Married Israeli women who cheat on partners 'to keep marriage alive'

Most women find it hard to describe why they no longer feel attracted to their partners, but still prefer to stay in the relationships for an array of reasons - even if it means fulfilling their sexual desires elsewhere

Kineret Tal Meir|
Shahar (the name is assumed for privacy reasons), came to me a month after cheating on her husband. After ten years of marriage, she’d managed to convince herself she wasn’t interested in sex anymore.
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  • Then, at a work conference, she met a man to who made her feel sexual again. It reminded her of how passionate her relationship had been with her husband before they got married.
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    She chose her husband Dan because, from the moment they met, she felt safe with him and knew he’d be a devoted father. She wasn’t wrong. Dan quickly took on the role of committed father and has always been supportive and protective within the marriage.
    He loves her and is deeply devoted to their children. She enjoys beautifying the home they built together, but she’s close to incapable of having sex with him.
    When he does try, at ever-decreasing regularity, she does her best not to engage. If they actually do have sex, her mind wanders off and she can’t really enjoy it. She knows her husband feels it, but she just can’t seem to loosen up with him.
    Shahar tells me that she never planned on cheating on Dan. He hadn’t done anything to make her angry and she didn’t want to hurt or punish him. But now that it's happened, and she is increasingly aware that she’s lost her sexual persona, she feels trapped between her desire for sexual fulfillment and the pure love she has for her husband.
    This condition is widespread: Women who really love their partners, but find it difficult to have sex with them. So, they’ll do one of two things: Switch themselves off sexually so as not to be unfaithful, or fulfill their sexual desires - despite the love, care, and devotion they feel for their partners - by cheating on them.
    Most, can’t explain what’s going on - even to themselves. The first problem is their own self-diagnosis, or the mistaken terms in which their therapy is framed that can lead to needless and undesirable results.
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    בני זוג ישנים יחד
    בני זוג ישנים יחד
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    Couples in therapy tend to focus on the infidelity itself, sexual problems, or the conflicts within their relationship. They don’t understand that something else altogether lies at the core of all the problems. Working with such couples, I’ve identified three mistaken, false assumptions that are likely to obstruct appropriate diagnosis and treating them correctly.
    The first false assumption is that sexual problems are by definition connected to difficulties within the relationship or to the couple’s chemistry: Couples often describe their problems in the bedroom as part of a general problem within their relationship, hoping that if their marriage counseling is successful, their sexual problems will also be rectified.
    This does happen sometimes, but if their relationship improves and their sex life doesn’t, the couple start doubting their compatibility. They start thinking that nothing can be done as they simply don’t have good “sexually chemistry.”
    This false assumption prevents us from addressing the matter from a different angle that can serve to expose the true source of the sexual problems, entrenched in a totally different place.
    The second false assumption that can mislead the couple is the belief that sexual performance difficulties are rooted in physiological or emotional problems that can be treated with therapy or medication. Yes, medication can solve sexual problems and can treat men for impotence, or women for vaginal dryness or recurring infections.
    Therapy can help build up sexual self-confidence and decrease performance anxiety. But, if the treatments aren’t helping, and the couple’s tried everything, and the problem isn’t going away, the couple will likely give up and completely miss the real reason.
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    The third false assumption that can hinder correct diagnosis is that in any long-term relationship, sexual excitement fades, giving way to habit, safety and harmony. This is indeed common for long-term couples. It can, however, set in far too early.
    These couples report a dull and sparse sex life from the very start of the relationship, usually from the time they know they’re heading towards marriage and children. These cases can’t be treated by adding variety in the bedroom or by injecting a bit of spice into the relationship. The real problem in these cases isn’t that they’re bored or too used to one another. Their problem is that they’re married.
    The "Madonna-Whore" complex was first identified by Sigmund Freud in 1925. He defines a condition of men who cannot have sex with the woman they love, and cannot love the women they have sex with. Freud said: “Where such men love, they have no desire, and where they desire, they cannot love”. He called the condition “emotional impotence.”
    We’ve now also identified this condition among women such as Shahar, who marry men to whom they are not attracted, and then want to sleep with men they wouldn’t want to marry or raise children with.
    This disparity between the people to whom we’re attracted and those with whom we feel safe and would want to raise a family, is rooted in various ancient religious, historical and sociological factors:
    In monotheistic faiths and conservative societies, men and women alike are expected to preserve their virginity until their wedding night. Judaism forbids men from “spilling seed,” and men and women who are not married are forbidden to touch one another.
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    סקס אילוסטרציה
    סקס אילוסטרציה
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    In conservative societies, women who are not virgins are regarded as dangerous “whores,” and definitely not suitable for marriage.
    These attitudes are rooted in societal norms aiming to protect children from being fathered men outside of a stable social structure. Although this is long forgotten, a conservative schism has survived in our consciousness, deeply engrained in our apparently post-modern, post-conservative world.
    Alongside religious laws, history is witness to men having two wives – the first for childbearing, the second to fulfill their sexual desires and fantasies. This is rooted in politics and the need to forge political alliances between groups and states through marriage.
    Such arrangements have led to marriages between men and women who are not emotionally or sexually compatible. Their expectations of a marriage include neither emotional connection nor sexual gratification, but rather childbearing and creating a family.
    Here too, the real reasons have been lost to time, leaving us only with a psychologically conservative rift between the pure woman – the mother, and the sexual woman – the whore.
    Patriarchal history doesn’t tell the stories of the women married off in political alliances, fulfilling the roles of wives and mothers. One must wonder about these women’s sexual desires and the clandestine ways in which they must have been fulfilled.
