Married Good Morning America co-hosts T.J. Holmes and Amy Robach allegedly had a months-long affair, sending ripples of shockwaves through marriage across the country.
According to People Magazine, the relationship between T.J. Holmes and Amy Robach was no secret to their colleagues, as they were flirtatious, and those who worked with them felt uncomfortable.
According to PEOPLE magazine:
The co-hosts' relationship was made public on Wednesday after photos surfaced of them holding hands in a car, enjoying a vacation in upstate New York and cozying up at a bar in New York City. Hours later, both journalists shut down their Instagram accounts. A second source previously told PEOPLE that Holmes and Robach's relationship was "the worst kept secret ABC News." People Magazine, December 1, 2022
So what's going on? Do married partners need to worry about their spouses getting involved with colleagues they spend long hours with? Is the workplace a breeding ground for infidelity? Does spending much time with someone you're attracted to lead to infidelity? How did this happen? How much do married people need to worry about this?
Let's take a deep dive.
Marriages in Vulnerable States Are More Suseptible to Infidelity.
Before worrying about your spouse falling in love at work, let's take a closer look at the precursors for the vast majority of infidelities.
The intimate bond Holmes and Robach had with their respective spouses appeared to be in decline before the affair started. Notice that I didn't say they had a 'bad marriage' but rather that their intimate bond had weakened. It's a subtle but significant distinction.
Working closely with an attractive colleague does not automatically stir romantic feelings. And if romantic feelings are stirred, it should not be assumed that they will be acted upon. Married persons that develop a relationship outside the marriage are likely to be in a relationship where the intimacy bond is not as potent as it needs to be. Powerful attachment bonds, while not a guarantee, help assure fidelity. Bonds, whether the mother-child bond or the romantic bond, are protective. When bonds are strong, protection is high.
Keeping that in mind, let's look at this report on Robach and Shue's marriage by Yahoo! Life:
Robach and Shue’s marriage had been “rocky” before her alleged affair with Holmes and their divorce was “almost finalized” by the time Robach and Holmes’ alleged relationship went public. “Amy and Andrew are divorcing, it’s almost finalized. He moved out earlier this summer,” the insider said. “They’ve constantly had problems over the years and they finally broke up.”YaHoo! Life, Dec 1, 2022
Yahoo! Life and Newsweek have reported that there were indications that T.J. Holmes’ marriage was also in a weakened state.
".... were trying to work it out.” The insider tells Page Six that Fiebig hasn’t been wearing her wedding ring for a while, as the couple has been separated for six months. She thought they were trying to work on their marriage, so they could reunite. Yahoo! Life, DeCember 2, 2022
This is the Holmes anniversary Instagram post he made about Fiebig in 2020:
"This particular decade challenge is a little late, but... 10 years ago, Marilee Fiebig married me. And despite my best efforts, she remained married to me for the past 10 years," he wrote. "That's not hyperbole. I'm not being dramatic. I gave her plenty of reasons, excuses, and opportunities to walk her fine a** out the dooooooor.
"But instead, with her built-in black woman superpower, she showed a grace and patience that's incomprehensible. Asking her for another 10 years would be asking too much. Another 10 months? That may even be a stretch."
"If she gave me another 10 weeks, I should consider myself lucky. If she puts up with me for another 10 days, I'd be grateful. But if she would even spare another 10 minutes of her time for me today, I should consider myself blessed. This Marilee Fiebig Holmes, y'all. And I, T.J. Holmes, do solemnly swear... that I... was her decade challenge. Newsweek, december 2, 2022
These news reports give the public a small peek into the difficulties in both marriages long before the story of the affair broke. Most people focus on the drama and betrayal of the affair but fail to consider or examine how fertile the ground for infidelity becomes when bonds of intimacy weaken. There are predictable precusors to infidelity.
The Purpose of Marriage: A Relationship for Emotional and Sexual Intimacy
A marriage—which is a romantic relationship—is a uniquely intimate bond. It is unlike any other close relationship. Emotional intimacy combined with sexual intimacy is a potent mix. While you may have a close relationship with a sibling, friend, parent, or family member, you are not sexually intimate with them. The potency of a marital bond is the profound mix of emotional depth and sexual sharing. Put another way, profoundly engaging the emotions, the body separates the marriage bond from other close ties. The mother-infant bond is as profound as the combination of emotions, and the body is the mother-infant bond. When the maternal-infant or romantic bonds are solid, protective boundaries develop. The protective layer weakens when the bond does not form properly or weakens.
