“Thank God for Affairs”

Monday, Aug. 30th 2010 2:50 PM

Let's talk about "old-fashioned values." My understanding of these "values" include couples remaining together until "death-do-us–part."  One of the difficulties that follow the "'til-death-do-us–part" philosophy is that by definition, it places commitment above "happiness" as a definite aim or mandate of the relationship. I am not saying that individuals who pledge permanent commitment do not also plan or want to be happy. However, under this definition of a successful marriage, there could be a litany of behaviors that a member of the union participates in that irritates or even endangers their partner's wellbeing. Yet, as long as they remain married, and none of the other vows are violated, they are technically fulfilling their charge to one another.

Those individuals - and there are many - who find themselves in unsatisfying or harmful marriages, often find themselves painted into a corner. Infidelity is one of the few ways that someone in a "'til-death-do-us-part" marriage can possibly escape an unhappy union. Some will ask, "If a spouse is unhappy enough to have an affair, then why not simply get a divorce?" The answer to this query is simple: many believe that their best option is to have an affair.

Here are some examples that illuminate why engaging in an affair is sometimes easier than initiating a formal divorce:

  • A husband/wife who decides to "cheat" may feel that it would have been more of a headache to have sought a divorce altogether. Since s/he and spouse may have shared considerable history, a home, and/or children, s/he may conclude that there would be less upheaval and discomfort to simply have an alternate relationship, and continue with some sort of life with the spouse that maintains their day-to-day routine.
  • A husband/wife who decides to "cheat" may be comfortable with whatever the results are if his/her spouse finds out about the other person.
  • A husband/wife who decides to "cheat" may want to force the spouse's hand so that they do not have to take responsibility for the decision to end or stay in the marriage.

I wish to emphasize that I am withholding judgment here. I am not labeling any of these perspectives as right or wrong, unjustified or justified. "Affairs" in our society are complex. When one partner has an affair, typically the other partner feels shamed, hurt, and victimized, sometimes to the point of life-long revenge. Also, partners who have affairs sometime engage in their affairs due to feelings of hurt, shame and guilt. They may have felt "trapped" in the marriage and "pushed" into the space that led to the affair. Either way, both parties are playing victim. Unfortunately, in our society, we can get a great deal of attention and a whole lot of sympathy when we play victim.

Sometimes ending a relationship can seem nearly impossible. When one partner (sometimes both) makes it clear that he will not stand for, live with or deal with the other having an affair, he has revealed his "off" button. The other party then knows exactly what she would need to do in order to end the relationship. So, an ideal way for some to sever the cord is to have an affair. That way the former partner will want little to nothing to do with you. He won't try to hang on, get counseling, nor extend the date of execution. This is passive aggression at its best.

Other times, husbands and wives may be stuck in unhealthy cycles of relationship (by their own admission). These couples get to a point where if one of them would just be given a great reason to jettison the relationship she would, but she might be unable or unwilling to "pull the trigger" herself. She may feel as though her relationship is strenuous and unfulfilling but she is going to keep going ('til-death-do-us-part). But as soon she gets wind of her partner having an affair, she is ready (and happy) to let the relationship go. Believe it or not she has what she wants, a relationship where she can say that she would have stayed in the relationship for life…had he not "cheated" or after one of their deaths to be able to say "we stayed together for a lifetime." Believe it or not, this proclamation is very valuable to some people. In fact, some believe that it is more valuable than their happiness when they are alive.

I saw an example of this played out on Dr. Phil. A mother of a daughter who had (shamefully, in the mother's opinion) opted for divorce (rather than having an affair or staying in an unhappy relationship) confessed that she herself would still be struggling in an unhappy relationship if her husband had not had an affair. Though she admitted the relationship was good because of her children, it took the affair to precipitate the end of the unhappy agreement. "Thank God for affairs," I said to myself before running off to my meeting and leaving Dr. Phil to sort it all out. Imagine the resulting unhappiness for all concerned, including the children, had the husband not provided the fodder which led to the marriage ending by having an affair. Admittedly, my thought was more supportive of their happiness than what I assumed to be their agreement.

While having an affair is one way to end some relationships, there are other, more direct, and healthy ways to do so.

