I just read an article on MSN about cheating. This woman traveled the world and wrote a book about how married couples in other countries don't have the same views of marriage and infidelity as Americans do. Americans have a higher divorce rate and see more suffering as a result of infidelity than other nationalities. In support of this theory she interviewed a Frenchman that was cheating on his wife and tells reader how he didn't seem all that concerned about his straying. He even went so far as to say that it "had nothing to do with his love for is wife."
Hmmm....I wonder what his wife would have to say about cheating and how important it might be.
It just really got me thinking about marriage and the expectations we place on the relationship we have with our spouse. We call them our "best friend" and our "soul mate" and we depend on them for our self-esteem and we look to them to shore us up when things get hard. That is a hell of a lot of pressure to place on one person!
Americans see an enormous divorce rate because we are all self-absorbed, yet completely dependent on others. It is the worst kind of contradiction. When marriage goes wrong we blame our spouse or our spouses friends or our spouses inability to do whatever it is we wanted them to do. In the end it's really about us.
I am a strong believer that cheating is a symptom and not the problem. I know this because I was a cheater. I was married for seven years and I cheated. I cheated because I was lonely. I cheated because I was unable to tell my husband what I needed from our relationship and because of that it was impossible for him to give it to me. I was also too immature to ask him what he needed from the relationship so I never gave it. In the end we both went looking for something else. He found what he needed in his friends and his hobbies. I found what I needed in another person.
Looking back I know that if I had been able to understand how much I needed a broader support group maybe we would have worked out. One person can't be all things. We are too complicated for that. Now, don't get me wrong. You should hold your spouse in a higher position than others in your life, but some things are not really meant for their ears.
For example, ladies – when you need to complain to someone about your especially heinous PMS symptoms, stray facial hair and the evils of cellulite you should call your girlfriends. And guys – when you need to lament your favorite team's stats, the reasons you should never hold in a fart and why pork rinds are a perfect food you need to save it for boy's night.
When it comes right down to it I don't think cheating should be the immediate demise of a relationship. Cheating means that you need to stop and take a long, hard look a WHY your spouse cheated. OK…so there are people who cheat because the grass is always greener, because they're never satisfied or maybe they are complete sex addicts, but if that is the actual problem maybe you are better off heading for the hills. However, if your spouse is looking for someone who will listen to them when they talk or just do that "thing" that you refuse to do then maybe it is worth finding some middle ground. Maybe you need to turn the TV off at 9 and have a conversation from time to time. Maybe you need to get a sitter for the kids and have a night to yourselves. It could simply be a matter of stepping outside of the little box you each built.
As a 30-something with a son, a husband and a career I understand the mid-life crisis and the desire to do something taboo. I have days where I would love to run off to Tahiti and have a careless fling with my surfing instructor. Everyone wants, at some point or another, to have no responsibilities and to not have to consider consequences. Common sense keeps most of us in check. Maturity reminds us that the grass is never greener and the surfing instructor won't do your laundry or change the litter box. Your spouse probably will.
Marriage isn't about finding that one person out there that "completes us." It is a partnership. It is about finding someone that helps us achieve our dreams, fulfill our desires and more comfortably find our way through the world. It won't be fireworks all the time, but it certainly can be a fun ride!