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Understanding Love & Infidelity

By Kenda-Ruth Stumpf

Though multi-faceted, in general there are three basic types of infidelity. In addition to types, the social worker Emily Brown defined categories of infidelity based on motivations. The table below lists infidelity types along with Emily Brown's motivations.

Motivations Types
Addiction: Sexual Addiction, Pain Numbing Chronic: Philanderer
Split Self: Neglected or Unfulfilled Needs Affair: In-Fatuation & Emotional Bond
Conflict Avoidance Convenient: Brief Encounters
Intimacy Avoidance
Exit

Conflict avoiders and intimacy avoiders are opposites; the former withdraws to avoid conflict and subsequent abandonment, whereas the latter uses conflict to erect a wall to avoid an emotional connection. Though an MLCer may have either of these qualities--during or prior to MLC--and initially infidelity in MLC may have served these purposes, it becomes a relationship which is about an emotional bond with someone other than the spouse. The split-self motivation involves a person pulled apart because he felt he was putting others before himself. He feels neglected an unappreciated--emotionally deprived. This person is seeking an emotional connection to fill his void. Infidelity initiated to fill emotional needs yields an emotional bond between the MLCer and alienator, thus in most cases infidelity in MLC will be the affair type, though for a few its beginning may have been through brief encounters. Some MLCers will claim that the relationship is an exit type in order to prevent the spouse from feeling there is hope since his leaving is not about the affair, but such self-reported claims are often false and unreliable in general.

Adultery, cheating and extramarital sex are synonymous types of infidelity, but these may not be an affair. For most, an affair is the worst and most painful type of infidelity. It's not just sex; it's usually not even about sex or fueled by sex. It is about how the MLCer feels with the alienator; she is appreciative, validating, and attentive and he thus feels special.

Why Now?

What makes an MLCer susceptible to an affair, why now? MLC is a crisis of identity. The MLCer suddenly has no idea who he is or who he wants to be. The person he has been is not working out; he may feel like a failure having failed to achieve his goals, disappointed in the goals he made and achieved or like an imposter having achieved beyond his dreams and status. He may feel stuck at the bottom, lost in the middle or lonely at the top.

Infidelity is often a result of feeling needs have been unfulfilled neglected. Often such feelings are valid reality, but this is not always the case. An MLCer is experiencing internal unhappiness outside of his marriage. But he is either unaware or denies the deep and superficial causes of his unhappiness. Since he does not know why he is unhappy, he makes the assumption that it must be his wife and marriage--the major environment and influence in his life. In addition, internal unhappiness without initial projection toward the spouse creates an environment of tension within the marriage, causing a relationship to suffer. Needs previously fulfilled become neglected as one or both partners withdraw or react to their internal unhappiness.

Getting caught cheating does not encourage an MLCer to get help and end the relationship as it may with non-MLC cheaters, rather it provides the necessary inciting incident to Drop the Bomb and move out; it allows him to take freedom. Sadly, cheating and affairs are not uncommon. Many who have affairs do so while living at home in a marital relationship with the spouse. Midlife Crisis affairs may start this way, but Midlifers abandon, leaving their spouse and children, often for the purpose of continuing and deepening an affair relationship. Since he no longer lives at home and the affair may be public, the Standers of MLCers don't need to look for signs of infidelity. Some may continue to hide it, but many flaunt it shamelessly; they do not own their behaviour as bad or adulterous, but instead defend the affair because they left or are no longer in love with their spouse. There is a cycling between guilt, a lack of remorse and refusal to end the relationship.

The guilt of cheating serves to further isolate an MLCer and his spouse, this guilt and loneliness causes him to reach out to the alienator for reassurance that he is a good and worthy person. Though it is not the cause, guilt fuels infidelity.

Clandestine Affair
The hormonal highs in an affair that remains secret can continue indefinitely if the alienator accepts her lower status and seeks nothing more than her stolen encounters. This type of alienator is a lifer--the long-term mistress. But MLCers seek to fill a greater void. They are seeking to build a relationship of mutual and shared intimacy; secrecy is a barrier to this level of emotional commitment. In addition, most alienators are not satisfied with the lower status of a lifer and will pressure the MLCer to leave his wife and publicize their relationship. An alienator kept secret can maintain the divine fantasy. The ordinary is the downfall of in-fatuation.

I'm Kenda-Ruth and I believe in marriage.
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