Instead of adhering to beliefs and a system that says that we must be 100% in or out of "'til-death-do-us-part" relationships, what would happen if we created interim check points where we re-assess whether our relationship is working or not? Let's say every five years, from a place of separation, we determine whether we stay together or not for another five years. If one person is not willing to move forward in the relationship, then it ends. Everyone gets to start anew. It allows the parties to choose to come together again. Obligation and guilt are minimized. Keep in mind, it takes an agreement between two people to begin a relationship, and only the desire of one to end it.

Another suggestion is that we take a genuine look at our relationship, every day, and ask two questions:

  1. Do I enjoy most of the time that I spend with my mate?
  2. Do I believe that I spend enough time with my mate?

If the answer to either of these questions is "no," then you may seize the opportunity to re-determine the constitution of your relationship. Should you choose to, your reconstitution may begin with "personal-work" where you make efforts to resolve the feelings of lack. If that does not work you may move to discussions and implementing solutions with your partner. Then finally, if the previous steps did not do the job, adjust the spacing between the two of you. I will revisit this issue later.

By the way, don't take my word for the complexities and layers that plague relationships. Ask around. Through foresight or hindsight, and for better or worse, I assure you, somewhere there is an ex-wife and/or ex-husband saying "Thank God for affairs!"

Keep Rising,

Frank Love


…and please do not multi-task when driving.

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How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship

27 Comments on ““Thank God for Affairs””

  1. Tonya Says:

    Very interesting…I have mixed emotions about what I read because many of the points you referenced resonated with me while others just made me mad. However, I feel that it is an honest reflection.

    I hope that married couples take the route of continuous communication, counseling and prayer when their relationship hits a rough patch. There are no perfect relationships and like most things require work, maintenance, investment of time, talent and treasure. Maybe you should post some thoughts about keeping life and love in your marriage by dating each other and working to remain connected.

    In essence I think that loving and being married is a choice that both parties make and the choice to end a marriage should be an active (not reactive) choice for both parties that is filled with respect for the other person and the time that they have invested in the relationship.

  2. Carol Kappes Says:

    This was a very interesting article! I believe that couples fall apart because one reaches success and the other does not; the other may have unhealthy habits or stay the same and does not take any interest in improving themselves! So many couples that I talk to say that they simply fell out of love!!

  3. Massander Says:

    Interesting perspective. I hadn’t considered the “thank God for affairs” angle before, but I definitely see your point.

    As for life long commitment, I like the idea of checking in every few years or so. I’m still a fan of lifelong commitment, though. Sometimes if seems like many of us make a mockery of it by living it as a life of resignation. In my ideal world, both parties would be committed to growth and growing together. They would make choices that support a fulfilling lifelong commitment. I know this doesn’t always happen though.

  4. Anne McBride Says:

    I think people have forgotten how to love and respect each other. As long as this is so there will be affairs. We are a throw away society. We believe nothing is worth all the work any more. Yes women have affairs but I believe most men feel it is widely excepted maybe even expected of them. Our society has always devalued the wife and mother and until that changes affairs will be commonplace. The internet has become a hot bed for rising infidelity. Moral values are history,(just watch the evening news), our sense of entitlements have and will continue to destroy us.

  5. Scott Warner Says:

    I read the entry until I came to the line that said “Dr Phil”. nuff said.

  6. Juanetta Says:

    “Thank GOD for affairs”? This is interesting. So God’s Law says that the ONLY way a couple can break the bond of marriage is through infidelity or death. He doesn’t recognize man’s divorce laws or rules. However, does this mean that God would have us cheat in order to get out of a mistake we made in picking the wrong spouse? Then, what if you find someone else? God really doesn’t condone the second marriage unless the first one is dead, so what are we to do then? Just curious.

  7. Angel Says:

    I can dig it! Thanks, FL! Keep challenging us to take a fresh look at this old thing called love.


  8. Misti Burmeister Says:

    Great article … I really like that it questions our belief system. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way…it’s the way that works that matters….works toward our happiness. I really like the many ideas you provide to ensure a relationship works, alongside your belief that affairs can be a good thing.

    Thank you!

