INFIDELITY: Deconstructed

Sex and the flood of neurotransmitters that goes with it are so powerful that it can throw our rational thoughts, judgments and values out of the window and this is particularly true in the case of infidelity. There is novelty, there is a biological drive and there is your sexual pulse saying “do it…I want this”. This is a tough competitor against the daily grind, our obligations and sexual stasis, meaning that infidelity lures person after person into its honey trap. Within infidelity, nothing seems clearer than following the scent of new sex but infidelity sneakily generates a stressful haze that blindsides its prey as reality falls by the wayside. So, what is infidelity and how many guises does it have? Everyone has different definitions of it but I am going to break it down in a plain and simple way; sans the judgmental language.

Many of us in Australia inhabit monogamous relationships and pairings where a 1+1=2. The most interesting thing about monogamous relationships is how often assumptions are made about the relationship and its boundaries and how infrequently we have honest conversations about the fact that we live in a world where we have contact with the types of people that we are attracted to. Have you had a discussion with your partner as to how you may react or respond to them having contacts that they connect with emotionally, intellectually or physically? What about if they share a lot of time with someone; a kiss or the night with someone? Would you be more upset or hurt if there was an emotional connection involved or if it was a one-time, sex-fuelled opportunity? Do you have your own way of grading or classifying infidelity?

Chances are you do but there are few opportunities to actually say these out loud and what you may come to notice is that these are different to other people. More to the point, are these grading systems helpful in any way to anyone that is involved in infidelity? I wonder if they detract from having a present conversation about the hardships we all face when we say yes to a long-term relationship as this sort of dialogue changes the talk from a ‘but you did this’ to ‘how do we feel about our relationship individually and as a couple?’ It is understandable that the first talk doesn’t start off in this way as there is anger, jealousy and resentment holding court but over time, there needs to be space for this if the relationship wants to survive. No easy feat, I understand.

Talking about infidelity and infidelity itself raises a lot of strong emotions in people and can be an instigator of relationship death or a chance for rebirth. As I have mentioned previously, some of us begin to think we are non-sexual beings and that we are happy as is in our pairings until that build-up of sexual tension explodes in the opposite direction. Many don’t realise how important the sexual part of them is until its release jeopardises some or all of what we have built our lives around. If infidelity occurs, it is important to acknowledge that you are a sexual being, to examine where the primary relationship is at, if the person wants the outside relationship to end (or continue) and how the two of you will recover from this point on.

Sexologists and researchers are also shining a lot more attention on women and infidelity and it is not surprising that men and women are more alike than we thought. It is being suggested that women may not be hardwired for fidelity as heterosexual women’s physical response (within their vagina) jumps at novel stimuli but flatlines when they see a picture of a man that they have a friendship with. Hmmm. With American Beauty keeping its number one place as my favourite film, this fact reminds me of Caroline, who is so tightly wound and uninterested in sex with Lester that it is a stark contrast to see her return to embodying a sexual being with the novel ‘King of Real Estate’. Her sex wasn’t dead inside of her. It was merely sleeping in suburbia until novelty came and woke it up.

One thing that is important to emphasise is that infidelity in all its forms happens to many of us and there isn’t any benefit to pigeon-holing anyone as it occurs within relationships of various sexual preferences and sometimes with people of a different gender to the person in their primary relationship. We know that there are men who have sex with men (MSM) and women who have sex with women outside of their traditional marriage or construct. Sexual likes and preferences are a fluid thing and context plays a huge part. I am not trying to downplay the hurt and pain that goes with infidelity but I would like to demystify it as this ultimate taboo that can drive a permanent wedge between otherwise satisfied couples. In many ways, it draws attention to what our sexual needs are and whether they can be fulfilled within the relationship in a consensual way or whether these need to be pursued separately.

Below are some questions for the couple:

-What was the intention or purpose behind the infidelity?

-Do you want the relationship to survive the infidelity?

-Which relationship are you choosing to invest in from now on?

-Are you prepared to talk to a professional individually and together?

-Are you willing to re-invest in your relationship with time, finances, love and effort?

-Are you aware that the stats for those who have affairs together don’t have a great survival rate if they both leave their primary relationships and pursue the relationship? (insight: the foundation of the relationship is a narrow, intense form of passion and relationships also need intimacy/friendship and commitment, which is often neglected with the heat of sex-based liaisons).

Infidelity is a far-reaching phenomenon and its aftermath leaves us raw yet its occurrence can also serve us some great breakthroughs. As a sexologist, I understand the management of and recovery from this process so please get in touch if you are a woman that would like to address the multiple facets of infidelity further in safe and confidential Sexosophy coaching sessions.

Lauren xo