Feelings in the Air

Ever feel perked up after hanging out with a friend who's positively glowing with happiness? Or ever feel in the bluesy when your partner is mildly depressed? There's a name for that: emotional contagion.

Are Children to Blame for a Partner Cheating?

Is three too much company?

A new survey of men who cheat caused quite a stir this week. Research of 5,000 unfaithful married men by the dating site Victoria Milan showed that 82 percent of them began to commit adultery after having children. But we believe this is another example of correlation and not causation. The real reason so many stray is because the honeymoon is already beginning to fade as children come along. So many of these relationships were predicated on the belief that sexual attraction and approval seeking could overcome incompatibility and diverse needs, feelings, and goals. Now these flimsy marriages are put to the test. Initially denying one's feelings needs and dreams to please one's mate was not burdensome, but eventually the strain of keeping up the charade that the spouse tastes are his own takes its toll. These "mirage men" who began the romance on the premise of attraction and charm soon find themselves trapped in their Prince Charming role.

As time goes by, the seamless performance of courtship by these mirage men will inevitably begin to slip. The mate will begin to see disturbing glimpses of another, more unpleasant person as the physical intensity of the honeymoon begins to wane. The pain of living with someone of few common interests, differing world view and clashing temperaments will become acute. Physical intimacy will lose its pain-killing potency as the relational differences come creeping out of the shadows into the light of day. Soon the irritation and pain becomes greater than the prize.

The day to day grind of living out a role that isn't genuine will leave these men feeling weary, oppressed and resentful. His mate will experience a slow, steady disillusionment about her Prince Charming. With the additional burden of parenthood,  the looks, romance, and charm that were so vital to keeping things light and breezy become an afterthought. After a night up with baby, nerves are frayed, charm is nonexistent and there is no time for putting on make up and blow drying hair. There are no more late summer dinners watching the sun set and no time for moonlight walks along the beach.The focus is all on the children and working as a team under stress. The strength of the union now becomes critical under these times of deprived sleep, colicky babies, and endless diaper changes.

At this point mirage men are challenged to come up with a long term strategy to try to function in the marriage without destroying it. Because these mirage men began the relationship by pretending to be something they are not, they can't admit it now. They are in too deep and have a fully committted partner expecting them to stay in character. Mirage men know they must remain alienated from their true selves to perpetuate the romance born of dishonesty. They will resist attempts by the wife to develop the union into greater intimacy.

Over the long haul this lack of intimacy ends up destroying the marriage. Sonya Rhodes, a marriage and family therapist, observed the damaging effects a poor relationship has on the sexual aspect of marriage. Through her years of clinical therapy, she has observed that women tend to see sex as a natural result of a healthy relationship, while men consider sexual relations unconnected to the interpersonal aspect of the marriage or cohabitation. When a marriage is ailing, the sexual relations tend to be withheld by the woman, while a married man wants to have sex even when the relationship is under stress.

Mirage men discover that their main reason for creating their relationship in the first place, namely sex, will diminish as their spouse's opinion of the relationship wanes. Dr. John Gray observed that resentment is temporarily washed away for men when they enjoy regular sexual relations in a committed relationship. Realizing they aren't getting that at home anymore, these men are more likely to entertain the idea of finding it elsewhere. Thus the inherent weakness of the mirage relationship is exposed when the couple has children and their bond is tested and found wanting. But children are not to blame for adultery in a marriage: even childless couples who base their relationship on sexual attraction, charm, and approval-seeking will find it just as unsatisfying after the honeymoon ends. Soon enough the reality that they married a stranger they don't even like as a friend will bite them too. 

Feelings in the Air