Infidelity: An Act Against Marriage
He thinks of himself as Casanova, just some guy having a good time and bringing happiness to women. When he meets a woman who's attractive, and they're all attractive to him, he pours on the charm. He begins by saying something a little too personal, like how her perfume is "nice" or "soft and powdery." His gaze is intense and he makes each woman he chases the center of attention.Ask one of his women friends about him and she'll say how exciting he is and maybe she'll tell you about making love in the elevator or in his car in the employee parking lot. She might say she always knew he wouldn't stay with her forever. But ask his wife. That's a different story. He says his wife doesn't know anything about his affairs so he's not hurting her. She'll never find out, he insists. And if you ask him what he would do if his wife had an affair, he has the temerity to say, "Oh, she wouldn't do that to me."Not all cheaters are repeat offenders. Some become embroiled in only one affair. Not all who cheat do so for the thrill of the chase, either. Some are tempted because they feel alienated from their spouses. But whatever the reason for or longevity of the affair, infidelity affects over half of all marriages in the United States."Adultery," says Russ Holloman, Ph.D., a local marriage counselor in private practice, "is a sex act outside of marriage. Infidelity involves secrecy ... Adultery is against the law but infidelity is an act against the marriage."The reason for infidelity, says Dr. John Hill, a counselor at the Community Care and Counseling Center of North Augusta, can be any of a number of things. "It can stem from a failure to communicate. It can stem from a failure to deal constructively with anger and power struggles. It can be retaliation for past hurts. It can be a cry for help or it can be a way out of the relationship."Hill said that people who seek his counsel regarding their marriage represent the gamut of problems. "I see all of that," he said. "The difficult thing for me is that far too often people come into counseling when they're on the way to divorce court. The only guarantee against an affair is a good relationship. Even that is not 100 percent, but it's the best we have. No one is forced into that (adultery) and there's no excuse for that behavior."Only 20 percent of people in a recent survey performed by family therapist Robert Deavers listed their marriage as happy, according to Hill. Hill also said that he would like to see more couples involved in pre-marital therapy. Making divorces more difficult to obtain is not the answer to the high rate of divorce, Hill said. He would like to see it become harder to get married."We don't see as much of that (pre-marital counseling) as we'd like to," he said, adding that he strongly commends those in the community who encourage pre-marital counseling.David Smith of the A-1 Detective Agency in Augusta said that he has been hired to investigate spouses suspected of adultery. "I do it all the time," he said. Some nationally advertised investigators offer another type of service, that of providing a spouse with the opportunity to cheat.The client looks through a photo album and selects someone he or she thinks is the spouse's type. That person then approaches the spouse in an attempt to see if the spouse will cheat. Smith said he does not do this. "I've been asked to do that," he said, "and I refused. ... I just don't think that's cricket. ... I'll go out and catch him if he's messing around." Smith said that, in his experience, as many women cheat on their husbands as men do on their wives.There are those who believe that adultery, if not discovered, does not hurt the marriage. But Holloman and Hill disagree. "When we have secrets that we can't share," Holloman said, "we're always in the dark, fearful that our secret is going to be discovered. Basically, without honesty there is no basis for a relationship. ... I'm not condoning adultery; that undermines the marriage."Adultery, Holloman continued, occurs quite often and the idea that adultery automatically means divorce is a myth. Counseling tries to determine if the marriage can be rebuilt. Adultery, according to Holloman and Hill, usually means that something else is wrong. Both men say that about 20 percent of the couples they counsel experience adultery as the main issue."There are two factors involved here," said Holloman. "One is guilt and the other is shame. Guilt is a feeling we sort of lay on ourselves. Shame is a feeling we get when others judge us. By atoning for my behavior, I can (alleviate) my guilt. Shame is when my neighbor knows, when my colleague at work knows and they're judging me to be a bad person.""It (adultery) always affects the relationship whether or not it's known," Hill said."I think infidelity is a betrayal of intimacy," Holloman said. Can a marriage survive such a betrayal? Hill said it depends on the people involved, their personalities and the strength of the relationship. "There are some people," Hill said, "who are stronger than others and some relationships that are stronger than others."Should a spouse confess adultery if the other person is unaware? Holloman said that a person should determine his or her motivation. "Why do you want to tell your partner?" he said. "Whose