Marriage at the Turning Point


Marriage at the Turning Point

The Affair as Crisis and Opportunity

By Don-David Lusterman

May/June 1989


Back in the 1950s, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, Hollywood's perfect young couple, shocked their fan-magazine public by divorcing after Fisher's scandalous affair with Elizabeth Taylor. In those innocent times, lots of people, myself included, took this spectacle very seriously. Newly married, not yet a therapist, I could barely conceive of divorce, let alone infidelity. Affairs happened in movies, but almost never involved "real people," even "real" movie stars. Furthermore, I could not believe Reynold's claims of ignorance about what was going on right under her nose. Didn't she notice that Eddie was always coming home late from the studio? Or that his tie was askew? Or that he didn't croon love songs to her any more? Didn't she notice that their marriage was failing?

Today, after thousands of hours spent with couples struggling through their own infidelity crises, I know that both victim and unfaithful spouse often believe that their marriage was just fine until the affair struck from nowhere,

like a perverse tornado. Victims, particularly, often believe their unfaithful mates have been stolen or seduced or bewitched away, as if against their will. My goal is not merely to help these couples weather the crisis and patch things up, but to help them understand how both spouses created the marital context that made an affair possible, and how the crisis itself can be the spring board to a healthier, more satisfying relationship.

By infidelity, I do…

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