Dr. Shirley Glass
"Reflections By Glass"
PHILANDERING MEN: ENTITLEMENT OR ADDICTION?
Men in pursuit of extramarital sex can carry on their philandering actions for decades without being detected, or they could encounter personal and professional catastrophes because of their habitual risk-taking behaviors. The paradox that is difficult for most women to understand is that these philandering men frequently perceive that they are committed to their wives and regard themselves as happily married. They are able to compartmentalize their sexual exploits as separate from their marriages until they are discovered. The underlying causes are usually individual issues which vary greatly although the contrasting patterns may look similar on the surface.
Men who view casual sex as not only pleasurable but as a privilege of their gender, are more likely to engage in extramarital sex. Attitudes and values are a stronger predictor of a husband's likelihood to be unfaithful than his marital satisfaction. "I never turn down a gift" was the reason a man offered as a justification for extramarital relationships on a research questionnaire. Unfortunately, this viewpoint extends to the adolescent male who is seduced by a mature woman. Instead of perceiving that he has been sexually molested, he believes that he has been especially favored. During adolescence, men learn to separate sex from love because their earliest sexual feelings are focused on their genitals rather on an emotional attachment, as are adolescent girls.
A prevailing double-standard in some ethnic or cultural groups accepts extramarital sex as traditional male behavior while prohibiting the women they love from following the same standards. Infidelity is a legacy carried down through the generations in families such as the Kennedys where the men are committed to family life but have affairs, and the women "stand by their men." Occupations which were prone to rampant infidelity as an industry standard before the advent of sexual harassment suits not only condoned extracurricular "fooling around" by married men but actually fostered "territorial amnesia" by providing women for hire at conventions.
I have heard a number of men try to diminish the impact of their infidelities by saying, "You shouldn't be this upset. It didn't mean a thing." When the wife asks how they would feel if the shoe was on the other foot, the common response is, "I'd kill you, but I know you'd never do anything like that." They inherently recognize that a wife's affair is usually more threatening to the stability of the marriage because of the greater likelihood of an emotional involvement. Husbands are usually most by the sexual aspects of their wives' affairs; whereas wives are often more upset if their husbands were emotionally involved with their affair partner, therefore a one-night stand may be less distressing than a prolonged affair with lots of romantic conversations.
Sex and Love Addiction
The need for excitement is an especially compelling component for the sexually addicted man. He must remain married so his wife can assume the important role of the disapproving parent because secrecy and barriers intensify his passion. Sneaking around behind his wife's back adds to the thrill, even if the wife has no awareness of his extramarital involvements. Living on the edge such as being on the verge of bankruptcy and thrill seeking activities such as Black Diamond skiing or drag racing may also be sought after because of the constant drive for an adrenaline high.
Men who seek excitement by falling in love with one affair partner after another may be love addicts. They are addicted to the high associated with the first stage of a relationship (Stage I). They appear to be incurable romantics who idealize their affair partners until reality bites or someone even more perfect comes along. The marriage suffers because of their perception that although they still love their wife, they are "in love" with the other woman. They are easily identified as men who engage in sequential monogamy; i.e. they are faithful only as long as the romantic idealization endures, but they bail out as soon as the excitement wears off and start another Stage I relationship.
Love and sex addicts are often seeking sensory arousal as a means of compensating for inner feelings of emptiness and alexythymia (unable to define or feel emotions). Since the moderate glow of a long term relationship seldom reaches the threshold of awareness, they need the hot flame of exciting sex or a new love. Recovery is possible but must begin with an acknowledgment of the addiction.
Recovery and Healing
Recovery and healing are possible if the philandering husband takes responsibility for his actions, is truthful about the full extent of his betrayal(s), is empathic about the pain he has caused, and is truly committed to a monogamous marriage. The motivation for change is often the destructive consequences of the behaviors or the pain caused to loved ones. Couples counseling is used to explore the causes, open the windows of honest communication, and rebuild the marriage. There are self-help programs for the addicted philanderer such as Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous and Sexaholics Anonymous which are based on 12-Step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
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