Adapted from a recent online discussion.
She needs counseling about huge gap in knowledge, actions
Washington: I'm trying to figure out how to quit something that has become like a bad habit for me, partly by determining my motivations for this behavior. I've been married for 11 years and have three young sons. My marriage had many rough patches at first, but the past few years with my husband have been wonderful.
The problem: I've been having an affair for the past year-and-a-half. No matter how many times I end it, I miss whatever it is that I'm getting from this other man and call him again.
I rationalize this by saying to myself it's okay to indulge in this one very selfish behavior because in every other way I am a wonderful wife and mother (I really am one of those "supermoms" who lives for her family).
I'm not sure if I'm cheating because I'm insecure and need the validation, if I'm addicted to the adrenaline rush I get from sneaking around behind my husband's back, or what it is that I'm getting from this affair. FWIW, my husband and I have a wonderful sex life, so my life isn't lacking in that area.
Although I seem to be in denial regarding the consequences of this affair, intellectually I know I could be on the path to destroying my family, which means more to me than anything else in my life. Any insights?
Carolyn: No, you are not one of those "supermoms" who live for their families. You are creating the elaborate facade of one to feed one need of yours, while carrying on an affair to feed another need that undermines everything you're purporting to be — and using each to justify the other.
If your husband is not a fellow believer in complex emotional dealmaking, then this is not something you can rationalize as "okay." An affair is not the sundae you earn with a 10-mile run. It's bringing your excitement and rapt attention outside the marriage, when I imagine your husband got married in hopes that his wife would save those gifts for him.
I won't be naive about those complex deals; I do realize there are couples who believe they bring their best to each other by stirring things up occasionally on the side. But whether you believe this yourself or find it dubious at best, it still remains that the only way this stands up as acceptable even to believers is when both parties share this philosophy. Otherwise it's simple deceit.
That's bad enough. But since this deceit may announce itself to him in the form of a sexually transmitted singing telegram — or, unless you've had a tubal ligation, a child not his own for him to bust his butt to raise, in possible ignorance — denial is not only immoral, but cruel.
Because you've got such a separation between your intellectual awareness and your emotional acts, I'm going to go beyond the you-need-to-end-this advice (duh) and urge you to get some competent, reputable counseling. Emotional fabric with that big a tear in it belongs in the hands of a pro.
By your own admission, you don't know your motives, and you are knowingly sabotaging something you value to the point of calling it "wonderful" — three times. Cause to wonder indeed.