Friday night Doug and I went out for a few drinks and ran into a neighbor who informed us of yet another couple on our street that has decided to divorce. The story sounded the same as all the others. The husband had an extramarital affair with a co-worker two years ago and is having a hard time staying with his wife because he is still in love with his affair partner. We’ve been hearing so many of these stories lately that it seems like an epidemic!
He is now living in an apartment alone, since his affair partner is still married. He has separated himself from his two young children and wife, who is trying to do the best she can to hold everything together.
As our neighbor told us the story, I felt myself falling deep into a hole, thinking how similar the story was to ours, and wondering if Doug stills feels love for Tanya. I really don’t remember the other conversations we had that night because I was only thinking about the affairs – theirs and ours.
On the drive home I told Doug to please tell me something that will make me feel better. I had been doing so well lately and I didn’t want to regress. He said a few things to make me feel better and surprisingly I believed him and pretty much let it go.
When I woke up the next morning I started thinking about it again and realized that this neighborhood extramarital affair episode has nothing to do with us. Our neighbors may not have done all the work that we had done to save our marriage. They may not have learned everything that we had about affairs, or had each taken fault for their contributions to the deterioration of their marriage. It’s clear that even though most affairs appear to follow the same script, the way you deal with the aftermath determines whether your marriage will survive or fail.
I also began to think about a book I have been reading titled “Real Love” by Greg Baer, M.D. and an blurb I read from Mort Fertel’s Marriage Fitness website. I thought about how easy affair and new love are. How easy it is to think that this person will always make you happy and will always make you feel the way they do early in a relationship. I started thinking about my neighbor, and how he “supposedly” tried to save his marriage for the last two years, but couldn’t continue because of his love for the affair partner. How desperate he felt that he couldn’t be with the person he “loved” because he was sacrificing his love to keep his family together.
Sure, all of this sounds like a script from a movie, as people in an affair truly believe they are trying to do everything to keep their family together, while sacrificing their love for their affair partner. I can’t think of a better way to add more excitement and fuel to the powers of an affair than wanting something you can’t have – all for the good of the family.
Mort Fertel said that new love is easy and that it doesn’t take much effort to make it exciting and rewarding. After awhile when the newness has worn off, it takes work. I wonder what our neighbor will face when the excitement and newness wears off. Will he look at his extramarital affair partner and realize that he is in the same place he was with his wife, but only the scenery has changed?