I just happened to hear a news clip on a major network’s morning news show talking about marriage. The talk was that some people are now choosing a “menu approach” to marriage, and negotiating up front things like 3 free cheat days per year. Or sex with another person every 10 years.
Cheating and sexual abuse is not new. Yes – I equate cheating with sexual abuse. So the oxymoron of writing in “cheat days” to your marriage contract? The term ‘cheat’ means to defraud, to swindle. It means to deceive or influence by fraud, to elude or deprive someone of something expected. Ergo, when a person enters into a marriage, it is with the intent that they are defining something unique and special about the relationship. They are declaring to the outside world and to each other that this is different, this one is for keeps, this is for the good times and the bad times and the reason I’m willing to this to everyone is because you matter, you are valued and I want to mesh with you like none other.
It’s somewhat easy to stand on the outside and look at news stories about new types of relationships, watch videos about girls who share their guy or listen to a podcast about a couple of folks in an “open marriage.” To kind of say “Oh, I wouldn’t do that, but whatever makes you happy.” Pretty much sums out how I lived – never really engaging in the conversation or caring. That is until it is about you. Until you find out your partner considered your marriage open but forgot to mention it to you. Until you realize that your partner invited someone else’s DNA into your vagina and someone else’s sexual desires into his mind. Until you see that he remembers, or maybe wants, to send her flowers on Valentine’s Day. But not you. Until you realize he can’t be bothered to make a restaurant reservation for you, but is planning plane trips and getaways with her. No…when it comes to your house, contracted or not, it is devastating. I know this personally, and I know it from spending hours and hours and hours with other women – both betrayers and betrayeds, and even some who agreed to open marriages or other such inane arrangements. It may look good on paper, but when it begins to be lived out…the pain…the agony…
So I don’t buy it. I don’t buy any concept of marriage that isn’t committed and unique and sacred. We are humans – not animals thinking from just our limbic brain. Yes, our sexual needs are great and need to be met, but apart from engaging our minds and spirits and souls they are empty and uninspiring. They may release dopamine in our brains but don’t spur tenderness in our souls. Anyone who understands cheating knows it isn’t about sex anyway. And if your partner hasn’t dealt with whatever it is that causes him/her to need something else, something out there, then he/she isn’t bringing all he/she is to the table. To your table. To your life and your relationship.
I sat around a work table recently with five unique women from vastly different backgrounds. All are beautiful, and smart, and caring, and kind. All five…ALL FIVE…100%…have been directly impacted by infidelity in their lives. This was not a support group, or a women’s group for troubled marriages. This was a professional setting that had nothing to do with sex or sexual abuse or cheating or marriage. But the subject arose, and around the room, this is what came out:
One woman’s father had cheated on her mom…the aftermath a traumatic time for a preteen. The next one discovered after 20 years together that her husband was a cheater, and not the father of her children only. The next one is the daughter of a mom married to a cheater, watching her mom immobilized to move out of the abusive relationship and feeling completely and utterly impotent to help. The next? The daughter of a serial cheater who watched her own mother wither into oblivion, and who met numerous ½ siblings through the years…and is now grieving as her own daughter experiences a cheating spouse. Then of course, me. You know my story but in case you don’t, I’m the wife of a serial cheater, a sex addict, who artfully hid it from me for 25 years sending me into complete and utter trauma, and deeply impacting our beautiful children through his lies and manipulations to keep his double life secret.
No. Don’t buy it. We are selling out our humanity, our souls, our spirits, our minds if we allow ourselves to believe that having some sham of a marriage is healthy, or leads to wholeness or growth or peace. We are just furthering whatever hole is in the cheater, allowing him to fill it with temporary crap that ultimately leaves him more desolate than before.
If you don’t want to have a marriage, don’t get married. If you don’t want to forsake all others, then don’t take on the promise. If you don’t want to press into the challenges and find strength you never knew you had, don’t enter the race. If you don’t want to bare all to become one, then don’t. Marriage is about so much more than sex – a commodity that is for sale on a street corner, on the internet or through a device. If you enter marriage…it is just different and about the whole you, the complete you, if you even know who that person is. The trail of turmoil and agony you leave behind when you forsake your marriage, not only for your partner, but for friends and family and any precious children just isn’t worth filling your emptiness or curiosity with lies. And I speak from one who has found deep intimacy; there is nothing and no one out there that can compare or who is worth the risk of damaging the beauty of real marriage.