Doing Life Together

smaller worryWhen I wrote the chapter on Sex and Affection in my latest book, We Need to Talk, I referenced the infidelity site I couldn’t believe a website  promoted married dating. A a therapist, I know how devastating an affair can be to a couple, a family, the church or place of employment.

The website’s motto, Life is Short, Have an Affair, does nothing but propagate the myth that infidelity is harmless. The website’s promise to be 100% discreet is obviously no longer valid, but its tag line, as the most recognized and reputable married dating service, is equally flawed. How can married dating be reputable? You are helping people secretly cheat, an ingredient to destroy relationships.

Married dating, as AshleyMadison calls it, is a throw back to the sexual revolution of the 1960s when immorality was reframed as empowerment, and choice was supposed to not have consequences. But choice did and still does. Secretive married dating doesn’t ends well. While it is possible to work through an affair,  your partner may not be willing and the consequences can be life long.

So what do we learn from the AshleyMadison outing? The same lessons we already know:

1) Lies and secrecy lead to relationship diaster. Healthy relationships are built on trust. Without the foundation of trust, intimacy doesn’t grow. No one wants to be transparent with someone they can’t trust. And what is hidden will one day be revealed, bringing light to the mistrust.

2) Secrets birth betrayal. For some, betrayal will cost more than anticipated. It may be too much to recover from and sets the stage for wondering what else has been a lie. Secrets are kept. Emotional distance grows. A coalition with another person is formed. The betrayer has to justify their actions and thoughts by continuing to turn away from their partner. This purposeful behavior is rationalized and justified.

3) Whatever the short term need an affair meets, does not fix the root problem. If the root is a lack of intimacy, sexual satisfaction, or boredom, an affair is like masturbation. It only satisfies the person and does nothing to help the relationship. Infidelity is typically the result of something that has been simmering below the surface of a relationship. For example, discontent, loneliness, and resentment are produced by negatively comparing the person to someone perceived to be better. Betrayal can be fueled by all sorts of relationship issues—marital dissatisfaction, family problems, friendships that have become too close, physical proximity, spiritual decline, convenience, sexual stimulation, need for love and validation, and more.

4) The unintended consequences of married dating reaches far beyond the couple— The possibilities of pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, emotional fall out, regret, guilt, shame and psychological distress are realities of allowing hormones to drive behavior. Families are destroyed, communities shaken. Yet, these consequences are rarely shown or talked about in the media.

Sex is never truly casual, but instead creates a biological bonding with another person. When a sexual betrayal happens, it is devastating. The breach of trust is enormous. The covenant relationship is broken. And one has to ask, was it worth the price?


For more help: We Need To Talk by Dr. Linda Mintle

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