Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.
'infidelity is caused by problems in the marriage'(240 Posts)
This has come up again in a thread.
I can't cut and paste (copyright), but would like to post three links of differing views, and ask people's input of what they think of them?
What do you think?
Saferniche, what does the couples therapist say to your H about the affair, and how does he take it?
I think the correct statement is "not all, but many" are caused by problems in the marriage.
The MN mantra is that the wronged partner is always the perfumed innocent, and its all down to the cheating bastard (or bitch) and the evil OW/OM - understandable but IMO misleading.
Apart from your own observation which probably refutes that, you only have to read the thousands of threads on here where people are deeply dissatisfied with their partners who seem to be oblivious/uninterested/unwilling to acknowledge any issues, to realise the reverse sex situation must exist too.
Not all will solve it via infidelity, but statistics imply very many will.
Wellwobbly, the therapist hasn't addressed him in a direct way about it - in the (polite) manner of 'you know this was a really stupid thing to do' - nor does he talk about affairs as such (it just isn't what he does, he's more likely to ask me how I feel, and I have been pretty vocal about responsibility). It hasn't been an issue yet because dh regrets the affair - for himself, not just because it hurt me so much. But therapist does tell my dh that his work to restore the marriage needs to be active and ongoing and he's protective of my needs, which is a huge relief after feeling so isolated. So, while he listens equally to both of us, and is equally supportive, he's not indulgent toward my dh. And dh doesn't want to be indulged on this issue.
I looked for someone who dealt specifically with infidelity but that isn't easy to find. I did not want 'let's ignore the elephant in the room and look at what YOU were doing before, and as a toddler because I bet that's where you started getting tricky'. By avoiding such a scenario we do appear to have moved away from certain excuses dh had given himself, which seems to be a relief for him too.
Once again I don't want to suggest I have no faults, but I've stopped thinking about all of them day and night in an attempt to understand something which had far less to do with me, and indeed our marriage, than with dh and, as mentioned before, a lack of boundaries.
We had a few sessions with an analyst a while ago which involved howling over my childhood as well as the current agonies, and that was shit. I still plan to set fire to her consulting hut.
Lazyjaney simplistic - I've seen sympathy for posters who talk about their affairs - unless they're crowing about them.
I don't think infidelity solves anything very well even when a marriage is in its death-throes (and it often is afterwards).
who seem to be oblivious/uninterested/unwilling to acknowledge any issues
That may be the answer - seem to be. How can WE tell? But I am not for staying in a marriage if someone is deeply unhappy. End it decently is best imo.
Lazyjaney - you don't solve any of the problems by infidelity, you just add another often insurmountable problem to the list of problems that may or may not have already existed.
The poster who mentioned cheating men having a touch of the Madonna/whore complex about them really resonated with me. I am married myself and my husband seems to have a healthy attitude towards women and hasn't cheated (as far as I know) but I have been propositioned by two ex boyfriends over the past few years, both married, and both the type to collect women as trophies and be promiscuous when younger. I know if I was to settle with either of these men, they would become bored with me and probably cheat. As soon as you marry / have children with a man like that, you cease to be sexy, cease to be a challenge. It is their damage though, not their wives', who could be perfect and still never enough.
Problems in a marriage don't require people to become accomplished liars. Full stop.
Lazyjaney you are mixing up the two issues again. 'The MN mantra is that the wronged partner is always the perfumed innocent, and its all down to the cheating bastard (or bitch) and the evil OW/OM - understandable but IMO misleading."
There is no such thing as a perfect marriage. I was running around buying all sorts of self-help books to try and fix things, and he cheated. It turns out:
1. the person who invests LESS in the marriage is the person more likely to have an affair.
2. he is officially diagnosed as being off the scale selfish and self absorbed.
3. I didn't cause him, I couldn't control him and I couldn't cure him.
4. My ultimate fault? Picking him as a life partner. I picked someone who can't actually do love, intimacy and reciprocation.
Now whether you like it or not, that is quite a common 'model' of cheaters.
I wasn't perfect, and I would have loved a chance to go to counsellng and fix things. You know, within the relationship.
But how are points 1 - 3 as identified by therapists, down to ME and the MARRIAGE?
You are wrong in your points.
I just have one request — quit beating up on monogamy. Monogamy is not the problem. I’d like to introduce the real villain, the culprit behind infidelity and divorce — entitlement. Yes, entitlement, otherwise known as narcissism, selfishness, or “I need a few months living alone in Spain to find myself.”
Entitlement has unfairly framed monogamy for infidelity for quite some time and I’d like to set the record straight.
1. Cheating is about the thrill of being dishonest. To “cheat” you need an agreement to renege on, namely monogamy. There’s no frisson of danger in openness, no illicit sexual high to chase. A recent study ”The Cheater’s High: The Unexpected Affective Benefits of Unethical Behavior” by researchers at the University of Washington, the London Business School, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania show that cheaters feel happier after cheating. Why? They feel superior, more clever than the people they just chumped. Screwing around feels awesome, so long as you’re short on empathy. You know who’s empathy challenged? Narcissists.