needs are you serving? It creates an extra burden in the marriage. You can forgive yourself without your partner knowing and you can seek God's forgiveness, if that's appropriate, if that's important to you."Hill said that it often depends upon how long ago the affair occurred and how it's affecting the marriage now. He said that if the affair happened a long time ago and the relationship has healed, it is usually better not to mention the affair to the other person.Holloman said that it is very difficult to rebuild a relationship after an affair and that rebuilding depends on how much is left of the original relationship. "Finances, children, in-laws, all of these are factors (in rebuilding a marriage)," Holloman said. "Let's see if there's something we can hold on to."Smith said that in his 21 years of investigating, he has never seen a marriage break up over adultery. "I've never seen one spouse divorce the other spouse because of one act of adultery," Smith said. "The reason for the divorce (is that) they don't have a good marriage in the first place." Men and women commit adultery for different reasons, according to Smith, who said that women usually cheat with an authority figure or someone with power like their boss. "It's a power thing," Smith said, adding, "Henry Kissinger said, 'Power is the best aphrodisiac there is' and he was right when he said it."Men cheat, Smith said, "Because it's available." That's why Smith said he will not set someone up with the opportunity to cheat. "A man says he'll walk away. He'll walk away, alright -- he'll walk right back, too." Smith said there are signs that a spouse is cheating. "Hangups (telephone) when you're not supposed to be home," he said, is one clue. "If a woman starts buying nice lingerie, going to a spa, or going to a bar 'with the girls.' If she starts this pattern. If it's a new thing. Keeping hours (at work) that are not usual, going out of town for meetings."Smith said any or all of these indicate the possibility she's having an affair. Men, according to Smith, don't change their patterns of behavior as often as women. "I've never seen a man step up from his wife," Smith added. "He always steps down. His girlfriend is not going to be prettier than the wife, or smarter or anything like that."The most important part of rebuilding a relationship after an affair is forgiveness. A website of Marriage Builders, Inc. compares forgiving infidelity to forgiving a friend a loan of $10,000. The website, written by marriage counselor Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr., states that in order for the debt, or the affair, to be forgiven, compensation must be made." ... (W)henever a wayward spouse sees me for counseling," the website states, "there is rarely regret and rarely a willingness to compensate the offended spouse. They usually ask to be forgiven, but that doesn't mean he or she is deeply remorseful. It usually means that he or she doesn't want us to bring up the subject anymore, or require a change in behavior. In other words, the wayward spouse wants the pain suffered by the offended spouse to be ignored or forgotten. Like a $10,000 debt, they want it forgiven, and then they want to borrow another $10,000."According to Harley, who writes and lectures as well as counsels, there are about ten emotional needs which men and women have. The most important five for men, however, are the least important for women and vice-versa. It is this difference, he states, which contributes to many problems between men and women. It is being able to meet a spouse's most important emotional needs and having your spouse meet your own which "affair-proofs" your marriage.Harley states that the ten most important emotional needs are basically the same for everyone: admiration, affection, conversation, domestic support, family commitment, financial support, honesty and openness, physical attractiveness, recreational companionship and sexual fulfillment. Even though the average man generally lists five different needs from those women list as most important, Harley states that there are differences among individuals. He advises couples to establish what is important to them.For example, typically a man's top three emotional needs are sexual fulfillment, recreational companionship and physical attractiveness, though not necessarily in that order. Women typically choose conversation, affection and financial support, but not necessarily in that order.The important thing, Harley said in a recent interview, is that people have expectations from their marriage partner. In order to have a satisfying relationship, he stressed, those expectations must be met. Usually, Harley said, a man tries to meet his wife's needs based on his own. A woman tries to meet her husband's needs based on what is important to her. Therefore, not only are the couple's needs not being met, the efforts being made by one person on behalf of the other are unappreciated. Being unappreciated in this way can cause resentment and hostility. Marriage, the counselors agree, is an important and vital part of the human experience. Adultery is a frequent intruder. But as we grow and learn, we work on our relationships and improve them.As Holloman said, "We don't love people because they're perfect. We'd never have anyone to love."