Tag Archives: infidelity

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.

Resources for Couples Impacted by Infidelity

No one knows precisely how many couples are affected by marital infidelity. I have seen marital infidelity rates quoted from as low as 15 percent to as high as 80 percent. Peggy Vaughan, a marriage writer who experienced a cheating husband but later rebuilt her marriage, reported an estimated 60 percent of men and 40 percent of women have extramarital affairs.

The truth is that none of us is immune to the risk of an affair. Even people with “good marriages” have affairs for various reasons. We can, however, prepare ourselves with education and tools to help strengthen our marriages and reduce the likelihood of cheating. And we should know that there can be healing after infidelity, even though the road is not an easy one.

Peggy recently passed away after battling cancer. As her legacy, she asked that her resources to help couples deal with and heal after infidelity be available free to the public. She shares her personal story as well as articles on who has affairs and why, tips to avoid them and information on rebuilding trust. The information can be found at DearPeggy.com.

Peggy calls honesty a prevention tool for affairs. “Couples can’t avoid affairs by assuming monogamy or even by promising monogamy without discussing the issue. And they can’t avoid affairs by making threats as to what they would do if it happened. Either of these paths create a cycle of dishonesty.” Instead, she suggests spouses be willing to admit attractions and temptations to one another, because if they won’t admit to being attracted or tempted, they certainly won’t admit it if and when they act on the attraction. And if you admit to an attraction, it kind of takes the secret excitement out of your feelings.

If you do have an attraction, by all means, don’t place yourself in tempting situations, especially when you are alone with that person. Don’t share personal details or try to get to know them better. Better yet, run.

Hopefully you have not experienced infidelity first-hand. If you have, maybe these resources can help your marriage heal. If you have not, give thanks, then educate yourself about keeping your marriage strong and infused with honesty and behaviors that benefit you both.

It’s a myth that your spouse won’t be hurt if you cheat on him or her but you are not caught. There’s you, your spouse, and the marriage. And the marriage always knows.

Have you experienced infidelity? Did your marriage survive? If so, what tools were useful to you?

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 all e-book formats atwww.LoriDLowe.com.  Great for holiday stocking stuffers! 

Image by Simon Howden courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

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”?

3 Types of Couples Survive Infidelity

Couples who survive an affair can be generally divided into three groups, says Esther Perel, M.A., author of Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence. Perel is a marriage therapist who wondered just how “happily ever after” the couples who survived an affair lived after the reconciliation. She contacted couples whom she had successfully treated years prior for infidelity to determine how they looked back at the event and its impact on their marriage. Their retrospective views were telling.

After completing interviews with the couples, Perel found they fell into three general groups. She writes extensively about her findings along with pieces of case studies for Psychotherapy Networker Magazine in an article called “After the Storm”. It’s well worth the read, particularly if you or your partner has experienced an affair or other type of turmoil during your marriage. The couples were categorized as:

  1. Living in the Past—These couples stay married, but never successfully move past the affair. Forgiveness is not truly given. The offending couple may not take any responsibility for contributing to relationship problems. “The affair has become the narrative of their union,” says Perel, who adds, “It’s a black hole trapping both parties in an endless round of bitterness, revenge, and self-pity.”
  2. The Survivors—These couples revert to a fairly peaceful marriage, similar to what they had before the affair. They stay in the marriage because they honor the values of commitment and loyalty, and they don’t want to break up their families. They may lack passion in their marriage, but they want to do the “right thing.” They see the affair as a painful mistake. They don’t transcend the affair, but they do move beyond it.
  3. The Explorers—These couples use the infidelity as a catalyst for change, transcending the experience to bring their relationship to new heights previously not experienced. They reinvent their relationship, learning from their failures and past hurts, and each take responsibility for their part in the marriage’s deterioration. The infidelity becomes an impetus for a transformative experience.

Perel explains that the most successful couples shifted from talking about “you” and “me” (what you did to me) to reflecting on “our life” or “our crisis”. (Read The Power of “We” in Relationships.)

Don’t’ just overcome adversity; be transformed by it. In an ideal world, we would all look for signs of relationship stress or difficulty before an emergency like infidelity takes hold in the marriage. For those who do experience a deep valley, such as an affair, use the opportunity to change yourself and your partnership for the better. Forgiveness may be a process. Moving on may be a process. But dwelling on past hurts for years afterward is a surefire path to long-term marital unhappiness.

Do these groups sound accurate to you? Why do you think it often takes something drastic to get our attention and bring about positive change in relationships?

Photo Credit: ©PhotoXpress.com

Women Breadwinners are More Likely to be Cheated On

CNN has released details of a new study that says men are more likely to cheat on women who earn more money than they do. (Think Sandra Bulluck and Jesse James.) The amount of the disparity seemed to change fidelity rates with men who were completely dependent on the woman five times more likely to cheat than men who earned similar amounts as their female partner.

