For the past seven years, columnist, media spokesperson and journalist Ruth Houston has put out a list of the top 10 celebrity infidelities. In the past few years, her task of naming the top ten has become increasingly more difficult. Politicians, sports icons, corporate executives and other public figures are now routinely exposed in the media for their extra-marital affairs. The most recent reports of a sports figure turned politician only highlight the issue.
Despite the frequent media coverage of high profile infidelities, most people find cheating abhorrent. Infidelity always brings pain. Many times, it ends a marriage. Recent statistics demonstrate that anywhere from thirty to seventy-five percent of all marriages in the U. S. are touched by infidelity. With fame and fortune, good looks and talent on their side, celebrities engage in extra-marital affairs for many of the same reasons that other people do.
There are many different reasons why people cheat on their spouses. Some find that romance and excitement have gone out of their relationship. So they look elsewhere. Others like the thrill of doing something secret and forbidden. Some even cheat to get revenge on their spouse.
Then, there is the crisis that comes with middle-age. As the years take their toll, some people lose their self-esteem. Seeing themselves as less valuable, they may more readily succumb to the temptation, like Cosmo in the 1987 movie
, to have a fling. The extramarital affair proves, so they think, that their attractiveness and worth are undiminished.
Perhaps infidelity most commonly occurs when one spouse feels that his or her emotional or physical needs are no longer being met. One spouse may feel neglected. Work. Stress. Care for the children. So many pressing needs may take time from working at a marriage relationship. When this happens, one spouse may no longer feel that he or she matters to the other. Then, it becomes easy to look outside of marriage to find the other who makes one feel wanted and loved.
It is love that draws people together in marriage. Only love keeps them together. While the perceived need for love may lead someone to an extramarital affair, infidelity is a failure to love at all, no matter what the circumstances. Infidelity is the betrayal of love.
American playwright and dramatist Steven Dietz remarked, “One should rather die than be betrayed. There is no deceit in death. It delivers precisely what it has promised. Betrayal, though ... is the willful slaughter of hope
” While death is the natural end of life and is to be expected at some point, in a marriage, betrayal is always a surprise and disappointment, even today.
Our culture fosters an abiding pledge of allegiance to individualism. We live with a philosophical mindset inherited from the 18
century philosopher John Locke. Individual freedom. Competition for material well-being. Personal initiative. We value our own self-determination. We recoil from limitations placed on our own choices. Individualism leads, in the minds of some, to the good society. All should be free to achieve their potential, accomplish their goals and attain their personal satisfaction, independent of others.
With this mindset, some marry because it will make them happy individually. They somehow forget that, where there is love, the priority is the other person’s good. Love is about giving. Love is sacrifice. Authentic love unites individuals as persons. It never uses the other as a means for one’s agenda. When the attitude of individualism seeps into marriage, it poisons love at its root.
In a highly individualistic society, it is a challenge for people to partner and work together. It is even more difficult for them to enter into marriage. French author Anais Nin said, “Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don't know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of withering, of tarnishing.” Love dies when the effort to love is no longer made.
Spouses need to work at their relationship. They need to know that commitment means giving and sometimes not receiving. In every marriage, there are empty spaces and lonely times. When there is the generous commitment to put the other first to the point of self-sacrifice, love grows, even as the plant that grows in sunlight and in the night. However, putting oneself first is always the marriage terminator.