There is a power dynamic inherent in infidelity. The cheater wants all the perks of a committed partner, and the excitement of messing around on the side. The secrecy is about gaining advantage. You commit all your resources and I’ll just feign reciprocity. Cheaters don’t want a level playing field. It’s about control and entitlement. Cheaters give themselves permission to cheat, because they deem themselves more deserving than the chumpy people who play by the rules. (Rules the cheater agreed to, of course.)
2. If polyamory is “natural,” so is heartbreak. If we’ve “evolved” to screw around, well, we’re also wired to be jealous and suffer heartache when we are abandoned. Where’s all the talk of how unnatural it is to bond with other people? Gee, we should really stop doing that. This whole trust thing is really overrated.
Murderous impulses are also human, and felt very keenly after one’s been betrayed. When the cuckolded husband clubs his wife’s lover with a baseball bat, they can each claim they “evolved” to be this way — one to screw around indiscriminately, the other to react in a murderous rage. Let’s see how those arguments go over in the court of law.
We didn’t evolve to do a lot of things — farm, use indoor plumbing, wear lederhosen. Your Darwinian urges are no excuse for behaving unethically. Can we put this tired argument to rest already?
3. Monogamy is not difficult — honest conversations are. You’re not good at monogamy? Stay single or find a polyamorous arrangement. Things not working out in the marriage? Speak up and make it work or get out honestly. Unless yours was a shotgun wedding, no one forces you to monogamously commit. Lost in the “monogamy is so hard” argument is personal choice. Don’t agree to be someone you aren’t.
Yes it is a problem in the marriage, the entitled cheat who thinks they can do as they like.
Wellwobbly, your single experience does not translate into a general principle. A moments observation and reflection will show that the variation of reasons for affairs is huge, and IMO people here need to be more honest about this than all these self serving theories with no basis in observed human behaviour or fact.
I think the view that "not all, but many" affairs are caused by problems in a marriage is more accurate than the simplistic view that OW = bitch, MM = entitled bastard, WW = fragrant innocent. You only have to read AIBU to know there are some extremely unreasonable and unpleasant spouses on here.
Also, the MN mantra of leave first, then find your soul mate, is very much a "do as I say" thing, in that it most definitely is not what most people do. The exit affair is also a well worn path identified by therapists. I've always found it more useful to watch what people do, not what they say.
But Lazyjaney, you have invented 'the simplistic view that OW = bitch, MM = entitled bastard, WW = fragrant innocent.'
'The exit affair is also a well worn path identified by therapists' ... to be recommended? Many of us have watched 'what people do', and found it horrible, destructive and selfish. It is possible to leave a marriage without demonstrating your abilities as a cheat and a liar, my own mother managed it perfectly well, it was sad enough for my father as it was. She kept her dignity - so did he. And yes, she knew the man she later married, but THEY WAITED. Astonishing!
Of course stuff happens. But it's better to behave well than badly, is it not? Or do we just give up and let it all hang out? (eugh)
If you married a unreasonable & unpleasant person - then don't tolerate it. If you can't get them to work on being more reasonable & pleasant, then you leave the relationship. Yes, it is vile & ghastly - but it is honest.
An exit affair may be a well worn path - but it doesn't make it a good path or the right path.
I'm not heartless of lacking compassion & I see that there are circumstances where people are so miserable they seek comfort in an affair. I understand that BUT it still doesn't make it the right thing to do. Nor does it mean that the problems in the marriage caused or made them have the affair. It means they chose to have an affair over leaving. They chose that course of action - no one pointed a gun to their head and made them do it.
LazyJane, even if you were right about exit affairs, there are many affairs, or rather many people who have affairs and don't want to leave their partners.
They just want the bit on the side.
They may eventually be found out, yes, but they are not often keen on leaving their main relationship/family. They will continue to lie to keep the status quo.
People who truly have exit affairs will leave before they are found out.
Lazeyjane you could say that I am extrapolating out of my single experience, but you are doing the opposite by interpolating an issue using external environmental factors. And that does not explain why some people cheat and a whole load of other people, still the majority of people, DON"T cheat.
Using environmental factors leaves out the characteristics cheating people have: which is entitlement (I deserve), unsufficient empathy for the hurt they know they will cause, - and passive aggressive unconscious anger.
You need to look there. It is in the character of the person choosing actually a very complicated series of choices and planning, as to why people cheat.
Sorry, pressed too soon.
This also explains why nearly 80% of marriages rocked by infidelity end. Because what is interesting is that the majority don't end straight away, usually 2 years and over, later.
In other words, people TRY to heal the rift, but that they slowly bleed to death.
