community, there is no religious barrier to getting a divorce.

    There is a reason why they call it "cheating" - it's people that for whatever reason want to have their cake and eat it too. So in your own words, "if you don't fulfill your end of the bargain", the solution is to dissolve the partnership, not cheat your partner. If you work for a guy who promised you a raise, but didn't deliver, you don't get the choice of stealing from the warehouse to get even, you find a new job....

  3. I think you guys are too easily dismissive of the fact that while its lawful to get a Jewish divorce, it is not necessarily well accepted - and there can be tremendous social pressure (from your own family sometimes) not to - or you may have a bunch of kids and want to keep it together for them (or cause u have too much "baggage" to get remarried)

  4. Unfortunately, however, not all divorces are easy. A lot of people act bitter and immature and turn what SHOULD be simple into protracted total wars.