couple-on-kitchen-counter-300x199Last night I was reading “Real Love in Marriage” by Greg Baer, M.D. (in between plays on Monday Night football, no less) and noted a section pertaining to the cause of infidelity that I felt was interesting and would be good to share to our readers.

The concept of “real love” is explained in great detail in Baer’s other book “Real Love.” I think that if you can grasp the concept and work to apply it in your marriage, you could not only save your marriage, but make it much stronger as well.  

Baer states that infidelity occurs in every case due to a lack of “real love” in a marriage or relationship.

The typical scenario is that when we get married we are lacking a sufficient supply of “real love” and expect our spouse to make us happy.  This “imitation love” as Baer calls it, is sufficient at first, as both spouses are receiving more “imitation love” than they ever have previously.  They confuse this temporary satisfaction and euphoria with genuine happiness.

Over time, the effects of this “imitation love” begin to wear off and they begin to feel lonely and afraid again.  They do not have “real love” and their “imitation love” is evaporating as well.  Baer says…

Because they once made each other happy, and now the happiness is gone, they naturally conclude that their partner is somehow failing to hold up his or her end of the agreement.  They both feel abandoned and betrayed.

So what happens is that they demand more “imitation love” from their partner using somewhat selfish behaviors, which doesn’t work for long, and then they eventually turn elsewhere for their needed supply of “praise, power, pleasure and safety.”

I must say that I could relate with what Baer is saying, and I’m sure that Linda would agree. The “imitation love” evaporated from our marriage, so I spent more time at work, sucking in the ego boosting praise and validation from Tanya through an emotional affair. 

Linda on the other hand, also didn’t get the needed “imitation love” from me and poured herself into the lives of our kids and her work.  It was a recipe for marital disaster for sure.

Baer says that without “real love” we tend to behave badly in order to fill our emptiness. We can get to a point where we feel so empty that we are willing to seek “imitation love” from anyone, regardless of the risks.  And even though having an affair is inexcusable behavior, it isn’t done to hurt the spouse, but is actually done to dull our own pain.  He compares it to a drowning person trying to keep his head above water.

At the point where the infidelity is discovered, the victim reacts in a way to protect themselves based on the feeling that the affair was done to them, and may consider separation and/or divorce. 

Instead, Baer suggests that if the victim can see the cause of infidelity and then respond in a healthy way, the marriage can survive an affair and then be strengthened.

People need to feel they are loved unconditionally more than anything.  If your spouse has been unfaithful, you can be certain that he or she didn’t feel loved by you, and is the true cause of infidelity. This of course, does not make you responsible for the affair, but you must consider the contributions you made to the deterioration of the marriage. If your spouse feels this “real love” from you then Baer suggests that your spouse will almost certainly stay with you.

Click the following link for more information and book reviews for “Real Love in Marriage.”

 

    27 replies to "The Lack of ‘Real Love’ is the Real Cause of Infidelity"

    • Tryingtoowife

      Yes Doug I am trying to make sense in what you read an wrote here. In my case my husband told me that he thought that I had stopped loving him, in the way I did for the many years we were together. I also thought that his love for me had cooled down (yes, I was stupid like that, and missed the signs of the affair), but during that time, I saw it as a consequence of a busy working life and bringing up children, well, keeping a family together. I also felt abandoned, and lonely at times, but accepting advances or having an affair was the last thing in my mind to try to fix this hopelessness feelings. I just kept supporting and giving, trying to less the burdens and whatever I thought I should do.
      How on earth anyone, by having an affair can feel that, even in an awkward way they are communicating some form of needing to be heard by the other half? That they need to feel the ‘real loved’ again? By doing something that completely goes against any form of ‘real love’ from their own part? I can see love in my husband’s eyes, because he regrets what he did, and for the suffering he caused me. But based on this article, how on earth would be possible for me, to give him back the real love we experienced before, and apparently was in need of, after being denied it so blatantly, and so completely, exactly ALL the things that comes with ‘real love’? Let’s start with, honesty, unselfishness and care. I will keep trying to make sense of this. Who knows if by having some clarity I might also find some peace of mind.
      Thanks for your posts. It helps a lot reading it

      • Doug

        Tryingtoowife, Perhaps I can help you by defining what Real Love is and what Imitation Love is because I think that people often confuse one Imitation Love for Real Love even when they are first married. These definitions are straight from Baer’s book, and naturally, he goes into further explanations as well:

        Real Love is caring about the happiness of another person without any thought for what we might get for ourselves. In other words, it’s unconditional.

