Are most marriages a sham? In my work as a counsellor I have noticed that many marriages consist of two people, living separate lives whilst putting on a show for others. So many people seem to be living a lie. Many enjoy a parallel life. One that exists covertly, that is kept hidden. These parallel lives include – affairs, secrets, swinging, bisexual encounters, homosexual encounters, hidden gambling… The list goes on. In fact, I would go so far as to say that many married couples know a lot less about their spouses than they realise or, at least, want to admit.
Is marriage outdated? Are we trying to fit ourselves into an old fashioned mould that no longer adequately represents and meets societies changing needs? Is this what is causing marital misery?
Here are some real life examples of the parallel lives I refer to:
1) Let’s call him Jake. He’s a prominent lawyer and is married with three children over the age of fifteen. When I first met him I would never have suspected that he was having an affair with a Russian prostitute. He seemed a devoted family man even if he did spend a bit too much time focused on ‘work’. Jake tells me that he loves his wife and his family but that he also loves his Russian mistress. He takes his mistress on lavish holidays whilst telling his wife that he is on a business trip. Once his wife thought he was in Florida on a business trip when he was actually sunning himself in Barbados with his mistress. He had even developed an elaborate plan to lose his passport on his return as he was concerned his wife may see the stamps in his passport. This story goes even further…Jake accepts that his mistress still works as a high class hooker and delights in visiting a website where her customers rate her performance. Each to their own I guess and it’s not my job to judge but it does show how easy it can be to live two separate lives and cope well with it. Jake has been seeing his mistress for over five years now.They’re off to the Royal Albert Hall soon for an important ‘business meeting’.
2) Many wives tend to pick up signals that their husbands might be unfaithful but many choose to ignore or justify instead of confront. The lure of the familiar, and in many cases, the financial stability and security prevents many wives from challenging the status quo. I have met many smug housewives who have stated categorically that their husbands would never cheat, all the while, being aware of the full details of their husband’s infidelity. In some cases, swinging and bringing two prostitutes home to be shared amongst five married men. Blind certainty is always a dangerous thing but perhaps it is what these married women need to tell themselves to maintain their illusory “bubble’.
3) It’s not only men that cheat, I have met many female clients who are having affairs too. Often, they tell me that they probably married for the wrong reasons and that if they had been honest with themselves, they probably never fancied their husbands in the right way. I have also noticed a pattern whereby many married women are leaving their high flying executive type husbands for plumbers, builders and even the gardener. High flying business men may bring in the cash but they can also be emotionally unavailable and lacking in empathy at home.
4) We’re conditioned to put our best foot forward and show a united front to the world. Amazingly, we are all taken in by this illusion of marital bliss and family life but from what I have seen in my many years as a counsellor is that the reality is far from this ideal picture. Many married couples no longer have sex, some sleep in separate bedrooms and they function well this way. They both go about their parental duties and are able to work as a team but underneath, the foundations are rotting.
5) Then of course there is the worst of all, the abusive relationships. This is where one partner consistently denigrates their spouse, slowly but surely eroding their self esteem and confidence. In many ways emotional and mental abuse can have more long lasting negative psychological effects than physical abuse as there is room for interpretation and self doubt.
When someone hits you, there is sure evidence of abuse. When someone belittles you and makes you doubt yourself, you can’t be sure if it is you or them. Many people will put up with horrendous conditions in their relationships, justifying their partner’s behaviour. For many, it seems preferable to be in an awful, misery-making relationship than to be single. I find that very sad and it suggests that many undervalue themselves by staying in abusive situations.
People tell me they fear the unknown and the unfamiliar but I also hear from clients, later in their years, who tell me how much they regret not living life more adventurously. Research has shown that we more often than not regret what we didn’t do that what we did do, even if what we tried didn’t work out.
If your relationships is making you unhappy, keeping you ‘small’ or chipping away at your spirit, it might be time to take an honest look at your situation. Fear staying in an unhappy situation rather than fearing the future. There is nothing to fear, if you see the future as full of possibilities and judge your current situation as miserable, it’s a no brainer to me. Even if there are children involved, children fare better in two separate households than one miserable one where their parents rarely connect or show affection.
We are fed unrealistic ideals about marriage through Hollywood movies and the media. The reality is far from this.
See a couples counsellor if you think there is still a lot of good left in your marriage. You could also try my “save your relationship” ebook (under “shop” in menu) – this follows actual couple counselling sessions that I do with my clients.
Marital misery does not have to be a part of your life. You can choose to repair your relationship or you can choose a better, new path that offers up new possibilities. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal…
Photo by skedonk