- Infidelity: Game
or Sin? Part II
- By Barrington H.
Brennen, July 26, 2004, 2021
is very risky business. One
of my favorite authors, Dr. Howard Markman, in the book “Fighting for Your
Marriage,” says: “We believe that marriage is the most risky undertaking
routinely taken on by the greatest number of people in our society.” The level of the risk is determined by the level of
stubbornness, pride, and selfishness of each of the partners in marriage.
Perhaps the greatest test of the vulnerability of marriage towards
dissolution is that of extramarital involvement (EMI).
There are many reasons for infidelity or EMI.
author writes: “The causes of infidelity are complex and varied. Affairs
can occur in happy marriages as well as in troubled ones. Although the
involved spouse may not be getting enough from the marriage, sometimes the
involved spouse is not giving enough.
Reasons for EMI include low self-esteem, relationship deficits
(e.g., lack of affection), or a social context in which infidelity is
the most devastating reason is that of relationship deficit.
In other words, one partner feels that a need is not being met, and
it is not necessarily sexual. In
my counseling practice, I have observed that unmet needs are the central
reasons for infidelity and divorce. Other
causes of infidelity are dissatisfaction with the marital relationship,
emotional emptiness, need for sexual variety, inability to resist new
sexual opportunity, anger at a partner, no longer being "in
love," alcohol or drug addiction, growing apart, and desire to get a
is an unspoken cultural myth about infidelity being “natural.”
That is, some people believe that human beings simply can't maintain
monogamous sexual relationships over long periods of time because it
"isn't natural." In The
Bahamas and the Caribbean, this myth is perpetuated by many who feel that
their virility or sexual
performance determines true personhood.
The common adage is “a man got ‘ta do what a man got ‘ta do.”
The truth is that many feel that their nature (biology) dictates to
whether or not they will have multiple relationships.
Dr. Debbie Layton Tholl, clinical psychologist, writes in her article
this is true, if there is a biological reason preventing us from
accomplishing our goal of remaining in a monogamous relationship, then we
are condemning ourselves to continued personal and social failure by
continuing to pursue these types of relationships. “Maybe our proclivity towards affairs is more a symptom of
our inability to find satisfaction in our long-term relationships because of
the expectations we place on them in the first place, than any biological
drive towards multiple sexual partners. Possibly our inability to remain
"in love" with our partners as we grow and mature and our life
circumstances change is what drives us to look for another intimate
Layton-Tholl is on target. She
has a keen insight on what makes relationships succeed. She explains further:
loss of the high level of passion and desire that existed in the beginning of
the relationship may result in boredom or develop into a feeling of apathy
towards the partner. Combined with all of the other stresses and complexities
of long term relationships, such as financial problems, raising children, job
changes, death of family members, change in status, etc., the loss of passion
may lead to a desire to rediscover it in the start of a new relationship.
“Therefore, extramarital affairs may be the result of an inability to
maintain a satisfying emotional relationship with a partner over a long period
of time, and not due to a need for sexual variety.”
individuals and spouses mistakenly feel that as long as there is no
physical sexual contact, they are not having an affair. They are totally wrong. Research indicates that
extramarital affairs based solely on desire for new sexual partners is a
very small percentage of the total number of affairs.
In on research of over 4200 couples by the American Association of
Marriage and Family Therapists, over 90% have reported that the affair is
based on emotional needs not being met within the marital relationship,
and not sexually-motivated reasons. I have found this to correlate with my
experience as a marriage and family therapist working in the Bahamas and
appears that the allure of extramarital affairs is not new sexual
experiences, nor are they due to any biological inability to remain
monogamous, but rather what drives many individuals to become involved in
extramarital affairs is a lack of emotional fulfillment within the existing
put it simply, affairs begin with the most basic of all relationship types:
friendship. Not all persons
seeking affairs want to have a sexual relationship, at least not at the
beginning. For many, sexual
intercourse comes as a bi-product of an intensive emotional entanglement. Many women who engage in emotional affairs will give their
heart to another man and save their body for their husbands.
It is still an extramarital involvement, and it is immoral.
In fact, there can be as much life-threatening affects of emotional
affairs as do the physical ones. Feelings
of guilt that lead to suicide, fear,
anxiety, worry, and the high level of stress are all life-threatening.
ARE AFFAIRS HARD TO STOP
entanglement, often called extramarital involvement, is mesmerizing,
hypnotic, and alluring. Affairs are traps that always lead to emotional
disaster. It is like being caught in a web spawned by deception, deceit,
disloyalty, and a mystifying kind of love.
For many EMI is the quicksand of emotional and psychological
Willard Harley in his book, “His Needs, Her Needs” give these three
factors contributing to making an affair so enjoyable and exciting: “1)
You and your lover seem to bring out the best in each other.
2) You ignore each
other’s faults. 3) You
get turned on sexually as never before. You
feel sure no one else could ever be as exciting a sex partner as your secret
new lover.” Dr.
Layton-Tholl gives these factors as being responsible for the high level of
arousal experienced by people involved in affairs: The obsessive
pre-occupation that many individuals in affairs report experiencing, and the
inability to end an affair even when confronted with negative or devastating
personal and social consequences.”
The truth is affairs are hard to stop because they are so sweet, at
least for a while. The adage, “the grass is always greener on the other
side,” seems to apply here. We
forget to observe that the grass is only greener as long as there is rain.
In other words, do all you can to keep your grass green and never seek
to compare it with nearby pastures. Beware
that affairs can occur between two people who have never seen each other.
Online chats are popular for this.
Many marriages break up after an online affair.
Avoid touching, kissing, and saying things to others that should be
reserved for your one-and-only.
affairs may indicate an addiction to sex, love, or romance. Love and
romance addicts are driven by the passion of a new relationship. “Sexual
addicts are compulsively attracted to the high and the anxiety release of
sexual orgasm. But such release comes with a price--feelings of shame and
worthlessness.” Those who
have multiple affairs are somewhat strange. They often feel that nothing
is wrong with it. “Philanderers perceive extramarital sex as an
entitlement of gender or status and take advantage of opportunities
without guilt or withdrawal symptoms.”
THE MARRIAGE HOT
couples, keep the marriage hot by going on regular dates, being sensitive
to each other’s needs, spending time together, and choosing to remain in
love. Keep yourself
irresistible. David Frost
defines love with these most profound words “Love is the irresistible
desire to be irresistibly desired.”
Remember, keep yourself irresistible.
H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and counseling psychologist.
You can send your questions or comments to P.O. Box CB-13019,
Nassau, Bahamas. Or email email@example.com or