Why Happy People Cheat – A good marriage is no guarantee against infidelity. by E. Perel
(Link): Why Happy People Cheat – A good marriage is no guarantee against infidelity. by E. Perel
…Strange as it may seem, affairs have a lot to teach us about marriage—what we expect, what we think we want, and what we feel entitled to. They reveal our personal and cultural attitudes about love, lust, and commitment—attitudes that have changed dramatically over the past 100 years.
….Affairs are not what they used to be because marriage is not what it used to be. For much of history, and in many parts of the world today, marriage was a pragmatic alliance that ensured economic stability and social cohesion.
For her and Colin, however, as for most modern Western couples, marriage is no longer an economic enterprise but rather a companionate one—a free-choice engagement between two individuals, based not on duty and obligation but on love and affection.
Never before have our expectations of marriage taken on such epic proportions. We still want everything the traditional family was meant to provide— security, respectability, property, and children— but now we also want our partner to love us, to desire us, to be interested in us. We should be best friends and trusted confidants, and passionate lovers to boot.
Contained within the small circle of the wedding band are vastly contradictory ideals. We want our chosen one to offer stability, safety, predictability, and dependability.
And we want that very same person to supply awe, mystery, adventure, and risk.
We expect comfort and edge, familiarity and novelty, continuity and surprise. We have conjured up a new Olympus, where love will remain unconditional, intimacy enthralling, and sex oh so exciting, with one person, for the long haul. And the long haul keeps getting longer.
We also live in an age of entitlement; personal fulfillment, we believe, is our due. In the West, sex is a right linked to our individuality, our self-actualization, and our freedom.
Thus, most of us now arrive at the altar after years of sexual nomadism. By the time we tie the knot, we’ve hooked up, dated, cohabited, and broken up. We used to get married and have sex for the first time. Now we get married and stop having sex with others.
The conscious choice we make to rein in our sexual freedom is a testament to the seriousness of our commitment. By turning our back on other loves, we confirm the uniqueness of our “significant other”: “I have found The One. I can stop looking.” Our desire for others is supposed to miraculously evaporate, vanquished by the power of this singular attraction.
….In such a blissful partnership, why would we ever stray? The evolution of committed relationships has brought us to a place where we believe infidelity shouldn’t happen, since all the reasons have been removed; the perfect balance of freedom and security has been achieved.
And yet, it does. Infidelity happens in bad marriages and in good marriages. It happens even in open relationships where extramarital sex is carefully negotiated beforehand. The freedom to leave or divorce has not made cheating obsolete. So why do people cheat? And why do happy people cheat?
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