        Imitation Love is anything we use as a substitute for real love to temporarily make us feel better in the absence of what we really need. These substitutes come is 4 variations: praise, power, pleasure and safety. These are conditional feelings which are usually short-lived. It feels good and it is addictive.

        If you have doubts as to whether or not you have Real Love for your spouse, Baer says to ask him/her if you treat them differently if he/she does something you don’t like. If you show anger or disappointment, then it is clear that your primary concern is for yourself – which is not Real Love.

        Think about the love you felt before the affair and early in your marriage. Was it actually imitation love? According to Baer, most people get married based on imitation love which eventually fades. It’s too much to discuss in a comment but the book goes on to explain how you can develop real love.

        • Karen

          This post really makes sense to me and reinforces my belief that my H did not intend to hurt me by his EA. But like TryingToWife, I still can’t quite get my head around the inconsistencies in how each spouse acted as a result of immitation love. Some questions:
          1. Why was Doug so open to an EA while Linda did not have an affair? I’m sorry, loving on and being loved by your children is not the same love as married or affair love.
          2. Is it a gender difference? While as a female betrayed spouse, I’d like to think so, but I’m thinking not as there are
          plenty of married women who easily jump into affairs.
          3. Could it be a character trait that I’m not sure how to name that allows some spouses to “justify” having an affair while others would never cross that line? An overdeveloped trait of selfishness or narcissism that easily lends itself during times of feeling “not taken care of” to looking for someone else to “put you first”? That allows the betraying spouse to put their needs above all others and justify doing something totally against their moral compass?

          I think my H and I are working on the real love part very
          successfully, but while I know there are no guarantees, doesn’t the betrayer spouse need to really find out what
          character trait allowed them to have an affair? Otherwise, during the temporary lapses in real love that will occur in the future, isn’t there an increased chance they will have an affair again? Not you, Doug, of course, but other H’s 🙂

          • Doug

            Karen, Though Linda may chime in after she gets off of work, I believe that she was ripe for an affair at the time, though circumstances, beliefs and her morals wouldn’t allow it.

            I believe that there are some character trait issues that may allow a person to justify what they did, and the book seems to indicate that many of our feelings on love are carried through from an early age. He states that most kids learn conditional love (imitation love) rather than “real love” early on from their parents through the simple act of being punished when they would do something wrong.

            Linda has pretty much read the entire book, whereas I’m just starting it, so she may have more to add later, but I did see a section where the author talked about discovering more of your spouses (and your own) past to uncover these traits. There are exercises after each chapter to help communication and discovery.

            • Karen

              Doug:
              As you say, real love requires putting another’s needs before your own, which if most children don’t learn real love, might allow or even increase the chance that all of our
              “selfish” traits (i.e. me first) become overdeveloped or prioritized such that some of us can easily fall prey to an affair. I’m very interested to hear Linda’s take on today’s posts.

            • Linda

              Karen, You know I really didn’t have much to say about today’s post. Usually I read Doug’s words a million times try to find the hidden meaning or “the answer” to the affair. Today the only words that I focused on was “ego boosting praise” which made me very sick to my stomach and for fun I decided to praise Doug for every little thing just to throw it in his face. I hope he realized how shallow and meaningless it can be.

              However, I will say that I really liked the book about real love and learned a lot from it. I am not saying that it is the marriage bible by any means but it has opened my eyes to many of the behaviors we were using in our marriage to feel conditional love. I also learned the difference between mature love and conditional love which helped me see the affair in a different light.