Why? Again, you have to look at those characteristics again. A person who is selfish, entitled, lacks the ability to put themselves in another's shoes and who is unable to be open and honest, cannot heal what they have broken.
It also goes to explain a lot IMO the high percentage of second marriages that fail. Because the issues have not been resolved, and they play out again with a different person.
'Divorce gets rid of the person, but it doesn't get rid of the problem' - Harville Hendrixx.
I am not the same person. Never, ever again will I make someone a priority, who treats me as an option. Never. I will never be co dependent and live through another person again. I have taken this agonising pain and I am going to use it to learn my life lessons.
Wobbly, having followed your posts for a while, I feel really happy that you are in this place now.
I hope you don't shut yourself to love again, but you do seem much stronger in yourself and wish you all the best.
I don't think you should feel guilty in any way, as with people like your ex it doesn't really matter what we do. And we end up trying everything. They just don't care.
You have recognised that you couldn't control him or win and that is all you can do for yourself.
I do get a bit concerned when I see that you are still analysing your relationship with him, but if that helps you move forward and avoid falling into the same patterns, all the better for you.
Wellwobbly can you explain what you mean by 'passive aggressive unconscious anger'?
saferniche - passive aggressive behaviour is often described as being an expression of unconscious anger, either towards other people or oneself.
I think infidelity is not something that can accurately be described as having "a cause".
Infidelity is about choices. Those choices will be influenced by various internal and external factors. Talking exclusively about heterosexual relationships;
One factor is the pressure to be monogamous which is largely unrealistic and because people often agree to it without talking or thinking. That said I can see it is possible to achieve monogamy but truly believe only if it is discussed regularly in an open and communicative relationship can it be a happy and realistic choice. Can also see how monogamy can create happiness and stability if it is a free and informed choice. When people don't think through and agree to monogamy that creates conditions where they may be more likely to choose to cheat (note, still their choice) whether or not they love the person they are with.
Another factor is misogyny. Attitudes towards women as sex objects and pressure on men to increase their standing by using women as sex objects. This creates conditions where both men and women might be more likely to choose to cheat (still a choice, unless it is an abuse in which case not cheating IMHO).
Another factor is perceptions of gender roles and restrictive social policy which supports them. Men and women are unlikely to be happy with forced gender roles, or if gender roles are particularly sexist; women are likely to be abused and this obviously places stress on relationships which need to be strong and communicative in order to withstand the pressure where they are not abusive. One unhelpful set of gender roles is men are poor communicators/women are fixers of relationships or men need sex/women are frigid. In either of these situations men or women may choose to cheat.
It is always a choice though and there are never things or situations which I think could accurately be described as causes of infidelity.
My position is cheating is always a wrong but there are vast differences in the level of blameworthiness and the actual harm done depending on the individual circumstances and I'd no more want to make a generalisation about what attributes a cheater has than generalise about what cheating is.
Very different to think of someone trapped in an abusive relationship having an exit affair to someone shagging a whole load of prostitutes, being on dating websites all the way through a monogamous relationship.
cheers PostBellumBugsy! - was wondering if Wobbly had a particular angle.
The straight answer to this question is that No, infidelity is not caused by problems in the marriage. Not even sometimes.
Relationship dissatisfaction and a desire to end a relationship might well be caused by marital problems, but there is a huge range of choices a person might take if s/he feels that way. An affair is but one of them.
Since a huge number of affairs arise despite the absence of marital discord and a desire to exit that relationship, it is more logical to determine what is the common denominator in people's choices to be unfaithful and why they make them.
That common denominator is poor coping mechanisms.
It assails the person unwilling to make an ethical choice in an unhappy marriage, the person who feels entitled to an adventure when life gets mundane, the person whose esteem is low because of a career slump, the person who derives their esteem from sexual admiration from new others, the person who has bad boundaries with friendships, the person who has difficulty coping with change and the person who has prescriptive romantic and political beliefs. Regarding the latter, the person who believes in 'soulmates', that 'happily married people don't cheat' and has very prescriptive views of male and female roles is especially at risk of deciding to have an affair.
I'm sure it was a typically goady post and probably not worthy of comment therefore, but I don't recognise this description of a 'mantra' that exists on Mumsnet or anywhere else of fragrant faithful wives, entitled married men and 'bitch' OWs. The last time I recall that myth being espoused was by the Judge in Jeffrey Archer's libel trial 26 years ago, which was fortunately debunked by his subsequent conviction for perjury.
Obviously, those goady posts also confused the issues addressed in my first paragraph and which have been so eloquently separated and explained by earlier posters, but the myth mentioned in the title of this thread is (perhaps understandably) a defence mechanism for a great many people. It is commonly believed and expressed by those who've been involved in infidelitous relationships and those who believe that their individual efforts in a relationship will prevent an entirely separate person's infidelity - as well as easily-dismissed internet goaders looking to get a reaction to their attention-seeking posts.
Join the discussion
Please login first.