    Misti Burmeister

  9. John Moore Says:

    Add a comment…Oh wow…. this was very interesting, being a private investigator this was laughable. I understand, but I personally think no one should cheat and that cheating is a selfish act on the cheater. However, I did like the last part of the article where is states couples should have a check point and re evaluate their relationships. I would rather lean towards making corrections with my partner rather than walking away. It takes two to be in the relationship to make it work. John Moore, Aka John Shaft of LA PI 24964

    Posted by John Moore

  10. Dr Russ Kennedy, MD Says:

    Like it or not we are victims of programming. We are programmed on one hand that we are entitled to a perfect life if we use ‘The Secret’ and manifest what we want. But how do we know what we want? Do we really want it, or are we just victims of our minds, going along with the ‘I will be happy when I have a better job, income, spouse etc etc etc lie’. I think may people get married now for the sense that someone is obligated to be there and they cant be left, which is ridiculous as people get divorced all the time. As for god, it is great to have a framework on your life and I think religion does provide that to some extent. However, religion almost by definition is rigid and dogmatic. The world is completely different now as to when these archaic concepts were introduced, so why do we hold them as commitments? Make no mistake, beliefs are JUDGMENTS and if you want to start a war, just speak out against another people’s beliefs. It comes down to this, if you aren’t happy (whatever that is to you) then DO something. Go to counseling, have an affair, go off for 3 months and find yourself, but do it. Its like the frog in the boiling water. If you throw a frog into boiling water he will jump out immediately. IF you however, put the frog in water and slowly heat it up, he will not reach the state of discomfort that will inspire him to jump out and he becomes paralyzed and will die there. If you have an affair, you will learn, if you go to counseling you will learn, if you get out of your life for a few months you will learn. Most of us see fear and run from it, and like any predator it will start to chase you. If you do something it will likely hurt, no doubt about it, but the pain will teach you about yourself and you will jump out of the water into a new environment which is very likely better than staying in the water until the sense of inaction and heat kills you. Look back on your life when you faced fear and did it anyway, how did it turn out? ‘ I really dont care what you do, I dont judge anyone for having an affair, but I think I am much more likely to see the waste of life of someone who lives in fear, or lives for another person (the spouse, the kids, etc). Don’t be a victim of your own fears, just do something to change it.

    “a bad marriage occurs when your ‘soul mate’ becomes your ‘cell mate’ “.


    PS No frogs were harmed in the writing of this piece.

  11. Dexter Hunter Says:

    It is really a matter of the heart, if there is no heart there is no real relationship

    Posted by Dexter Hunter

  12. Jim Bouchard Says:

    Thanks for sharing that article. I’m working with Dr. Jackie Black on a new book titled “Love Like a Black Belt.” Of course, the theme of respect that Anne mentions is central to the work. Respect means “to take care” of one another- not necessarily to stay with one another in an unhappy relationship.

    There are other aspects of Black Belt Mindset that are invaluable to maintaining a good relationship:

    1) Perseverance- Quitting is an option and there are justifications for ending relationships, including marriage- particularly when there is physical or emotional abuse; however, too many people throw in the towel too early. Getting through some of the natural changes and challenges in a relationship strengthens bonds and both people can grow through the process.

    2) Courage- People in committed relationships face many fears. Some are internal- aging, illness, lack of interest. Others are external- financial pressures, loss of a job or the interference from other family members. It takes courage to face these fears together and keep the relationship strong.

    3) Confidence- The confidence to grow and encourage your partner to grow and the confidence to leave if a situation truly becomes untenable.

    That’s the trickiest one. An affair is not an answer. Like the author of the article I won’t judge (there are three sides to every story and we can usually hear two of them at best), on the other hand even the desire to cheat is a serious symptom of a dysfunctional relationship. If those feelings are present, that’s the time to take a serious look at whether or not this relationship should continue.

    Alex and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary yesterday! We’ve faced our share of challenges in that time and continue to enjoy a happy and fulfilling relationship. To mark the occaision we did a special blog post and a special episode on our BlogTalkRadio show:

    Love, Sex & Black Belts!

    Blog post: http://bit.ly/btlsr5

    The Show: http://bit.ly/bOVBx3

    Best thoughts to all!
    Posted by Jim Bouchard

  13. Gerald Windley! Says:

    I think there are 2 ways to do things. Mans way or Gods way. When man wants to do things his way he makes rules, loop holes, and laws to change Gods way. This makes Man feel better about doing his way. Man can then say “it is not a crime”.

