"It was the furthest thing from my mind. I didn't go back to work to have an affair." Distress crossed Lisa's face as she grimaced.
"Why did you go back to work?" I asked.
Pondering the question, Lisa's response was well measured as she told me, "Well, money was short and I hate asking Don for money, so this way I feel more independent. I was losing myself in my husband and my kids. Don't get me wrong, my family means a lot to me, but I felt unappreciated. Catering to the needs of a husband and three kids can be a thankless job. I felt trapped."
"How does work help?" I queried.
Her response showed good insight. "I feel free now and I have my own separate life, my own identity. I'm a crackerjack lawyer and my boss, Lloyd is so complimentary. He validates me and he thinks I'm beautiful."
"Is Lloyd the one you're having an affair with?" I ventured.
She validated my hunch with a fast "yes" then, "Am I awful cheating on my husband?"
"It depends on how you feel about cheating?" I offered.
And in her perceptive style she explained "Not good on one hand, but great on the other hand."
"Can you explain the two hands?" I asked.
Lowering her head, her eyes barely met mine. "I think infidelity is wrong, maybe even immoral and I hate to see myself as a low-down cheat."
So she has a conscious and feels shame and guilt, which is a good thing. I uttered an hmmm.
Growing animated, Lisa came back with "But there's an upside to what I am doing. I feel desirable, exciting, and sexy with Lloyd. He's a powerful man and I learn so much from him."
"So you feel alive and that you can grow with Lloyd. What about Don, how do you feel with him?" I paraphrased her thoughts and wanted more.
Her face took on a mischievous look. "Oh boy, here goes. I feel like a slut, but the truth is that Don is boring. Don't get me wrong I love Don and I feel safe, secure, and comfortable with him. But there's something missing."
And the ‘something missing' is precisely why men and women, in seemingly good marriages, cheat. In too many of these long term relationships partners begin to take each other for granted. They attend the same activities with the same familiar friends. The conversations tend to gravitate to the familiar. While this familiarity is comfortable and safe, it precludes novelty excitement, spontaneity, adventure, passion, and all too often red hot sex.
The upshot is that the couple unwittingly squeezes the life out of the relationship. In doing so, the love and lust inducing brain chemicals ─ oxytocin, vasopressin, dopamine, testosterone, endogenous morphine─ go on strike.
How do you get these wonderful brain chemicals back to work? For one thing, our remarkable brains are plastic so that you when you change the interaction you can change the brain.
• The first step in revitalizing a long term relationship and repairing the brain is to recognize that there is a problem.
• The second step is to reach deep inside your inner self and examine the conscious or unconscious motivation for dampening down the romance and passion in the relationship.
• For example, some couples unconsciously split off the romance and passion from the relationship, leaving only the devotion, caring, and commitment. Strange as it may seem this is a security measure so that if you lose your partner, you don't lose everything. If this is the case, it is time to change the dynamic by slowly bringing back the fun, sexy, exciting times with your partner.
• An all too common killer of romance, passion, and lust is anger. Indeed, anger kills love and lust. If this is going on in your relationship it is essential that your partner and you try to empathize with one another and forgive each other so that you remove the stumbling block to romance and passion. Couples therapy can be helpful.
In the above case, Lisa's guilt and shame won out so she ended the affair with Lloyd, got another job, and decided to work on her marriage. She and Don are busy examining what went awry, their anger, their complacency, their busy lives, and their financial stress that sapped their energies and the relationship.
In the process they are finding new horizons to explore with one another that bring them closer to a real lusty love. Sure enough love inducing brain chemicals have climbed on board so that Lisa and Don feel more adventuresome, romantic, and sensual.