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Is Cheating Okay in a Marriage?

IMG_1855While cruising (pardon the pun) through that bastion of “truth, justice and the American way” news medium, Fox News, I happened upon an article by Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist, on the topic of (drum roll) marriage.

Dr. Ablow apparently watched (or read the Cliff Notes) on Beyoncé’s new release, “Lemonade,” that focuses on the theme of infidelity.  Even though Beyoncé’s lyrics, possibly autobiographical about her marriage with Jay Z, seem to say that ongoing cheating will not be tolerated, Dr. Ablow believes (after “more than 20 years of practicing psychiatry”) that marriages often continue even after multiple infidelity events.

Although I certainly agree with Dr. Ablow that marriage is made up of more than just sex (I mean, in today’s busy world, how much time can you spend in bed), and, as the good doctor points out, sexual energy is typically not a reliable measure of a marriage’s strength. Rather, he notes, the energy “dissipates in a tortured, yet treasured, haze of shared laundry baskets, watching one another floss in the morning, and, passing gas in one another’s presences as matter-of-factly as you pass the salt. (Okay, I added the last one)

But marriage is also made up of trust.  And the question becomes, if someone cheats on you, can you trust that person not to do it again?

Interestingly, Dr. Ablow “fully expects” his wife of 20 years to be distracted by “decent-looking” waiters. He goes as far to say that if her wandering eye ultimately resulted in a tryst over the crème Brule (yeah, I added the dessert again) he would hope not to find out…but if he did, it would not begin the end of his marriage.

I suspect that Dr. Ablow really would not relish his wife performing his last name (think people) on that waiter or anyone else.  And, it seems that he is a forgiving man, who would take her back and stand by her if, heaven forbid, she became very ill.

But what about that trust?  The fact that he would prefer to not find out about this hypothetical tryst reminds me of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, but that certainly isn’t something to build a marriage upon.

To some extent I share Dr. Ablow’s theory.  Routinely clients come to me and announce that his/her spouse is cheating.  Since Florida is a no-fault state, from my perspective in the law it usually doesn’t mean a lot as to the outcome the victim would receive in court.  However, emotionally to the client, it is a big let- down when I tell them that I cannot request any of his/her spouse’s anatomical parts from the court as penance for the soon-to-be-ex’s digressions.

What I can, and do say frequently, is that the parties should at least try some counseling to see if a skilled therapist can help the couple “get over” the pain and hurt, and get back the trust that is needed to sustain a marriage.  Yes, Dr. Ablow, everyone is human, and we all make mistakes and we hopefully learn from those mistakes.  Perhaps the aftermath of a tryst can even make a marriage stronger.  But really, there has to be a point where trust is gone, violated and cannot be revived.  Is it after one transgression (one strike), two transgressions (2 strikes) or three strikes you’re out?

Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer.   But, at the very least, before just ending it each person faced with this dilemma must at least ask the question and explore the answer for him/herself.



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