  14. Adraine Says:

    This all comes down to basically three words, Those who have been through a divorce or who have been cheated on know what I mean:

    Background, Background, Background.

    What’s good to you may not necessarily be good for you!
    Couples have to share the same value system, even if infidelity is a part of the system. Many Europeans do not consider “infidelity” as significantly as we do in American culture.

  15. Anne McBride Says:

    If I collected a dollar from every married guy that has asked me out in the last year I could retire and still pay my bills. That’s sad.

  16. Abhishek keshav Says:

    I am agreed to what Frank said but I believe we don’t need to bound Love with with bars of commitment…
    Posted by Abhishek keshav

  17. Michael Podolinsky CSP Says:

    Sorry… totally disagree on this one. We are talking about adults, right? Not someone forced at gunpoint to marry someone? If you promise… no, create a covenant (way beyond what you can do legally) to be married to someone forever AND vow in this covenant to love, honor and be FAITHFUL… how can anyone condone or justify an affair? God brings two people together to become ONE FLESH. ONE. If one cheats, both are hurt whether they know about it or not because the one cheating knows. This effects the other as well. It’s like porn. Studies show sex is worse for men who watch it, read it, look at it. NOTHING lives up to the fantasy. Affairs are the same way. It’s what we want but without the tough love it takes to make a marriage work. It is the work in marriage that makes it worthwhile. Hey… I’m a speaker in Asia. I am blessed with a good business. Money, hotel rooms and distance seem to be catnip for cheaters and the excitement of a conquest as well. Sorry… I refuse to participate, in spite ‘offers’. Why? I’ve been blessed with an amazing bride and only want her. I made a covenant to be with her ONLY. Result: 10 years later she’s still my ‘bride’ and I love her more all the time. No way can you convince me that cheating is helping

    anyone’s ‘marriage’. It might ease their pain temporarily but must increase it at another level. Also, with 1 in 5 people in the USA ‘enjoying’ a sexually transmitted disease that will NEVER go away… bringing THAT home sure can’t help things on the home front.

  18. Melissa Says:

    Very interesting – I had to read it twice to really consider what my perspective was LOL – still not 100% sure but here I go:

    Especially interesting is the spouse that is looking for an out and uses the act of another to divorce because he/she apparently couldn’t be honest and/or open about THEIR needs to themselves or THEIR spouse… like ‘oh goodie (wiping forehead) now I don’t have to deal with what I really want.

    If this is who they are (and how they feel)… that same person will travel on into the next relationship unable to be honest with themselves and/or the next mate. YOU go with YOU everywhere you RUN TOO!

    Evaluation periods – I can see the benefit however I would be more inclined to say lets review the last few years to see how we can improve as a couple – not lets see if I want to continue – sounds like choosing and planning the failure to me. Whatever the case is – couples get to spend more time being accountable for their own personal happiness as well as being honest about needs and desires – with yourself and your mate!

    I am often approached downtown and it boggles the mind when the MARRIED man announces he’s married too and how ok (PERFECT even) it could be BECAUSE we are both married! How men choose to have multiple relationships when WE (women) can be so demanding is beyond me! I’m very clear I am a handful – it would be a fools bet to have to try and please me and another woman!

    @ Michael – that is the scariest part of it all… people turn a blind eye to the fact that you really are sleeping with that person ignoring that the spouse he/she goes home too could be doing the same thing (since this is where their marriage is anyway). To assume the spouse is home NOT cheating when the spouse your with IS – you are opening your self up to the other spouses affairs as well.

