There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.
Leonard Cohen, 1956
The purpose of this article is not to show the impact affairs have on marriages. We all recognize that; but rather, to illustrate how loneliness in a marriage can become an opportunity for having an affair. First, we have to acknowledge that an affair may be the result or manifestation of many underlying causes. Quite often if partners could communicate their feelings in an open, honest manner to each other without criticism, contempt, judgment or stonewalling, perhaps an affair might not have been the result. To go a bit deeper, many people are not in touch or aware of their feelings thus leaving them vulnerable to going outside of their relationship too often to get their needs met that might have been met if they had talked to one other.
In our daily lives too often the trials and tribulations of raising a family, making ends meet, managing careers and parenting, produce a great deal of stress. These challenges too often get carried into the relationship causing the relational space to become polluted. Trying to balance our lives leaves us weak and too often detached from our inner selves as well as our partners. We can easily become spiritually bankrupt. When this occurs, there is a loss of connection; not just with our partner but also with our authentic self. The result: a set up for compulsion and loneliness. The human need for connection and bonding is so essential to our emotional well-being that unconsciously we seek it in something or someone where it is easier to connect than with our partners. Some choose alcohol or drugs, some shopping, others eating and some choose an affair. Often, it’s not even a choice. It’s simply a compulsion to connect; a sort of “perfect storm.”
Can the relationship survive?
Not only is there a possibility but a very high probability if both partners want relational maturity. It is essential that both are willing to learn how to shed their survival roles and perhaps the first time, become authentic. This is the gateway to intimacy. In learning how to achieve authenticity, the couple is now able to see and hear one another with a new set of eyes and ears. The goal is to have a conscious relationship; not just with each other, but with themselves as well.
We are hard wired for connection.
When we go into a dis-connect, we go into crisis. Over nearly 44 years of practice in counseling couples, I have heard lamentations and sorrow about their loneliness, even living together, either in marriage or partnership. It wasn’t always like that, but as the years passed, one or the other found their passion in their work, children or in outside activities that seemed to matter more than each other. Slowly, over time, passion dwindled, conversations were replaced with the clicks of forks and knives over dinner and the sound of newspapers or newscasts replacing conversation. Couples didn’t realize that their relationships were slowly deteriorating. The lack of being present with each other created their relational space to become polluted. They lost the ability to share their feelings and thoughts with one another and soon the divide became the foothills of loneliness and a harbinger for acting out. This vacuum gave way to a yearning for connection. Soon anyone who paid attention to them, gave them a smile, a touch became a threat to their fidelity. Nature abhors a vacuum, so in time it becomes a harbinger for an affair.
The need for connection continues throughout our lives.
The lack of presencing creates frustration and disconnection. Frustration and disconnection rupture our sense of peace and well-being. When this occurs, partners become lonely and can easily be triggered to become unfaithful, even if it is against their values and morals. The need for connection is so powerful that it trumps values, mores, norms, and both spiritual and intellectual functioning. It is on the deepest level of our brains that these needs occur. The need for connection is part of our DNA.
When a mother and child are in connection, bonding is evident through the eyes. Too often in this mad and crazy world of technology we have lost the art of human connection. Couples go to bed with their arms around their computers rather than each other. Our eyes and ears are focused on devices dependent on batteries or electricity. We have slowly lost touch, both literally and figuratively with our partners. We have stopped seeing each other, hearing each other and talking to each other. Our eyes and ears are tuned in to the television, computers, I pads, electronic instruments or cell phones. We have become mechanical and robotic, paving the way unwittingly to a loss of connection with our partners, our children, our friends, colleagues and so on.
Presencing is the first step to reconnection.
Looking into the eyes of our partners is to find their soul, their essence and their beingness. Crossing the bridge to your partner’s neighborhood allows one to discover their authentic self, perhaps for the first time. It encourages the survival role to recede and for the essence to emerge. Demonstrating a deep sense of appreciation and high regard for the other will bring about change, leaving the relational space clean and uncontaminated. The ability to stay present, listen to each other, touch and hold one another with warm eyes and an open heart produces the chemo-therapy that the brain divinely gives us for connection. The production of oxytocin emerges to restore our equilibrium and sense of well-being.
To learn more about connection, the relational space, crossing the bridge and the encounter read my book, I HATE THE MAN I LOVE: A Conscious Relationship is Your Key to Success. It delves deeper into this subject with ways to heal the loneliness in your relationship and repair after the affair. It can be purchased on Amazon or your favorite bookstore.
Joan E Childs, LCSW is a renowned psychotherapist, inspirational speaker and author of I Hate The Man I Love: A Conscious Relationship is Your Key to Success. In private practice since 1978, she specializes in individual and couple’s therapy, grief therapy, EMDR, NLP, inner child work and codependency. Learn more about her services at www.joanechilds.com.
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