Tag Archives: affairs

Can Marriages Survive Infidelity?

haltzman book coverFollowing up on my last post, Why do affairs happen?, I want to share some responses from psychiatrist, author and marital therapist, Scott Haltzman, M.D, to my questions. He recently released The Secrets of Surviving Infidelity, which has certainly shed light on some new areas.

The short answer to the question, “Can marriages survive infidelity?” is “Yes.” They can, and they do. He estimates half of all marriages stay together after infidelity.

Here are some questions I asked Dr. Haltzman related to the book:
Q: Can you briefly define flame addiction and explain why the brain chemistry affects reasonable decision making?
A: Flame addiction describes the psychological and chemical process by which a person become infatuated with another person who is not his or her spouse. This person is a “flame,” and, like a moth circling a candle, he or she provides an irresistible pull to the married individual. Flame addiction is based on the phenomenology of infatuation, in which excitatory brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine are elevated, just as they are when people are abusing drugs like cocaine. It’s further complicated by a dip in brain serotonin. When people have normal levels of serotonin, their brains get messages to relax, but when levels are low, a person can feel restless, unsettled, and have increases in obsessions.

Q: Why is breaking off all contact with the affair partner the hardest step for the offending spouse?
A: A very strong attraction develops between the spouse and the one he or she is having an affair with. This third person might be seen as source of enrichment or excitation for the spouse, there might be powerful feelings that the flame is a soul mate, and the possibility of losing him or her may feel like too great a loss. Or, the person having the affair may simply feel a duty or obligation to the paramour. Often the position of the unfaithful spouses is that the third party didn’t do anything wrong, so they can’t justify hurting feelings by breaking things off.

Q: How can you tell if you’re in a relationship with someone who made a serious—but one-time—mistake versus someone who will hurt you again? Or in other words, how often is “once a cheater, always a cheater” true?
A: There’s no surefire way of predicting who will end the affair, and who will continue to have trysts. Good predictive indicators include individuals who are willing to take a careful look at their behavior, minimize defensiveness and blame, and make sincere efforts to put energy back into the relationship once an affair has been discovered. Those that insist they still need to maintain all of their Facebook friends, or their own private cellphone, are simply asking to hold on to their old ways. That’s not good.

Q: Why do your odds of an affair go up each year you are together?
A: The best reason is that simply the longer you’re married, the more chances you have to cheat. In the first 10 minutes after your wedding vows, there’s about a zero percent chance you can fit an affair in, and in the first day, about the same. But each day you are married is another day you go out into the world and meet possible affair mates. Another reason that the chances may go up is that couples tend to get into ruts, and the excitement of infidelity seems particularly attractive if you are bored in your marriage.

Q: In your experience, you believe half of couples stay together after infidelity. Why is this fact helpful to others? And why do you believe that is the biggest secret for surviving infidelity?
A: Secrecy is the hallmark of infidelity, both during the affair and afterwards, so many people have no idea that their next store neighbors (or their parents even) have had to deal with infidelity. Knowing that you are not alone helps reduce the feelings of shame—and knowing that people can survive infidelity gives you options when the culture may be insisting that you should leave the marriage no matter what.

Q: Is there one piece of advice you have for couples to prevent affairs from occurring, particularly for couples who have been together for more than a decade?
A: Don’t take each other for granted. You should always be working on maintaining a good quality marriage, in which your partner feels like you are making his or her needs a priority. One of the advantages of being with someone more than a decade is you really get to know him or her. You can see that as a negative, as in, “Now that I know my partner, I realize what a pain in the butt he/she is.” But I believe this knowledge can be used to your advantage, as in, “I realize that my partner sees things differently than I do, and I have often assumed I know what he/she needed when I really didn’t know him/her. Now that I know my partner better, I can really see the ways I can improve the quality of our relationship.”

Thanks to Dr. Haltzman for these insights! Leave a comment if you wish to be included in the drawing for a free book.

