Book Review: 3’s A Crowd

Book: 3’s A Crowd: Understanding and Surviving Infidelity

Author: Vijay Nagaswami

Number of pages: 292

Price: Rs. 250

3’s A Crowd: Understanding and Surviving Infidelityis a collection of insightful observations by Vijay Nagaswami, a renowned relationships counselor. He rips apart the myth that only men have affairs and that only the aggrieved partner seeks forgiveness.

It is not exactly an easy read. It is heavy, loaded and intense. But he doesn’t preach. He speaks to his reader in common everyday-speak. He makes it a point to use inclusive language with words like “we,” “you,” and “us.” At some points, the book almost feels like a conversation between him and the reader.

I’ll admit that I’m not yet the typical target demography for a book on this subject. But I still found myself taken in enough to read and complete this book. Nagaswami does not offer any easy solutions on surviving infidelity. What he does instead is provide pointers, tips and suggestions to overcome and move past the loss of fidelity and trust in a marriage.

Nagaswami begins by establishing the terminology he uses in the book to refer to each party. “Transgressor” or “transgressing partner” to refer to the one who’s having or had an affair, and “aggrieved” or “aggrieved partner” when he speaks of the spouse. He goes with the term “paramour” for the third point of the triangular relationship.

For the purpose of this book, Nagaswami refers to a definition offered by American psychologist and researcher, the late Shirley P Glass, who’s often referred to as the “godmother of infidelity research” definition of infidelity. She defined infidelity as “a secret, sexual, romantic or emotional involvement that violates the commitment to an exclusive relationship.”

He goes on to debunk some popular myths of why people have affairs and classifies infidelity patterns into three predominant contexts, as offered by Glass in her definition, apart from exploring some special types of affairs:

  • The predominantly sexual affair
  • The predominantly emotional affair
  • The emotional and sexual affair
  • Affairs in certain special situations

He inserts several stories of people who have/had affairs. In his words, they are “fictionalized composites.”  He uses the instance of their experience, without revealing their identities.

The lines that stayed me with the most: “Women are able to forgive their husbands for having a purely sexual affair, but find it much harder to do so when their men get emotionally involved with another woman.”

That to me forms the crux of the difference in the two psychologies.

While I got slightly bored with the initial chapters (Understanding Fidelity) of the book, the second-half (Surviving Fidelity) had me riveted. It was almost like a lesson for life in general, about picking up the pieces of a broken relationship, with dignity, with grace, and moving on.

Nagaswami stresses on the importance of healing, of forgiving, of trusting. He warns against involving too many friends/family members in the healing process. He insists that it has to be done at a personal level, between the spouses themselves. He also warns against the aggrieved partner feeling that he/she was the cause of the affair in the first place.

What struck me the most is that he says, “Transgressors too need to forgive themselves.”  They “also need to forgive their aggrieved partners.”

“Even though they were the architects of the situation, they are also, in a way, victims of the infidelity.”

A little later, “Transgressors too need to forgive their aggrieved partners for the humiliation and hurt caused during the process of discovery as well as during the immediate aftermath of discovery.”

It is a loaded read. But Nagaswami uses simple, conversational language to illustrate some norms in a tricky relationship called marriage. Read it, if only to be left behind with some gems of wisdom to help you heal, forgive and trust.

Rating: 3.5/5

Learn more about 3’s A Crowd: Understanding and Surviving Infidelity.

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