Life, Leadership and Business

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Infidelity and Renewal

“I “I have not had sex with another person from the time we started dating until we got divorced. Can you say the same thing?” Smugness dripped from her words as she leered down at me from her moral high ground.  A strange question, I felt, considering we had been divorced a while. A strange question, I felt, as the topic of infidelity never came up through our entire relationship.

Have you ever wondered about the definition of infidelity? Oh, I know everyone has strong feelings about adultery! Just about everyone I know has a high value for honesty and openness in relationships. Just about no one would tolerate a cheating mate! Most people have expectations of long happy marriages to one person for their entire lives.

The possibility for fairy tale marital bliss that ends in “happily ever after” has never been as difficult to achieve as at this present age. Never has there been a time in history where the infinite possibilities to connect with others was so readily available. Nor has there been a time in history so difficult to keep a secret as in this digital age. These are two essential parts of the infidelity puzzle: connection and secrecy.  Even with the self-confessed morality of our friends and peers, never have people been so predisposed to infidelity.

 Infidelity is driven by desire. Wanting the “stolen apples” as it were, fuels our desires. We live in a society that encourages us to be true to our desires. Success and motivation principles are built on the very foundation of our ability to achieve our desires. It’s a hedonistic mentality that encourages us to strive for what makes us happy, and then draws us to the challenge of being even happier! Gone are the days where families would rally around struggling couples to help resolve marital issues. Gone are the days where a spouse was for life. Now supporting family members all chant the same advice – cast the dog to the curb! Once marriage meant we fell in love, got married and had sex for the first time. Now marriage means we find a partner that makes us happy, and we stop having sex with others.  Now we get divorced not because we are unhappy, but so that we can be even happier.

Ironically, the sting of betrayal we feel caused by infidelity is a product of our concept of a marriage partner. The “one” must be our best friend, our confidant, a conversationalist, our motivator, a listener. They must meet our complex emotional needs while being our greatest lover. We feel that we are the “one” for them. We mustn’t just fulfil
these roles, we must do it forever more, even though our circumstances change, we grow and develop and our needs change.

When betrayed, we are devastated, doubting our ability to ever trust another person again. We even doubt ourselves. We reel in the shock of not being perfect in every aspect and failing in our attempt to meet our partners every need. That’s the other misconception – if everything is happy at home, they won’t commit infidelity. With all our hopes for a long happy marriage – statistics show that 25-75% of people will commit infidelity at some point. The statistic varies so much, depending on the definition of infidelity you hold as true. And once you focus on the various avenues that could possibly draw the desires of a loved one away from you, the percentage grows. This brings me back to my question: have you ever thought about the definition of infidelity?

Understanding that we are creatures of desire, God gave us two commandments concerning infidelity. One deals with the physical act and one deals with thinking about the act. Imagining a deeply passionate kiss for a few minutes has just as powerful an effect on the mind, body and emotions equal, if not greater than the physical act of hours of love making. Is it possible that infidelity could be paid sex, a causal encounter or one night stand? What about Facebook friends that hold your partners’ attention for hours at a time, or the secret dating site you still maintain? Porn or a yearlong relationship with someone else? It is the mind that causes love for another, not our hearts.  For me, infidelity is when the mind is consumed in desire for what is longed for, and emotions draw your love, respect and attention from your current spouse or partner to a passion that is held as sacred above everything else. They pursue the attention of something else

Yes, you read that correct. SOMETHING else. The role of a third person as the cause of infidelity doesn’t play as big a role as one might think. We all seek attention, recognition, praise, fulfil
ment, an injection of life and passion. In my mind, anything that draws you out of that relationship and consumes your desire, imagination and dominates your time, gives you a sense of being alive - is the source of infidelity. For my wife, it was her passion for her career. Work absorbed her imagination, dominated her thinking. I was the third party, the outsider, the distraction from her true love. There was no other man for her. I just could not get her to be a part of my world. Work time gave her a lust and energy for life, self-worth and a sense of identity - things she felt she could not get from our marriage.

When she turned away from our marriage, it wasn’t that she turned away from me. She turned to the prospects of a better her, a better self.  That is the allure and attraction of infidelity - the promise of a better, happier you. Years of searching for that emotional connection with her was beaten by the advice from her family – cast the dog to the curb. Taking me out of the picture allowed her freedom and autonomy to pursue the right to be happier. That didn’t lessen the sting of rejection. In the months and years that followed I have taken the time to rediscover myself. I have taken time to realign my needs and wants, to define what a relationship means to me.

The renewal of my relationship expectations and standards has been a painfully slow and emotional process. One thing I hope to do in the future is ensure that my commitment to a partner outweighs my personal desire to be happy. I want the pursuit of “our” happiness to take precedence over the pursuit of my happiness. As I write that, a tinge of rejection and panic creeps in, and a voice in the back of my head says, dude! You are just going to sacrifice all who you are for someone that doesn’t appreciate it and they will move on and you will be left with nothing – again!

I am trusting in the fact that a stronger, happier, more complete me, with direction, purpose and ambition, that’s gained some valuable lessons, will be able to balance personal desires with the priorities of a successful relationship. Strangely, I still believe in "happily ever after' and in love. And “we” will work it out, one day at a time. During this renewal I have reclaimed my thoughts, I have realigned my emotions and I have charged my expectations with desire. My current pursuit is not for the elusive monogamy, but to be a whole and complete person, to offer to a whole complete relationship.

There is nothing as beautiful as growing old with one person, being aware of the hardships, struggles and triumphs that has formed and shaped them. I'm drawn to knowing what type of thoughts would occupy their mind, through experience. The thought of sitting on the front porch with a life partner, remembering decisions that shaped us and then sitting back and enjoying the outcome - is alluring. 

I encourage you to not let significant moments of death or mortality be the only cause to redefine your relationship to match your needs and desires. For my ex-wife it was the birth of our child that opened her eyes to the potential of being happier, for me it was our divorce. Schedule moments in your relationship to communicate, openly and brutally honest about what you need, and want from your spouse concerning your desires, your fantasies and your expectations. 

We grow and change, and so must our relationships. We need to realign ourselves and our relationship to ensure we understand where each is at. Let your effort for monogamy stand testament as you and your aged partner reminisce about how you grew and adapted together in the face of a changing and turbulent world. Keep your partner as the focus of your desire, yet the source of your ambition. 

Oh, and to answer her question: she was always the focus of my emotional connection, and I was always mindful of her at all times, till the very end.    

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