Infidelity And How It Affects Marriage, Children And Families

MS. DIANE REHM

11:06:56
Thanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. For as long as there has been marriage there has been infidelity. In the U.S., about 40 percent of marriages at some point will be shaken by an extramarital affair. Not only can it destroy a marriage, it can hurt children and parent-child relationships. The good news is that many marriages survive, and can even become stronger. Joining me in the studio to talk about infidelity, Dr. Scott Haltzman. He's a clinical psychiatrist and author of a new book on infidelity, and Lindsey Hoskins, a marriage and family therapist.

MS. DIANE REHM

11:07:45
Joining us from an NPR studio is Woods Hole, Mass., Carolyn Hax, advice columnist for the Washington Post. Do join us, 800-433-8850, send us your email to drshow@wamu.org, follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. And good morning to all of you.

DR. SCOTT HALTZMAN

11:08:13
Good morning, Diane.

MS. LINDSEY HOSKINS

11:08:14
Good morning, Diane.

MS. CAROLYN HAX

11:08:15
Good morning.

REHM

11:08:16
Good to have you all. And Carolyn Hax, I can see you clearly on Skype, and we'll carry on our conversation as though you were right here in the studio.

HAX

11:08:30
I wish I were.

REHM

11:08:31
I wish you were too. Dr. Haltzman, it seems to be that defining infidelity can by almost in the eye of the beholder. You could have people who within a marriage engage in sexual activity outside a marriage. You could have people who engage in an emotional affair. How do you define infidelity?

HALTZMAN

11:09:04
Well, we started by talking about marriage, and remember also, that some people define infidelity also if they're in a committed relationship and not married. So the range is quite broad. I think we can all understand that if you go to your neighbor's house and your spouse is in bed with that neighbor, that's infidelity. But there are obviously broader ranges of definitions of infidelity, and it's been broadening, I think, over the last couple -- probably the last 10, 15 years because of the Internet, and because of the use of text messaging and instant messaging.

HALTZMAN

11:09:41
So I think that you are right, it is in the eye of the beholder. Very frequently, definition of infidelity is in the eye of the person who is not having the affair. So for instance, somebody could be having a very close emotional connection with someone at work, talking all the time, texting each other afterwards, sharing personal things about the family, but never had had sex with that person, and their partner may say, wait a minute. This isn't right. This is a betrayal of our marital vows. And so I'm calling it infidelity.

REHM

11:10:15
Dr. Scott Haltzman. His new book is titled "The Secrets of Surviving Infidelity." And before we get to surviving it, the question becomes why do people cheat. Lindsey Hoskins.

HOSKINS

11:10:33
I think, you know, there are a variety of reasons why people make that decision. Sometimes, you know, there's a need that's not being met in the relationship. Sometimes someone comes along who brings something to the table that is new and different and exciting. You know, people feel powerful or attractive or different things that, you know, different things that feel really good that maybe they're not feeling on a daily basis in their marriage. And so, you know, there's all kind of different reasons, as many as there are different people that have affairs.

REHM

11:11:00
Carolyn Hax, you've heard from an awful lot of people who are perhaps thinking about having relationships outside of their own, or who already have begun. How do you see it? Why do people cheat?

HAX

11:11:20
I would agree with the assessment that people are missing something, and often that thing is just excitement, or just a -- it just pushes this button where you feel good, you feel beautiful, you feel -- you feel naughty. I mean, it's -- it offers really the one thing that almost no marriage can offer, which is newness. I mean, it's just -- if you have a solid marriage, you are living in the familiarity.

HAX

11:11:54
You are supported by the familiarity, and you're enveloped by it. And we human beings have a funny relationship with familiarity. We want it, we crave it, but every once in a while we just want to push it out of the car and we do incredibly stupid things.

REHM

11:12:11
Scott Haltzman, how do you answer that question, which you discuss in the book.

HALTZMAN

11:12:18
Well, Carolyn and Lindsey both point to this issue of excitement and familiarity and novelty, and they're all right on point which is that it's difficult to have a consistent, regular marriage, with reliability and predictability, and also have excitement. However -- and so what we're talking about here in needs. What are the internal needs of a person who goes off and has an affair?

HALTZMAN

11:12:43
The need to feel great about themselves, or the need for excitement. But I also think that infidelity is a combination of factors, because we all have needs, and everybody that's in a marriage is going to turn around at one point or another and say, all of my needs aren't being met. As a matter of fact, they'll probably turn around every single day and say that. So it's a combination of other factors as well.

HALTZMAN

11:13:03
It includes things like opportunities for infidelity and for affairs, and it also includes your own personal ability to inhibit your impulse to go out there and do things. So it's something I called disinhibition. So if you have this need, and on top of which there is an opportunity to have an affair and you cannot control your impulses, bam, you've not just moved into the territory of having an affair.

