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How to understand infidelity

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[howdini, get yourself a guru] I'm Lisa Birnbach for howdini.com. When one partner has an affair outside marriage, divorce is sure to follow, right? "Not so fast," says our guest, Esther Perel. She's a marriage and family therapist whose new book is called Mating in Captivity, Unlocking Erotic Intelligence. Esther, thank you for being here. >>Thank you for having me. Does an affair inevitably destroy a marriage? An affair that is revealed is often a crisis in a marriage. But sometimes it will actually finish off a relationship that was already dying on the vine, and at other times it actually has the capacity to generate and to jolt people into a whole new relationship with each other. It really can go both ways. It would seem to me that the person who is not having the affair has to be very large and take a very magnanimous approach to the straying partner. The emphasis is always about the aspect of betrayal-- that the affair is a betrayal-- and it always has an element of that. But people stray for a host of reasons. I think that one of the things that's interesting to watch is that we tend to to say an affair means a troubled relationship. An affair is a symptom of a relationship gone awry. But in fact, people often have affairs when they are actually quite happy in their relationships. It's not always because they want to leave; it's sometimes, actually, a way for them to stay. It's complicated. People stray because they want to flee a sense of deadness. People stray because they want to flee the constrainments of their relationship. Sometimes they feel disempowered in their relationship, and here is someone who values them and validates them like they don't experience at home. Sometimes it's because suddenly they have stumbled on a discovery of themselves that they had never known and that never actually existed in their own relationship. The question is, can they bring it back? The tendency, in this country more so, is to want to instantly leave, because America is more comfortable with divorce and less tolerant of infidelity. >>Why is that? If I am hurt here, that enough is grounds for me to be able to decide to dissolve the whole family. Whereas, in a traditional system where my needs are embedded with the needs of others, my personal hurt is not enough to change the life of all the people who depend on the family. And that's, I think, where the difference lies. It's not about views about sex. It's about personal freedom. It's not that the hurt is different. It's not that betrayal is different. It's that there is a sense that you live with those compromises. You don't necessarily have what you dreamed of. You get close to it. That's probably where the difference lies. And at the same time, the essence of the question for me, in working around infidelity, is what is the meaning of the affair? That will determine what it will do to the relationship. I had a relationship--a couple--recently I saw, where the partner--the man partner--actually had barely touched his wife for the last 8 years. I mean, the one time she actually approached him, they had their second child, and this was it. And when he discovered her affair, he was intensely hurt and upset about her betrayal. And I completely understood that, and I understood the turmoil of what he was going through and his incessant need to get into all the details, and so forth. But at some point, I did ask him why he was so curious about everything that she had done and he was so uninterested in everything he had not done? Why was her betrayal so much bigger than his indifference, his neglect, his ignoring her, his distance from her, his stonewalling her? There are lots of ways that people let each other down and can betray one another besides just the affair. The affair needs to be put in the larger context of a relationship. Wow, Esther, that's very strong. You're my hero. [laughs] And how did her respond? There's not much to say at that moment. I think you take it in and you ponder that, because I think there was something complicated for why this man, after having had an intense relationship with his partner for many years, after they got married, it died. And that was something that he needed to understand. And then the couple can see what they want to do. Thank you, Esther. >>Thank you. Look for more on how to save a marriage after an affair here on howdini.com. I'm Lisa Birnbach. [howdini-www.howdini.com]

Video Details

Duration: 4 minutes and 49 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
License: All rights reserved
Producer: Howdini
Views: 92
Posted by: howdini on Jan 11, 2011

There are lots of reasons why people are unfaithful. While it's nearly always painful to their partners, it doesn't have to be fatal to the relationship. Some important questions, and answers, about infidelity, from couples therapist and author Esther Perel.

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