              Infidelity was a very small chapter in the book. I want to believe that the author’s intent was not to justify an affair because of conditional love but to explain how someone who is empty and unhappy will believe that an affair will give them what is missing in their lives, which is real love. Linda

            • Karen

              Linda: Thanks. I plan on reading the book. Unlike, I think, Doug, I’m very unclear on whether my H understands that an EA is NOT the way to cure his “unhappiness” or get that “ego boosting praise” because he really believed the OW cared for him and was helping him to feel better. He feels terribly about how the EA hurt me, but I don’t feel confident he gets it that the EA was the wrong way to handle things. He is a horrible communicator, and he uses that as an excuse not to bring things up that are difficult to deal with. So right now at least, I feel very unsure about our future as I’ve set a boundary that if he does this again, I’m done. I think it’s 50/50 right now whether he’d do it again, and that is troubling to me. He had a couple other female friendships in the past that in hindsight may have crossed the line also, but nothing like this 2-year EA that I was completely oblivious about. I know we have lots of work to do in reinventing our marriage, and I hope to feel better about this going forward. I just don’t think we can stay in mature love 100% of the time, and I feel the need to be relatively confident that my H will not seek out another OW to feel good again.

            • Linda

              Karen, Doug was right I was very ripe for an affair and I did find myself in a situation that proved a little attention could get way out of hand. I admit it was very flattering to have a man pay attention to me, whisper in my ear, compliment me. I did get that giddy feeling when I was with him, and made a effort to look nice when I knew he would be around. But as Doug said I never would have let it go any further, as much as I enjoyed having someone notice me I also was very committed to our marriage. I always made him aware that I was a married woman by constantly talking about my husband in a positive way. I was very careful about any contact that was not at the professional level, I just wouldn’t allow myself to go there, it would go against everything I believe to be true about myself. Linda

    • jenn

      OK, I’m not sure I completely agree with this. I do not agree that this is the ONLY reason a spouse looks elsewhere for attention. In my case, my husband was diagnosed with cancer when I was 6 months pregnant, I was there every step of the way, being attentive, I had to cook special meals for him due to the diet he was on due to radiation treatment, we had our newborn, and then 2 months later he began the affair. We have discussed it, and he believes this happened due to a series of traumatic life events that occurred in the couple of years leading up to it. He’s told me I was attentive, a good wife, and took care of him. We did not have a thriving sexual relationship because I was pregnant and then had to wait after the baby was born. If you are in a Christian relationship, it is the spouses duty, in love, to hold the other accountable, so if they do something we don’t like and it goes against God, then that will disappoint.
      The book ‘Sacred Marriage’ is EXCELLENT in explaining what the purpose of marriage is supposed to be. Too often the cheating spouse forgets about his/her role in serving his/her spouse and becomes selfish and unaware, and ends up falling into something they never anticipated. It also occurs due to lack of boundaries.
      Sorry, I don’t agree much with this theory, other than some people do confuse Real Love with infatuation and fantasy love……..

      • Doug

        No need to apologize. Not every PHd, therapist or author’s theories are going to sit well with everybody. But at the same time I think it’s important to consider a variety of points of view and cling to one that seems to fit your situation.

    • michael

      So what me and my wife are giving eachother is imitaion love.

      I don’t think that but in brush strokes it apears that’s way. I see the selfish need in me to undertand what happened, my selfish need for validation, my wanting more out of my marriage.

      When you look at the big picture I see that no matter what, I’m still here. I want to make my marriage better. But I hit these road blocks and get selfish from time to time.

      I don’t feel like she loves me with the same real love. She demonstrated it with her broken vows. She wasn’t getting what she wanted and she took it out on me. And I see her get distant when I am upset.

      At what point is real love for her not enough? How can I give her real love when she doesn’t know what it is and how to give it to me?

      Is my wanting to talk about the affair with her selfish on my part because I know it upsets her? Or is her refusing to talk about it selfish?

      I don’t think we’ve learned a damn thing in this last year. We do what we’ve learned as children and young adults.
      She learned to run when things get tough.
      I’ve learned to stick it out, without thinking of me.
      That’s just who we are.

      • Doug

        Michael, It may be a hard pill to swallow, but perhaps you are in imitation love — assuming that you go strictly by the author’s definition. I know that Linda and I were. I didn’t realize it at the time, but if I agree with the theory in the book, then certainly that was the case.

        Regardless, from what the author states, it appears that we all are programmed from an early age to love on an “imitation” basis, and that we need to learn how to love on a “real” basis. This certainly would be a shift in mindset for most of us I would think.

    • Alice

      Has anyone ever read any of Gary Neuman’s books? He believes that men cheat when they don’t feel appreciated and women cheat when they feel neglected/abandoned.