REHM

11:13:29
Lindsey Hoskins, as a marriage and family therapist, I'm sure you've seen a great number of individuals who've come to you who are already in the midst of some external relationship...

HOSKINS

11:13:46
Absolutely.

REHM

11:13:46
...or who are thinking about it. What do they say to you as to what they're thinking, what they're feeling, and what their emotional state is at that time?

HOSKINS

11:14:01
You know, usually by the time they get to my office, the affair has come to light, and they're there with their partner to try to work on it. It's much more rare that I get someone who's thinking about having an affair, although that could happen. Generally, the emotions that they bring with them are guilt. You know, if their partner has found out about the affair, they feel very guilty about that. They feel bad about whatever impact it might have had on their children to that point.

HOSKINS

11:14:23
They feel fearful about other people finding out about the affair. They also feel some allegiance to the partner in the affair, right, because now they've developed another intimate relationship that's also become important to them, and so they feel this sort of torn loyalty between the spouse and this other partner with whom they both have what they feel are important relationships.

REHM

11:14:43
And Carolyn Hax, you've heard from an awful lot of people who are in very, very messy situations trying to deal with all the things Lindsey is talking about. What do you say to them?

HAX

11:15:01
Well, it's funny. I have heard from a lot of people, and over the years they've forced me to change my view of this, and really, what I've come to. And in fact, I absolutely despite this topic because you almost can't come up with an answer that doesn't offend somebody. Because if you take the black and white view of it, then you have all the people who are living in gray comfortably, and after a lot of hard work, and they say, okay, I've had an affair in my past. I'm beyond that, I won't do it again.

HAX

11:15:29
But, you know, if you take the black and white view, I am beyond redemption. Or if you take the gray view, the black and white people get very upset with you. You're -- I've been accused of condoning affairs, which, of course, I'm not doing, but I'm simply embracing humanity in all of its complexity, and sometimes that means giving somebody a pass if they've done the hard work to get over. And so what I end of up doing, to answer your question specifically, is I end up taking each situation for its own details, and trying to come up with an answer that works in that situation. And it probably won't apply well to any other. I think that's all you can do.

REHM

11:16:03
Lindsey, what do you advise couples if there are children involved? What do you advise that couple that they say to those children?

HOSKINS

11:16:18
You know, it depends so much on the age of the children and sort of who those children are, and I think it's really important to know your children and know kind of what they're capable of understanding. Generally I advise couples that if the children don't already know about the affair, or if they're not likely to find out about it elsewhere, that the parents don't disclose exactly what's going on. That they can be honest that there's a struggle going on in their relationship and they're trying to work it out, but generally the children don't need to know the nature of that struggle.

HOSKINS

11:16:46
That can be damaging as they, you know, they identify really strongly with both parents, and if they see one parent as having done something very wrong, you know, that's a struggle for them as well, because they identify with that parent.

REHM

11:16:58
Scott Haltzman, what do you think?

HALTZMAN

11:17:01
Well, let me just go back to something that Carolyn had said about despising this topic, and I understand where she's coming from on that, because, you know, a bad thing has happened, and a person did a bad thing, and the logical conclusion is that that person is bad or has bad character. And so sometimes, as Carolyn is saying, you don't garnish a lot of friendships, you know, in support, when you say to the person who's been cheated on, your partner is not a bad person.

HALTZMAN

11:17:34
And I think that's one of the things that I really want to get across when I counsel individuals and couples, is that it may be that it's a good person in a relatively good marriage who did a bad thing, and so let's try to work from there. Now, to follow up on what Lindsey was saying about the children and how to begin to broach the subject with them, I think that if you are committed to rebuilding your marriage, and that is so much of the focus that I have, and if you're still in the same home, and if you haven't had a great disruption of your household issues, then I agree that the children don't need to know.

REHM

11:18:15
Clinical psychiatrist and author, Dr. Scott Haltzman. His new book is titled, "The Secrets of Surviving Infidelity." Lindsey Hoskins is a marriage and family therapist. She's president-elect of the Middle Atlantic Division of Marriage and Family Therapists. And Carolyn Hax, advice columnist for the Washington Post. Short break. Stay with us.

REHM

11:20:05
And we're talking about infidelity and relationships. I don't want to simply call it in marriage because it's far more broad than that. What happens when infidelity occurs. Can a relationship be mended? Can two people come back together after one has, quote, "cheated" or done bad things? How are children involved? For the most part, wouldn't you, Dr. Haltzman, say that most spouses or partners know if somebody is cheating?

HALTZMAN

11:20:54
Well, if you ask the folks that have had multiple affairs and their partner has never found out, the answer would be no. However, the people that are involved in ongoing affairs, in other words if somebody is going out to conventions, you know, once a year and goes to the bar and meet somebody there, their partners may not ever find out about it. There's a double-edged sword about the electronic communications that we have in our nation now.

