As I wrote in my post “What if I Have an Affair?”, an astonishingly high number of people who come my way express a fear that they’re going to cheat on their partner after marriage. The topic came up in a recent session with a client:
“It seems like everywhere you look, people are having affairs,” my client said.
“Yes, the media certainly does depict a world where married couples seem incapable of remaining faithful to each other. It’s quite rare, in fact, to see a portrayal of a couple who are happily married and faithful for the duration of their marriage. But, while people certainly do cheat on each other, we also know that Hollywood isn’t the best source of reality.”
“My fear-mind says that I’ll see someone on the subway one day and we’ll just have that spark, and I’ll wonder if he would have been a better choice for a marriage partner.”
“You do realize that you have a choice regarding whether or not you even open the door that lets in the spark with someone else, don’t you?”
“What do you mean?” she asks.
“You have a choice regarding how you relate to men. Men read signals and women know how to give them. You can be standing next to someone in an elevator and send a signal that indicates that you’re available to flirting, or you can send a signal that says, ‘I’m taken.’ It’s the look in your eyes; I’m sure you know what I mean.”
“Yes, I know what you mean, and I never thought of it quite like before,” my client shared. “I always thought it was something that just overpowers you and you have no control over it.”
She’s not alone in this assumption. Again, Hollywood depicts the energy of an affair as being so strong that it overwhelms the character and she has no choice but to ride the wave. This is not reality. I look at my close circle of friends, for example, all of whom have been married for at least ten years, and not a single one has had an affair. This is obviously not a large pool, but I know that when you have a strong inner adult at the helm of your mind and body, you trust that you are in charge of your choices. And if you don’t want to subject yourself to the possible temptation of someone new, you can make a choice regarding how you relate to the opposite sex.
This isn’t always an easy choice to make. Many people, prior to marriage, become somewhat addicted to the approval and validation that they’ve received from the opposite sex (or same sex, as the case may be). They derive a sense of false self-worth from those flirtatious moments with the guy behind the meat counter or the girl at checkout. In this sense, it’s essential that a grieving process occur where you consciously let go of the way that you’ve related to half the human race. It’s equally essential that you begin to develop a sense of self-worth and aliveness that isn’t dependent on playing with someone else’s sexual energy. This is obviously easier said than done, but it’s the work of a conscious marriage.
I’m not suggesting that all flirting needs to be banished the moment you marry. Some couples are okay with their spouse flirting with someone else, and may even be turned on by it. Like all elements of marriage. there are no rules or paradigms other than the ones that the two of you create and that work for your marriage. But if you’re worried about following temptation, I would suggest creating a watertight marriage, which means not putting yourself in tempting situations or allowing anyone else’s sexual energy to penetrate into your sacred space. It begins with a gaze, a certain gaze with a meaning that we all know and understand. Why open that door if you’re not planning on letting anyone in? Better to keep it tightly shut and save that energy for the one that you’ve decided to love and honor.