  19. Dr. Russell Kennedy Says:

    Forcing people to stay on a certain path because they committed to it once is like saying a christian cant become a muslim (or vs versa) if they make that choice of their own free will. Sure they committed to it at one time, but face facts, people change. Sometimes one person changes so drastically in the relationship that it is no longer tenable. I know a couple where the wife became a devout Jehovah’s Witness and the husband wanted nothing to do with the religion. It destroyed their relationship. I am not condoning having affairs, but it is human nature. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be happening at such a significant rate. No matter what you morally legislate, affairs are still going to happen. It is not so much the affair, but the REASON for the affair. Affairs are not necessarily good or bad, they just are a symptom of something that needs to be fixed, and if it cant be fixed then better to know sooner rather than later. As a physician and counselor I do know of relationships that were blown apart by affairs and others that seemed to become closer and more honest after one of the partners ‘cheated’. As just about everything in life, things are not black and white, but shades of grey. Accepting this fact allows compassion and acceptance of what is, not a rigid and morally simplistic view of what ‘should be’. We shouldn’t have wars, but they will always occur because people have rigid belief systems that they will literally defend to the death should anyone oppose their beliefs. Those systems are not flexible enough to see and accept other viewpoints. There has been more death and destruction in the name of religion than any other invention of man. Religion provides a good moral framework but it is just that, a framework. Circumstances (like affairs) in a modern evolving society need to be examined and accepted (doesnt mean you have to like it) not blatantly condemned. That is just my view, and you have every right to disagree. I respect your opinion even though I don’t agree with it.

  20. Matt Nelko Says:

    Marriages are private covenants between two people (whether a straight union or a gay union). In my opinion, as long as both partners are open, honest, and in full agreement (and neither is being coerced by the other), it’s up to the couple to determine what is and what is not appropriate conduct. That being said, if one is secretly engaging in conduct that s/he knows would upset or hurt the other, then it is NEVER appropriate. And don’t try to turn this into a situational ethics argument by trying to justify your deception as “protecting” your partner from hurt, shame, or embarrassment; the universal litmus test on whether you’re “cheating” is … would your partner be OK with this behavior if s/he found out about it?

  21. Michael Podolinsky CSP Says:

    Thank you Dr Russell. I’ll have to respectfully disagree again. What is an affair? It’s a broken promise. It s a lie. It is adultery. It is wrong in the eyes of God (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and others). Not sure how anyone can justify that. If you make a covenant or even a legally binding promise, keep it or talk to the party you made that promise to and seek professional help or break up. Affairs… sorry. I cannot support lies, deceit, adultery, exposing your partner without his/her knowledge to diseases all in the name of ‘it’s just a part of society today… the way it is.’ 1 in 3 women in the USA will be raped in her lifetime. (FBI Statistic) That is ‘just the way it is. I still will not accept rape as a norm or say it is okay. It is not. Affairs are not okay either.

  22. Sacrifice: A Tool for Manipulation in Relationships | Frank Love Says:

    […] recently participated in a “relationship” exchange with a young lady related to my blog “Thank God for Affairs.” The exchange had to do with the sacrifices that those in relationships make. My partner in the […]

  23. Dayna Says:

    What a loaded piece! But I must admit there must be people out there thinking that….the thing that comes to mind is that is so dramatic. Some may say, even a cop out rather than to just be clear and state what you want and go and create it. Also, not that we are responsible for other peoples feelings, emotions, or well beings, but the long lasting (completely up to each persons level of responsibility) effects of going through such an ordeal can have snowball effects on both parties.

    Fiery piece – sure to spark a lot of feedback.

  24. Monroe Postal Says:

    Thanks a lot for this constructive info. Please keep up the great work. I’ll be coming back often.

  25. Helen Ann Says:

    I have often said that cheating men are taking the cowards way out of their relationship. Men who don’t want to be caught cheating usually make sure they aren’t caught. (Actually, I said that if men are so smart, why do they get caught cheating?) When I’ve said this to men, they usually poo-poo it. Can men be so self-deceptive? Anyway, your web-site and insight are excellent.

  26. Marylou Lukes Says:

    Seems like you have …not exactly spring fever, but more like early spring inspiration. That article made me personally think that a thing inside me personally desires tweaking, a change. And yet it is actually a horrible, continually complicated to change yourself without any help. Almost nothing intriguing at all. I am going to have a bathe and also go to bed, can certainly make this more suitable the next day. Thank you for that blog post, fantastic afternoon! 🙂

  27. It’s Controversial | Frank Love Says:

    […] the values and emotional health of your relationship. I am not saying that your spouse’s “cheating” is your fault, only that the two of you might have some things to talk about. And while the […]

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