Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Why Are So Many Married Men Living The Dual Life?

Is your man another Dan Marino?

The buzz this week leading up to the Super Bowl was not which team was going to win but about the revelation that Hall of Fame Miami Dolphins quarterback and CBS television commentator Dan Marino had fathered a love child. Here was a man who honored his commitment to his wife and children for over two decades. Why would a wholesome family man like  Dan end up living a dual life?

Unfortunately the long term prognosis for the married men who built their relationship with their wife on the values of physical attraction, charm and approval seeking are poor. As these men live out their lives in a union based on a myth, many men find themselves growing bitter towards their wife and family. Why? After the thrill of the honeymoon period dies out after 1-2 years, they realize they are doomed to spend their lives with a woman they don't really like. They know they must spend countless hours doing things they don't like to do to continue this phony role  or else risk the end of the relationship. Comedian Bill Cosby described the expression of such men who are dragged along with their wives on a shopping trip as "the most pained-looking people you can find."

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

These married men know their wife will become disillusioned with them when she realizes they really aren't the Prince Charming or Mr. Sensitive or loveable Bad Boy of courtship days. Physical attraction as harmless as hand holding or a hug will become rare. These married men will seek to medicate their accumulating resentment and pain they feel through addictive behavior. Workaholism, the internet, religion, gossip, food, sports, television, power, alcohol and drugs are just a few of the ways these men will compulsively anesthetize their feelings.

As these addictions mount over the years, the man will become more and more emotionally unavailable to his wife. At this point many men feel trapped in the relationship due to the commitments yet fear leaving because of the monetary and emotional cost of divorce and child support. They choose at this point to live the dual life as serial cheaters.

Therapist and author Marvin Allen observed that these men who live the dual life are seeking a deep sense of connection with their strange sexual partners. He found that most of the time these men feel isolated from their wives and sex allows them to make an instant connection and reawakens deadened feelings. Suddenly the most grumpy, uncommunicative slug of a husband will discover he  has a spring in his step and a new joie de vivre. But it is Fools' Gold.

The problem with the unfaithful husband using sex as a means of connecting with another human being is that it only lasts a few fleeting hours before the man living the dual life must flee back to his alternative universe where he lives the straight life as husband, provider and father. The next day he will find himself feeling just as alone and disconnected to his unsuspecting spouse and children as before. This feeds the need to keep seeing the person who gives him the temporary high, connection and escape from reality. But as he keeps seeking the high, he increases the odds of being discovered, either by someone he knows spotting him at a rendezvous with a lover,  or by his wife discovering a text or an unexplained charge on a credit card. In a worst case scenario, he eventually hooks up with a woman with criminal intent who wants to extort him in exchange for keeping silent.

 Late night talk show host David Letterman is an example of a man who lived the dual life for years, cheating on his long-term live-in girlfriend and eventual wife Regina Lasko with countless women and seemingly  getting away with it. Unfortunately for Dave,  his personal assistant/ girlfriend Stephanie Birkitt's lover found out about their tryst by reading her diary and tried to extort him. Dave was forced  to go to the police and then had to confess his dual life to his new wife, his 85 year old mother and a national television audience.

Tiger Woods, Mel Gibson, Bill Cosby, Senator John Edwards, Congressman Anthony Weiner, Governor Mark Sanford, President Bill Clinton and Governor/actor Arnold Schwarzenegger likewise had their dual lives come crashing down on them  just like Dan Marino after months or years of successfully hiding their lovers and their love children from their wives and families.  Their misfortune is instructive because the same thing is happening every day to non-celebrities and non-politicians in cities and towns all over America.

 

J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.

more...

Subscribe to Repairing Relationships

Current Issue

Just Say It

When and how should we open up to loved ones?