Tragedy of a Cheatin' Heart
With the current news of a murder-suicide in Pennsylvania, involving two women in a love triangle (one was involved with the other’s husband), one of the most obvious questions is: Why do men who say they love their wives have extramarital affairs?
According to Radnor Township Police, Jennair Gerardot, 48, ambushed Meredith Chapman, 33, in Chapman’s home, and shot her in the head, before turning the gun on herself.
Chapman (who was separated from her husband at the time) was involved in an on-going affair with Gerardot’s husband, Mark. Email exchanges with his wife indicate Jennair intended to harm Chapman. Mark Gerardot planned to have dinner with Chapman near her home on the night she was killed. When she didn’t show, he went to her home, and upon arrival, told police that his wife might be inside the house.
His social media accounts painted the picture that he had a happy marriage and was in love with his wife. So, why was he having an on-going affair?
It is important to note that there are many different reasons why men have extra-marital affairs (and yes, women engage in them also, but for this post, we will focus on men since two women are dead, with a man as the common denominator), but what would drive someone who behaves as if and says (even through photos in social media) that he loves his wife to commit infidelity? Below are just some of the reasons extra-marital affairs happen.
According to research, men who have been involved with infidelity, have many common themes regarding their lived experience. For example, men will engage in long-term infidelity when there are no consequences to their action. Therefore, it becomes habitual behavior, and defense mechanisms such as denial and justification are employed to reduce guilt.
There is fear also involved, but it is not considered a huge detriment, since excitement and exhilaration bring a lager reward for them, in the form of a natural chemical rush, so defense mechanisms are employed.
Men involved in long-term affairs also reported feeling neglected in their younger years, such as being left fatherless as a very young child. This also left them with a feeling of a void in their life. Therefore, there is an attachment component with regards to infidelity. For example, if these men were left by their fathers at a young age or their mothers neglected their emotional needs (such as giving them adequate praise, hugs, and empathy), they probably were conditioned to either be avoidant, ambivalent or disorganized when it comes to showing love and how they relate with a romantic partner.
There is also a correlation with them being social and extroverted types. They enjoy being among the crowd, making and having lots of friends, and their fathers were also described as social people, and ladies’ men. Again, this usually provides them with the “feel good” endorphins they crave.
Depression is often a factor in infidelity. Many hide behind the mask of a seemingly happy life, but underneath the façade is deep psychological pain. Those who can pull the show off are masters at living the illusion. Studies show when depression is present, infidelity often also surprisingly emerges. Therefore, men may engage in infidelity as an escape from the burdens of life. Sexual activity releases natural chemicals to the brain, such as endorphins, norepinephrine, testosterone, oxytocin, and serotonin, which makes one feel good and relaxes the mind.
There is also a perception that long-term infidelity can be learned behavior and more prevalent in certain cultures. When certain cultures fail to provide consequences for negative behavior, such as cheating, it becomes easier to engage in long-term infidelity, and it also becomes considered “the norm.” Hence, this enables them to engage in denial and justification, in order to experience excitement, a “rush,” and an increase in self-esteem.
Again, both men and women engage in infidelity, and the reasons differ with gender, circumstance, and attachment styles. However, all too often a romantic relationship begins with a grand interlude of what many call “love” but is really attraction and a rush of “feel good” chemicals that surges through the body all the way to the brain. This euphoric feeling often leads to marriage, and after several years, those surges of chemicals diminish, and reality sets in. Some marriages like the Gerardot’s become a stage for the illusion of love, one or both create, for the world to see. They conceal facets of themselves from each other, which damages the marriage, and when a man sees his marriage as complicated, he can become bored and seek another person to fulfill whatever void he feels.
Ultimately, we cannot make a person love us. We cannot control a person. It is impossible to be with a person 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Nor should we want to. That is not a sign of a healthy individual (if this is your method of functioning in a relationship, please see a mental health professional to gain insight and self-awareness, as well as reduce your anxiety). Before you jump into a relationship with someone, it is important to know about their history, especially with their family of origin. There are no guarantees that your spouse or significant other will not cheat on you, but their attachment styles, conditioned by how their early caregivers treated them, will give you an indication of how they relate and bond. And yes, when one person no longer feels “love” for their significant other, I suggest either trying couples therapy, or asking for a separation or divorce. Nothing feels worse on the soul than betrayal.
In the words of Daphne Kingma, “True love is a labor of love. Sometimes love comes to stay, nourished and coddled by…the efforts of those who have invited it in. But if it is not honored or nurtured, love will go off to seek its true home.”