Celebrity news. It's a microcosm of our society. Lifestyles of the Overindulged and Without Scruples. Celebrity journalists — oxymorons in their own right — highlight the latest indiscretion of some mega-rich, mega-famous husband who had what appeared to be a great marriage and a couple of kids. Then he found some model/starlet/socialite who had more firmness in her tits than morals in her fiber. Three weeks of hit-it-and-quit it and he discovers the TMZ-infused report (complete with a deer-in-headlights picture of him) on page one of The National Shamefest. And now, of course, he's sorry. Sorry for what? Cheating? Puh-lease. He's only sorry he got caught.
He is a fraud. A marital faker. He sold out his bed and two nightstands for a one-night-stand, and now he wants the world to believe that he actually gives a sh*t about the woman he claimed to love? His honor: Gone. His integrity: Ha! If he had any, he would've had the common decency to leave his current partner before ending up in a bed (or the backseat) with someone else.
The worst part? Nowadays celebrities ain't got nuthin' on the extramarital habits of run-of-the-mill suburban dads. Celebrities might have the curse of opportunity, but Suburbanites are cursed with monotony and pressure. Recent research shows that more than 35 percent of men who have been married for more than 10 years have an affair at some point in their relationship. That means one out of every three "happily" married men is keeping a very large secret from his wife and kids.
You might think men like this have no regrets. That they must have cheated because they just didn't care about anything or anyone but themselves. It's easy to only see that point of view; cheating is a selfish act. But don't be fooled — men like this have massive regret. After a few shots of tequila, a man with any amount of conscience will tell you that he feels like he left his integrity and honor somewhere between watching the first condom twist its way down the hotel toilet and standing face-to-face with his wife while screaming "What are you talking about!? I'm not f*cking anyone behind your back!" all with his kids within earshot.
Men who haven't had affairs aren't better than those who have; they simply don't know the chemical and emotional high that accompanies the situation. That's not an excuse for infidelity; just an explanation for his behavior. The chemical reaction to an affair is intense. The brain is flooded with dopamine, and primal mating desires kick-in. Then, the rush that comes with doing anything taboo heightens the high, and wow! The sex? I am sure it's impossibly mind-blowing ... because as he often tells his mistress, "My wife doesn't do anything but lay there and receive. She's just too pent up, too much of a prude, too much of a nagging b*tch to let her hair down and be a woman." (Even if this is partially true, it doesn't make what he's doing any less wrong.)
And the conversations he has with his mistress? Amazing. She totally "gets" him. "She's wicked smart," he'll tell himself. "So much smarter than my wife. Why didn't I meet her first? How did the universe hate me so much to keep this angelic creature away from me for so long? Why did I waste so many years of my life with the wrong woman?"
Reality check: All of that is total bullshit. He might feel that way... but it's not completely accurate — and even as he thinks those awful things, his conscience drives his heart deeper into the shame and dishonor that permeates his very skin. No amount of physical pleasure or mental stimulation (real or dopamine-driven) can compensate for the ridiculousness of a cheating husband —gallivanting around like a 17-year-old with a perpetual hard-on, thinking others can't see what he's doing and how he's acting. News flash: Everyone can see it.
How the hell does this happen? How does a man do this to a woman he promised to honor and respect? To the kids he adores? To himself? And how will he explain it all away?
Maybe he'll try to blame it on that girl at work. The single one. She's kinda hot. She's kinda flirty with him, sitting in front of his desk in her skin-tight blouse (the kind of sexy shirt his wife refuses to wear), and damn, she looks like she'd be fantastic in bed. As a man, he might occasionally have those thoughts, but as a married man, acting on them is the no-no. Did Miss Hot Work Buddy unintentionally awaken some latent feelings of singledom that wanted to get out?
Perhaps he'll blame his wife for being disconnected and unavailable. Maybe his perception of his wife's non-pride in his efforts and work caused it.
Perhaps it's the routine of marriage. The same life, day-in-day-out: work/commute/work/commute, call home to see how the kids are, what activities are in the agenda for the evening (gymnastics, tennis, soccer, homework), the did-you-pay-this-this-needs-to-be-paid conversations, and the inevitable question of, "What do you want for dinner?" that makes him want do anything (or anyone) else.
Maybe he just wants someone to see him. To be proud of him. To value him. "This isn't wrong!" he'll say. "I deserve to be happy!"
Maybe he should ask himself if it's his fault? Did he get married too young? Did he communicate his needs to her clearly? (Probably not.) Is he unhappy with his wife? With himself? Did he mentally check out and escape into work, and then simply not "see" her anymore?
Some of this probably goes back to his family life while growing up. Perhaps his parents divorced when he was young, but not before he heard the stories about his playboy father and the affairs he had with younger women that ultimately ended their marriage. Should we/he conclude that his propensity towards infidelity was somehow genetically passed down, and now he's effectively fucked? (Pun intended).
