this happens in a marriage for many reasons. It does not necessarily
spell the end but there is a chance of saving the marriage only
if the cause is clear and both partners are prepared to make the
I am opposed to extra-marital
sex because it destroys the delicate fabric of trust and because
I dislike underhanded behaviour of any kind. If a person in a relationship
is unhappy, then they should find the courage to leave, or stay
and make things better. Marriage is an ideal and many of us
fail to live up to the high standards it demands, but there are
alternatives, and those who yearn for multiple partners should stay
unmarried, in my opinion.
However, we need to examine
the reasons for infidelity. There has to be a distinction
made between chronic infidelity and the one-off kind.
Chronic infidelity almost
always stems from immaturity and/or insecurity. Men and women
who didn't 'sow their wild oats' before settling down, or those
who need continual ego-stroking, may not be satisfied with just
one sexual partner, especially after the initial passion wears off.
This type of infidelity can become habitual and, therefore, difficult
The one-off variety often
happens accidentally, that is to say, it's unplanned, unpremeditated,
often taking the offender by surprise. It can occur in the
most unlikely marriages and the unfaithful party is often anything
but raunchy or promiscuous.
The law of 'propinquity'
applies, too, which means that geographical proximity and availability
plays a part. That's why extra-marital lovers are so often
best friends, neighbours, workmates and even family members.
This is one of the most
hurtful aspects of infidelity, when it involves people known to
the couple. It adds a double dimension of betrayal to the
offence. However, in a twisted sort of way, it's a good sign
because it says that infidelity was probably not sought after but
occurred as a result of an opportunity presented.
Chronic adulterers don't
wait for chances; they go out looking for lovers and usually have
several, with whom they have non-emotional sex. This, of course,
can backfire if emotions do get involved, and then the marriage
is really under threat.
So, why do people commit
infidelity in marriage? The main reasons are:
- Searching for excitement
- Lack of sexual satisfaction
in the marriage.
- Not sufficient sex
in the marriage.
- Emotional problems
in separate partners.
- Relationship difficulties.
- Psychological stress.
- Imbalance in sexual
- Very early marriage
and/or virginity before marriage.
- Stages of development
in men and women, for example, the thirties syndrome in women,
and mid-life crisis in men, usually early forties.
- Drifting apart because
of children, work commitments, general problems.
- Fear of ageing and
loss of sexual desirability.
- Intervention of a
Some who commit infidelity
in a one-night stand decide not to tell their spouses but to continue
in the marriage, especially if they recognise that it was an aberration
and unlikely to occur again. Some fall in love, or think they
do, and begin to act differently in the marriage, therefore rendering
the relationship invalid. Their extra-marital liaison is discovered
and a lot of pain results for both parties and the family, if there
is one. The chronic adulterers can get away with their behaviours
for years without detection.
What the moral position
is on this depends on the conscience of each individual, but I know
that the most hurtful cases of infidelity I've seen as a counsellor
are the long-term ones, when partners find out their spouses have
been carrying on for years behind their backs. This type of
betrayal is devastating because it makes a mockery of the entire
Does infidelity spell
death to a marriage? Not necessarily. It can, in fact,
make a marriage stronger, if the couple both still want to be together
and are prepared to forgive and forget. There may be fault
on both sides even though only one person committed adultery.
Counselling is advisable so that the couple can look at where the
marriage failed, for no third person can ever successfully intrude
on a strong duo.
I doubt if there's much
hope of saving a marriage where chronic infidelity has occurred
over a long period because of the corrosion of trust, but a one-off
lapse might even be a trigger for improvement in a stale or troubled
marriage. Like the middle-aged man who suffers a heart attack
and then changes his lifestyle for the better, a marriage wounded
by infidelity can mend stronger and surer but only with a
great deal of love, patience, and courage. Trust takes a lot
of time to rebuild, but if the offender wants to play victim and
the faithful partner wants to play martyr, they may as well stop
punishing each other and give up altogether.
If true forgiveness can
take place and both want a new beginning, there's no reason for
it not to work. If it's impossible to forget then there must
at least be an agreement of silence, for constant reference to the
deed ensures that it lives on as an intruder in the marriage.
The saying 'Through adversity
to the stars' seems an apt way to end this section. The price
of admission is love, as much as you've got to give.
In summary, sex in marriage
is different and special because of its particular challenges:
- The differences in
male and female sexuality.
- The 'distraction'
- Playing out of extreme
roles instead of compromising and moderation.
- Individual psychology
- General and relationship
Sexual attraction is
one thing but marriage requires much more than that if it is to
sustain all the days and nights, the effort and disappointments,
the hurts and disagreements, the fears and pain of a whole lifetime.
It's no wonder so many give up. Yet, within marriage lies
the greatest potential to enjoy sex in its fullest and deepest form.