What compelled Ben Affleck to cheat on his beautiful wife Jennifer Garner? Because he’s wealthy and powerful and feels like he can do whatever he wants? Affleck and Garner had previously publicly acknowledged marital issues and being in couples therapy in public. He jokingly complained about marriage being a lot of work; she responded by saying that marriage was a blessing. Sometime later Affleck bailed out of the marriage, apparently getting together with the couple’s nanny.
What is the hard work involved in marriage?
It involves willingness from both partners to repair the damage
For one middle-aged man, the emotional “work” of marriage involves self-awareness, curiosity about how his mind works, a willingness to reflect on his behavior, and to repair the damage he sometimes does to his relationship of 25+ years.
His wife recently returned from a business trip that lasted a few days. As they spoke one morning, he mentioned a restaurant and nightspot he went to with friends while she was away. He “joked” about the attractive women he saw in the crowd at the bar, suggesting she was too old and no longer attractive enough to go there with him and their friends. She retaliated by suggesting he was not rich enough to pick up a young, attractive woman, alluding to financial difficulties the couple was having.
And things went downhill from there. They went for a walk, but husband and wife only irritated each other further. He criticized Jehovah’s Witnesses they encountered, and she attacked him for being judgmental. The quality time they wanted to spend together was ruined. He walked ahead of her, and she eventually retaliated by putting even more distance between them. She batted his hand away when he tried to grab hold of it to try to repair the disruption.
You need to be sensitive and attentive to your partner
During the walk as his irritation with his wife increased, the husband began reflecting on what he had learned in individual and couples therapy. Why had he been hostile to his wife about her age and appearance? Was he feeling neglected by her travelling for work? He had indeed texted her earlier in the week that he felt lonely when she was away. That was an important insight.
Refrain from retaliation and harsh judgment
Maybe he had pushed her away to retaliate for her leaving him, even though he knew she had to work. He could be hostile and judgmental towards people, which always got under her skin. His comments about the Jehovah’s Witnesses had also been unnecessary.
Learn to let go and re-establish connect with your partner
The relationship storm subsided gradually when they went out to eat after the walk, even though he didn’t feel hungry. Maybe she appreciated his willingness to accompany her. She expressed irritation towards his family while driving to the restaurant, but he let the comments go without reacting or responding. They had a good meal together.
Be willing to apologize for your contribution to the damage
The husband regretted his stupid insensitive comments. He was willing to apologize for his contributions to the couple’s flare-up, even if she would not express regret for her hurtful comments in return. He recognized the progress they made together over many years. He had done a lot of individual therapy, and they had done about two years of couples therapy. Instead of experiencing an escalation of tension and discord, like they often did in years past, self-awareness, curiosity about how his mind works, a willingness to reflect on his behavior, and to repair the damage he caused to his marriage helped a lot.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.