According to Dr. Helen Fischer, the brilliant biological anthropologist, there is an ancient human tendency to marry and remarry, which she calls the “four year itch.” Millions of years ago (and even more recently than that) it was assumed that if a child lived to see age four, she would survive. The “parents” were then free to move on to new sexual adventures, and the child would be passed on to the group, where the “it takes a village” mentality would kick in.
This dates back millions of years to a time when men and women were EQUALS on many different levels–economically, socially and sexually. Some gathered, some hunted. But there’s one thing they all did, rather equally and frequently — they had sex. They had to!! How else could the human race survive and thrive? The only way to secure the future was to have lots and lots of sex, with lots and lots of different partners.
And, boy did they ever! Well, we’re all here, so I guess the system worked.
While all this hanky panky was going on, different hormones kicked in with each new sexual experience, to increase the pleasure . . . creating a feeling of passion and euphoria, causing everyone to want more, more, more. Clearly, the human body was designed to be this highly efficient hunting, gathering, sexual, procreating machine.
Okay, why am I telling you this?
To try to make some sense out of why people have affairs. Why so many men AND women risk everything–families, jobs, lives–for a night or two (or more) of passion. At a lecture I attended recently, Dr. Fischer proclaimed that we have affairs because we are BIOLOGICALLY HARD-WIRED to have them, that we can’t help ourselves. Men need to spread the sperm and women need to procreate. Simple.
BUT, thankfully she also believes in free will. We may be programmed to do this, but it doesn’t mean we have to. And, that’s the crux of it. Isn’t it better to focus our energies and love and bodies on the partner with whom we chose to make a home and a family? I am not being a prude or judgemental . . . but very practical.
Esther Perel, author of “Mating in Captivity” and the expert I consulted for my chapter on sex in THE BEST OF EVEYTHING AFTER 50, explained the psychology behind it all. Very often, people (men and women) have affairs because they have lost something or someone in the last year or two. Perhaps someone close to them died, or left home, or they lost a job. Even more profound, Esther has found that women especially can feel as though they’ve lost a part of themselves, and by having an affair, they can reclaim it. For both men and women, it can be neatly tied up in a big bow and called “midlife crisis.” Interestingly enough, people usually don’t have affairs because they no longer love their partners.
So, we’re presented with a mixed bag of biological and psychological tendencies to cheat. All of us. Seems as though none of us are immune.
What to do?
I spent a great deal of time with Esther when researching and writing my chapter on sex. And it really comes down to this: unless you’re in a relationship that is detrimental to your physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological well being . . . you should fight against these tendencies with every ounce of will power you have.
We’re over 50. Maybe we’re bored with our partners, or annoyed by those same qualities and characteristics that we found so charming twenty years ago. Or, sex has slowed down because you’re both tired, over-worked, too busy. There are zillions of reasons one could give as to why sex is often placed on the back burner, and why you might want to succumb to the urges that are inherent in all of us, and have a fling with someone new.
But, consider this: Why not make that “someone new” . . . the partner you already have?
Ahhhhh. Excellent question. That’s the next blog . . .
Best of Everything,