HALTZMAN

11:21:20
Which is that on one hand, it increases the ability of having an affair. So let's say you go off, you meet an old high school girlfriend or high school boyfriend at a convention in your hometown. Well, 20 years ago, you would have met then, you might have thought about flirting and that would it. It wasn't likely that they were going to call your home or send you an email or send you mail.

REHM

11:21:43
You're right.

HALTZMAN

11:21:44
So these days, however, you know, you keep the conversation going. At the flip side of that is electronic communications makes it easy for us to discover affairs. And I figure that if someone like General Petraeus can't keep an affair secret when he's head of the CIA, then it's unlikely that you're going to be able to keep an affair secret.

REHM

11:22:03
Carolyn Hax, how do you respond?

HAX

11:22:07
Well, I think it's interesting if you consider not just the person cheating but also the person, the other person. And so much of that person's disposition and, oddly enough, that person's view of infidelity plays into whether that's going to be discovered. For example, there are a lot of people who are of the black and white variety I was talking about before. The, you know, if you so much as look at somebody funny, I'm out of here.

HAX

11:22:32
And those people actually are going to maybe will be snooping and looking for evidence and might be quick to catch somebody. But I think also ironically they make themselves more easily deceived because they live in this illusion that there is such a thing as an absolute, where there is right and there is wrong. And they'll tell themselves that they are on the side of right and fail to see other evidence, if that makes sense.

HAX

11:22:55
I mean, they just -- they look at somebody, they say, okay, you are not -- you will never cheat on me. I just know. And of course you never just know, there's no never. And I think people who are more comfortable with grey are actually more capable of picking up on the subtleties of somebody losing their attention.

REHM

11:23:09
Interesting. Lindsey?

HOSKINS

11:23:11
I think she's right on. You know, I think -- to sort of piggyback off what Carolyn is saying that that sense of absoluteness comes with it sometimes a feeling of being really justified in talking about the affair, for example, with children and trying to maybe pull children into an alliance with one parent over the other. And I think although it's perfectly understandable why, you know, the quote-unquote "victim of the affair" would feel justified in doing that, you know, it's really never in the best interest of the child to bad mouth the other parent.

HOSKINS

11:23:41
And, really, the priority needs to be maintaining a healthy relationship with both parents despite what they decide to do with their relationship.

REHM

11:23:48
Here's an email and apparently we'd had several along these lines saying the problem is not infidelity, it's the unreasonable expectation of monogamy. When people realize that fact and recognize it doesn't mean there is less love between the spouses, it's simply a desire that cannot be reasonably suppressed. Carolyn Hax, how do you respond?

HAX

11:24:24
Well, I think about something one of your guests said earlier about impulse control. And I think some people can reasonably suppress that desire and some can't or just choose not to, just won't. And so I think there's a continuum there. And I think though that any discussion of infidelity has to take into account our increasingly life span. And so you're looking at a marriage that doesn't end when one of you drops at 48. Now you're living into your 70s.

HAX

11:24:54
And so these marriages, yes, are enormous and I think historically we're looking at marriage as something that was never asked to hold up for so long. And so, again, I think this is a wonderful topic for couples before they get married or before they commit to each other.

REHM

11:25:10
Exactly. And that kind of discussion rarely takes place, I think.

HALTZMAN

11:25:18
It doesn't take place typically. And, you know, I'm glad you gave Carolyn a chance to answer that question first so I can calm down a little bit. When people talk about this idea that it's not natural. Look, nobody forced you to take your wedding vows. It may not be natural, but there's a lot of things in life that we do that aren't natural. I'm, you know, I could walk into a restaurant, I could want to eat pizza on somebody else's table, it's natural.

HALTZMAN

11:25:46
I've got an appetite. I'm hungry. Eating is a natural human endeavor, but I'm sure as heck not going to do it. And I understand that it's hard work to maintain fidelity. But when you're starting to feel like you're having difficulties in your relationship or you're feeling like the person looks a little more attractive than my spouse, you need to take that energy and direct it back into the marriage and find a way to make it work.

HALTZMAN

11:26:10
There are a lot of things that are not natural as human beings that we're asked to engage in. And in this case, you made a commitment to one person. I think it's a cop out to say that it's not natural.

REHM

11:26:20
But on the other hand, as Carolyn points out, we're all living longer. I personally had been married for nearly 54 years. Who would've thunk it? And the point being that we are living longer. We do change and grow and perhaps grow out of a relationship with one person so that commitment that we made, say, at age 21 does not hold until age 65.

HALTZMAN

11:26:59
Well, we do grow out of relationships.

REHM

11:27:01
Sure.

HALTZMAN

11:27:01
But we grow back into those relationships. So that at 54-year-old marriage probably had times when you looked at each other -- and I don't want to be personal here -- and said who is this person?

REHM

11:27:14
Of course.

HALTZMAN

11:27:14
Or I can't stand this person.