In the Beginning: The Bond Forms
When a couple falls in love, they begin to form a powerful, intimate bond with one another. Driven by physical and emotional attraction, this bond has two components. One part consists of emotional intimacy, and the other is sexual intimacy. These two parts work together, in unison, with one part impacting the other.
Married pairs must continuously nurture these two parts to maintain this delicate and fragile intimacy bond. Doing so helps assure fidelity. In effect, the role of the intimate partner is to help ensure that your partner can easily connect with you emotionally and sexually.
When the couple connects profoundly and intimately in both an emotional and sexual way — and it's mutual, dependable, and consistent — the relationship is strong. The protection level is high.
The risk for infidelity declines if an outside party flirt with a married or committed person who is firmly bonded to their mate. The married or committed person might be flattered to be noticed but will likely not continue to engage. The person occupying the 'romantic' or 'intimate' part of their mind is their spouse or partner. Again, bonds protect.
Bring Affair-Like Elements into the Marriage for a Stronger Bond
A sexy, romantic, and intimate marriage contains 'affair-like' elements. Couples' relationships should include frequent flirty, fun, sexy, affectionate, romantic, emotional, and sentimental exchanges.
Couples who are intimates and lovers and prioritize their relationship above all else tend to fare well.
A romantic relationship that is more friendly, cooperative, and pleasant -lacking affection, emotional engagement, and sexual connection - often flat-lines. Partners and spouses become friend-zoned. A relationship that becomes duty-filled or task-driven is not a romantic one. All too often, couples fall into the living-like-roommates syndrome or start behaving like household co-managers. These highly efficient but intimacy-lacking relationships tend to show cracks in the foundation.
Think about affairs for a moment. They are often high-octane, sensual, fun, sexy, and intense. The sexy-flirty-fun switch on high volume. This way is how relationships tend to be in the beginning. It's safe to say that affairs and early romances have these sexy-flirty-fun-exciting and close ways. Intimate partners need these experiences throughout the relationship as it is a type of bonding glue.
Relationships need this kind of juice for the parties to bond, attach and stay loyal. It's critical to include these elements throughout the entire life of the marriage and not just in the beginning. Consider the grandma and grandpa who still can't keep their hands off one another! Without these aspects, the bond weakens or breaks, and the much-needed sexy-flirty-fun-romance is more likely to get outsourced.
A Word About Conflict and Conflict Avoidance
Conflict is not inherently detrimental to a relationship. Research shows no direct correlation between marital conflict and marital satisfaction. Instead, conflict is a sign of being engaged and invested. It conveys to the spouse or partner that they matter to one another and are impacted by what the other one says or does.
Disconnecting, checking out, shrugging shoulders, and turning away are more concerning than conflict. Emotional engagement is needed to keep a strong bond. This engagement includes a willingness to step into the ring and fight for one another and the relationship. Conflict screams, "I matter, you matter, and our relationship matters."
As a couples counselor who helps couples rebuild after infidelity, I can assure you that a common trait is that many are conflict avoidant. They were fearful of engaging in complex matters and expressing stronger emotions. Avoiding conflict is common in relationships that experience infidelity.
When couples cease to engage in deeper sexual and emotional intimacy, their relationship becomes conflicted, distant, or both. A painful disconnect can unfold. It can result in a partner feeling uncertain and concluding that they are unloved and don't matter to their partner. Feeling alone, insecure and unloved, they are vulnerable to gravitating toward the attention and responsiveness of someone outside of the primary relationship or marriage. These are often the pre-conditions that ripen the possibility for an affair. Infidelity is not random.
Relationship Repair is Key
Signs that show that the intimate bond between a husband and wife is in decline are when they disengage from one another. It's not that disengagement directly harms the relationship but rather the inability to repair and reconnect following the disconnect. Of course, all couples have times when they feel distant from one another. But those who can restore and reconnect fare better. It's not just a matter of 'resolving the conflict' or 'fixing the issue.' It goes deeper than that. It's genuinely feeling closer and more intimate after sorting matters out. More than just finding a solution to the presenting dilemma, the connection is restored and the relationship repaired. When this happens, a couple can feel closer, more connected, and more understood following a fight.
After researching this story, it is clear that the marriages of Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes were in weakened states. Therefore, it does not follow precisely that an affair was inevitable because their marriages had difficulties. However, knowing that both Amy Roback and T.J. Holmes were in marriages in which the bond was in decline suggests that the conditions were ripe for each of them to be receptive to the advances of the other. Conversely, had one or both been in marriages with a robust intimate bond, their union may not have formed.