If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “My spouse is a wonderful person, but I don’t feel anything toward him/her. I don’t know anyone I could live with better, but it’s like living with a brother or sister. I just feel nothing toward him. I guess you could say I love him/her but I’m not in love with him.”
Those words are powerful, because once having thought or spoken them, it justifies any number of behaviors that would otherwise be viewed as unacceptable; such as one patient’s statement “I hardly ever touch him, I sleep on the opposite side of our king-sized bed. And, even though it’s against my moral beliefs, I’m involved with someone else, who lights my fire.”
Although I could go on at length about the hypocrisy involved in her statement, the question I’d like to address to her, or any of you who find yourselves in this situation, whether you’re involved with someone else or not, is, “What are you really searching for? Is it just sex? Is it that moment of excitement and the physical crescendo of emotions that accompany an orgasm? Is it the feeling that someone really cares and desires you, or is it that your extramarital relationship causes you to feel that you’re truly worth loving? Does it help you to feel that you have value because you’re desired by someone who doesn’t have to, but is voluntarily seeking you out, and wanting to be close?”
Think about it. That excitation, that orgasm, at best, how long does it last? Is it a fifteen minute experience? You can hear all you want about four-hour erections, but sex is a relatively short song. It’s the prelude, the introduction and, sometimes, the summary that includes the closeness and warmth that you may really be after. Yet, time and time, again, you pick up a newspaper and read about prominent, intelligent, successful individuals, male and female alike, who become involved in extramarital relations that are, for the most part, short-lived and end in catastrophic ways that damage their marriages, their relationships with their children, and the perception others previously had about them. The end result is, their own sense of guilt contaminates their self-perception and increases their anxiety. Yet, time and time again, these same individuals return to the same behavior, desperately searching, not for the fifteen minute physical high, but for the feeling that someone really cares or responds to them.
Even more, this behavior serves as one of the best indications of the diminished sense of self worth harbored inside the majority of people. More so than any one other action, extra-marital sexual involvement, along with so many other addictions, exemplifies the degree to which people feel, deep down inside, an empty, hollowness that needs to be filled at any cost. Individuals can attempt to rationalize their behavior by blaming it on their spouse, but in the end, they have to recognize that what it is they’re searching for won’t be found in bed. And, believe it or not, that hollowness is something they brought with them from childhood. It didn’t suddenly appear. It isn’t because, “my wife is frigid”, “my husband is gay and uninterested in me sexually”; or “my spouse is an alcoholic or an abuser.” It’s because, they never emotionally realize their own sense of worth.
Their response might be, “Well, I never felt this way before I got married. I was on my own, I worked, I did well, I dated, and I didn’t have those feelings.” Of course not. They weren’t married and weren’t in a situation where a long-term intimate relationship was possible. Nor did they ask themselves “why did I pick the partner I chose?” Because, once again, let me remind you, that I adamantly believe that: one, we all get who we are. Adequate-feeling people date and marry adequate-feeling people. Smart people marry smart people and, conversely, inadequate-feeling, insecure, helpless-feeling people marry someone who feels exactly the same way they do. Two: some individuals stay with and gripe about their spouses for years, because of their fear of closeness, but will claim they only stayed because of their children, religion, or family. Three: many individuals who are reluctant to look at themselves spend their lives in marriages where instead of praising or lifting their spouses up, they criticize, find fault, and put them down. You might say, “Maybe they deserved it.” And I might respond, “There’s little doubt that every one of us has shortcomings, that every one of us have considerable room for improvement , but a good parent or a good partner, doesn’t harp on their child’s or their partner’s failings. Instead, they emphasize their talents and abilities. They attempt to build their confidence so that they can be a better human being whose sense of worth is elevated by you, not depreciated.
Listen carefully. If you’re involved in a marriage and physically sleeping on the other side of a king-sized bed, or cheating on your spouse or just thinking about it, you need to consider totally altering your behavior. Instead of pushing your partner away or putting him/her down, I’d have you attempt to build up your spouse’s sense of worth and, in the process, change your attitude toward them by being, as the song clearly says, “The wind beneath their wings”. I’d have you touch, feel, reach out and instead of concentrating on, to quote one of my patients, “sex five times a week, but I’d settle for two or three”. Settle for little or no sex until you can either build their confidence to where they feel emotionally close and physically attracted to you, or you can leave without guilt because you tried and they didn’t or couldn’t respond. Furthermore, I’d have you direct your efforts toward praising and complimenting him/her, buying flowers, bringing home candy and, most importantly, moving over to their side of that king-sized bed. You see, it’s my belief that, by you taking charge of you and not blaming your partner for how you behave, what you say, or how you feel, you will come to see yourself more clearly and, hopefully, like yourself a great deal more. Then, when you finally reach a point where you know you’re okay, oddly enough, your sex drive will diminish and your spouse’s will increase. That’s when you’ll truly meet each other in the middle of that bed.