REHM

11:27:16
Of course.

HALTZMAN

11:27:17
And yet by sticking with it, you end up, you know, having a greater sense of fulfillment not only to that person you are married to, to your children, to the community in general. And I get what Carolyn is saying, we do live longer, it's harder to keep a promise that long. That's the challenge, that's the thrill and it can be done.

REHM

11:27:34
All right. I'm going to open the phones. We have so many callers waiting. Let's go first to Pittsburgh, PA. Good morning, Paul, you're on the air.

PAUL

11:27:46
Good morning.

REHM

11:27:47
Hi there.

PAUL

11:27:48
Hi. I think I'm just going to chime in on what you guys have been talking about. But I remember reading somewhere that biologically the sense of infatuation, attraction is limited to like four to six years and they speculated them basically, you know, through evolutionary times, the amount of time it took for a child to basically not be on their own, but, you know, not become too intense parental interaction.

PAUL

11:28:22
But it just seems like this if that's so then, in some ways, our culture is asking us to do things that isn't exactly in line with our biology.

REHM

11:28:30
That's a fascinating point. Lindsey?

HOSKINS

11:28:32
It's the seven-year itch, right? That classic notion of the seven-year itch. But, you know, I completely agree with what Scott was saying, you know, you make a commitment and when that sort of natural biological excitement of a new relationship wears off, it's replaced by something that's also really precious and valuable and unique and wonderful, right? And as a society, we need to appreciate the next stage of marriage.

HOSKINS

11:28:54
It's not that butterflies in your stomach infatuation phase, but it's the mature love, that reliable, predictable, yes, maybe routine but really comfortable in many ways and wonderful.

REHM

11:29:06
Carolyn?

HAX

11:29:07
The one thing -- I keep wanting to jump in with this while you're talking about it. I agree that this other thing waits for you. And Scott was saying, of course, you take the energy that you're feeling towards somebody else and you put it back into your marriage, and I can't argue with that. But the problem is, sometimes people do that. They turn it back into their marriage and it's unreciprocated.

HAX

11:29:26
And then you have one of the -- I think then you get to the fundamental problem is that you need both halves of the couple to be making this commitment to turning it back to the marriage. You need both halves of the couple to be recognizing this familiarity and the deeper commitment to a marriage, to the 54 years, to the sign wave of being close and distant and working to get back together.

HAX

11:29:46
Both of you have to be in this. And the problem is, if it's unreciprocated, then you have somebody who is missing something who is trying to invest in the marriage and who has this horrible choice of do I throw it all away because my partner is no longer 100 percent with me. He's maybe 75 percent. And so I either have to embrace the 75 percent or, you know...

REHM

11:30:07
Quite right.

HAX

11:30:08
It's hard. And, again, most people don't choose to stray, I think sometimes it's just -- they go sort of half star for so long that is just the opportunity presents itself and there you go.

REHM

11:30:17
All right, let's go to Detroit, MI. Good morning, Frances, you're on the air.

FRANCES

11:30:24
Hey, Diane, my comment is that as a society, we just need to talk about this a lot more. And this issue of setting expectations for relationships need to be a mainstream conversation between friends and parents and sons and daughters. I do think that we don't support each other enough in figuring out how to make relationships work and setting boundaries. And I'm an advocate of talk to your spouse.

FRANCES

11:30:51
If you want to cheat, the first person that ought to know is your spouse. They shouldn't -- there ought to be a level of respect and they shouldn't be the person that finds out accidentally down the road. We need to respect each other and communicate with each other and be open with each other in relationships.

REHM

11:31:05
All right, thanks for your call. When people come in for therapy, how often do they come together or does one person come seeking to fix the other person? How often does that happen?

HOSKINS

11:31:23
Certainly both happen. You know, I always try to encourage both partners to come together for therapy to work on their relationship. There are situations where one person refuses to come in, just isn't willing to participate and certainly there are some ways that you can help make some changes in a relationship working with just one person because the partner has to respond.

HOSKINS

11:31:42
If I make a change, then my husband has to respond to that in some way, right? He's part of the system with me. But...

REHM

11:31:48
Or he may not.

HOSKINS

11:31:49
Well, he might not make the right change, but he's going to have to react in some way.

REHM

11:31:51
Yeah. Right.

HOSKINS

11:31:54
So, you know, I think most often what I see is both partners coming in together. But it certainly happens...

REHM

11:32:01
And, Scott, how often do both partners come in?

HALTZMAN

11:32:06
Anybody that's open to the idea of helping couples will help couples whether an individual comes in or whether a couple comes in together. So I may not even be seeing somebody for couple's treatment, I may just have that individual person come in and because I'm a practicing psychiatrist, they may be coming in for an adjustment of their antidepressant dose. But in the context of that conversation, we may be talking about relationships and we may be talking about ways in improving it.