I feel fortunate that infidelity has not impacted my marriage directly, however, the book is a reminder not to be complacent and to keep proper boundaries in place. I’ll have a followup on these prevention tips from Dr. Haltzman at a later date. For those who have been impacted, pick up a copy for yourself or a loved one.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Why Do Affairs Happen?

shadow couple morguefile
A new book written by Scott Haltzman, M.D., sheds light on The Secrets of Surviving Infidelity. You may remember Dr. Haltzman from one of my most popular posts, “We all married the wrong person.” Dr. Haltzman, a psychiatrist and marital therapist, has written a helpful and hopeful book for couples who have been or may be impacted by infidelity. If you want to learn why people have affairs, why they are so difficult to stop, how to protect your marriage, and how a marriage can recover from it, these are all addressed.

I’m going to give a copy of the book away on the blog this week, so if you’d like to read it, leave a comment below. Today, I want to give just a short intro from the book on why affairs occur. Strangely, Dr. Haltzman says most affairs take place between two people who had absolutely no intention of cheating. That’s why we must be careful about the kinds of interactions we have with people outside of our relationships.

People of course have various reasons for affairs—sex, curiosity, excitement, companionship, an ego-boost, career advancement, or getting even with a spouse are some of the reasons given. But in order for an affair to take place, three elements must be in play: (NOD) Need, Opportunity, and Disinhibition.

Need—As for the needs, Dr. Haltzman says spouses spend too much energy determining which exact needs were not being met when the affair happened. In truth, we all have needs that our partner will not be able to meet. In addition, there may be confusion about needs vs. desires and what we believe our partner should be fulfilling in us.

Opportunity—Not everyone is prone to cheating, but those who are may find an opportunity almost anywhere, from meeting someone at the gym, at PTA meetings, church, bars, work, on Facebook, or any other location we happen to be. “If no one is around to cheat with, cheating simply will not take place,” says Dr. Haltzman.

Disinhibition—In medical terminology, this means the inability to inhibit an instinctual reaction, says Dr. Haltzman. These are people who have been trained or trained themselves that “I want what I want when I want it.” They may be impulsive, unthinking of the consequences of their behavior. Some medical issues may contribute to increased disinhibition, including ADHD, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, brain illnesses, and other psychiatric problems. Others simply justify one choice after another, leading down a slippery slope into an affair.

Dr. Haltzman explains in detail the role of neurotransmitters/brain chemicals that affect our emotional balance, particularly during affairs or potential affairs. The bottom line is that the excitement produced in a new relationship affects our emotions and energy levels, and they make it difficult to make good judgments. Therefore, someone in an affair will conclude that this person is their “soul mate” and believe they “need” them. This is because when they are with this person, the tension that has been developed is relieved, the level of worry and sleeplessness decreases and they feel “complete.” It’s not because the relationship or the person is ideal, it’s because the brain chemistry (low serotonin, high dopamine, high norepinephrine) has been affected. But of course, this state of mind can’t be maintained, because that brain chemistry level can’t be maintained.

The book is definitive on affairs being wrong and bad for the marriage, but it’s also relatively compassionate toward the person having the affair, helping them understand the reasons they find it so difficult to untangle themselves from this other person while insisting on it and explaining the steps. It’s almost half intended for the spouse and half for the person who had the affair, helping couples to both prevent affairs and to recover one. I thought the book was really well thought out, and I would highly recommend it, having read many others on the topic.

Tomorrow, I’m going to share some questions and answers directly from Dr. Haltzman based on my interview with him. Remember, if you would like to be in the drawing for the book, add a brief note below and I’ll put your name in.

You can find Dr. Haltzman at Facebook.com/ScottHaltzman or at secretsofmarriedmen.com. His book, Secrets of Surviving Infidelity is available in bookstores or at Amazon.com.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Arnold’s Last Marriage Lesson?

“Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series

Part of keeping the sparks kindled in your own marriage means keeping the wrong sparks out of your marriage—the ones that can engulf you into an affair.

It turns out there was another lesson (Read Part I) to learn from the troubled marriage of Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger: Don’t think you can live a double life of lies and infidelity without eventually facing the consequences.

