Dear Miss Kitty,
On the heels of last week’s question, I have often wondered why certain people blame a mid-life crisis for having an affair, but more interesting to me is why someone does it at all. I am in my 50’s, never married, and am thinking of settling down. Being at this stage in my life I have a lot to lose if a woman doesn’t take this part of marriage as seriously as I do. Is there any way to predict who will and who won’t in a relationship?
James, SANTA BARBARA
There is something about the words “predict” and “relationships” in the same sentence that brings to mind a Ouija board on the blink and a crystal ball broken into as many pieces as there are broken hearts. There is more certainty in predicting how many die-hard liberals will find themselves going over to the “dark side” come the 2012 election than guessing who will and who won’t take a wedding ring off when heading down the driveway. Even the wisest of Wiccans might take a pass on the cosmic predictions and go for some logical analysis outside of the metaphysical realm to try and nail this one down.
So is it remotely possible to hedge our bets before the “I Do’s”, the pre-nup and the 401K beneficiary paperwork that we are not with a “cheater”? There are exceptions to be sure but in general we can break the affair crowd into three categories. The easiest to spot is the sex/love addict: the habitual player that uses sex and a new relationship as a form of temporary emotional comfort, regardless of the fact they are married. They use this method as a security blanket to get them through life without having to do any deep or intense work on the self. They can go against and rationalize almost any form of behavior listed in Marriage Vows for Dummies. They hide behind the constant high of intrigue and confused body chemistry; traveling through life unable to let go of their well-worn and dirty blanket for long. They habitually change partners (since no one will ever satisfy them) and find the chase, intrigue and the whole sordid mess exciting. Both the thrill and fear of getting caught are an aphrodisiac that becomes part of the ritual, and although this crowd tends to be on the sharper side when it comes to duplicity, paying close attention to subtle signs and taking lots of time to understand who they are is the best way to avoid: The Linus’s.
The next sweeping generalization hones in on those that in middle age suddenly realize there might be more to life than a perfectly cut lawn and a clean minivan every Saturday morning. These rigid creatures of habit have never cultivated anything within or outside their primary relationship and household routine in which they truly find a deep level of satisfaction and passion. They have a deep seeded fear of change or trying new things – and better the devil (or spouse) you know then the one you don’t. Ultimately it catches up with them usually around the infamous mid-life crisis years, and they suddenly (to everyone’s utter surprise) reach their tipping point of boredom and “snap”. The years of utter self-imposed mental and physical stagnation reach a crescendo – eighty and dinner at four p.m is no longer such a long way off - and so like an erupting volcano they blindly fall, like a house of cards, for the first semi attractive person that pays them a wit of attention, running off with the proverbial secretary or youthful pool boy. They are the Charlie Browns.
Lastly we have the people that truly realize that they have one life to live and they just can’t continue live it at the status quo for one more day. They have heard the music that makes them want to do the happy dance and just can’t help themselves; they are The Snoopy’s. Although the Snoopy’s tend to appear to be realistic and honest about their plight, and have a higher capacity for adventure in general, they just can’t stand being a bad dog. As painful as it might be, it is easier to deceive their partner while they experience the adventure and fulfillment they so desperately crave. Snoopy’s tend to feel the most guilt and remorse and understand why eventually they end up on the dog house.
Like Snoopy’s famous nemesis, The Red Baron the fanciful flight into the danger zone ultimately leads to a bullet-ridden demise. On fire and plummeting to earth (screaming all the way down), he/she finally accepts he/ she has been a bad dog after all. This is the one that just might be worthy of some counseling before directly calling the attorney. (Sometimes being shot down in flames is the best way to rekindle something that desperately needed it).
Darling James, Boys and Girls, be they Linus’s, Charlie Brown’s or Snoopy’s all types of cheaters have something in common. They are ultimately deceiving themselves in one way or another: refusing to face what is reality for them. Not willing to admit what is before them is all their doing, and regardless of the Peanuts character they portray, they don’t have the grace to either work it out or exit with dignity intact. Maybe the key to understanding why someone cheats is that it is always easier to blame someone or a situation than to take the hit and do the inner work. So the real question is not so why do people cheat – but why do people go outside themselves for a shot at happiness? Get back to me on that one, will you?
Have a naughty day!