HALTZMAN

11:32:32
And as Lindsey was saying, sometimes when one person starts to make changes, it does affect the other partner, even though the other partner doesn't even know that those changes are going on.

REHM

11:32:41
And indeed affects the entire family. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." To Manchester, MO. Good morning, Andrew.

ANDREW

11:32:56
Good morning, everybody. The only thing that I can really say here is I was married for 11 years and when I was married we had some problems and I thought me and my former spouse were making progress. She goes outside the marriage. We end up getting a divorce, she ends up living with the guy she cheated with. I myself had gotten some counseling afterwards because it hurts pretty good. Later on, I meet someone else.

ANDREW

11:33:27
We talked about getting married. She did the same thing. Now...

REHM

11:33:32
When you...

ANDREW

11:33:33
I'm now 50 years old and I don't trust anybody at all.

REHM

11:33:36
Okay, so you're saying that the person you found after you were divorced also cheated on you.

ANDREW

11:33:46
Yeah. Yes, exactly.

REHM

11:33:46
Okay. So now you've reached a place where you don't trust anybody.

ANDREW

11:33:53
Right. I'm 50 years old. I haven't dated anybody in five years because I just -- when I was married, you know, I understood we had problems. Hey, I was a willing partner. Hey, let's work on what we have going on. And, you know, it ended the way it did and I'm at a point where I don't even know what to think anymore. So this subject really hits a raw nerve with me.

REHM

11:34:19
All right, Carolyn Hax, what's your reaction?

HAX

11:34:23
Well, my reaction is an answer that a lot of people really dislike. And what I would say to that is, I don't think any of us really can trust anybody. I mean, you just -- you can't -- we don't have strings attached, we can't move the strings on somebody else. People are going to make their choices. They're going to do what they're going to do and we can't know their minds. You never can.

HAX

11:34:43
What you can do is trust yourself. You can say, I trust myself to get through it if somebody treats me badly. And I think once you have that, once you have that rock solid trust, you know, if somebody abuses me the way these women did again, I will again get off the ground, dust myself off and I will interact with people again because that's what I want to do.

REHM

11:35:06
Lindsey?

HOSKINS

11:35:07
I absolutely agree. And also I think, you know, being on the other side of those two experiences, now you have, you know, a little bit more savvy, I guess, to kind of sense when something like that is going on. You know, and there are a lot of things that happen before an affair usually in terms of distance in the relationship and feeling disconnected from the partner or tension that are warning signs where you can say, hey, it feels like something is going on here. Can we talk about it?

REHM

11:35:33
All right, to Raleigh, NC. Good morning, Eileen.

EILEEN

11:35:38
Good morning. How are you?

REHM

11:35:39
I'm good, thanks.

EILEEN

11:35:40
First of all, I'd like Scott to send a copy of his book to a certain address. I agree with the lady from Detroit about having respect. After 45 years of marriage, I would have liked to have found out other than accidentally. And I think there are two things that you haven't brought up that played into besides the internet. And one was untreated depression and the second one was erectile dysfunction.

EILEEN

11:36:10
And I think that my former husband thought that he was going to get the excitement back and also recapture his manhood through going back, dialing back to a high school girlfriend. And I'm not sure whether it's working out or not, but he did alienate all of my adult children and grandchildren and it's very sad. And I just -- I don't know how to comment other than to say it would have been nice to know.

EILEEN

11:36:41
It would have been nice if he would have gone to counseling with me. But he refused, and I understand that was tied into the depression. So...

REHM

11:36:48
All right, thanks for you call. Scott?

HALTZMAN

11:36:52
Eileen, just get that address to me and I'll make sure I get the book off. No, you know, is he still with this high school?

EILEEN

11:36:59
Yes.

HALTZMAN

11:36:59
He is? Okay. And how long has that been the case?

EILEEN

11:37:02
She left her third husband and they've been living together since a year ago, August.

HALTZMAN

11:37:09
Well, there -- as we talked about before, there are a whole host of needs. And that could also include obviously having some physical problems or some depression, even attention deficit disorder can lead to it. What I would say is that this really part of the addictive quality of affairs. There's something...

REHM

11:37:29
Exactly.

HALTZMAN

11:37:29
...incredibly exciting.

REHM

11:37:31
All right. We got to take a short break here. After the show ends, Dr. Haltzman will answer email and Facebook questions.

REHM

11:40:05
And let's go right back to the phones to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. Wayne, you're on the air.

WAYNE

11:40:13
Yes.

REHM

11:40:13
Hi.

WAYNE

11:40:14
Hi there. Thank you. As a former therapist working a lot with couples with this kind of issues I just want to say a couple things real quick. One is if you're a couple out there with this issue, find a therapist, the people that are on your show, that have some experience in this. It's a complicated issue and people need to have experience with this. It needs to be dealt with in a systemic way. So I urge that.

