In her emotional, sexy, addictive novel, Love, Lust, and Lies, Cathleen Ross explores a marriage post-cheating. The novel opens with her heroine beginning a new chapter in her life as a single mother, after discovering that her husband has been having affairs. The relationship is further complicated by the fact that Gabriella loves sex, wants to have it with her husband, but is continually rebuffed. To then find out that he is seeking it elsewhere is devastating.
Underneath the surface are a number of cultural influences at play. Both Gabriella and Tony come from Italian-Australian families, with an unspoken (and then spoken!) belief that family is sacred, and that Gabriella is at fault for breaking up the family – not Tony, who, after all, is a man and must be allowed to do manly things like sleep with other women. When Gabriella meets a much younger, sexy, brooding man who reminds her that she is a desirable, sexy woman, she revels in the naughty fling. After all, turnabout is fair play. But can a marriage ever be saved if both partners are intent on hurting each other?
We asked Cathleen about cheating in marriage, and she, in turn, asked others.
Cathleen Ross interviewed two people, in two separate marriages who cheated to find out why. She asks how it affected their marriages. Names have been changed to protect the guilty. She also interviewed a sex therapist about the nature of cheating.
Daniel, you’ve been married for ten years. When did you first start cheating?
Firstly, I want to say I love my wife but we had three children in quick succession. I love sex and my wife wasn’t interested. She was always too tired. At first I went to a Rub and Tug place, but after a while, that didn’t satisfy me. I hated it when my wife knocked me back, which happened a lot. Sometimes, we’d make love and she’d just lie there. It made me feel bad about myself. I had to do a work project in another state, which meant I was away during the week. I worked with a very attractive single woman. One day things led to another.
My wife knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t tell her. I tried to get her to leave the kids with a nanny and come away for a weekend. She wouldn’t. Things unraveled when the girl I was seeing wanted me to leave my wife and kids for her. I knew she wanted children. I didn’t want another family. I had enough kids. I ended it but the girl wrote a poison pen letter to my wife. The shit hit the fan. I wanted to leave. My wife insisted we go to counseling. The counselor helped my wife see that I was more than just the provider for the family. I think she took it for granted that I would always be the money earner. We got in some help so that my wife and I could spend more time together.
We’d go away for weekends and make time for each other. Somehow, almost losing each other and working hard to keep the marriage together has made us stronger. We went to counseling for three years. Our guy was good. We learned about the me, me, me dinosaur brain that just wants fulfillment. We also learned about really loving someone and working for their greater happiness. I think we talk now, really talk about our needs. I had to learn to speak up and say what I wanted in the marriage. It didn’t mean I’d get it, but I think my wife listens now. I’m happy in my marriage.
Louise, you were married with two sons. Why did you cheat?
People always thought we had this great marriage but my husband was obsessed with sport. It was football on the television, football at weekends, football all the time. While it was great for our sons, I couldn’t stand it anymore. There was another father at school my boys went to and I was very attracted to him. I organised play dates for the kids and family holidays. The sex with my husband was mechanical. I think with young kids we snatched time but it wasn’t good. At least not for me. Sex with my lover was exciting. Initially, it started as an affair, but we had so much in common. My husband was a secretive man but my lover would spend hours talking. In the end he became my best friend. Eventually, my husband found out about us because I’d booked a holiday with my lover. We split and it was the best thing I ever did, but not at first. Our friends took sides. All the kids went to the same school. Some people still don’t speak to me because I had an affair. My kids wanted us to patch things up. I felt guilty. Their father was a good man, but I couldn’t see my way through another twenty, thirty years of monotony. I needed to have more in my life. We divorced and I married my lover. I’m happy now but it’s been a long tough road.
Linda, in your experience as a sex counsellor, how frequent is infidelity in marriage? Is it more men than women? A certain personality type? What is the chance of the marriage surviving? How do people make it work again?
Over 50% of spouses will have a fling at some time throughout their marriage. Whilst it used to be more men cheating on their wives, current figures show an equal number of husbands and wives cheating.The increase in women cheating is probably contributed to by the increase in women in the workforce prior to and post babies and greater access to social media.
I think there are personality types that would be least likely to cheat but given the right opportunity and circumstance there are a multitude of personalities that would cheat. Those with narcissistic tendencies are more likely to cheat when they are dissatisfied at home. That is partly because a narcissistic insecure personality requires constant external validation to make that person feel good about themselves.Such personality types commonly have low self control and are higher risk takers.
Men who are not romanced by their wives, criticized , feel disconnected, have wives disinterested in sex, feel undervalued, not appreciated or not desired will be prime candidates for an affair.
Women have affairs for some of the same reasons but the greater reason for women is a feeling of a lack of emotional connection, a lack of intimacy with their spouse. Whilst men can have affairs and still love their wives and even have better sex with their wives during the early stages of the affair, women react differently. Women are far more likely to invest all their emotion into the affair and are more likely to leave their marriages as a result of falling in love with their lover.
Sternberg is a psych who talks about the triangular theory of love.
- Intimacy. This involves feeling of closeness, connectedness, attachment and bondedness.
- Passion. The sexual attraction and limerance.
- Commitment. Wanting a long term relationship, dependency, shared goals.
Early relationships are high on passion, have developing intimacy and low commitment. Over the long term all 3 are necessary for a successful relationship in changing strengths.
The strength of a marriage before the affair is in my opinion the indicator as to how a marriage may or may not succeed in repairing after an affair.
The biggest issue is trust and whether the couple are committed to facing the issues that led to the affair. For couples where one is a repeat offender there is very little hope of fixing the marriage long term.
Cathleen Ross loves writing erotic romance. Her latest Harlequin Escape release is Ruby’s Fantasy. When Cathleen’s not writing for Harlequin, she’s working on her Forbidden Fantasy self-published series. To learn more, please visit http://www.cathleenross.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This is a very contentious issue. What do you think? Can a marriage survive cheating? Do cheaters deserve happy-ever-after endings? Or is everyone redeemable?