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Adultery in the Marital Bed

Adultery in the marital bed: Still a deal-breaker.

The woman who came to see a divorce lawyer had reason to be enraged: her husband was not only having an affair, but he was having an extravagant, money–is–no–concern, fantasy vacation affair.  What infuriated this wife the most was where he had often made love to his mistress: their marriage bed.

“You had sex with that woman in our bed” — This fact was overriding everything else in the divorce. For a year in the divorce proceedings, every time an issue came up, that became part of it.  When the couple needed talk about placing the house up for sale, the wife would say, “You mean that house where he brought that so–and–so into our bed?” Or, when they talked about personal division of property, “He can take the bed and shove it” or “He can use it with his next whore.”

It is no surprise to find that when a marriage falls apart that there was a third person involved.  Even in a sexually liberal culture, though, the home is still usually off–limits in an affair, as if protected by an invisible force field. The “marriage bed” – a phrase that in itself seems quaintly out of date – remains a sacred object.

All but one of eighteen marriage counselors and divorce lawyers who were interviewed for this article said they rarely, if ever, saw at–home adultery. When it does happen, however, the consequences are usually dire: affairs are painful in a marriage, but affairs that take place in the marital bed can be lethal.

Michael Maley, owner and President of Maley Investigations & Security, Inc., a Private Detective Agency serving the entire Chicago region said, “In my 30 years of investigative experience, I have only handled one case where the marital bed was used.”  This was a recent (February 2011) case in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, where the wife had met a man on the internet and invited him to their home and marital bed.  The result was a very painful and messy divorce.

In an informal, unscientific survey conducted at the request of The New York Times by the Web site, which draws young married women, more than half of approximately 500 respondents said their marriages would “definitely not” survive if their partner made love to another person in the marriage bed. By contrast, less than a third of approximately 700 respondents to another question said that their marriages would “definitely not” survive an affair outside the home. 

“It would hurt no matter where it happened,” one anonymous respondent wrote.  “But if he did it in my own home,” she added, “it would feel more like a slap in the face.”

It should be noted that all 50 states now have no–fault divorce, and whether or not someone had an affair was irrelevant in terms of his or her entitlement to a divorce. But divorce laws vary from state to state, and in many states, adultery can definitely affect financial and child custody issues.