Is Adultery Natural? Tips to Fight Back Fighting for your own marriage in the face of adultery—sometimes portrayed glamorously by the media. BY DENISE J. CHARLES
Is monogamy a natural thing for couples? In short, yes, most people believe they have a higher purpose than to server themselves.
“ We can actually only fully understand the meaning of commitment after we find ourselves in an unfavorable situation, which demands that we exercise it.”
I wasn’t aware that adultery had gone anywhere, so I was a bit taken aback when I saw that AMC’s hit show, Mad Men, was boldly making this assertion heading into their fifth season. A bit of clever marketing, but maybe it reflects our fascination with something that has become almost commonplace in our societies. Which actually begs the question; did adultery ever really "leave the building?" Is it really "back" or just portrayed as a lot more sexy and adventuresome? For as long as there has been marriage between imperfect people, there has been adultery. For as long as people have somehow felt drawn to committing to one person, the prospect of delving into unfamiliar territory with someone new has seemed challenging, interesting and even downright exciting. So what exactly is up? Is marriage and commitment demanding something of us that we’re really incapable of giving? Are we really wired for monogamy?
Many like to think of excuses for their philandering ways, however most others believe that commitment is literally a "higher calling," which forces us to step, as it were, outside the bounds of our normal propensity to serve ourselves. Each of us has an innate survival instinct which demands that our needs are met. Sometimes this need is subdued through things like socialization or episodes of abuse; but normally, we want to be fulfilled in our intimate relationships—and this is as it should be. There is, however, a delicate balancing act between striving to be happy and fulfilled in our marriages and bolting towards seemingly greener pastures at the first sign of challenge or lack of fulfillment.
We can only fully understand the meaning of commitment after we find ourselves in an unfavorable situation, which demands that we exercise it; and standing all rosy-eyed at the altar in a fairy tale setting wearing that gorgeous white dress is definitely not that time. Making marital vows can be pretty easy, however living up to those promises when our spouse no longer looks the way we want or when he or she fails to meet some need is when our level of commitment and loyalty is really tested.
"Adultery is back" can take on a whole new meaning when we recognize that our imperfect relationships will perhaps always be riddled by imperfect conditions, which make them susceptible to infidelity. In other words, for many, adultery becomes an option because of some less than favorable occurrence which they refuse to allow their commitment to override. These adultery-prone conditions include:
1. Not feeling appreciated or validated
2. Not having emotional needs met
3. Feeling unloved
4. Not having sexual needs met
5. Restlessness and or immaturity on the part of the infidel
6. Relationship neglect
7. A thrill-seeking personality
8. Unresolved bitterness or anger issues
9. A momentary lapse in good judgment
10. A need for revenge after being cheated on
While this list is by no means exhaustive, it reflects some of the common motivations behind adultery. So what does this really mean? Are marriage and monogamy doomed? Since I don’t think that people will become perfect anytime soon, I definitely don’t believe that we will find ourselves in any perfect relationship which fulfills our every want, dream and desire. Granted, there will be some marital conditions which may necessitate separation or divorce (e.g., abuse or unrepentant, repeated infidelity). But knowing when to walk away from an abusive relationship and choosing to cheat or renege on one’s vows are two separate things and must not be confused. Adultery does not have to be inevitable.
Preserving fidelity in a less than perfect marriage requires conscious decision making on the part of both parties involved. Waiting until a marriage has degenerated is not always the best way to save it from going down the tubes. While many relationships do benefit from active counseling or coaching interventions, setting early parameters for how a couple will deal with the eventual relationship challenges which will emerge over time is perhaps the best way to counteract the threat of infidelity. These preventive measures include:
* Creating an open forum for airing personal grievances before they have a chance to fester and become a source of deep bitterness. This literally means deliberately orchestrating times of open and active communication where the focus is on honesty and clarity, but with sensitivity. A couple can therefore choose to have a bi-weekly or monthly talk-time or check-in, where the purpose is deliberate reflection on the "state of the union."
* Taking decisive action to improve vulnerable aspects of the marriage, which have been identified by either spouse. If there is a genuine desire to improve the marriage and to fortify it from the threat of infidelity, then this means doing things differently where necessary. For example, if one partner feels emotionally or sexually neglected, then the offending spouse should make an effort to change his/her behavior in this department. Where there are deeper issues at stake; for example, a wife’s sexual unavailability because of exhaustion, the husband who wants more sex should assume responsibility for assisting his wife more in the home instead of simply sulking or complaining.
* Recommitting to the virtues of commitment by developing and cementing shared views on loyalty. It is important to clarify a common understanding on what constitutes breaches of trust if a couple is to move forward together. This includes clarifying where boundaries are to be established, particularly as it relates to dealing with the opposite sex.
While adultery may always be a very present alternative that never leaves our society, couples need not be swayed by its seeming popularity or glamorization. Within each of our own stories is something unique which is worth fighting for. We have the innate power to define our own marital success by choosing to elevate our relationship. We can do this simply by giving it all the attention it rightfully deserves.