WAYNE

11:40:40
The second thing is to say that many couples are able to work these things out, as people on your show have indicated. But it does take commitment and it takes two people to roll their sleeves up.

REHM

11:40:50
All right. And say hi to your dog in the background. It does. It takes two people to work it out if they want to, Lindsey.

HOSKINS

11:41:04
Absolutely, it's a process. And, you know, the process of forgiving and being forgiven, you know, it's not something that we repair in two therapy sessions. It's a long discussion that we have together. And both partners have to really be willing, as the caller said, to roll up their sleeves and get down to business and work at it.

REHM

11:41:20
Scott.

HALTZMAN

11:41:22
Well, I'm going to take a slightly opposing point of view, both on what Carolyn said earlier about the spouse that it becomes distant even though you're doing the right job and the idea that it takes two. Sometimes the other partner's not ready at that moment to do the work. And I say at that moment. And they may not be ready to do it that next year or even a couple years later. It takes a lot of patience.

HALTZMAN

11:41:46
So one of the flaws of the whole psychodynamic premise of it takes two is that when one partner says, well I've done what I've done. My partner's not done theirs. It's time for me to either look outside the marriage or to become -- to divorce. You know, my view is, be patient. Sometimes your partner's not there. I'm not saying be patient if your partner's out having an affair and continues to have the affair. Look, that's dangerous. You don't want whatever diseases that person's bringing back home to your house.

REHM

11:42:11
Exactly, yeah.

HALTZMAN

11:42:13
But if you're feeling you're not getting the love you want or the attention you need and you're doing the right things and your partner's not responding, be patient and don't just assume that that should -- that's a sign that the marriage has to end.

REHM

11:42:24
Here's an interesting Tweet saying, "I've been involved in an extramarital affair for 12 years. He is happily married. An affair can be good for a marriage." Carolyn Hax.

HAX

11:42:43
I hear that and I'm trying really hard to say it takes all kinds and people are entitled to live their lives the way that works for them. But I don't want that to be my marriage. I really -- I mean, I would have a problem with somebody assuming that I would be okay with that. I mean, if I were aware of it, if it were an open marriage, that's one thing. But if the spouse who's getting cheated on is under the illusion that the marriage is intact than I have a problem with that. I don't think the other person gets to decide that, yes, this affair will make my marriage work or my...

REHM

11:43:25
And Chris writes, "I feel the declining morality of media and the easy availability of pornography contribute to the increasing rate of infidelity. The media injects sex into everything possible, which makes sex commonplace rather than intimate and personal. My wife and I have been married for 13 years. We do not watch hyper sexualized media." Scott, what's your thought?

HALTZMAN

11:44:02
The media definitely plays a role, particularly in the idea that we're all supposed to be searching for our soul mates so that when we have difficulties in the marriage or when we quote "drift apart," it's time to move on. It's more controversial about whether pornography helps increase the rates of infidelity. It depends on whether you define -- some people actually define looking at pornography as infidelity.

HALTZMAN

11:44:26
Certainly the interactive nature of pornography on the internet these days is problematic so that you can actually have porn -- you know, have sex with a live person online. I think that also will increase the risks.

REHM

11:44:39
All right. To Jacksonville, Fla. Good morning, Julie.

JULIE

11:44:44
Good morning. Thank you for taking my call.

REHM

11:44:46
Surely.

JULIE

11:44:48
I've been married to a gentleman who has poor impulse control. And for the last five years he has cheated on me numerous times. And I basically agree with what you've been saying as far as the impulse control is there. And it shocked me about the availability of the women that were so willing and didn't even care whether he was married or not. But I stayed calm. But what I learned was when I did not react and I stayed calm and I listened to him, we got to be very close and good friends and he would tell me what his problems were.

JULIE

11:45:24
And one of them was he was looking at porn and he was taking Viagra. And when he would leave and go out, the Viagra was still in his system. And every time he felt an arousal, he saw a woman, he would pursue them. So we worked on this together. We're very happy now. And it does take a lot of patience and it took him three years to get to the point where he realized that any woman that wanted to sleep with him was dysfunctional. And she knew that he was married. And he did not want to have any part of poor impulse control and dysfunctional relationships.

REHM

11:45:55
Carolyn, do you want to comment?

HAX

11:45:57
Well, I just want to say, I'm very impressed with your strength that -- I mean, I think you're right about all those things. And I think it takes a special person to be able to put in the three years to understand -- I think mainly to understand that it wasn't personal what your husband was doing. And boy, that's hard. A lot of people instantly make it about themselves and I understand that. But to be as detached as you were as to say, this is your issue and I'm going to be patient with you as you work through it. I mean, that's extraordinary.

REHM

11:46:24
All right. Thanks for calling, Julie. And to Ryan in Evansville, Ind. Good morning.

RYAN

11:46:33
Good morning, Diane. Thanks for taking my call.

