Since January first of 1981 (my first day of practice as a divorce mediator), rarely does a working day go by without a client mentioning an affair. I don't hear about an affair. Sitting at my round mediation table with the divorcing couple, I listen as an angry spouse bitterly condemns the betrayal of their partner. Simultaneously, I notice the heavy silence from the one who's had (or having) the affair. Rarely are there protestations of innocence nor are any reasons offered to the inevitable questions hurled by their spouse. I sit and wonder, wanting to know how I can help. I want to know what causes a married spouse to have an affair.
Recently, a friend of mine, Carol, visited me in Boston. We had dinner at one of those quaint, outside restaurants on Newbury Street. Well-dressed passers-by and new lovers provided our backdrop. I told Carol of my interest in knowing why married men and women have affairs. Carol coughed politely and squirmed. I waited to hear what she had to say. Carol told me her story. Ten years earlier, when she was thirty-nine, "My husband was ignoring me. Not big-time, mind you, but we'd been married for a while, and other things had his attention, especially those damn TV sports. It started to bother me a lot. I read the right books, even tried to liven things up, you know, candlelight dinners, sexy lingerie, and all. I even saw a therapist." She looked at me, chagrined. "Funny, huh? See, I didn't want a divorce, I just wanted Sam to change, but he didn't. His baseball-watching drove me crazy. One day I went to a friend's 40th birthday party. Sam had begged off, and I was irritated enough to go alone. Let him have his game. This guy stared at me right away. Anyway, all night long he paid a lot of attention to me. As I was leaving, Richard asked for my number. I felt scared, but I was excited when I gave it to him. Two days later he called me. We started sleeping together right away. It was great, but it ended in a short while. I was afraid of getting caught. He was so sweet. One night, what else is new, Sam had his TV game on watching a baseball game, of course. I was in the kitchen cleaning up when I heard Richard's voice. It startled me--hearing his voice. I waited for the camera to focus on the speaker, and, sure enough, it was Richard. I sat down and watched the rest of the game. Sam kept looking over at me, like I'd lost my mind, but, true to character, he never mentioned it."
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