Cheating But Not Leaving

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It made the front pages of the London papers – famous biographer admits to “relationship” with theatre critic.  As the Telegraph reported it, Dame Margaret Drabble and Sir Michael Holroyd have never had the most conventional of marriages: for years the literary couple have maintained separate homes to give them space to write.

Now they’ve ended that arrangement and share the same house while writing on different floors for at least part of the week, but Sir Michael has hit the headlines by disclosing that he has formed a romantic relationship with a theatre critic 13 years his junior.

It may come into the category of too much information to learn that although he “steps out with” Susannah Clapp while his novelist wife is out of town, because of his age and health the relationship is “strictly non-sexual.”

Is Emotional Infidelity Worse?

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There’s been quite a bit of discussion about the number of marriages where partners are “cheating but not leaving,” though this hardly seems to qualify.  Or does it come into the category of “emotional infidelity” which some consider even worse than a sexual affair?

Whatever you may think (or not think) about the Holroyd/Drabble situation, there is a more general question that affects us all. Just where do couples draw the line on sharing their partner’s attention?  And if one crosses the line and engages in a full blown affair, is it reasonable for them to expect to “have their cake and eat it too?”

That is to say, enjoy all the passion and excitement of illicit sex, while still relying on the familiar stability and affection of home. For many, it seems they do.

The Huffington Post reports a website for married people seeking affairs surveyed nearly 5000 members and found that 76 percent preferred to have sex with their lovers but still wanted to sleep with their partners.

In fact, 69 percent of those surveyed said they don’t even think about leaving their significant others and 85 percent said they don’t view their lover as a suitable long-term partner.

Just Adding Passion & Adventure

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When asked why they preferred to stay in their long-term relationships, cheaters cited security, love, stability, family and happiness as reasons for staying put.

Said the CEO site, Sigurd Berdal: “Cheaters are not necessarily looking for a break up when they look for a lover. They just want to add a bit of passion and adventure back into their lives.”

Therapists says the level of infidelity rates have held fairly steady over the decades, but with the pervasiveness of social media, an incriminating email or text message is easily found so affairs are uncovered more often.

Being betrayed “is much more survivable than many of us think.”

Betrayal ‘Like Post Traumatic Stress’

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While betrayed spouses typically experience symptoms common among people who’ve suffered physical trauma, including flashbacks and numbness, betrayers may feel anxiety about the repercussions, the experts say.

A growing group of therapists is working to help couples recognize and process these different feelings when one partner drifts but the couple decides to stick it out together.

One change they’ve noticed in recent years is how much people tend to expect from their partners — and how much it can hurt when they learn of their spouse’s cheating ways.

The focus is on getting betrayed partners to forgive — but not necessarily forget.

“There’s no way in heck that you will look back on the affair and feel happy about it or even not feel angry about it,” one therapist says. “What’s realistic is to move to a point where it doesn’t dominate your life and you don’t hold it over the other person.”

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