I watched way too much daytime TV recently. Dr. Phil did a whole show featuring “the other woman”. Oprah interviewed Shania Twain who was talking about her new book where she details her painful divorce following her husbands affair. Typically I would avoid that kind of programming, but I deluded myself into thinking it was “research” for my work. My “research” left me feeling disturbed more then educated.
I walked away from those two shows with the troubling and persistent question, how is a wife suppose to compete with “the other woman” when real life and marriage can be very messy, literally and figuratively? How can you affair proof your marriage when you have to care of the kids, clean the house, pay the bills, and in most cases hold down a job outside the home? How do you keep that spark so hot that eyes don’t wonder and boredom doesn’t set it?
Many marriages that are touched by infidelity aren’t in the kind of “trouble” people would expect. They aren’t marriages with raging fights or constant conflict. They are marriages where boredom and loneliness reign supreme. This is why a lot of people don’t see it coming. Boredom may not seem like a good enough reason to cheat, but good enough or not, it’s usually a big part of it.
In the beginning of almost every relationship there is a lot of play. Dating is play. Sex is an adventure. Life is exciting. After time begins to pass and the daily details of a shared life creep in, the responsibility of home, bills, pets, kids, and family move to front and center. It’s at that point that many couples hit what I call the “satisfaction slump”. Unfortunately, that slump can last years and years. Many people expect it and feel committed to living with it. Most don’t know what to do about it.
I’m married with children, so I understand how hard is it do embrace the concept of dating your spouse is. When I suggest dating as an important part of a vital marriage to my clients most of the time I’m met with the predictable and obvious response, “Yeah, sure, when???” However it stands to reason that when you quit doing the things that brought energy to your relationship in the beginning, that the energy will decline or disappear all together.
I’ve been married before. Looking back with a much more clear perspective I can see that my ex and I ceased to be a couple long before his many affairs started. We were still husband and wife legally, but we weren’t friends, lovers, or even well acquainted. This is why my current husband and I make remaining a couple in an honest way our number one priority. This requires time. It requires a commitment to making our time number one and making everything else fit around it rather then forcing “our” time to fit in around everything else.