The study’s author, Christin Munsch, says the income disparity may threaten traditional views, or it could be that these men just happen to be unhappy in the relationship.

Before you start feeling sympathetic for these under-earning men, the study reports that men who make significantly MORE than their wives or girlfriends ALSO are more likely to cheat because his job may require long hours or travel, and this situation may be more conducive to cheating.

Hmmm … sounds like a lot of excuses for why some men may feel it is acceptable to cheat. The men who were least likely to cheat are men in relationships with women who earned 75 percent of their income. Perhaps certain men feel this allows them to view their mate as a partner without feeling they have lost control?

Women in the study, unlike the men, were more faithful when they depended on the male for financial security; they were half as likely to cheat. Munsch says this situation may be more socially acceptable and nonthreatening, they may have fewer opportunities to cheat, or they may not feel it’s worth the risk.

(Studies have shown women are less likely to cheat. Do you agree with Munsch’s reasons, or do you believe women have lower sexual desire or greater control of their sexual impulses? Or do they care more about the morality or impact of their decision?)

The good news is that within the study of married and cohabiting couples, only a small number of them experienced cheating—3.8 percent of the male partners and 1.4 percent of the female partners.

I think it can be healthy to have either partner being the breadwinner, and I know some stay-at-home fathers who are very appreciated by their high-earning wives. Whichever spouse earns more, he or she should not pretend to control the relationship with the purse strings or claim to have more say because of the size of their paycheck. The partner who is earning less may be sacrificing for the family, with home and child rearing responsibilities, and that should be valued as much as the dollars earned.

I agree that high earners probably have more opportunities to cheat, particularly with travel and professional connections. (If you face temptations, put protective measures in place, such as not going out to lunch with a colleague whom you find attractive.) However, any partner who chooses to stray can find the opportunity. Both genders can and should have the capacity to be faithful to the commitments they have made.

That being said, I know many couples who have successfully overcome infidelity. If you or your partner has cheated, find a pro-marriage counselor to help you through the crisis.

What do you think about this study’s results and about men’s and women’s propensity to stray?

Photo Credit: ©PhotoXpress.com

Marriage Often Follows the Unplanned Route

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—  
I took the one less traveled by,  
And that has made all the difference. –Robert Frost

 

A young, married blogger friend has written eloquently and honestly about her recent struggle to become pregnant, and her search for her current marriage identity as she awaits their desired child. It called to mind so many interviews with wise couples who have walked the unplanned path in marriage. Kathleen graciously offered me a guest post so I could share these thoughts with her readers. The wisdom I learned from these couples may be able to give insight to other struggles you may face.

The following post was published Feb. 3rd at www.ProjectMonline.com.

During the last two years, I’ve interviewed happily married couples who improved their marriage through adversity. If you ask around, you’ll find nearly every marriage eventually faces adversity. All are changed by it. Some marriages use it as a catalyst for unity or growth, and some are so devastated they do not survive.

Their stories convey that life does not always (or even usually) go as planned. They all had a vision for how their life would go, and the vision was far easier than the reality. That is not to say that having a plan didn’t help some of them get back on track, but we don’t control when life veers us off our planned route.

When these couples got married—some more than a few decades ago—they didn’t plan on having a child with autism, or learning their husband was addicted to drugs. They didn’t plan on having a miscarriage or struggling for 12 years with infertility. They didn’t plan on being separated for three years during a war, or suffering from depression or cancer. They didn’t plan on periods where the passion leaked out of their relationship. They didn’t plan on overcoming infidelity or recovering from stranger rape. They didn’t plan on losing their bank accounts and real estate assets in a financial crisis. They didn’t plan on their parents not supporting their marriage because of the color of their spouse’s skin. They didn’t plan on having their own baby die in their arms.

The couples I interviewed experienced all of these things. They didn’t just survive; they became great love stories of resilience and hope. I share their stories, their failings, and their near failures, because I think we doubt we could survive given the same obstacles. We think they must be somehow better than us. When we follow their stories, we learn how success is possible.

Thankfully, most of us (we hope) will not experience the level of crisis many of them did. But don’t kid yourself into thinking your marriage will be easy and bump-free, that there will be no valleys next to the hills. Even when things do go right eventually, they often don’t go right in our perfect timing.

For many of these couples, the depth of the valleys only heightened their hilltop experiences. For example, the couple who was infertile for 12 years now has three children (one adopted, two born naturally). They don’t take any minute of time with their children for granted, and they created a ministry to support other couples struggling with infertility. The couple who overcame infidelity now teaches other couples how to affair-proof their marriages. They completely rebuilt their marriage into something much stronger than before and have a love and passion most would envy.  Even the couples who lost children said the painful lessons in their lives have taught them immeasurable lessons—and that they wouldn’t go back and remove the pain if it removed what they had learned. I was truly amazed by the grace shown by them.

