I don’t know, but that seems like a fair question when someone writes a newspaper article titled “Can an Affair Save a Marriage?” and then goes on to say
US marriage therapist Mira Kirshenbaum outraged many with her book When Good People Have Affairs, which claimed the “right kind” of fling could “jolt people from their inertia”.
The author then goes on to imply that we’re starting a movement of people having affairs to shake up their marriage. The affair as a marriage tonic.
But IS that what we say?
Of course not. Yes, it sometimes happens that discovering an affair gets a couple to deal with things they’ve not dealt with before. And sometimes that’s productive. But however productive it may be, the couple now also has the deal with the rage and betrayal and lack of trust the affair caused.
Look, if you break your leg it might give you time to catch up on your reading. But who would break their leg for the purpose of catching up with their reading? And in the same way, what sane person would risk the damage that can come from an affair just for the sake of opening up a conversation? There are FAR less costly ways to do that.
And yet we do say that an affair can in some way be helpful. Are we contradicting ourselves? Not at all.
There are two completely separate points.
One: If your marriage needs help, do NOT try to help it by having an affair. That’s a really dumb idea. If fact, you’re almost always better off not having an affair at all. If you’re not happy with your marriage, work on it. If the work you do doesn’t help and the marriage is unhappy, get a divorce. But don’t have an affair.
Two: If you DID have an affair and you realize you made a mistake, don’t despair. Yes, the affair made things worse, but in the hands of an experienced, talented therapist good can come from bad. Lessons can be learned. Problems can be solved. Marriages can be saved. It happens all the time.
There. Was that so hard?
We’re really proud of When Good People Have Affairs. It has NOT increased the divorce rate. It has NOT led to more people having affairs. But it HAS led many, many more people working on their marriages and getting clear about what’s best for them.