Contemporary R&B seems to glorify adulterous behavior as being reasonable. Songs like “It Aint My Fault” (at least that’s the lines on the edited version) describe liaisons with some “random” as something that is uncontrollable and thereby unavoidable. Often in couples where adultery is present, there is someone who is proclaiming that same mantra of ‘it aint my fault” as a way of rationalizing harmful behavior or as absolution of any responsibility to the state of the marriage. While the adulterer is clearly the person who has acted outside of the covenant of marriage, can it truly be said that the spouse who was cheated on is completely faultless? Do the actions of the adulterer make it reasonable or rationale for the other spouse to be absolved of any responsibility? Rarely does anyone dare discuss how the faithful spouse (Yes, we said the faithful spouse!) contributes to the infidelity, but remarkably they can be and often are unwitting contributors to an environment ripe for infidelity.
The idea of characterizing the faithful spouse as a contributor may seem like we are “blaming the victim” but as the saying goes, it takes two to tango! Unfaithfulness is usually the result of a dying or diseased relationship that BOTH parties contributed to in some way. We recognize this perspective may seem controversial (we know the hate mail is coming) and by no means does this perspective absolve the “cheater” of his/hers responsibility, but rather we hope that by examining both sides, couples will be proactive in learning to guard their relationships against infidelity.
In part 1 of “Unfaithfully Yours” we provided some insight into the mindset of a person that is unfaithful and the motives behind their behavior. Now, let’s look at some attributes of spouses that can cultivate an unhealthy environment where infidelity can become a factor. Here are three core elements:
- Intentional cluelessness – The refusal to acknowledge what is in front of you. For example, ignoring blatant changes in your partner’s behavior and patterns (i.e. staying out later, not calling, or generally spending more time than usual away from home). Intentionally clueless people deny their own feelings for the sake of ‘keeping the peace’. Believing in such myths as “men are not emotional’ or “women don’t need to be sexual” thereby denying when things or situations are becoming problematic or detrimental. Clueless people are often “shocked” when they are confronted with infidelity even though their spouse has clearly been distancing himself or herself emotionally for a significant period of time.
- Inattentiveness– Refusing to pay attention to your spouse’s needs by being self-focused and primarily concerned with your own needs or wants. The inattentive person places their affections on things other than the relationship (i.e. personal goals, friendships, personal pursuits) completely ignoring or down playing the need to give time and attention to their spouse. They pursue financial or vocational goals at the sacrifice of the marriage. Inattentive people often believe that they will have the time to focus on the relationship after they achieve their own goals, never acknowledging the negative effects of their inattention on their marital relationship.
- Lack of empathy – A person that lacks empathy is unable or unwilling to connect with anyone else’s feelings or desires. This person becomes defensive and takes things personally when their spouse is sharing their own feelings. A person that lacks empathy is totally unable to relate to how things affect others. This person will ridicule or criticize the other spouse for being emotional. Just like the person who commits adultery, the “non-empathetic” spouse is ultimately self-focused and they will be dismissive of the fact that their spouse could need their emotional support. This person may even co-sign for their spouse to seek empathy and attention from outside sources because they deem the spouse as “weak” or “needy”.
When any of these three elements are combined with the person we outlined in part 1 of “Unfaithfully Yours” the recipe can be catastrophic! If couples desire to ward off the evil of unfaithfulness, they must acknowledge that it will take both parties to deny themselves and desire their spouse’s needs over their own. Next month we will explore how to make your relationship affair proof! Stay tuned!