Another lesson coming out of this: When you are tempted to be jealous of an especially unified or loving couple, be aware that they have probably traveled some rough roads together to get there. You have no idea of their journey, so don’t be envious of their destination. You also don’t know the pain they may be hiding.

All these couples did plan to spend their lives together. That’s one plan that worked out—as a result of their commitment, love and hard work. While they didn’t always come together initially, they did become more unified by learning their spouse understood their suffering better than anyone else. Their bonds were strengthened; their love was heightened.

If you are facing difficulty in your life, share your sorrows and challenges with your mate so he or she can walk through it with you. Consider that this valley, while you would never choose it, may be something that makes you stronger as a person and as a couple.

Lori Lowe is writing a narrative nonfiction book called First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: How to Improve Your  Marriage through Adversity. She also blogs at www.LifeGems4Marriage.com. Lori has been happily married to her husband, Ming, for 14 years. They live in Indianapolis with their two children, a crazy cat and two aquatic frogs.

Top Reasons Americans Give for Their Divorce

After today we’ll get away from the stats. For the data-seekers, here are some top reasons Americans say they divorce (they could select more than one reason). Po Bronson’s web site has much more analysis on family issues, divorce rates and marriage trends, as well as international divorce rates. The info is a little out of date but Bronson gives real insight. I was surprised at the high rate of physical abuse toward women. Top reasons why American women said they’d gotten divorced:
           communication problems (69.7 percent)
           unhappiness (59.9 percent)
           incompatible with spouse (56.4 percent)
           emotional abuse (55.5 percent)
           financial problems (32.9 percent)
           sexual problems (32.1 percent)
           spouse’s alcohol abuse (30 percent)
           spouse’s infidelity (25.2 percent)
           physical abuse (21.7 percent)*

Top reasons why American men said they’d gotten divorced:
communication problems (59.3 percent)
incompatible with spouse (44.7 percent)
unhappiness (46.9 percent)
emotional abuse (24.7 percent)
financial problems (28.7 percent)
sexual problems (30.2 percent) *

   
 

In a U.S. study, more than 25 percent of the women said that their husbands’ unfaithfulness was a factor in their divorce. Less than half as many men (10.5 percent) said it was their wives’ infidelity which was a cause of their divorce. In fact, more men said that their wives’ in-laws were a reason for the divorce (11.6 percent) than said it was because their wives had had an affair.

Sources from PoBronson.com:

* According to a 1985 study. Totals do not add up to 100 percent because respondents could select every reason that was applicable. Margaret Guminski Cleek and T. Allan Pearson, “Perceived Causes of Divorce: An Analysis of Interrelationships,” Journal of Marriage and the Family (February 1985) p. 179, 181.

 

     

*Margaret Guminski Cleek and T. Allan Pearson, “Perceived Causes of Divorce: An Analysis of Interrelationships,” Journal of Marriage and the Family (February 1985) p. 179, 181. 

 
 
 
 

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.

Preventing Marital Affairs in Today’s World

The slumping economy is apparently causing infidelity and divorce rates to drop. A private investigator reported on CNN that infidelity cases have dropped 75% since the economy took a dive. Economic woes have also put a damper on divorce. Thirty-seven percent of lawyers surveyed by CNN reported fewer divorces in their caseload, but only because the couples couldn’t afford to split at the present time.

Perhaps it’s a good time to build up the good relationships in your life. Not because it’s economically feasible, but because you realize how fleeting much of your life and lifestyle can be.

Marriage counselor and author Gary Newman suggests the following to strengthen your marriage and to “affair-proof” your marriage: 1) Give your spouse admiration and appreciation. 2) Have more sex, and embrace the idea of giving and receiving intimacy and pleasure.  “It’s about bringing out the best (in each other),” he says.

Many marriage experts also advise spouses to guard their hearts and their marriages from the temptation of straying. The vast majority of married individuals will likely admit to either flirting or being attracted to someone of the opposite sex during their marriage. Most of the time, it seems very harmless. But all too often, a friendly relationship turns into one of sharing deeper feelings, hopes and fears, developing an emotional connection, and perhaps leading to an affair. (It turns out emotional connection is the #1 reason for an affair.) If you even feel an attraction, be on guard, and talk to your spouse.

In “Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome,” author Nancy Anderson shares her experience of infidelity with a coworker early in her marriage. The affair began with complaining about her husband at work and having private lunches together with the coworker. It nearly ended her marriage. She and her husband now educate others on growing “affair-proof hedges” around their marriage. For example, all emails and correspondence must remain professional, never flirtatious. Talk about your spouse in positive terms letting others know you are happily married. In the book, she suggests group meetings rather than one-on-one meals with the opposite gender. While she was able to rebuild her marriage, many are not so fortunate. The warning: Don’t place yourself in vulnerable situations.

I believe the best prevention against affairs is maintaining the deep love that brought you together in the first place. Don’t let your job, your busy life, your children—or even the tough economy—divide you. Keep the dreams alive that brought you together.