Lust and Loyalty: When Sex and Love Don’t Mix

Adulterous dating websites are not the real threat to marriages.

Posted Apr 24, 2015

Conrado/Shutterstock
Source: Conrado/Shutterstock

“Part of the modern ideology of love is to assume that love and sex always go together… And probably the greatest problem for human beings is that they just don’t.” ~Susan Sontag

Talk about an apropos quote to describe what many couples are thinking, but few are discussing. This is not to say Ms. Sontag’s assumption was all-encompassing — happily married and sexually satisfied couples do exist. But are they the minority?

Many believe marriages today are broken.

But why?

A $64,000 question if ever there was one.

Consider the statistics on married couples and infidelity:

According to the study “American Sexual Behavior,” a poll of 10,000 people over two decades, 22 percent of married men and 15 percent of married women have cheated at least once. Another study reports that 25% of all married couples experience infidelity at some point. Cheating tends to happen at various points within the relationship, especially during the first five years. Common reasons for men include sexual incompatibility and boredom, while women most often stray when feeling emotionally deprived.

Sex as Currency

Is there ever a sound reason for cheating? I suppose it depends on who you ask, but popular justifications include:

My lover understands me better.

My needs weren’t being met.

I was bored in my marriage.

The passion disappeared.

Translation:

My ego needed massaging.

I’m immature and I can’t delay gratification.

I lack the impulse control and insight to value long-term commitment.

I made a unilateral decision about our marriage, and I chose to cheat on my spouse.

I have poor boundaries, but I still don’t want to invest the time or the energy on a shrink.

Sound harsh and judgmental?

I know. The truth is hard to swallow. It's also a billion-dollar industry.

“Life is short. Have an affair.”

Noel Biderman, founder of AshleyMadison.com (tagline: Life is short. Have an affair), an industry leader in extramarital dating, built a mighty profitable business around infidelity. With 34 million members in 46 countries, Mr. Biderman doesn’t believe his behemoth platform encourages cheating, just streamlines the process:

“Long before I launched AshleyMadison there were affairs, and long after I’m gone there will be affairs,” Biderman said. “What I’m trying to do is help people have the more perfect affair.”


The Perfect Solution…

…does not exist.

Marriage is work, and the toil can be a downright drag. Living with another person 24/7 is not easy; routines get boring, tempers flare, and ambivalence runs rampant. Who doesn’t occasionally fantasize about life on the adulterous side?

There’s no commitment or stress around child-rearing, family gatherings, or financing a $250,000 college education, or three.

So is the rush of an affair worth it in the long-run?

Seven days or less is the duration of a typical fling, according to statistics.

Fantasy is one thing, hot-blooded betrayal is another.

If you can’t decide which side of the fence you favor, it’s probably time to honestly and nakedly assess your relationship, including the viability of monogamy. But if it’s the excitement of seeing a new face, the illicitness of bucking convention, or the novelty of an affair, I offer three questions:

1. Can you weather the aftermath when you get caught?

2. Are you willing to discuss your indiscretions with your spouse?

3. If fidelity is not sustainable, is a “monogamish” relationship a middle ground for both of you?

In short, make a decision: You’re in or you’re out.

If you can’t have sex and love, which do you covet more?

Given the high rates of marital infidelity, perhaps our society needs to be more open and honest about desire. Or maybe sex is not solely what we’re craving, after all…

“Nothing is mysterious, no human relation. Except love.” ~Susan Sontag

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Copyright by Linda Esposito, LCSW