Why So Much Infidelity?By Dr. Margaret Paul
December 31, 2006
Infidelity is common, but it does not need to lead to the end of a relationship. Discover the deeper issues behind most infidelity.
Megan contacted me for counseling because she had just found out that her husband, Jim, was having an affair. Although she was feeling hurt and angry, she didn't feel justified in getting too hurt and angry because she had also been having an affair.
Megan told me that she and Jim still loved each other and they didn't want to break up their family, but her discovery of his affair took her out of denial. She had been able to rationalize her affair to herself, but she couldn't rationalize Jim's. She had to acknowledge that something was really wrong. She was worried that this meant the end of their relationship.
Affairs are a Symptom...
I assured Megan that the affairs were not the main problem, but were a symptom of a deeper problem. It did not need to mean the end of the relationship. She and Jim could decide to learn about the deeper problems in their relationship and eventually create a much more satisfying relationship.
As a counselor, I hear this story over and over. Why is there so much infidelity?
Megan and Jim entered their marriage, as most people do, with the expectation that the other person would make them happy. They entered feeling some emptiness, unworthiness and insecurity, hoping their partner would fill them, validate them and complete them. Yet as time went on, neither felt happy, secure, filled or complete. They began to look elsewhere. Perhaps someone else - someone more attentive and more emotionally available, or sexier, or more playful would fill the emptiness, validate their worth, and make them happy.
What REALLY Makes You Happy?
The problem lies in how most people in our society view what makes them happy. Any TV commercial will illuminate the underlying problem:
- Get this car - it will make you happy.
- Get this house - it will make you happy.
- Wear these clothes. Then you will look good and get approval and that will make you happy.
- Go on this diet - then you will look good, find your beloved and then you will be happy.
- Take this pill - then you will be happy.
- Go on this vacation - that will make you happy.
- Get this toy, this appliance, this new gadget - then you will be happy.
But Megan had the house, the car, the husband, the children, the money, the job, the antidepressants - and she still wasn't happy. So, she went looking for another person to make her happy.
The problem is that as long as Megan and Jim believe that something external will make them happy, they will be unhappy, and they will keep looking for another person, better sex, a bigger house, and so on to make them happy.
Infidelity generally comes from the same inner emptiness as does alcohol and drug abuse, food addiction, gambling, spending, shopping, and so on. In the case of infidelity, the addiction is to attention, approval or sex - using another person to fill the inner emptiness and take away the inner aloneness. Rather than end the relationship, taking their emptiness and aloneness with them into their next relationship, Megan and Jim have the opportunity to do some inner healing work.
Inner Bonding Saved Their Marriage
Megan and Jim decided that it was worth trying to save their marriage. They came to one of our Inner Bonding Intensives and learned about all the ways they were making the other person responsible for their well-being and happiness. They learned the powerful Inner Bonding process for taking responsibility for their own feelings and for connecting with an ever-present source of love and wisdom to help them learn to love themselves. They discovered that they had no love to share with each other until they learned how to fill themselves with love and to be loving to themselves. They learned:
- To stay focused inward, on their own feelings and behavior, rather than have their eyes on the other's plate.
- That their intention is the most powerful thing they have, and that they are either in the intent to protect against pain or the intent to learn in any given moment. They discovered that the intent to learn about themselves and each other creates intimacy while the intent to protect against being hurt creates distance.
- They learned to explore their own fears and beliefs rather than keep trying to get the other to change.
- They learned how to connect with their personal source of inner/spiritual guidance to help them know the loving action toward themselves and with each other, and they learned to take loving action for themselves rather than try to get the other to take care of them.
By being willing to do their Inner Bonding work and learn how to take emotional responsibility for themselves, Megan and Jim were able to create a much more intimate and fulfilling relationship. The affairs, rather than ending their relationship, led to creating a whole new and satisfying relationship. At this point, neither Megan nor Jim has any desire to have an affair.
Heal your relationship with Dr. Margaret Paul’s Intimate Relationship Toolbox, a 12-week online course.
Join IBVillage to connect with others and receive compassionate help and support for learning to love yourself.
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Who are you giving yourself up to in order to avoid rejection? With whom are you not fully yourself to not face a lack of caring and support if you are all you can be? Are you keeping yourself small to avoid knowing the truth of who really cares about your highest good and who will not support you in being all you can be?
By Dr. Margaret Paul