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Are Affairs Really Worth It?

Before embarking on an affair (or a marriage), read this book!

The Mess of Infidelity

The Mess of Infidelity

I am a book lover and a fan of Goodreads, which is where I record my own book reviews and read the reviews of others. Reading, after all, fits all the criteria of my Psychology Today blog title, “Brains, Books and Being Happy”. Reading (and writing even more so) are good for the brain, and both reading and writing books have a place way at the top of my list for making me happy. But it is a rare book I think is so important for our psyche and our potential happiness that I think it worth reviewing here. It’s not a book about the brain, or even about psychology, but a memoir. A searingly honest memoir, that I believe should be read by every clinical psychologist or therapist who works with couples or individuals having a “relationship” crisis that could involve infidelity (ie: every therapist who works with couple issues). It would also be a jolly fine book to read before embarking on a marriage or long-term relationship, or when you are teetering on the brink of having an affair, (please read and finish it before beginning the affair!) or when you think the person you love is having an affair, or your daughter or son’s relationship is in trouble, or even when you are long past thinking you could possible want to stray (probably because you are post 60!) but you want to put past experiences into perspective, and muse about them.

Cover of "Vow"

The memoir has just been published and is called “Vow: A Memoir of Marriage (and other affairs) ”. It is a debut book by Wendy Plump, and her courage in writing this book is remarkable. It will surely be a BIG seller, and I feel very happy that her financial problems (so common for the partner left with the kids and the loss of the family home) will be OVER! Wendy tells the story of her marriage to Bill, her own wild affairs with delicious men before her two sons were born and how little the pain caused by these to Bill changed her attitude towards the occasional fling, and then years into their not-too-bad marriage, the horrific discovery (known already by lots of her friends) that Bill had another partner—of ten years duration— living in a house down the road, and another child! Even more terrible was her reaction to this; utter grief and the desperate desire for her marriage to Bill to carry on. She loved Bill. None of this is a spoiler as it is all laid out in the blurb about the book.

So why is this sad tale so important? Aspects of it are only too common. Thousands of books are written about affairs. The difference is the way Wendy Plump writes about the way she felt, thought, behaved, wished she’d behaved, analysed and came to understand herself and the whole strange world of commitment and infidelity. In the process she shares many, many thought-provoking insights that have the power, I think, to give readers new ways to think about their own situations and lives, and even the lives of the “other” woman or man. She also has a few good pointers for therapists in her chapter on “The Efficacy of Therapy”.

Many readers might, at the end, decide that affairs are not worth it if their long-term relationship still has even a little ray of hope of being a content one. They might decide, if they are inclined to be lured by the excitement of new passion, that as soon as they feel that pull they need to take control and do whatever it takes to remove themselves from even the remote possibility of an affair. Of course, if their long-term relationship no longer gives either partner anything positive, it is probably time to part, but that is a whole different scenario. What becomes clear from this memoir is that even good marriages can be sidelined by the chemistry of passion with someone else. Nothing wrong with lots of exciting relationships; half your luck! But if what you want, deep down, is to share your life with someone, then perhaps it is worth sacrificing the chance of an exciting affair when the shared life with your Bill is getting a bit boring.

This is an easy read, extremely well written, and once you begin you won’t want to put it down, except perhaps to think about your own situation. It is not salacious; no Shades of Gray here. Any salaciousness (as in affairs) I suspect, will be in your own heads! Probably the best place for it if you want to have a satisfying long-term relationship, and one day dandle those grandkids on your joint knees.

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