REHM

11:46:35
Sure.

RYAN

11:46:36
I just wanted to get your panel's opinion on what they think about, you know, the spirituality or, you know, religion playing a part in, you know, the commitment to marriage. My wife and I, you know, we believe in Jesus and the teachings that he has taught. And we -- our first year of marriage was -- you know, as bad as some people say, you know, your first year's always the hardest . Well, for us that was definitely true. And we sought a counselor who, you know, was a Biblical counselor as well.

RYAN

11:47:09
And really having that, you know, foundation to lean on got us through that first year. And we did just celebrate our fourth year.

REHM

11:47:18
Good. Congratulations. And Lindsey. What's your reaction?

HOSKINS

11:47:23
You know, Diane, I do a lot of premarital counseling actually, and so I work with couples sort of setting up their expectations and contract for what their marriage is going to look like. And I think when two people go into a relationship, into a marriage knowing that spirituality is going to be a big component of it for them and what that means for each of them as individuals and for them as a unit, it can really be a wonderful strengthening thing.

HOSKINS

11:47:44
The key is that they have to understand each other's perspective and have kind of a shared, you know, understanding of how that's going to work for them in their lives.

REHM

11:47:52
I think the reality is that nobody knows who they're marrying until they've been married for quite a long while. Scott.

HALTZMAN

11:48:06
That's right. There's that old joke, I hear that in some countries people don't even know their spouse before they get married, you know. And the American father says, yeah, that's everywhere. You know the research is a little bit split on this issue. We would like to believe that people that are religious and align themselves with a particular religious institution have a decreased risk for infidelity. Some studies show that's the case, some studies not. And, as we know, very religious people divorce rates are just as high as people that are not aligned with any particular...

REHM

11:48:38
Interesting. All right. to, let's see, Dallas, Texas. Lee, you're on the air.

LEE

11:48:46
Yeah, hi. Good morning. Thanks. I'm kind of in the middle of this right now and so I have a question about the obligation to the other spouse. So, you know, I know that the other spouse has kids and they have a family but they don't know about the affair that I've just learned about. So my question...

REHM

11:49:03
And what -- excuse me, what's your relationship to the affair?

LEE

11:49:10
I found out that the affair was going on.

REHM

11:49:13
Now is it your spouse?

LEE

11:49:16
Yeah, yes.

REHM

11:49:17
Okay. Your spouse is involved in an affair with someone else.

LEE

11:49:23
Yes. And that individual, his family, I'm assuming, doesn't know. And what -- do I have an -- you know, at times I've just wanted to kind of blow the world up and tell them but I don't know that it's the right thing to do. And I really haven't -- I really don't know what to do in that regard.

REHM

11:49:37
Carolyn.

HAX

11:49:38
This is a tough one to answer because some spouses will hop into this discussion and say you absolutely have to tell because I would want to know. I would want to know. Tell me. And there are some who don't want to know and it's amazing. And it's just this real divide. It's like cat people and dog people. And I think, you know, we're supposed to choose based on what you think the other person would want and that's very difficult. So I think the way you go is you talk to the people involved and you say, you need to come clean or I might have to. And I think you sort of -- you try to put it on the people involved to do the right thing.

REHM

11:50:13
Scott.

HALTZMAN

11:50:13
So if this affair is ongoing, my view is that Lee ought to do everything possible to fight for his marriage, if there's any chance that his wife is still in the picture. So if that includes telling that other family, hey get your husband away from my wife or from my partner, then that's fair game.

REHM

11:50:34
Lee, are you still interested in maintaining the marriage?

LEE

11:50:40
Yes.

HALTZMAN

11:50:41
And is your wife still with him?

LEE

11:50:42
No.

HALTZMAN

11:50:43
Okay. Well then, in that case, why hurt more people?

LEE

11:50:46
Well, that's kind of -- that's kind of where I've been, but I've also been on the other side where if that -- you know, I wish someone would've told me. You know, I didn't want to find out the way I did. So I'm with you. Why cause more damage? And I just wanted to kind of hear that iterated from the smart folks.

REHM

11:51:03
All right. Thanks for calling. Good luck to you.

LEE

11:51:06
Thank you.

REHM

11:51:06
Let's go to Paducah, Ky. Good morning, Chris.

CHRIS

11:51:12
Good morning. How are you guys?

REHM

11:51:14
Fine thanks.

CHRIS

11:51:16
So, yeah, went through the affair probably three, four years ago where my wife cheated on me. And the -- you know, one fellow and she did it twice with the same guy. And we worked through it through counseling. A lot of -- you know, a couple of tough years there. We made it through. We're still together and she's now pregnant with our third child. And this child is supposed to signify in our minds our new beginnings, you know, our new life together.

