Is infidelity actually a wake-up call for relationships?

There is a great quote from Esther Perel (the Sex Therapist’s Sex Therapist about infidelity.”Perel takes a very stern line on what she sees as the excessive sense of entitlement that contemporary couples bring to their relationships. Their outsized expectations of what marriage can and should provide—perpetual excitement, comfort, sexual bliss, intellectual stimulus, and so on—together with their callow, “consumerist” approach to romantic choices, leave them ill-equipped to cope with the inevitable frustrations and longueurs of the long haul. They are too quick to look elsewhere the moment that their “needs aren’t being met,” and too ready to despair the moment that the promise of sexual loyalty is broken. Those who show willingness to forgive infidelity risk being chastised by friends and relatives for their lack of gumption. Women, Perel notes, are under particular pressure these days to leave cheating spouses as a mark of their feminist “self-respect.”

I remember hearing her speak in Ottawa at the JCC about needing a more compassionate approach to outside liaisons. I agree with her wholeheartedly. Infidelity is often a wakeup call and a chance to reinvent your relationship. Rather than the “you are bad finger pointing, we need to look at the why’s & how this can be a vehicle for open discussion.

The article in the New Yorker goes on to say this about where people are in the reflections on relationships.

“Surprisingly, perhaps, our increasingly licentious behavior has not been reflected in more tolerant public attitudes toward infidelity. While we’ve become considerably more relaxed about premarital sex, gay sex, and interracial sex, our disapproval of extramarital sex has been largely unaffected by our growing propensity to engage in it. We are eating forbidden apples more hungrily than ever, but we slap ourselves with every bite. According to a 2017 Gallup poll, Americans deplore adultery (which is still illegal in some two dozen states and still included among the crimes of “moral turpitude” that can justify denial of citizenship) at much higher rates than they do abortion, animal testing, or euthanasia.”

So is stepping out something that only a few people do? A recent survey from Ashley Madison (the site for infidelity) based out of Toronto has this to say. I know the Ashley Madison site as they used to sponsor my radio show & I attended a Christmas party & had regular meetings with the CEO at the time. He saw that 35% of people on traditional dating sites were married so he started a site to address those 35%. Whatever your feelings about stepping out on your relationship you are not alone.

“Seventy-nine percent of cheaters are against divorcing their partner, and their main motivations to cheat rather than leave include loving them too much (46%), not wanting to make things hard for their kids (19%), and not being able to financially afford it (17%). In fact, cheaters would feel more selfish (58%) and more guilty (67%) getting a divorce than continuing to cheat.

What best describes how you’d feel if your primary relationship ended?

I would feel like a failure


I would feel like a disappointment


I would feel lonely



At 24, I married my husband, and we have been together for 30 years,” says one female Ashley Madison member. “In terms of sex, I’m more adventurous and have a higher sex drive than my husband. My husband views sex as a service, and I see it as integral to my well-being. I can’t imagine having sex with one person – it simply makes no sense. As a society, we ask too much of one person, so I see cheating as a way to stay married. Ultimately, I’m looking for the cherry on top, not the whole sundae.”

What I see in my practice is the need to stop shoving things under the carpet. As I tell my patients ” I am in the needs business”. What I often talk to clients about is non-monogamy, monogamish, hall passes or anything that might save conventional relationships while meeting needs. I teach a class on this around North America that has given couples the tools & communication skills to step outside of conventional norms. Either alone or together. My Ducklings Social group and Duckling dating has articles that might help.

Find out more or let’s book an appointment to talk about what’s going on in your relationship.