      I’m not sure if I agree with the statements in the Baer’s theory. Cheating can occur in happy marriages too.

      • Linda

        Alice, I have read Gary’s book about 20 times, at one point I even made notes of how I could be a better wife. The book is very good for a wife who feels that her marriage is lacking in some way, however as a wife who just found out about my husband’s affair I found it to be a slap in the face and a little too late for my situation. But that didn’t stop me from doing everything that was recommended in the book, I followed my notes carefully and tried to do everything a man needed to stay faithful to his wife. I don’t think I was very successful, I came across as fake, needy. I have learned that appreciation comes in many forms and has to been real and genuine. I was telling Doug thank you for every little thing he did, looking for ways to compliment him, I was over the top. Now I understand what he needs, and it doesn’t have to be ego boosting praise (sorry couldn’t resist) he wants someone to love him and want to be with him because of who he is not what I expect him to be. Linda

    • D

      This doesn’t cut it for me, but I know enough now that there are myriad reasons why each individual enters into affairs.

      My wife may have experienced imitation love, but I think it was more a combination of dissatisfaction with herself and lack of accomplishments, not living up to her father’s (or her own) expectations, projecting waaaay too much of her own emotional crap on me, laziness, and opportunity. She even asked the OM, “I know why you’re doing this, but why am I?”

      Imitation love is too easy an answer. People fall in and out of love every day. Only there’s something in most of us that says don’t have an affair, too many people will get hurt, and I won’t like myself in the process (i.e. maturity.)

      As a nice sort of compliment/counterpoint to this idea I’d like to offer up this talk by Brene Brown about the fear of feeling worthy.

      Copy and paste:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4Qm9cGRub0

    • Anne

      The only “real love” that truly matters is the love you give yourself. Feelings of emptiness arise from your own personal feelings of self-esteem and self-worth. Those people who are involved in emotional affairs are not doing anything different than thousands of single people do – they are involved in an unhealthy relationship that exists only to counter the emptiness they feel inside. The unhealthy relationship allows the person to “tread water” or bide time so that they don’t have to face facts and deal with their own personal and mental problems. When a married person develops this type of relationship, all of a sudden it is an “affair.” What anyone who finds themself in this type of relationship needs to do is seek out a very good therapist, pull up their sleeves, and dig into the hard work of repairing their self-esteem, facing their fears of failure, getting older, their anxiety, depression, etc. and ultimately learn to stand on their own two feet, loving themselves fully.

      To imply that another person, even if that person is your spouse, is responsible for providing “real love” is just beating around the bush. That spouse can try to provide real love until the cows come home and if you are not a mentally healthy individual who truly loves themself, it won’t ever be enough. Recovery from my husband’s EA went through the ups and downs identical to most other folks on this site. We read the books, went to marriage counseling, had our successes and setbacks…but something just wasn’t right. Many months after Dday during a particularly difficult conversation, I gave my husband an ultimatum. I wasn’t going to continue moving forward in our recovery until he started seeing an INDIVIDUAL therapist. I told him I expected him to go once a week for six weeks, and if it wasn’t helpful or he hated it, he could stop. I should mention that I also had been seeing an individual therapist. What a world of difference it made. My husband was able to focus on himself, his own fears and anxieties, and his personal mental health. Our recovery became much more successful after that and my husband continued going to his therapist. I think we both learned that as grown adults, even though we are married, we are each responsible for nurturing our own mental health and we are each responsible for loving ourselves fully first and foremost.

      • michael

        I understand what your saying. I do believe that an unbalanced, lack of self worth, and unhappiness is a root problem with my wife.
        I do see that all my attempts at helping her in a direction to figure that out have gone without her acceptance. I know she does not want to face her issues, and that’s the toughest part.
        That’s the thing that keeps me from healing and worried of what may happen next.
        I have tried real hard lately to stop asking, telling, showing her what I feel. It has taken a toll on us. But as long as she is unwilling to work on her, there can’t be any ground made with us.

