Saturday, June 25, 2011


Not Just Friends: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity by Dr. Shirley P. Glass (Free Press: NY), is meant to help married couples recover from infidelity.
Her book shatters the myth that adultery occurs only in unhappy marriages. In my experience as a therapist, I have worked with many couples and sometimes it really is just about needing variety or because of a weak moment. Monogamy is not easy and sexual exclusivity is even more difficult. It's a lot to ask of a partner to be sexually faithful for decades, but, nonetheless, we do ask. In fact, we demand it, and when we, or our partners, prove to be just plain human, our marriage is shredded.
I'm not suggesting that cheating is ok because it isn't. When, on that bright sunny day that we stood in front of family and friends and promised to keep our pants up for the rest of our lives, we made a promise, pure and simple. Call me old fashioned, or naive, but I'm a stickler for promises. My grandmother always said, "You don't make a promise you can't keep." On that sunny day, you made a promise and you don't get to break that promise just because you want to, or you were weak, or you drank too much, or your partner is disappointing. You get to go into marital therapy, that's what you get to do. But, you don't get to cheat....that's breaking a whopper of a promise!
If you want to avoid temptation, then read on. Dr. Glass declares that no matter what one's level of marital satisfaction, it is very important to maintain specific boundaries (aka walls) with the opposite gender: not flirting, not discussing your marital dissatisfaction with the opposite sex, not pursuing an old flame on the internet, not meeting a co-worker in private, and not keeping friends who are hostile to your marriage (may I say, unless your marriage is abusive and, then, your hostile friends are your very BEST friends and maybe you should listen to them).
Here's a critical tidbit, which Dr. Glass points out: You know that feeling of being "in love"? The sensation of having your heart go pitter-patter when you think of him or her? Dr. Glass points out that the "in love" feeling of an affair is simply a temporary stage of infatuation which always fades away, and which is mistaken for the comfort and familiarity of a lifelong relationship. As a marriage and family therapist, I understand something that most married folks don't know: marriages are subject to stages of growth, just like human beings. In the beginning stage, we're all about the similarities: "Oh, you like pears? I like pears, too!" And, deep sigh, pitter-patter, we're goofy about the other person. Ah, but, then comes the stage when we want our old life back, and the stage when we want to move forward with our own growth (and career, and other friendships), and the stage when we think we can live without the person. Not to mention all of the disapointments that breed resentment (just a fancy word for anger), and, well, the blush begins to fade on the rose, and marriage starts looking less attractive.
Dr. Glass asserts that the marriages that have the best chance for recovery are those in which the unfaithful spouse ends the affair with no contact afterward, makes a 100% commitment to improve the marriage regardless of ambivalent feelings, refuses to contrast the weaknesses of one's spouse with the strengths of the affair partner, discovers one's vulnerabilities which led to the affair (including, I might add, a low threshold for boredom), and allows one's spouse to hold one accountable for ongoing boundaries. In a study of 4100 husbands who had an affair, 3485 (85%) decided to repair their marriages, while 615 (15%) divorced. Of these, only 19 men married their affair partner. Dr. Glass says that "We live in a culture that professes to value monogamy, but at the same time undercuts monogamy significantly by glamorizing illicit love affairs and commercializing sexual titillation." (p. 279) I can't argue with her there.
So, maybe, the answer isn't having an affair, maybe it is putting the same energy into one's current marriage? Just a thought.

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