I came across the Dumas quote posted today while perusing yet another pro-con work over of the role of the mistress, this one conceding, as always a wee bit sheepishly for fear of being accused of less than stellar morals or lawfulness, mistresses are not always destructive but can actually spark renewed love and interest in a marriage. That they do have such a productive effect sometimes seems logical to me and has been my own experience.
In researching under the wide umbrella topic of the mistress, I have come across so many articles dissecting the causes for, effects of, and history of cheating spouses or partners. So much of what has been written, regardless of the insertion of a psychologist, sex therapist, counselor, attorney or theologian, are largely opinion pieces based on specific testimonials and experiences. People come to the subject with their own predispositions toward cheating experientially, religiously and intellectually. Generalizations in these writings and the overall attempt to be one size fits all denigrate what morsels of truth and advice there may be in them. The painfully obvious truth is, all situations are unique in so far as they involve individuals, who, though human and so patterned with some universal behaviors, are different from other individuals in their components and combinations, and so add the complexity to a very complex subject.
Reducing cheating to a ten ways, ten reasons or ten anything seems implausible to me. Most of those articles contain mere observations from specific experiences of specific people. I too have observed the behavior and words of cheating spouses–nearly my entire life. I have been cheated on and I have cheated, though not on my husband of 35 years. When he and I separated for six or more years in the late 80s to mid-90s and then again when we agreed to an open marriage in 2010, I engaged in long and short-term affairs/relationships including married partners. I did not seek married people; the relationships arose organically from circumstances I and the other party were in at the time. Like any relationship, they were based on mutual need, admiration, friendship, respect and often, love.
In addition, I was a divorce and bankruptcy attorney for 24 years. I heard so many stories of the whys, wherefores and whereabouts of the innumerable reasons for and circumstances of divorce, including cheating spouses, mid-life crisis dumps, long-term mistresses or misters, open marriages, and just a host of marital and non-marital arrangements.
The following list of 50 items is one I have compiled over the years by merely listening and observing (and yes, at times, judging). It is not a list I prepared with any intent. I am not sure I even prepared it at all. Living my life is all it has taken to come up with this list and remembering what I have done, what has been done to me, what I have thought and what I have heard. With respect to marrieds, I put this list together not to recommend, advise, admonish, judge or astonish. Nothing on the list is revelatory. These items do not purport to be causes, reasons, solutions or symptoms. They are merely observations about being human. I have no other intention but to share my observations, in no particular order, for whatever interest they may lend to the reader.
Married people I have had affairs/relationships with:
1. Are attracted to me because I am not their spouse.
2. Want more or different sex than what they get at home.
3. Want to be listened to and feel they are not.
4. Want to be prioritized over the kids, sacrificed for.
5. Love and are beholden to spouses who sacrifice themselves for the kids.
6. Want to be thought of as sexy, naughty, romantic and/or irresistible.
7. Want to be thought of as creative, intelligent and/or funny.
8. Want passion again or for the first time.
9. Want to live out their fantasies, some, all or any of them.
10. Want to be young again.
11. Want to have control and feel they don’t.
12. Want to be shown love and tenderness more, different or any.
13. Want to be the center of someone’s world, for the first time or again.
14. Want to experience vitality and power again.
15. Want a person with traits lacking in their spouses.
16. Want to conquer or be a savior.
17. Want to possess.
18. Want the excitement of risk.
19. Want their egos flattered.
20. Want to want their spouses.
21. Don’t want their spouses but don’t want to leave them.
22. Are very good at compartmentalizing.
23. Are very good at justification and rationalization–moral equivalencies.
24. Don’t want to disrupt their families: kids, parents, spouses, colleagues, friends.
25. Are afraid of divorce/loss of life they have known.
26. Are trapped in a marriage whether self-induced or otherwise.
27. Are guilty for perceived hurt of their spouse, for their own failures.
28. Are repressed sexually or otherwise.
29. Feel overburdened by the lives they themselves created.
30. Have overactive sex drives.
31. Express love through sex.
32. Escape into sex.
33. Need touch.
34. Are afraid.
35. Are angry.
36. Want to feel something.
37. Want to be understood.
38. Want to be validated.
39. Want to hurt their spouses.
40. Want revenge.
41. Are commitment-phobes.
42. Fear success.
44. Have low self-esteem.
45. Are narcissistic.
46. Are sociopathic.
47. Are immoral.
48. Are amoral.
49. Are competitive, wanting to beat the system or someone else.
50. Feel comforted even as they are disconcerted by carrying a secret.
I could write at least 50 more, but they would be as banal as these 50.