Does cheating really mean the end of a relationship? Or is there hope for more?
We want to begin with a straight- up full disclosure. This article is based completely on hearsay. We don’t pretend to be insiders or know the veracity of the reports that Jay Z and Beyonce might be conducting marriage counseling via Skype due to his affair. But the affair gives the opportunity to explore the messy business of infidelity through a real life drama.
Let’s face it. Jay Z is married to one of the hottest, sexiest, most beautiful and talented women alive. Yet (and again there’s no confirmation) even Jay Z is not immune to the temptation of the other woman. In our work with couples, the unfaithful partner almost always tells his partner that the affair had nothing to do with her. In many cases, the transgressor believes this with all his heart and we believe him too. The research corroborates that there is something to the "it wasn’t about you" explanation. Approximately 85% of those who cheat say they are happily married.
So let’s assume that Jay Z is happily married to every man’s fantasy woman. What could possibly cause him to stray? What meaning can be made of the statistic that happily married people cheat? In our work (and in life), every relationship we encounter we find that there are intrinsic limitations. Partners naturally bring out certain aspects of our personality while other parts go unrecognized and lie dormant. Sometimes these latent personality characteristics get activated in an encounter with the other. When a person comes in contact with a taste of the new, unexplored parts of himself, he can get drawn in by his own mystery and want to bring this aspect of his self into the light.
No doubt Beyoncé feels bitterly stung by reports of Jay Z’s infidelity and the public humiliation adds even more bite. When a partner steps out, humiliation is a universal experience for the other partner. There’s a natural tendency for the victim to feel inadequate and see the infidelity as a deficit in her own relationship competence. Rare is the person who doesn't take it personally.
Often the philanderer jumps right on the bandwagon of his partner’s vulnerability. He capitalizes on her feelings of inadequacy when he excuses his behavior and actually makes himself the victim of his partner’s deficits. All of a sudden, he calls her cold and critical, more maternal than sexual, or just too distracted by life to care about his needs. The transgressor often blames his partner in an attempt to shift the blame and avoid the shame he feels for breaking his promise.
Couples faced with infidelity handle the crisis in two general ways: the knee jerk reaction that ends the relationship immediately, or they use the crisis as an opportunity to better understand the meaning of the affair for their partner. It takes a big person to put aside their own hurt and step inside their partner’s shoes for a different perspective. If the innocent partner can do this, there is an opportunity for a deeper understanding of their partner and the nature of their relationship together. If the hurdle can be overcome, eventually their bond can become rock solid.
Despite the best of intentions, people over time can become distant and distracted and sometimes it is not apparent that their partner felt lonely. In our work, men often say the affair wasn’t about sex as much as they felt the other woman really listened to them.
We applaud Jay Z and Beyonce’s decision to get marriage counseling via Skype. Beyoncé deserves huge respect for her willingness to explore the situation. In the face of exposure to public humiliation, she shows true grit and strength of character by hanging in there and not yielding to the easier (and also understandable) impulsive, knee-jerk reaction and calling it quits. There’s wisdom in immediate counseling before the hurt and anger has a chance to harden into resentment. Early intervention has the best chance of success. For this celebrity couple on tour together, virtual counseling offers the potential for understanding and healing their relationship.