If you are a fan of the hit Showtime series, Ray Donovan, than you’ll appreciate this week’s Love Essentially, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer press, about the Donovan’s marriage, and how even through infidelity they find a way to stay together.
Nothing Can Touch The Donovan’s-That Includes Infidelity by Jackie Pilossoph for Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press
Marriage isn’t easy. Just ask Ray and Abby Donovan. The married couple and main characters on the hit Showtime series, “Ray Donovan,” have had their share of problems. Ray’s haunting past, his “fixer” job that has him coming home beaten up and with blood on his suit multiple times a week, and of course, his flings with other women don’t make for a blissful marriage. That said, Abby isn’t the easiest of spouses either. Ever-suspicious and hot-tempered, Abby had a heavy affair with a police detective in season two, and in season three, she kissed Ray’s brother!
The Donovans are the subject of this week’s column because, in last Sunday night’s season four finale, Abby said something to her husband that drives home the couple’s loyalty through thick and thin (and cheating).
“Nothing can touch us,” said Abby to Ray at the end of the show, with conviction in both her whisper and her smile.
It got me thinking: What separates couples like the Donovans, who stay together after cheating, and couples who end up divorced? And what is it that sustains longevity in a relationship?
To get answers, I reached out to Dr. Anne Brennan Malec, a licensed marriage and family therapist and licensed clinical psychologist, who has a specialty in couple’s therapy. Malec said infidelity is what often brings couples into her office, and her approach to therapy starts with details of the affair.
“The way I do things is difficult, but I feel it’s necessary for the cheating partner to give full disclosure and real transparency about the infidelity,” Malec said, “because the partner who was cheated on is traumatized, and they have to find a way to make sense of it in order to begin moving on.”
She said the spouse who has been cheated on can experience post-traumatic stress disorder and be greatly affected for a long time. Therefore, the spouse who cheated has to be willing to tolerate questions, often the same questions, over and over again.
When asked why couples cheat, Malec said most likely there is something missing in the marriage.
“An emptiness, a loneliness, or poor communication, or not feel appreciated or validated,” Malec said. “Two people are responsible for the state of the marriage. That said, the unfaithful partner is completely responsible for what he or she did.”
When asked what the biggest difference is in couples who stay together after infidelity and those who choose to part ways, Malec said it comes down to the unfaithful partner. He or she has to take complete responsibility for the behavior, not blame the spouse for his or her actions, and be patient with the repair process.
She said other factors that come into play include: whether the affair was a one-night stand or a long-term relationship, whether or not the cheating spouse has apologized and is asking for forgiveness, and whether or not both people want it to work out.
Malec said she encourages couples not to take any action, (i.e. moving out, separating, filing for divorce) for 90 days after they find out about a cheating spouse.
“A perspective can change over time when you think about what you are giving up,” Malec said. “So much of this is related to how much effort the cheating spouse puts into trying to repair this damaged relationship.”
What about couples who decide to stay, even though cheating is repeated behavior?
In the case of the Donavans, it drives her crazy, but Abby seems to sadly accept Ray’s more than occasional indiscretions, choosing to stay together versus breaking up.
So, does staying with a cheater mean it’s true love? Or do people tolerate infidelity because the good outweighs the cheating? Maybe the person is scared to be without the spouse or to be alone. Or maybe they view staying as their best option.
“They’ve made an assessment, a determination that they have more to lose if they leave than if they stay,” Malec said. “That could be because of financial dependence, age, upbringing, not wanting to put your children through divorce, fear of being alone or something else.”
I’m not going to judge the lovable Donavans…(Click here to read the rest of the article, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press)