In an age of multiple marriages and serial relationships, has the pain of betrayal been downgraded?
Extramarital affairs are no longer the leading reason why couples decide to split up. Infidelity has been replaced by ‘growing apart’ and falling out of love as the most popular motivation for filing for divorce.
When the rich and famous like Wayne Rooney can get away with adultery and skulk back to their wives, is adultery just an inevitable lovers’ blip, rather than a reason to divorce? What has definitely shifted as far as attitudes are concerned is that the shame and secrecy around the issue of infidelity have all but disappeared, helping people to recognise not only that it goes on in all walks of society, but that it doesn’t necessarily mean a marriage is doomed
At the point when the husband of Amanda Eggerton (not her real name) confessed he’d been having a three-year affair, she was 47 years old and the mother of two teenage girls.
Amanda decided to put any decisions about divorce on hold. Her daughters were in the run-up to their GCSEs and A-levels at the time and she was determined not to do anything that would adversely affect their concentration on their studies.
Over the next few months, and with the help of a counsellor, she slowly began to tot up all the good things about her marriage and realised she wanted to save it.
‘But our sex life, which was never great, had dwindled to nothing. ‘But of course Patrick DID want sex; just not with me. What hurt more than the idea of him having sex was the realisation that he really cared for this other woman.’ After a few months in therapy on her own, Amanda persuaded Patrick to go with her to couples counselling.Ten years on and they’re still together. In an odd way, the affair has brought us closer, because, although he may have sex with another woman, I now know he’ll never leave.
For Charlotte Friedman, a former divorce lawyer and now a family therapist who runs the UK-wide Divorce Support Group, an affair is far from being the inevitable death knell to marriage, especially in cases such as Amanda’s, where both partners want it to work.
Some therapists believe that infidelity should not be condemned so much as understood. Extra-marital affairs are a way for individuals to explore themselves and revitalise a stale sex life.
Falling out of love and growing apart are now more pressing reasons for divorce than an affair. Adultery, it seems, may be endured, forgiven or accepted, but when the loving spark dies, a modern marriage is unlikely to survive.