Thursday, October 15, 2009

Why Would A Sporting Hero Sabotage His Marriage?

WHY would a sporting hero, a man blessed with spectacular success, wealth and fame, the adulation of millions of fans, sporting brilliance, a beautiful, loving wife and three gorgeous children, risk all this for sordid sexual encounters? Why would he bother with something as inane as sex text messages?

One theory about infidelity claims that the husband, or wife, is not getting all their emotional needs met by their partner and seeks to get them met outside the marriage in an affair. This is the motivation for many affairs; however there is another reason, which explains bizarre, destructive sexual behaviour.

It might simply be that a man is childishly self-centred and believes he can have whatever he fancies, oblivious to consequences. However sometimes past sexual abuse in childhood is the underlying cause of sexual misconduct as an adult.

Someone who has suffered sexual abuse in childhood or adolescence can have a deep-seated, unconscious compulsion to sabotage and shame himself or herself. Having been sexually violated at a crucial development stage, the person carries buried shame and “acts-out” this shame in grimy sexual encounters, which have nothing to do with love, and everything to do with re-enacting the abusive scenario.

The shaming is accompanied by a compulsion to sabotage their life, driven by a faulty core belief such as “I don’t deserve love, happiness and success” and a desire to punish themselves for their ‘badness’.

The acting-out adult might experience a “transference” on the sex partner, who represents the abuser. They might even repeat a ritual of what was done to them as a child.

In other cases, the adult who was neglected as a child might experience an infatuation with an ideal mother figure or father figure, who represents all the affection and attention they didn’t get growing up. The idealised figure is fantasised as a “rescuer”, who will meet all their needs and transform their life.

Someone who is sexually abused as a child often grows up to believe that the only way they can get affection and attention is sexually. They sexualise most relationships and have poor boundaries.

Another psychological driving force for promiscuity can be that the victim of abuse becomes the perpetrator, acting out retaliation against men or women for their past suffering.

Most of these motives are unconscious, as the acting-out adult goes into a kind of “trance”, where all rationality is lost, without any concern for the consequences and harm being done to those they love.

Given the statistics that as many as one in four girls and one in six boys experience sexual abuse, there are millions of adults who might have “a secret second life” of acting out their sexual shame. They often get away with it for a while, by deception and cover-up or confess to a forgiving spouse, however the crunch usually comes when their destructive behaviour becomes intolerable.

Casual sex is promoted in our culture through music, movies and the mass media and made widely available through cyber sex, pornography and sex services, making it easy for vulnerable people to stray.

Our popular culture lacks fundamental values and morals about sexuality and the media presents hypocritical, double standards when it acts shocked and outraged by the sexual misconduct of our heroes.

Not all victims of sexual abuse become promiscuous. Many go the opposite way, suffering a deep-seated fear and aversion to healthy, normal sexual intimacy with their spouse.

But sexual abuse is just one kind of abuse. I believe that no one grows up in a 100 per cent healthy, functional family. No parents are perfect in every way. All families are unhealthy and dysfunctional in varying degrees, in different ways.

Most adults can look back on their childhoods and realise they experienced some kind of “abuse” in the broad sense of the word. Abuse includes the categories of physical, emotional, sexual and neglect, where basic needs are not met.

We can all act out unresolved childhood issues in adult life, using the faulty beliefs and coping strategies devised by immature minds. No one can be smugly judgemental about the bad behaviour of others. Who can cast the first stone?

Sporting heroes, like many thousands of others, need professional intervention to help unravel the underlying causes of sabotaging behaviour and start on the inner journey of healing and change, which takes much courage.

A life crisis can be either a catalyst for honest self-appraisal and growth or a downward spiral into further destructive acting out. I hope that the person who goes off the rails seizes the opportunity for growth. They would have to make a genuine commitment to never ever hurt their partner and family again.

I feel empathy for the pain the betrayed partner endures when they discover their husband or wife is acting out. The trauma can be their opportunity for growth by embracing forgiveness and compassion and staying together through the healing journey.

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