    • Lostinlove

      It’s been two weeks now since my husbands EA was exposed, he has cut all ties with the OW and is trying to work on us. I am going thru the ups and emotional downs, I just finished a book called Betrayl’s Baby…it’s about the baby of betrayl being bitterness……wow, tis what hides deep inside, I have realized that I was holding this bitterness from past hurts and my husbands EA revealed this to me. He and I had been thru so much, I never in a million thought he would betray me, lie to me, confide in anyone else…My husband is an alcoholic, he has anger issues, he has trust issues, self esteem issues. He is a proud latin man who failed his family, over and over again, but I, his wife was the only one in his life who was always there, who believe his words and actions,until now…he states his EA was for attention, even though he was demanding of mine. we have four teens, talk about demanding! I have always been able to cover the home expenses, keep a house beautiful, take care of all emergencies and run our business’s successfully….In a relatively short time we experienced, losses…homes, finances, business…then one of our kids went thru cancer….up until this last “cancer” traumatic trial I thought we would always have each others back, but during my sons illness, my husband got lost… i was gone alot, he had to raise the teen girls, he drank, caroused, got arrested, lied, lied and lied…..he even got the kids to lie…I forgave him, but it never really got better…even thru the many years he was unemployed, I found the money to cover our home, to feed our kids…even from the hospital I made sure that things were taken care of….then things got better, he got a great job, lovely home…kids were doing well……it was finally time that the valley was passed and we could start to live life! Then this…….he says it was for the attention…but he lies……i know that lies are all consuming…they can’t be hidden forever…for all things done in the dark, will be brought to light….God has always been there for me, he is the one that I put my trust in…and he will help me to find forgiveness…..I am trying to work thru this for my sanity…and for my children..then i realized, for my husband…he needs help for past betrayls…just like i do. so each day, as hard as it may be, I praise him, I journal, I am trying to be kind and gentle…..He knows that he devastated me, that our marriage is destroyed….but all from the ashes can come life…..and our life started with friendship,,,that I have never broken…so he is learning that LOVE can do all things….but honesty will be the adhesive for it. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, I don’t know if we will make it, But I do know that I will survive….and I will come out of the ashes a better person…because I will destroy the root of bitterness so my children will not suffer the same. This web site has helped my cry, kept me grounded, given me breath and set my feet upon the ground….I thank you all for your words and your hearts…it’s such a devastating thing…betrayl……but don’t let it turn to bitterness

    • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Debi Levine, Doug_Linda. Doug_Linda said: The Lack of ‘Real Love’ is the Real Cause of Infidelity: Last night I was reading “Real Love in Marriage… http://bit.ly/gfGAfy […]

    • Jane

      What a great post Doug. Food for thought, certainly.

    • Julia

      I wonder if Linda ever blamed Doug’s job for creating the right environment for Doug and Tanya’s EA? Making them work together, etc. I know my husband’s employer (a hospital) was somewhat to blame for my husband’s EA’s and PA. They sent my husband to a seminar in 2004 with 2 single, co-worker nurses, no wife invited or welcome, kept asking him to mentor young, female nurses, exchange personal phone numbers, etc. In 2008, his sexual affair started with his co-worker on a new unit at the hospital after his supervisor told her to call him for help, which she did for every little thing. This gave him praise, power, and pleasure. The hospital was responsible, in my eyes, for many affairs in the workplace between married nurses. They had a lot of spare time on night shifts to read each others sexually explicit email jokes and have personal conversations about their love lives, mostly complaints about significant others. My husband, along with other nurses, while at work, talked on cellphones for hours. When I made his supervisor aware, in June 2008, of sexual affair between my husband and the OW, they let them continue to work together for 3 months, continue their hanky panky, when they were caring for sick children. I notified the hospital in June 2008 of sexually explicit emails, over 200, over a dozen different nurses involved (borderline porn)between nurses sent, received and read on hospital computers and that romantic phone conversations were going on between nurses while on the clock for hours, and they did nothing but tell me not to call there. I could not believe how much emotional affairs were condoned by a business that stresses CHILDREN come first. If my husband had not been a nurse at that hospital, I think it possible we could have talked our problems out, but why talk to me about our issues when he had so many available divorced nurses with no morals available and plenty of time to socialize. In fact, after my husband and I reconciled, the OW tried to have me banned from the hospital, successfully, so she and my husband could continue their sexual affair, working together on the same unit, after my husband’s medical leave was over. Since my husband quit his job there 2 years ago, we are rebuilding our marriage. We are closer and happier without the hospital being part of our lives.