I would imagine it was much easier for Schwarzenegger to apologize to the nameless, faceless cameras and masses than it was to admit to his transgressions to his own wife and to each of his children. In Monday’s post, I wished his children could be spared the devastation that a divorce would bring, but that wish was too late. Their public humiliation may be Arnold’s worst punishment. His son, Patrick, changed his last name on Twitter to Shriver within days of Arnold’s announcement, a clear sign of his displeasure with this father. The fact that the woman with whom he had an affair worked for the family for two decades likely makes the situation even harder to bear for all those involved.

Unfortunately, infidelity is a relatively common marriage problem. Social scientists have been unable to pin down an accurate estimate of the number of couples affected, because they don’t know who is telling the truth. CNN suggests some estimate 15 to 18 percent of marriages are affected by affairs, while others place the number closer to 40 percent or more for those affected by emotional or physical affairs.

I’ve interviewed both couples who have overcome infidelity and experts who say it is a situation that can be healed. However, no one will deny the difficulty of the situation (particularly one with a 10-year-old child born out of wedlock) and question whether the trust can be rebuilt. If serial philandering is involved, obviously that will make the situation tougher and will likely reduce the desire by the scorned spouse to rebuild the marriage. For example, did anyone really think Tiger Woods’ wife, Elin, could effectively rebuild their marriage, or that she would wish to?

Time Magazine and CNN revealed a study set to be published in Psychological Science found that the higher an individual rises in a business hierarchy, the more likely they were to consider or commit adultery. “With power comes both opportunity and confidence, the authors argue, and with confidence comes a sense of sexual entitlement.”

If we hope to live in lifelong marriages, we can expect to be tempted by someone with whom we feel an emotional or physical connection. The error is in thinking it can’t happen in your marriage. Even those in strong, loving marriages may sometimes feel an attraction to another person. We may even have opportunities to act on those temptations. Those with higher profiles or certain careers may have more opportunities to cheat than others. Don’t kid yourself by thinking no one will find out, even if you have people to lie and cover for you.

Just picture yourself having to come clean to your spouse, your parents, and especially to your children. Realize that children will likely view infidelity with their parent as if you cheated on them, too. If you hope to leave a legacy of love and trust, infidelity is the wrong road.

Read What Happens After Infidelity at CNN for more on how healing may be achieved after infidelity. For those who struggle with temptation, a classic book to help prevent infidelity is His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage by Dr. William Harley Jr. There are also many newer books found by searching “How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage.”

Do you think your marriage is protected from a possible affair–why or why not? Do you think marriages can overcome infidelity, or do you agree with “once a cheater, always a cheater”?

Can lack of thoughtfulness and romance lead to affairs?

I was impressed with the romantic nature of a soon-to-be groom who worked with the Washington Post crossword puzzle editor to have a proposal for his girlfriend worked into the weekend puzzle. Knowing his girlfriend enjoyed the crossword puzzles each Sunday, he carefully planned a proposal that was perfect for her. Truly a romantic gesture. (See story on CBS.)

Most of us are already married, but if we took a bit of that ingenuity and used it in our gift giving or surprises, that could really spice up our lives. Maybe your sweetheart always goes to the same coffee shop in the morning, and you could arrange to have the server give her flowers with her morning cup of Joe. Or maybe your marathon-running hubby could be greeted at the finish line with a large group of friends and family to celebrate.  For a special anniversary, you could run an ad in the paper or post a tribute on their favorite blog.

I admit I’m not so creative in my own life. Even brainstorming these ideas is making me tired. The last nice thing I did for my husband was buying him a special griddle pan he wanted for cooking steaks indoors. And letting him sleep in, which is a big one for someone who often works nights.

The gift of sleep isn’t such a bad idea, even if it’s not so creative. So many of us are regularly exhausted that it’s bound to detract from the energy we give each other. So, perhaps thoughtful efforts are a close second to those ultra creative ones—picking up dinner on a busy night, offering to help with the kids’ or bedtime routine, or offering to run some errands.

In a recent article that uncovered why women cheat, a male writer went undercover (with his wife’s permission) and joined an online site for married cheaters and pretended to seek out women for an affair. I won’t share the link simply because it shares way too much information that would be helpful to would-be cheaters, and that’s not what this blog is about. However, I’ll share a few insights about what cheating women said were lacking in their marriages that led to their cheating. (To be clear, research shows more men than women cheat in their marriages, and far more men join online cheating web sites. It just so happens that this male writer did an expose on female cheaters.)

