Affairs and Infidelity in Monogamy

Infidelity and sexual indiscretions have been in the news throughout this political season. The focus of the broadcasting lens is usually on the abuse of power by political candidates to obtain sexual favors. The story that remains frequently untold is the story of the monogamous relationships exclusivity of which has been violated by the affairs. Many times we tend to view the spouse as been betrayed and embarrassed. The spouse assumes the role of a victim in a public eye.

This flat representation of the relationship dynamic is not helpful in marriage counseling. It dumbs down the complexity of the issue and prevents couples counseling from getting to the root of the issue. Marriage is a complex dance of intimacy in which both partners are responsible for the relationships they create. Instead of taking the flat one-dimensional perspective of good vs. bad, victim vs. perpetrator, it might be more helpful to assume the 3D approach. The three dimensions we are talking about are three different perspectives playing themselves out within the dynamic of infidelity.

The two obvious perspectives are these of each partner in the relationship. Each partner brings in their expectations, needs, and wishes into the relationship, along with their own baggage, limitations, and psychological resources to cope with the challenges of intimacy. The third perspective is the interaction of the two prior dimensions to create the third – the dimension of the relationship itself. The whole of the relationship becomes bigger than the parts this relationship is composed of.

In 3D approach there are no victims and perpetrators. Instead of placing the blame, we place responsibility. Instead of splitting the partners into categories of good and bad, we understand that both partners are responsible for creating the relationship which gave birth to infidelity. An affair is not viewed as separate element from the relationship, but rather as a symptom of the relationship.

Just like physical discomfort and pain can be an indication that ones health requires attention, an affair is a sign that the relationship requires urgent attention. It might be that the needs of one or both partners are not met, appropriate boundaries are not set, connection and love are not nurtured, etc. The same symptom can have many different underlying causes in different relationships. Once encountered with infidelity many couples choose to work through the challenging times with the help of marriage counseling. Couples counseling is a way for the couple to press pause and re-examine their relationship.  Couples counselor is there to help the couple process what happened, resolve the negative feelings and explore ways to use the affair as a tool to build a better, closer, and more intimate relationship. Without hardship there is no triumph.

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