CHRIS

11:52:00
But, you know, to be completely honest, I still have recurring thoughts. And is that natural, or should I just be completely numb to the past? You know, I truly believe she's a good person. I was a drug addict when we got married and I think the actions that she took were directly a result of my behavior. And I don't condone her behavior but at the same time I know had I been a better husband that that would not have happened. So...

REHM

11:52:43
Okay. Chris, let me...

CHRIS

11:52:45
...my question -- yeah.

REHM

11:52:46
Go ahead. Your question is...

CHRIS

11:52:51
I still have some thoughts...

REHM

11:52:52
Sure.

CHRIS

11:52:53
...concerns and is that natural or can I just completely be at a point where I'm like a newlywed? You know, I'm...

REHM

11:53:00
Okay. But I want to ask you one question.

CHRIS

11:53:04
All right.

REHM

11:53:05
Are you completely drug free at this point?

CHRIS

11:53:08
Oh, yes, yes, ma'am.

REHM

11:53:10
Okay.

CHRIS

11:53:10
And have been -- yep.

REHM

11:53:11
Okay, good. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Scott, what do you say to Chris?

HALTZMAN

11:53:19
Okay. So the first point is, Chris, something that Carolyn had pointed out earlier, which is that trust is -- you know, there's never 100 percent trust. Even the day you turn off the altar and star walking down the aisle. So you may never get to the point where you totally trust her. I think another thing that Carolyn said was brilliant was to trust yourself in terms of how you're going to deal with it. But there's two other points that I just want to get across.

HALTZMAN

11:53:42
One is that you notice that Diane's been getting a lot of calls from women who are committing infidelity -- in other words from husbands of women. So this is not just something about men going out and cheating. So I'm really glad that you're male listeners are speaking up. And the second thing is just a general pitch to everyone that's listening. You need to make constant -- you need to work on your marriage, improve the quality of your marriage, nurture it on a regular basis, whether infidelity is happening or not.

REHM

11:54:09
Several emailers want to know what you all think about something called Imago or Imago Relationship Therapy. Carolyn, do you know about that?

HAX

11:54:22
No, that hasn't crossed my...

REHM

11:54:23
Scott.

HALTZMAN

11:54:24
Yeah, that's -- Harville Hendrix had written a wonderful book called "Getting the Love You Want." And he actually has a newer book out called "Making Marriage Simple." The idea is it's improving people's -- couple's communication. And it's also on the basis that the person that you married is -- somehow has these unmet needs from what you didn't get out of your relationship. And you choose a partner based on that.

HALTZMAN

11:54:44
And Harville and I have had discussion. So in other words, I'm choosing somebody because I didn't get something from my parents and I expect that person to fulfill it. And invariably they don't and so I become disappointed and angry and we have arguments. My only objection to that particular model is that in arranged marriages where you don't pick anybody, somebody's picked for you, couples still end up arguing and fighting over some of the exact same issues.

REHM

11:55:10
Sure, sure. So Lindsey, what would you say to Chris now that this third child is due and he's thinking, maybe I just need to forget everything that's happened, begin anew with great hopes that this third child will help me.

HOSKINS

11:55:34
Sure. You know, I don't think that you have to forget what happened in order to move forward in a healthy way. You know, that's the reality of a history of that marriage. And those partners need to continue to talk about and deal with that as long as it feels relevant for them. If he has some continuing feelings about it, that's a conversation he needs to have with his wife.

HOSKINS

11:55:52
As far as this third child being, you know, a symbol of renewal in the marriage, you know, that's a lovely notion. It's also a lot of pressure to put on a little kid, you know. And so I'd want there to be a conversation also about what that means.

REHM

11:56:05
Carolyn, last words on how to keep marriage fresh and working.

HAX

11:56:14
In 30 seconds or less?

REHM

11:56:15
In 30 seconds or less.

HAX

11:56:17
You know what? I would say keep yourself fresh and interesting. And keep that commitment steady. Just -- through all the churning that goes on in your life, you just keep your foot on that rail of committing to your relationship. And again, as you expand and grow in your own ways, so that you can bring that to the marriage.

REHM

11:56:39
And that's a really important point, it seems to me, because we're all changing, growing. We are not the same person 50 years later that we were when we began. Last work, Scott?

HALTZMAN

11:56:57
Let's hold onto that idea of making an exciting marriage. What draws people to infidelity is that heart-pounding experience. It's more difficult. It takes more work to get it in your marriage, but you can. Change things up, go to different places, spend time together without kids, go camping. Spend a little bit of time away from each other and then get back.

REHM

11:57:16
Scott Haltzman. He is the author of "The Secrets of Surviving Infidelity." He will answer email and Facebook questions that we didn't have time to address during the hour. Go to our website to find that Q & A. That's drshow.org. Carolyn Hax, Lindsey Hoskins, Scott Haltzman, thank you.

HOSKINS

11:57:47
Thank you, Diane.

HALTZMAN

11:57:47
Thank you.

REHM

11:57:47
Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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