When Parke Ballantine realized she was falling for someone, she hurried home to tell her wife.
“I said, ‘I met this person and … I want to explore that,’ ” the 32-year-old tells The Post.
For another married couple, this could have meant a nasty fight. But Ballantine, who runs events for the risque women’s “play” group Skirt Club, and her wife, a 36-year-old business consultant who declined to share her name, have decided that they’re not wired for monogamy. In fact, they think their romantic experiences outside their five-year marriage make them stronger as a couple.
“I’m in the happiest and healthiest relationship that I’ve ever been,” says Ballantine’s wife.
Although married pairs aren’t always so forthright about their struggles staying monogamous, sociologist Alicia Walker says it’s more common than we think for people to stray from their spouses — and remain happily married.
“The reason people have an affair matters,” says Walker, who teaches classes on gender and sexuality at Missouri State University. In her research, she’s discovered that about 50 percent of unfaithful spouses report being in happy marriages.
Walker says that when people have an affair with a “specific, targeted purpose” — such as filling a void in their main relationship — it may make them happier and ultimately improve “the functionality of their marriages.”
Martin, a retired professor from Charleston, SC, can relate. The 70-year-old, who withheld his last name, has been with his second wife for nearly 40 years, but, unbeknownst to her, he says he’s had a few dozen lovers throughout the course of his marriage to help satisfy his sex drive.
“Every species on Earth is designed to copulate as much as we can,” says Martin. But he’s not so sure his wife shares his views. “I don’t want to take that chance,” he says, adding that he has a happy marriage and would never dream of asking for a divorce.
Although Walker would never endorse secret affairs like Martin’s — “the devastation they [can] cause upon discovery is simply too great,” she says — she does think couples should be more open about their urges to cheat.
Manhattan marriage counselor Jean Fitzpatrick agrees, but adds that an affair doesn’t have to mean a death knell for the relationship.
“In couples’ therapy, [we heal] a marriage by first restoring the trust, and then, secondly, helping both partners say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, there was some reason for vulnerability here,’ ” says Fitzpatrick. “ ‘There was some reason that this person was susceptible to somebody else being out there.’ ”
Although she wishes they hadn’t learned the lesson the hard way, Stacey Greene, 54, says her husband’s affair was “a wake-up call” for the couple.
“I was blindsided,” says the Cleveland-based writer, who uses a nom de plume and whose memoir “Stronger Than Broken” centers on their relationship recovery. She was especially shocked because, 25 years into their marriage, she’d thought they had a “rock-solid” sex life.
But it wasn’t about sex, she soon learned. Her husband, a 60-year-old maintenance worker, who prefers to remain anonymous, confessed that he was “depressed and not thinking clearly.”
Greene was hurt, but, after meeting with their pastor twice, she and her husband decided to try to make it work by rebuilding their friendship for a stronger foundation. She asked her husband to be more “attentive,” while he asked she be “a little more fun, open-minded and relaxed.”
Although Greene wouldn’t recommend cheating, she hopes their story will help others see a possible path to reconciliation.
“I assumed that we had a good marriage . . . but good sucks when you can have great,” she says. “Maybe there’s somebody else out there who will find forgiveness instead of anger and resentment.”
That was a challenge Lisa and David Parker decided to meet, after their marriage hit a rocky patch 10 years in.
“He’d turn his back on me in the bed,” says Lisa, 62. So she tuned him out in kind.
By the 20-year mark, things were so icy that Lisa filed for divorce. Only then did she learn that David had been unfaithful.
David, a 77-year-old retired OB-GYN, says the excitement in their marriage “just wasn’t there” anymore. With that spark missing, he says, an affair “just sort of happened.”
Lisa was furious, but a few months after they split, David broke his hip, causing her to re-evaluate her feelings for him.
“He just looked like a broken man,” says Lisa, who visited him in a rehab hospital to bring him his mail. She decided that she didn’t want to leave him this way. “I told him, ‘I wanna learn how to get past this,’ ” she says.
They met with relationship therapist Brad Robinson, who runs a podcast called “Healing Broken Trust” out of Tulsa, Okla. Therapy turned out to be the key for the couple: David says it helped him “[keep] the doors of communication open” and not be “withdrawn,” while Lisa says it’s taught her to show more “warmth and attention” to her husband.
In October, the couple remarried; and, today, they agree that David’s mistake has brought them closer.
“I always thought when people had something like this to go through, they immediately split up,” says Lisa. “We truly are stronger now than we ever were.”
While Walker is glad that couples are able to work through these types of painful affairs, her hope would be for couples to “have more honest conversations” about what they want and need — like Ballantine and her wife.
Of course, their direct approach has its complications, too. The New York pair describes their relationship as an ongoing “negotiation.”
“There’s been times where I’ve had to . . . cut things off [with another partner] to refocus back on the relationship,” says Ballantine.
Meanwhile, her wife — who is less actively pursuing relationships outside of their marriage right now — admits that she has struggled with occasional jealousy.
Still, both agree they wouldn’t trade it for monogamy — or sneaking around.
“We’re both adults and we both choose this relationship,” says Ballantine. “We work through the hard times, and it’s made us a lot stronger.”
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