I didn't mean to take what mon chéri said seriously, and for any number of reasons I wouldn't recommend having an affair as a way of enlivening a long-standing marriage. I have some friends and psychotherapy clients who are resigned to staying in marriages for myriad reasons while feeling that their hearts are elsewhere, and others for whom an affair, even one that transpired years ago, defines their current relationship—one partner perpetually blaming, one perpetually doing penance. Clearly, having affairs is like playing with fire, and good people get burned.But in the best of all possible outcomes for an affair, the parts of me that were reawakened or newly constructed remained with me after it ended. The affair gave me what good, extended therapy does: a broader definition of myself—the ability to inhabit my life as an active player, while surrendering the fantasy that someone else or something else would make me happy. I was indelibly changed, and so was my marriage.
As my view of myself expanded, so did my view of my husband. It was as if walking backward away from him, I finally got enough distance to see him whole. What I saw I deeply loved, wanted, and, maybe for the first time, consciously chose. New doors of possibilities opened. Of course, I had to disobey his don't-tell-me-about-it request in writing this, but given the fact that mon mari is French and emotionally secure or, as the French say, "good in his own skin," I know what he'll say: C'est la vie.
Kim Sutton Allouche, L.C.S.W., is in private practice in SoHo and Brooklyn, New York, specializing in the Masterson model of psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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