      • Doug

        Thanks for commenting Julia. Unfortunately, I had to edit your comment a bit since it mentioned names and employers. That could potentially cause some problems. I hope you understand.

    • Julia

      Doug, I find it interesting that while we are talking about serious, personal, and gut-wrenching issues here and many names are given, both first and last names, you edit out the names of the women that want to break up MARRIAGES for kicks. Is “Tanya” the real name of the woman you had an EA with or are you “protecting” her reputation with an alias, also? Did your job create situations that threw you together in a private setting? And, if so, is your loyalty still to that job? If they request you to work closely with another woman, will you comply with that request? I’m sorry if I am hitting a nerve or being out of line, but I am tired of you men’s first priority being to protect the other woman, and/or your job, when we wives have been thrown to the wolves, so to speak. In my first post on this website, I gave both my first and last name, which was printed on this forum. I have done nothing I am ashamed of, and can prove everything I write. I still have the love letter sent to, and opened by, my husband while he was at work from AJ (alias). I still have the phone bills proving hours of personal phone calls between him and his lover while he was on the clock at ACH. I also still have the borderline, pornographic, sick emails sent by nurses to nurses at a hospital while they were on the clock, on hospital computers, supposedly caring for sick children when they were not flirting, making dates, on their personal cellphones, discussing their love affairs, and feeling each other up. If you have children, how would you like them in a children’s hospital where this sort of behavior is going on? Would you want to know what your child’s nurses priority was? Would you please tell me what problems the TRUTH can cause? Every post on your forum shows what problems lies, omissions, and deceit cause. I believe it has been recommended to one man who is cheating on his wife to tell her the TRUTH by many posters. I guess the truth must be edited to be posted on here, however.

      • Doug

        Julia, I understand your point of view and your anger, but you’re a little off-base here. While it is true that many people put THEIR OWN names on this site, that is fine, and that is up to them. Most choose to be anonymous for various reasons. I have recently made the decision to edit comments by people when the names of the OP is mentioned. It’s not for protection of the OP, and it’s not about telling the truth or not telling the truth, it’s for the legal protection of ME & LINDA. Frankly, I don’t need a lawyer calling us up because their client’s name was slandered or their marriage was destroyed because their client’s name was mentioned on this site. Nothing more nothing less! We recently had a reader contact us that wanted comments he made deleted where he named the OP’s name, because it was causing him legal issues. I don’t need to get involved in that sort of crap, and I suggest that in this litigious world that we live in, you may consider the same. Tanya is an alias strictly for legal/privacy reasons — again, mine and Linda’s and our children’s.

        As for your other questions…Our job did not throw us together in a private setting, unless you consider company events where we both attended private. I no longer work at that company, nor in the industry that I did when I worked with Tanya. I work from home now, so there is never a situation where I’m working closely with another woman other than Linda.

    • Jobell

      Sorry but I think although this has SOME merit, the very idea that my husband went and had an affair because he didn’t feel loved by me and therefore I’m responsible, just pisses me off. He still behaved loving toward me and we had fun together and I guess he was just pretending bc he CHOSE to have an affair even so. He didn’t do it because I was or wasn’t DO-ing something, including baking him feel loved. He did it because he is selfish BS decided to risk everything for some skanky whore who beefed up his ego. And No, things were not rosy perfect, but the comment that the betrayed spouse needs to take responsibility for the cheater not feeling loved is a load of BS to me. My husband chose to seek the ego boosting adoration of someone else because he decided that was more fun and exciting than reality. How many times have I heard that it’s completely unfair and unrealistic for the cheater spouse to compare the fantasy of an exciting new affair to a marriage, which is hard and takes work. I guess I may be alone in feeling this way, but I refuse to take the blame because HE could not get his head out if his ass and see reality. I did show him love and he chose to do what he did, NOT because he didn’t feel loved by me, but because he’s selfish and decided he deserved it and also because he thought he would get away with it. He is selfish and THAT is the reason he cheated.

    • Jobell

      Gah! Sorry that I did not see the last posting date was in 2010.

      • Doug

        No worries Jobell, It quite alright to comment on older posts. In fact we encourage it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.