All right, wait a minute. Explanations aside, this is all misdirection; shiny objects to distract from the reality of the situation. He can make whatever excuses he wants to for himself, but he can't get away from a simple truth: free will. He chose to do what he did. The question that needs answering is: "Why?"
When he met The Other Woman, she was all smiles, and full of energy — smart, cute, bubbly, witty, and into him from the start. Maybe as a wife and mother, she understood his dilemma, heck, she was probably in a situation where she felt unappreciated, and like she was dutifully going through the motions, too. She felt like a kindred spirit to him.
He convinced himself that he fought her advances off for weeks, but finally caved. Of course he caved. If he didn't want her, he wouldn't have been around her. He desperately wanted what she was giving: attention, strokes to his ego, love, passion, kissing that felt like he was kissing a woman, not a mommy. Sex like he used to have, not sex like someone was doing him a f*cking favor (favor f*cking?). Someone who wanted to find out what was on his mind. Someone who had something new to say. Someone who looked at him like he was new/great/mysterious.
And BAM! He dropped 15 pounds in two weeks (a telltale sign of a man having an affair), and then he checked even further out of his marriage. The dopamine levels in his brain bordered on psychosis levels; all he could think of was her — her touch, her taste, her smell, her laugh, the sound of her voice, her witty retorts — and everything in his life revolved around her. They send each other text message after text message when their spouses aren't looking; they plan time together when her kids are at play dates; they are constantly late for dinner; they no longer help their kids with homework; they no longer cook; they stop calling their spouses during the day; they call in sick day-after-day and book hotel room after hotel room. They can't get enough.
What was he thinking? He was thinking nothing, and therein lays the issue.
His affair was only made possible with an endless string of lies; lies to his wife, lies to his kids, lies his friends; but mostly, lies to himself. He somehow convinced himself that his wife — the woman he's known for years, the mother of his children, his friend, confidant, snuggle partner — was the wrong woman. His justification? Pick a reason: She lacked passion, she didn't care about him or what he did for her or the family; she didn't value him; she ignored him.
Is he right? Even if we say that he is, it's just a feeling, not reality. Moreover, his dissatisfaction isn't necessarily a deal breaker for an established relationship. Shouldn't it warrant a discussion first?
Maybe he did discuss those issues with his wife... but perhaps his version of "discussed" meant he "screamed at her over and over and over and over again" while fighting off endless-but-completely-accurate assumptions that he was disconnecting from her and possibly seeing someone behind her back. The reality is very simple: His discontent wasn't necessarily impossible to overcome; he just needed to talk to his wife. But that's impossible when he is in bed with someone else and that new-relationship-feeling is bending his brain.
New relationships are this magical thing that ensures procreation so the human race lives on. Chemicals and emotions run high, creating a situation that is perceived as perfect to both parties. But a wife and kids don't give a sh*t about all that. And truthfully, they're not supposed to care. Sure, there are reasons for his behavior, and he (and various doctors/therapists/studies/fortune cookies) can justify things. But it doesn't change the fact that the affair is wrong.
And now, the worst part: He's worried if he stops the affair, not only will he miss The Other Woman, he'll also miss the way he felt about himself when he was with her: bold, daring, confident, risk-taking, strong, Alpha, fearless, decisive, seductive, and ... happy.
If you do a simple comparison, the previous statement reads like a stereotypical drug addict: happiest on the drug, wishing he could be on it, and destroying his entire life because of it.
Allow me to reiterate: If he doesn't already, he'll regret his actions. He'll regret what he's doing to his wife, his kids and himself. He may try to reclaim his honor and integrity, but he'll also feel a level of shame that he never thought was possible, and it will haunt him, whether he admits it or not.
There are plenty of men who run off and cheat on their wives, creating another relationship before leaving their marriage. It's cowardly and based on all the wrong stuff, but it feels real. And beyond the chemical issues, there is a very basic reason for this: There is no way an established relationship will ever be like a new relationship. It's impossible. New relationships are exciting, passionate, hopeful and mysterious for the reasons I've listed previously. But it's only like that when it's new. After a little while, a shiny new relationship will be old and established; then what? Will he cheat again? (Some people do.)
Relationships grow, change, alter and iterate, but they cannot go back to the new phase — ever. They move past that phase to a place of companionship, trust and security. Does passion take a hit? Perhaps; it's part of the transition from new relationship to established one. But with dedication, passion doesn't have to wane; it can stay and grow with the relationship.
My advice to these cheating men: Try to find a way home; find yourself again. Spend some time with a counselor and even more time talking to your wife about your disconnect, both of your feelings, the affair and how it impacted your kids, and how you treated your wife during what you will soon describe as the worst time in both of your lives. The challenge for you now is to recapture the power of a new relationship in your marriage, before it's too late.