One interesting aspect of the article was that the writer found himself feeling more than a little tempted when he actually met with attractive, successful women who were willing to cheat. His own wife became jealous that he even “fake” wined and dined several women (individually) over lunch. After all, when had he shown her such attention lately? The project caused a major marital fight, because even pretend cheating feels an awful lot like cheating, doesn’t it?

This brings us to the more important conclusion of the piece, which is that many women are seeking attention from others because they believe they are not getting it from their husband. Even when they have no intention of leaving their marriage, they feel they “need” to get that attention from someone. Some women were willing to flirt online and didn’t take it further than that. Others were willing to meet in person and pursue real relationships. Most often, women told him that they had lost the passion in their marriages, that their husbands no longer pursued them and showed interest in them. Granted, these are women who are capable of lying and cheating, so their husbands may actually be doing all they can on their end. However, the writer felt it was an important enough conclusion to pass along to men to remember their wives are women first, spouses and mothers second.

My take is that no wife or husband can justify an affair because they feel as if they are not getting enough attention. Infidelity is one of the most difficult issues a couple can face, although it can be overcome. Trust is a precious commodity in a marriage. Neither should men or women simply just accept a loveless relationship in which they feel ignored. Many more useful solutions exist, beginning with honest communication about the seriousness of one’s feelings. Loneliness inside a marriage is a major burden.

How did a post about fun tips on how to be thoughtful and exciting turn into one about cheating? I didn’t plan it that way, but it does underscore the importance of putting a little excitement, passion and thoughtfulness into your relationship.

Right now, put three things on your calendar to do for your spouse within the next month that are romantic, thoughtful or exciting. Try to keep your spouse’s specific desires and interests in mind. If you need simple ideas, read 6 Tips to Make Romance Easy & Automatic. Have a happy Easter to all those who celebrate it!

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.com

Overcoming Sexual Temptation in Marriage

Poison ivy is my nemesis. I’ve learned the hard way to stay as far away from it as possible or suffer the consequences for weeks. I used to try to carefully pull it myself, but I’m convinced that the oils are strangely attracted to me. Now, when I see it in the yard, I stop weeding or whatever I’m doing and ask someone else to carefully remove it for me.

If we treated sexual temptation in the same way, there would be a lot less remorse, heartbreak and broken marriages. Sexual temptation is not something that we are adequately equipped to face head-on.

Two of my female interviewees shed light on how to handle tempting situations. (Maybe you think women are never tempted, but they are often tempted to begin emotional affairs, which can lead to physical affairs. Men are believed to physically cheat more frequently, so it’s even more important for them to not place themselves in risky situations.)

So, back to the two women. The first was a newlywed who didn’t feel her husband was meeting her needs. She opened up to a man at work who was also unhappy in his marriage. They had lunches and team-building meetings together. Before long, their one-on-one lunches were being held at a local motel. This wife was very fortunate to salvage her marriage 30 years ago, and both spouses made major changes over a long period of time to build a new relationship. Many marriages would not have survived this major breach of trust.

The second woman—who thought she would never be tempted sexually—was attracted to a music teacher with whom she had private lessons at home. Her husband was busy with work, and she found herself listening too hard for the instructor’s compliments and enjoying his company too much. She decided to quit the lessons and tell her husband about her feelings. The fact that her husband had no jealousy or feelings of mistrust (in fact he just joked about it) is a testament to the strength of their relationship. She ended the contact before her feelings became a problem, but she felt it wasn’t worth risking her marriage to place herself in a tempting situation.

I doubt there’s anyone who has been married more than a few years who hasn’t faced at least a tinge of attraction or temptation toward someone other than their spouse. Mutual attraction can be a nice feeling. You find someone who has common interests, “gets” your personality or is fun to be with. However, you only have to read about the politicians, celebrities, and even people of faith, whose private lives have been splashed across the news to know it’s a serious and common problem. They all probably thought they could handle the temptation.

Do you think flirtations and private communication with members of the opposite sex are no big deal? Better to treat these liaisons like poison ivy.