Part 8 – The Role of Affairs in Relationship…continued

Issue 117
Attractions and Affairs – Part 8
The Role of Affairs in Relationship…continued
Hal & Sidra Stone

Sometimes an affair can move us along in our evolution of consciousness when our marriage has come to some sort of roadblock.

Jack, for instance, is another responsible father type. His life consists of taking care of wife,  children, office help, dogs, and whatever else is within his orbit. He is highly principled and strongly monogamous in his philosophy of marriage.

At a party, Jack meets Gwen and gets pulled into an affair over which he seems to have very little control. She is a very sensual woman, different from anyone he has ever known. On a night that he has been with her, he dreams that all the displaced persons and  minority groups of Central Europe are returning home from their dispersion around the world.

It is clear from this dream that Jack’s involvement with Gwen has touched him deeply and is having a strongly healing effect on him. The minorities and displaced persons are the parts of himself that have had no home, and this relationship is helping them to find their rightful place in his psyche. Jack’s involvement with Gwen stayed an involvement. He ultimately remained in the marriage, though it was a very different marriage than it had been before. The drive toward consciousness is an intense one, and if a particular relationship does not support that drive, it is natural for another relationship to come along that does support this drive toward a greater awareness.

There is usually an intense pull to have an affair when something within wishes us to break form and move ahead. As we have seen, there is an intelligence inside of us that pushes us forward on a path of ever-increasing awareness. This is a natural evolutionary process that demands movement.

On the other  hand, there is also a natural process that works against this evolutionary process, one that aims to protect the status quo at any cost. An affair can serve either purpose.  It can help us to maintain the status quo and shore up a relationship that does not support us in our entirety but is one that, nevertheless, we do not wish to lose. Or, an affair can be the catalyst that introduces new selves, releases new energies, and either changes or ends our current relationship, thereby leading us into a new phase of our evolution of consciousness.

Margie and Mac had been married for many years. They had married at a time when women were expected to give up their own lives and become mothers and wives. They loved each other dearly, but once Margie gave up her schooling and her plans for a professional life, they slipped  into a strong father/daughter bonding, with Mac as the competent good father and decision-maker and Margie living out the role of the helpless daughter.

Margie, an intelligent and perceptive woman, could not keep her power and competence disowned forever, and she began an affair that lasted for some time. In this relationship she was the guiding force and her lover relied greatly upon her intelligence and her understanding of human relationships.  Sensing that there was a good deal more to the affair than met the eye, Margie entered therapy. After some time she reclaimed her own power in her relationship with Mac, and the bonding pattern that had been entered into so long ago was broken.

Mac gave many indications that he did not want to be told of the affair, and Margie obliged. Realizing that his vulnerable child could not tolerate hearing about it, she never did tell him directly about her affair. At some level she was most assuredly protecting herself too.

The  marriage, however, had become a marriage again. As the disowned selves were integrated, the father/daughter bonding was no longer the predominant mode of relating and there was a return of the love that they had originally felt earlier in their relationship. As Margie said when the bonding had broken, “I had forgotten how much I loved him!”

How do we reconnect in a relationship after one partner has had an affair and the other has found out about it? As we have said, there are ways in which to resume a truly intimate relationship, complete with vulnerable  children, even after there has been a betrayal of trust and the vulnerable child has been hurt.

Bill and Edna’s relationship was committed to growth from the beginning, and the sharing of their psychological processes was important to both of them. They needed to tell each other about all their important relationships. For a period of time it was necessary for them to live in different cities, but their connection remained deep and they were in constant contact with one another.

One day Edna sensed that something was very wrong, and she telephoned Bill to ask whether anything┬Ěhad happened. He had actually become intensely involved with another woman, but he was ashamed to tell Edna, so he denied everything and suggested that she might be projecting her own feelings upon him. He was reacting to Edna from a combination of guilt and judgment. She, in turn, was alternately feeling abandoned and expressing judgment, a not uncommon pattern.  The bonding was complete, and they were both miserable.

When Bill finally realized what was going on, he spoke to Edna about what had happened. He spoke with awareness rather than from his guilty son (which only would have made matters worse).  They looked together into what had happened and realized that they had been in a mother/ son bonding for some time,  and that the affair had broken the bonding. 

As a result of their serious commitment to a conscious relationship, and after a lot of personal work, they were able to resume their relationship at an even greater depth. They recognized that their initial mother/son bonding had precipitated the affair and that the affair had broken the bonding. They both now had an appreciation of the sensitivity of their vulnerable children and were aware of just how much these children knew. The relationship had taught each of them much more about themselves.

These  last examples have shown how an affair can precipitate a new awareness or even lead one to a new level of consciousness in a current relationship.  However, there are many times when the growth process is aborted by an affair, when the pain of the vulnerable child is too great and the child withdraws forever from that particular relationship that, like Humpty Dumpty, can never be fixed.

We have seen quite a bit of this,  particularly in the years of experimentation with open marriages. For many people,  there was an initial excitement about the idea of an open marriage, but when they actually opened their own marriages, something about it often did not work. It seemed as though the vulnerable child could not understand the principle of an open marriage, and it withdrew from the relationship altogether. A fair percentage of these marriages ended in divorce.

If the vulnerable child refuses to return to a relationship, and if the incident is used as a teaching, then the partners can face the fact that the particular relationship is over and they are free to continue on the relational path with someone else. They are in a position to begin a more conscious relationship with the next person, based upon their previous  learning.

Unfortunately, however, the protector/ controller sometimes steps in after a relationship is terminated in this way and withdraws  the child (and them) into a safe and protected space, thereby ending the process and keeping them safely removed from relationship forever.

As for the attractions themselves, it is clear that they are a natural part of our lives whether we are in or out of a primary relationship, so we may as well accept  them. This will probably deprive our critics of a particularly rewarding area of criticism,  one that they have counted upon since puberty and one that enables them to make us guilty children quite easily.  But we need not fear; our critics are extremely resourceful and will certainly find some other focus for their efforts.

When attractions are long-term and intense, as we have described earlier in this chapter, we may well find ourselves leading a secret  life in our heads, a secret life of fantasy. When this goes on for too long, the relationship must suffer because we become increasingly withdrawn from our partners. It is a highly paradoxical situation.

The more attached we are to our partners, the deeper the bonding in the relationship, the harder it is to share these kinds of feelings and fantasies. Yet, the act of sharing them is one of the key ways in which we can separate from these patterns. As we have said, we are all sensual and sexual human beings and these kinds of feelings will simply not remain confined to the bedrooms of our primary relationships. They are with us for life and must accompany us wherever we go, no matter how much discomfort this may cause us, and no matter how deep our love and commitment may be to our primary  partners.