Think an Affair Can Improve Your Marriage?
The folks at Your Tango recently claimed Sometimes Cheating Can Actually HELP Your Marriage. But they offered no data suggesting it ever has done so.
Instead, they referred to a 2009 blog post by Michael J. Formica, M.S., M.A., Ed.M., a board certified counselor in Pennsylvania.
With no data at all, Formica mused that a person might improve his or her marriage by recognizing he or she was in or moving toward an affair.
This, in my experience, is a thought that occurs to an awful lot of people as they contemplate an affair -- or soon after succumbing to temptation.
Oh yes, my marriage will be better if I just get some more interesting sex. Or have someone to really listen to me. Or can have sex at work as well as home. Or find a hobby to fill all the time between those rare moments when we can be together.
Baloney! The only way back to love is through love.
Lies drive you further apart. Broken vows damage your will to be the better man or woman your spouse imagines you to be.
Being listened to by someone else won't repair the loss of intimate communication with your spouse.
Routine, boring sex doesn't become more enjoyable or endearing with a dash of excitement on the side.
Spending even less time together doesn't restore the love you used to feel for each other.
Finding ways to tolerate an unhappy marriage does not benefit the two of you or your children.
The emotion of love requires daily sharing of positive emotional experiences. Check out Barbara Frederickson's Love 2.0 research for the evidence.
The commitment of love involves thinking of yourself as part of an "us," not as an individual independently maximizing your own happiness, as shown by Caryl Rusbult's and others' research.
Research by Rusbult and others shows positive illusion and positive sentiment override are important to your spouse's commitment to you, and you put them on the line with an affair.
John Gottman's research shows that the ratio of positive to negative interactions is vitally important to remaining a couple. It's 5:1 or better while discussing disagreements and 20:1 or better in ordinary conversation for those in stable, happy relationships.
How do you manage 20:1 when you're working to keep your secrets or comparing your two separate lives during an affair?
You can also turn to Barbara Frederickson's Positivity Ratio research to see that for you to flourish, you need 3 times as many positive emotions as negative ones. If you find them with your lover, how do you find your way back to finding just as many with your spouse?
How do you find another 3 positive emotions for every flush of embarrassment over cheating or fear of being found out?
The only way back to love with your spouse is through love -- through more moments of shared positive emotions, through more positive interactions or fewer negative ones, through more positive emotions or fewer negative ones.
If you want those, find some Third Alternatives for the things you disagree on, not third parties to your relationship. That rationalization that stepping outside your marriage can improve it is a fantasy not supported by research into what really works.