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    אילוסטרציה מין מיניות זוג זוגיות
    אילוסטרציה מין מיניות זוג זוגיות
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    The scale of the psychological difference between the person you love and the person with whom you can have sex, is outlined in the Oedipus Complex and the parallel female version, the Electra Complex, in both ancient mythology and in modern psychology literature.
    The complex emphasizes the taboo associated with being sexually attracted to one’s own mother or father, and the heavy price to be paid for abrogating this taboo.
    We now know that if this complex is not properly addressed during one’s childhood, a psychological split can develop causing "emotional impotence" later in life. This involves an inability to be attracted to the partner chosen as mother or father to one’s children.
    Men often say that they cannot be sexually attracted to the breasts that nurse their children, or to the vagina out of which their children emerge.
    Whatever the historical reasons, a psychological split exists between women considered “saintly,” and those viewed as “prostitutes” - it has created a warped attitude that views sexuality as a debasement of the pure woman.
    In turn, this has made many women conceal their true sexuality from the men they expect to love and respect them. And it’s made men, in their efforts to not desecrate the honor and purity of the women they love and value, refrain from sensual and fulfilling sex with them.
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    גבר ואישה במיטה
    גבר ואישה במיטה
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    Women married to men with this complex will do everything within their powers to arouse and seduce their partners. The more the woman tries to express her sexuality to her partner, the more he’ll pull away. He may even be repelled by her and may try repressing her behavior, claiming, “this isn’t how a married wife and mother behaves.”
    Such a man will, however, quite happily have sex with a woman who behaves exactly in this way, but who isn’t his legal wife and isn’t the mother of his children.
    Men married to women suffering from the “Electra Complex” will also try to arouse their wives, convincing themselves that they’re married to a woman with no sexual instincts. This “pure woman” may well be enjoying a healthy, even wild, sex life with a different man who’s naughty, irresponsible and uncommitted. She can carry on doing this to the point of self-loathing.
    Her legal partner, on the other hand, can never fulfil this role. Whatever he tries to do, she’ll always see him as feeble, as a good father, always viewing his seduction efforts as clumsy, ridiculous, and definitely not sexual.
    Shahar’s case tells the story of many men and women with these complexes. They don’t understand why, despite their great love for one another, they can’t view one another as sexual beings and can’t share their untamed sexual fantasies and desires with them.
    This results in a rather sparse and boring sex life, coupled with frustration likely leading to infidelities, libido suppression, or hating their own sexual fantasies, considering them childish, repellent and unrealizable.
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    A popular excuse for this psychological divide between love and passion, is compartmentalizing the needs we have of a partner who is the parent of our children and the needs we have of the person with whom we have sex.
    As these are very different needs, it’s all too easy to claim that the person you want to marry should have different qualities to that of the person with whom you want to enjoy sex.
    This excuse makes us view both ourselves and our partners in simplistic, dishonest, one-dimensional terms. In practice, we’re all made up of various personality traits and multiple layers: There’s a “prostitute” hiding in every saint, hoping to be set free. And in every “prostitute,” there’s a woman dreaming of someone putting a ring on her finger and treating her as a pure, beloved saint.
    Likewise, in every stable and responsible grown man, there’s a wild a passionate man, craving a sexual space that’s liberated and unjudgmental. And every wild and sensual man is concealing a man who wants to settle down, feel safe, love and be loved.
    This gap can be bridged in stages:
    In the first stage, partners express to one another the complexities of their personalities, sharing hitherto concealed aspects which had previously had no platform in their sex lives. This requires an open and honest conversation.
    The couple explain their frustrations to one another, as well as their reservations about revealing all. They further explain their concerns about seeing sides of their partners which had been kept under wraps until now.
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    המצב מוביל לריחוק
    המצב מוביל לריחוק
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    The couple must accept themselves in full and be completely ready to accept their partner, including all potential surprises. This is the only way to create a solid foundation for trust on which to build the next stage.
    The second stage requires couple to calm down. Here they understand that these complexities should pose no threat to their relationship.
    They’re asked to correctly position the various aspects of their personalities within the home and their lives: The sexual elements will have a place of honor in the bedroom and places relevant to sex, but not in the children’s rooms or places where they have to be organized and settled.
    Likewise, the settled parts of their personalities will be placed in organized parts of family life, but will then give way to the wild and hedonistic parts, allowing them to conduct themselves freely, with no inhibitions.
    In the third stage, the couple actually reveal themselves. I tell the couple to enter the bedroom (or wherever it is they chose to reveal their sexual desires) blindfolded. The eye-covering provides them with the freedom and self-confidence that allows their bodies to speak, sense and feel.
    The blindfold conceals the embarrassment and it’s removed gradually. It particularly allows a couple who have known each other for some time to get to know each other anew, without the usual inhibitions or commitment to the personality they usually present.
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    זוג במיטה
    זוג במיטה
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    This feeling of renewal can be deepened in further ways – using a new perfume or a different place in the house. Now a new, rich and varied game begins. It requires the couple to be self-aware, flexible and courageous enough to accept the various personalities they bring to the relationship and navigate between them.
    If played right, with precise guidance, the game can liberate a long-term couple from the ancient complex in which their relationship and sex life had been trapped.
    I wish everyone success in liberating relationship complexes and hope you have a wild, healthy sex life.

    Kineret Tal Meir is the author of “The Secret to Love” and is the founder of “Touch Talk” advancing change and growth in personal, relationship and sexual development.
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