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Cheat on Your Spouse . . . With Your Spouse

How the power of the number-one cause of divorce can actually improve a marriage

Maksim Fesenko/Shutterstock
Source: Maksim Fesenko/Shutterstock

It's not the kind of thing you're supposed to say in polite society, but I'm going to go ahead and say it anyway...

Cheating on your spouse is exciting.

As a divorce lawyer, I've spent time with hundreds, if not thousands, of people involved in infidelity. I've talked to the cheaters. I've talked to those who have been cheated on. I've spent time with the "other man" and "other woman" (the "paramours" as we like to call them in the motion papers submitted to the court). Joni Mitchell may have looked at love from both sides, but I've looked at cheating from every possible angle and direction. Although it comes in a variety of different shapes and sizes, there are a few simple and universal truths about adultery. First, it's clearly far easier in the digital age. To be candid, I almost can't imagine how exhausting cheating must have been before smartphones. The lyrics to Stevie Wonder's "Part-Time Lover" make adultery sound like a second job: "Call up, ring once, hang up the phone, to let me know you made it home." Seriously? Who has that kind of time? Most of us are out here trying to get a text back or a right swipe, and the other person can't be bothered.

Another clear and undeniable truth about adultery is that it's been around, and super popular, for a really long time. Only the "Greatest Hits" of human transgressions made it into the Ten Commandments, and the fact that not one, but two of the Ten related to adultery and cheating is worthy of note. Not only did God himself allegedly tell us, plain and simple, not to "commit adultery," but He (or She) apparently felt it merited a second tenth of the "list of big rules" to tell us not to "covet" our "neighbor's wife." And this is after, mind you, God has already mentioned that we aren't supposed to "covet" our neighbor's "goods." It's like the rules in Fight Club — where the first rule and the second rule are the same rule to emphasize the importance of that particular rule.

So why do people cheat? There's been a lot of writing on the topic by people who are much smarter than me. Esther Perel wrote an entire book about it, and it's brilliant. So I won't try to answer that question here. I'll simply tell you, in total candor, the view from the desk in my Manhattan office: Hairstyles and musical genres may come and go with each passing decade, but adultery remains wildly popular. It's like McDonald's french fries and golden retrievers.

Not . . . you know . . . together as a combination, but just in terms of long-term popularity.

We've been trying to ignore or "cure" this desire to cheat for a long time, and it's not really working. The divorce rate remains incredibly high, and adultery remains the number-one cited "cause" for divorce. It's time to take a different approach to the situation, and I don't think "open relationships" are the answer. Most people are, again, from where I'm sitting, terrible at maintaining a meaningful connection with one romantic partner: I can't imagine it would get easier if we tried to "scale" it (as internet people call that sort of thing).

So I say we embrace our adoration for infidelity. I say we leverage the appeal of it.

Cheat on your spouse . . . with your spouse.

We've all experienced the thrill of tricking our brain into thinking we're engaged in something "new" or "illicit" when we were, in reality, just enjoying the "same old meatloaf."

Have you and your spouse or long-term romantic partner ever had slightly better sex, because you were doing it in a different room than usual? Have you ever had the self-imposed pressure of a "deadline" for finishing a sexual encounter (a "forced" quickie by virtue of a child waking from a nap, family arriving for a holiday dinner, or a dinner reservation at one of those places that will give away the table if you're more than a few minutes late)?

Have you noticed that those encounters were more exciting than your usual sexual routine with your partner? That's the beauty of the human brain: We can easily "trick" ourselves into experiencing the same general activity in a different way by slightly shifting some aspect of our perception.

An affair, as a "new" sexual relationship, feels exciting, novel, and appealing. Those are attractive traits, in general, but particularly when we've fallen into a sexual routine or "rut" with our partner. Harness the power of novelty in the bedroom (or the guest bedroom or laundry room, if you haven't "christened" that one yet). Realize that some of what makes adultery so interesting, enticing, and two-commandment-worthy is something very natural, normal, and human: We like novelty and crave excitement.

You don't have to cheat on your spouse to have a new and exciting sexual experience. You can "get some strange" without getting a stranger (or your child's third-grade teacher — true story) involved. You can find something "new" with someone tried and true.

Before you take the bait and end up in my office, trading a few weeks or months of good sex for literally one-half of everything you own, why not give it a try? Cheat on your spouse with your spouse. Harness the "fun" of cheating without coveting anybody's anything. You might be surprised how easy it is to make a different meal with the same ingredients.