Have you ever had sex with someone other than your spouse during this marriage?
After Divorce, Learn to Love Again
Life Coaching: Can You Trust Your new Love? 10 Tips to Attract the Right Person
By LAURIE MOISON
When Amy Schoen found the receipts she felt relief. She wasn’t nuts after all. At the same time, she had that really sick feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you find out the nightmare you hoped you were dreaming is actually a real life drama with you cast in a starring role. Schoen’s husband, Mark, was having an affair. “He left signs,” Schoen said. “He wanted to be caught.”
At that point, Schoen had been married for 10 years. With an MBA from Georgetown University, she had established herself as a successful entrepreneur. An image and wardrobe consultant, Schoen worked out of La Petite Classique, an upscale clothing boutique she owned in Bethesda, Md. She saw her work as one of giving people self-confidence. “Helping people discover their best image gives them the confidence they need to accomplish their goals,” Schoen said. Life was good in many ways. Yet, Schoen’s own self confidence was about to take a direct hit.
For the last year or so, Mark had been distancing himself from Schoen. First, there were weekends where he wasn’t where he’d said he’d be. Then, there was the job he’d taken in another city a considerable distance from home. That meant a long-distance marriage, which made it easier for him to hide an affair. While he denied that anything was going on, Schoen lived with an unsettling niggling that something wasn’t right. “It was a crazy time,” she said.
Finding the receipts for gifts Mark had purchased for the “other woman” moved Schoen to action. She sought out a therapist and began to work through what had happened. “It was a very hard and tumultuous time,” she said. When they first find out about an affair, many wounded spouses take a lot of blame on themselves: if only I had been a better partner both in bed and out of it, maybe my spouse wouldn’t have cheated.
Through therapy, Schoen sorted through the confusion and pain and began to realize that what had happened wasn’t about her at all. “Infidelity was a bigger sign of what was already going on,” she said. Mark wanted out of the marriage but didn’t know how to get out of the marriage. So, he did something that he could do that would cause Schoen to sever her ties with him. “Mark knew infidelity was something I couldn’t live with,” Schoen said. He was right. Schoen filed for divorce. Mark was a free man, and Schoen was left to pick up the pieces.
PERMANENT PAIN IN RELATIONSHIP
Sociologist Dr. Edward Lauman has found that infidelity is often a sign that, for at least one party, the relationship is already over. Over the past 12 years, Lauman, the George Herbert Mead Distinguished Service Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago, has co-authored a number of studies on human sexual behavior. Included among those studies is the landmark National Health and Social Life Survey (NHSLS), considered the most comprehensive survey on American sexuality.
According to Lauman’s NHSLS research, 90 percent of Americans believe that infidelity is always morally wrong. “So, if you do, in fact, have an affair, it’s often a sign you’re already on your way out the door,” Lauman said.
In another study conducted in Chicago in 2004, Lauman and his researchers interviewed more than 2,000 area residents and found that every year 4 per cent of the region’s spouses woke up to realize that the person they trusted to “forsake all others” had, in fact, forsaken them. When researchers asked married people the question, “How many sexual partners have you had in the last year?” they found that 4.5 percent of the men and 2.5 percent of the women said, “Two or more.”
“That figure was pretty constant, no matter what the age of the respondents. So, whether they were 27, 33, or 44 about 4.5 percent of men and 2.5 percent of the women were annually defecting on their partners,” Lauman said.
Even marriages that had not ended due to adultery had been affected by it. “When we asked married people, ‘Have you ever had sex with someone other than your spouse during this marriage?’ 25 percent of the men and 15 percent of the women said, ‘Yes,’” Lauman said. That meant that one out of four Chicago wives and one out of six Chicago husbands had, at one time or another, grappled with the devastation of betrayal.
A feeling of outrage at having been led down the garden path is common among betrayed spouses. “They say, ‘I lived with him/her for 10 years and it was all a lie,’” Lauman said. “They’re very angry that they were misled. Violation of trust is a very, very big story and it’s the destruction of trust that makes it so hard to restore the relationship.”
While some marriages manage to limp along, it’s Lauman’s opinion that adultery often causes permanent pain in relationship. Traditionally, men have had the financial wherewithal to end that pain by exiting. Today, women have the same option. “In the old days, women had to look the other way because they were economically dependent on the men. Today, they can pick up and move on. Therefore, the expectation of a commitment is easier to enforce,” said Lauman.