I was watching a video of Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina yesterday, stumble through his atonement from his bewildering escapades to South America. He explained his extramarital affair, and all the people he hurt, and uses a lot of “believer”-type vocabulary – basically his “fall from grace”. This type of thing happens so frequently with men, and it is embodied in our fallen politicians, such as Govs. Sanford, fmr. Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York and others.
Repentance is, well, kind of obligatory these days, and even promotional and accepted, to ensure a continued politcal career. But, what I am concerned about is ensuring that guys stop this self-destructive behavior, and start to embrace their “shadow sides”. Shadow sides, you may ask?
Carl Jung talked about the concept of the “shadow” to mean those repressed weaknesses, shortcomings, and instincts in us. “Everyone carries a shadow,” Jung wrote, “and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”
As men, the fact that we act on our repressed and unsatisfied sexual drives and urges, and hurt those we love, is testimony to the “blackened and dense” qualities of extramarital affairs.
Embracing one’s shadow side is not easy. It takes guts. It takes courage. And it takes someone trained in exploration of these matter, such as a counselor or psychotherapist. So long as your shadow side lurks in your unconscious mind, creating unconscious thoughts, words and behaviors, you’re as good as on autopilot. It’s really hard to seize control back from those impulses when your shadow runs the show.
Upon assimilation of one’s shadow, the behaviors diminish and stop. The impulses drop, and the behaviors quit. With extramarital sex, which is often unmet needs in a marriage or relationship (not so much the actual sex), we lose the sense of personal responsibility, both for our actions and for communicating to our partner what we are failing to get within the relationship.
Most of the time, when guys are asked, the reasons for cheating on their women is not about the sex: again, it’s what needs are not being met in the marriage, which could include sex, but not limited to. Maybe a guy doesn’t feel seen or heard. Maybe they’re angry, and wanting to unconsciously “get back” at their wife. There are reasons that motivate men more than just the sex.