the action or state of being unfaithful to a spouse or other sexual partner:
“her infidelity continued after her marriage” ·
“I ought not to have tolerated his infidelities”
Just the other day, my fireman and I were talking about a couple we both knew who was recently divorced. At the heart of their divorce was the usual things that cause strain in a marriage, money, job stress, raising a family, shared household chores, but what really finally did them in was that the husband had an affair. We (my fireman and I) both had the same take on it, that the husband fucked up, but I found myself haunted by the thought is infidelity really the result of one person, or are both parties somewhat responsible? Is it really not, his infidelity, her infidelity, or is it their infidelity?
I have seen first hand what the fallout of infidelity does to a family. As my parents separated just after my high school graduation as a result of an affair. At first I found myself so fucking angry and couldn’t see how two people who loved each other could cause so much pain to one another and destroy a family. But as I started to process all of it, the signs were there, my father was such a kind loving man, but he was a very controlling, domineering man, he also didn’t want to go out and do things that couples do, movies, dinners, weekend getaways, he was perfectly content with being a homebody, and expected that my mother would be content with this, even as her children were becoming independent teens, and did not require the supervision they once did. My mother had tried to express this so many times and wanted for she and my father to start doing things and rekindle the love that was still there, buried under the anger, hurt, and resentment that builds in a marriage. My parents knew each other as kids from the neighborhood. My Dad met my Mom when he was just 18 and my Mom was 14. They didn’t date, my Dad went off to join the Navy, where he served for the next four years, while my Mom stayed in Jersey City, finished school, and got a job as an Operator for the phone company. When my father returned to Jersey City, he and my Mom started dating, and were married several years later. They were married for over 20 years when the affair happened. They had four daughters. One of whom died at birth. For nearly a year thereafter, there was so much contempt and hurt, but eventually that began to soften, and all of the love that was still there started bringing them together again. I truly believe if my Mom hadn’t died three years after she and my Dad had separated, they would have been back together again.
So why do I say “their” infidelity as if one person has control over what another chooses to do. It’s not that I see infidelity as an excuse to cheat, or that if your spouse isn’t satisfying you emotionally, sexually, or intellectually, a reason to cheat. What I am saying is that most cases of infidelity don’t begin because there is a momentary lapse in judgement or weakness. The fractures are there long before the decision is made. Yes I know some people are just hard-wired to be unfaithful, those narcissistic, calculating, individuals masquerading as faithful, loving, attentive spouses, and I can see their bullshit a mile away, for those people this does not apply. I am talking about the couples who are working toward a common goal, they are raising families, working two jobs, building a life, have joint interests, common goals, then something somewhere happens. It could be loss of a parent, loss of a job, the birth of a child, it alters the usual, the familiar, and all of a sudden there is a breakdown in communication, maybe the wife is all consumed with her newborn, then has another child shortly thereafter, and perhaps another, and her husband suddenly can’t understand why he isn’t getting laid, why his wife’s breast have become a milk factory, and why he’s now vying for their attention. Or maybe a husband is working 14 hour days to advance his career, attending dinner meetings with hot single women who are equally as busy advancing their careers, but are more than happy to listen to his frustrations of being ignored at home by his wife who can barely muster the energy to shower, let alone stay up for him to come home at 10:30 pm for a romp in bed, when sleep is so much more orgasmic right now! And so it begins. The dance towards infidelity.
Now I am NOT saying that you have control over what someone else chooses to do, or that it is your fault if your spouse decides to cheat. What I am saying is that many times there is a breakdown in communication, mutual respect, or a perception of the expectations that you had in your partner, yourself, your life, and resentment builds, until it blurs the lines of what is right and wrong and the justification that one person feels, to do something they consciously know to be immoral, wrong, and could ultimately end a marriage. I also know that it takes two people working towards a marriage to make it work. No matter how much love is there, if two people refuse to work at a marriage, it can never last. Sooner or later it will be destroyed beyond repair, whether or not there is infidelity or not. So how do you learn to recognize signs that signal there are problems? Some are obvious, some subtle, here are a few. Also it is important to remember that just because you may recognize some of these signs in your partner, does not mean that they are being unfaithful. The key to all of this is communication. Ask questions, talk from your heart, and listen to your partner, be receptive and truly listen.
- Sex…are you getting it? Do you want it? Does your spouse? Is it on your priority list? I have a friend that tells me her and her husband have sex once a month and they are perfectly happy with that. If that is mutually acceptable then that may not be a factor, but if you and your partner are having regular sex, more than once a month, and it is inexplicably preempted, and one or both partners are becoming resentful, this is a big red flag, and needs to be addressed.
- A spouse who is suddenly working late, is spending more and more time away from the home and responsibilities of the home.
- Emotional distance, when the two of you are alone, they are miles away in thought, preoccupied with their phones, social media, or spending an unusual amount of time on the computer.
- They are becoming short with you for the least little thing, and retreats at the slightest provocation. When communication breaks down and one or both partners are unable, or unwilling to discuss the issues, resentment builds, feelings become hurt, and a festering wound is one of the hardest things to mend, and one of the biggest causes of marital infidelity.
- The two of you are spending less time enjoying the things you once enjoyed together. Taking separate vacations, spending time with friends instead of each other, declining to join your significant other when they run errands, or attend events.
- You are arguing more, and seeing eye to eye less.
So is all hope lost? That depends. Everyone has their breaking point. For many people infidelity is a deal breaker, the ultimate betrayal, that most people cannot get past. Unless you are faced with this situation, you will never know what you are truly capable of doing once faced with the reality of it. I believe that a marriage can survive infidelity if the love is still there, and both people are willing to seek counseling and work at repairing the marriage. Trust has been broken, love has been tested, another person has been intimate with a partner you took vows to love, cherish, care for, so it will take time to repair that damage, anger will crop up, mistrust too if a partner appears to be reverting back to similar habits of being distracted, coming home late, and so forth. It will take the understanding to rebuild what has been fractured and it will require self-analysis from both parties. You will need to get real and figure out what happened and how it could be avoided in the future. Maybe being too rigid in not wanting to explore new ways of being intimate, perhaps you had been so overly attentive to a new hobby that you were ignoring your partner, or you were so busy trying to build your career that you didn’t make time to take your spouse out to dinner, or take her away for a night without the kids. Whatever the problems are they need to be discussed with love, mutual respect, and understanding. This is where seeing a licensed professional in marriage counseling will be invaluable in allowing couples to explore their feelings and process what has caused so much hurt and resentment within the marriage. Sometimes just being validated is what the other person really needs to begin to heal.
You enter into a marriage with so many dreams, mutual goals, expectations, and no one ever tells you that the love you feel the day you don the white dress, will wax and wane with the ebb and flow of life; kids, financial obligations, a career, etc. there will be dark days, you will cry, and curse your life, but there are happy, loving, joyful moments, found in the way he looks at you after 24 years, the way she cares for your children, for you, the way he makes sure you take your meds to stay healthy. Marriage takes work, it takes dedication, it takes two people who are stubborn enough to not quit, to know that right now you may not like the person who has hurt you, betrayed you, or is angry at you for some inexplicable reason, but you know that there is love there, that the softness is there just below the surface and that with the touch of his hand, and the look in her eyes, you are whole again, and maybe, just maybe, your home sweet home, your happily ever after, is found in the sweetness of letting go, surrendering, and starting over again.