So I’ve been thinking about adultery today. Not in the “hey, that’s something I oughtta try way!” but more in the “why do people do it?” way.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. I was watching Jeff VanVonderen this morning. The big double “V” is the grizzly old counsellor from “Intervention”.
I heard an interview with him this morning in which he spoke about adultery in the same way that he speaks about cocaine addictions. It’s a disease that happens to people as they struggle to deal with some type of unresolved personal struggles. He shared that adultery has the same effect on a person as substance abuse does, namely, that it becomes a mask/self-medication/coping mechanism to avoid the real work of getting your life in order by working through painful memories, events and abuses.
He shared how when a person comes to him for counselling and they admit to having affairs – or addictions – the first thing he tells them is to stop. This seems self-evident for the substance abuser because if they don’t stop they’ll end up in jail (if the substance is illegal or can cause injury – like DUI) or they’ll simply overdose and die. For the person who’s cheating you would assume that there are many more variables in place: why they are married? who do they love? depth of relationship?
Jeff says no. He says that’s crap. Basically he sums up adultery as a sexual addiction and the first step is to quit the addictive behaviour BECAUSE once the action is gone the self-medicating aspect of the addiction is removed and all the stuff that was being stuffed down will rise to the surface. Once it’s at the surface than counselling can help. This has an interesting affect on how I view adultery.
Does the person who cheats cheat because of painful situations in their past? in their sexual, emotional, relational development? Isn’t adultery simply about wanting different experiences or replacing one lover for another? (You started with a Bentley now you want to drive a Porsche) If adultery is just like any addiction – are some people pre-disposed to adultery?
- “I think I’m in love with…”
- “I need something else in my life like…”
- “It’s not really cheating its…”
he only has one piece of advice for them,
I know what your problem is. You need to go out and CHEAT MORE. Go. Sleep with many, many more people. Then come back to me when you’ve done that.
What?? Really?? This floored me! His logic though makes sense. The addict needs to hit “rock bottom”. When they have no more illusions that their addiction is helping them. They no longer think that it’s recreational or positive. They are well aware – for the first time – that this will kill them. Basically – they become aware that their addiction is an “idol” – something that is “not God” trying to “be God” in their life.
We don’t balk (as painful as it is for those affected) at administering the tough love and language of hitting bottom with the addict but we do at the “rock bottom” of an adulterer. It makes a difference to us how often someone cheats and in what ways they cheat.
We have a different economy for the adulterer than the addict – despite their similarities. If you cheat once – you made a mistake, cheat twice – you’re probably in/out of love with someone or you a just a horndog. It’s not until a person has several affairs that we begin to consider them sexual addicts. Brett Favre is dirty old man – Tiger is an addict. But – if adultery is a addiction than they are actually experiencing the same thing – regardless of how many or how few trysts they’ve had. The one-timer adulterer as the same fundamental problem as the nymphomaniac.
Have more affairs! Get to your bottom!! Realize that you are trying to meet a deep need through the idol of sex and idol of idealized romance rather than hard work of self-discovery and revisiting your past. The sooner you do this the better off you’ll be.