Affairs: How to Spot Them and Prevent Them Before They Occur:
All of us are capable of having affairs. To be incapable of having an affair is to be incapable of feeling temptation. Feeling the temptation to have an affair isn't the same thing as having it, however.
Many happily married couples admit that they are attracted to members of the opposite sex from time to time. Yet instead of repressing or nursing those feelings, they acknowledge them as the sign of a healthy sex drive and let them go.
When a person is unable to let go of that feeling of attraction towards someone not their spouse, they may risk everything--even their marriage--to give into their feelings. Sadly, affairs are the number one cause of divorce.
In January 2005, the BBC published a survey of matrimonial lawyers in which affairs came out as the number one cause of divorce in the U.K., accounting for 27% of divorces in 2004. Family strains were the second highest cause at 18%, physical or emotional abuse the third highest at 17%, and mid-life crises were fourth highest at 13%.
When marriages end in divorce as a result of infidelity, men are three times more likely to be the adulterous partner. However, women cheat on their spouses as well. A 2002 survey by the National Opinion Research Centre at Chicago University found that 15% of women surveyed had had an extramarital affair.
This number had risen five percent from their previous survey ten years earlier, and experts expect that the number will continue to climb until women have just as many affairs as men. The number of men who'd had an affair remained steady at 22%.
If roughly one in five men and one in six women have an affair at some time in their life, could your spouse be one of them?
The numbers climb even higher if emotional affairs are included. An emotional affair can be even more threatening to a relationship than a physical affair, because the lover replaces the spouse as the primary source of emotional well-being and companionship.
Peggy Vaughan, author of The Monogamy Myth: A Personal Handbook for Recovering From Affairs, estimates that the chances of a woman having either a physical or emotional affair at some time in her marriage are 50% or more.
What Triggers an Affair:
The roots of affairs are difficult to pin down and are usually many, not one. Even if you are in a happy, stable marriage, you or your partner could find yourself tempted to have an affair simply for the excitement, novelty, and break from routine.
A variety of motives, both internal and social, spur people to have affairs. The most fertile ground for affairs occurs when there is a potential lover who is available and willing, when conditions make the practical side of giving into the temptation easy, and there is little to no expectation of a powerful social or moral condemnation for having the affair.
Here are some of the most common social and marital conditions that pave the way for affairs.
- Increased social contact with members of the opposite sex, especially in the workplace.
Temptation is everywhere, but as men and women spend more time with each other away from their partners, giving into that temptation becomes easier and easier. When a man or a woman spends a lot of time with a member of the opposite sex--whether friend, co-worker, or teammate--they develop a platonic friendship that can become much, much more.
Familiarity, emotional intimacy, and common professional or sporting goals create a powerful bond that may feel more compelling than the marital relationship. Computers and cell phones make keeping in touch with a lover simple.
Can men and women ever "just be friends"? In 1989 movie When Harry Met Sally, Harry's answer was emphatically no. Harry tells Sally, "...Men and women can't be friends, because the sex part always gets in the way.... No man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her."
If your spouse is defensive or secretive about his or her friendship with a member of the opposite sex, you need to have an open and honest talk about the limits on your relationships with members of the opposite sex.
It's not okay for your husband's best friend to be another woman. It's not okay for your wife's number one confidant to be another man. In a strong marriage, both partners look first to one another to get their emotional needs met. This brings us to the next point...
- Not meeting one another's emotional needs.
This is this single greatest cause of affairs. When relationships are struggling, both men and women look elsewhere to get their emotional needs met and easily find themselves in the arms of someone "who appreciates them."
If you and your partner take each other for granted and treat one another like housemates instead of lovers, the stage is set for one of you to have an affair. Women, feeling unappreciated by their husbands, find solace with someone who does listen to them.
Unfortunately, an emotional affair can be just as devastating to a marriage as a physical affair. Men, feeling as if they're always being criticised and cannot please their wives if they try, enjoy the emotional reinforcement of someone who thinks that they're wonderful and can do no wrong.
Affairs often occur when one or both partners are under stress. Maybe you've just taken a new job; maybe your partner is struggling with the demands of a new child or ailing parent. If one of you cannot meet your partner's emotional needs for any length of time, your partner's chances of having an affair skyrocket.
Avoid this situation through open, honest communication. Notice when your partner is feeling down and don't rest until you've understood the source of your partner's emotions. If you feel that your partner isn't there for you when you need him or her, talk about it.
Open the conversation with a description of the things that your partner does for you that you appreciate, then explain what your emotional needs are and exactly what your partner can do to meet them. Next, turn the tables and ask your partner to share the same with you.
Unless you know what your partner's emotional needs are, you cannot hope to fulfill them by guesswork.
- Commuter jobs, or where one partner is away for long periods of time.
We all know the stories of musicians, actors, or athletes who spend long months on tour and return home to a wrecked marriage. Cheating is easy when partners spend long periods of time away from one another. Even if your partner calls you every night, you have no idea what they're doing in the time away from you.
It is easy for your partner to disassociate what they do in their time on their own from what they do with you. They may feel as if they live in two separate worlds that need never meet.
If you and your spouse spend long periods of time away from one another, you need to develop a plan of action to maintain your bond and sense of intimacy even during those times when you're away.
Increase your accountability to one another. Your partner should have a cell phone that you can call anytime, and you should always know where your partner is staying. The best solution in cases like these is to minimize the amount of time you're away from one another, even if it requires changing jobs or relocating.
- Overly scheduled lives with little leisure time spent together.
When partners don't have time to relax together, their marriage becomes all work and no play. If both of you have overly scheduled lives, crammed to the full with taking your kids to school and after-school activities, meetings, overtime, fixing up your house, and social engagements on the weekends, your marriage will suffocate from lack of attention.
Just because you live together and wear a ring doesn't mean that your marriage is invulnerable. A marriage thrives when there is space for both partners to spend quality, unstructured time together, doing nothing but enjoying one another's company.
If your partner always spends his or her leisure time with others (at the bar, with a hobby that excludes you, with members of a social or sporting club) rather than you, the stage is set for infidelity. Your partner should have the time and space to do activities that he or she personally enjoys, but at least half (preferably more) of your partner's leisure time should be spent with you.
- Increased public acceptance of affairs.
Public acceptance of affairs has transformed dramatically over the past few decades. There continues to be strong social and moral condemnation of infidelity, but the consequences of having an affair are not as great as in the past.
Nowadays, an affair isn't shadowed by the threat of pregnancy, the brand of social stigma, or losing one's job as a result. Cheating spouses are comforted by the ease of divorce that would allow them to leave their spouse for their lover. As culture removes more and more of the consequences of infidelity, more spouses will cheat. It's as simple as that.
- Increased importance placed culturally on having a great body and superb sex life.
Men and women both have high expectations of marriage--that their partner will be their soul mate, that love will be effortless, that their sex life will be dynamic and exciting. When these expectations are not fulfilled, men and women often look to someone else for fulfillment rather than examining their own expectations.
More and more women are having Desperate Housewives-style affairs with hunky young men, risking marriages with men who socially would be considered real catches: impressive jobs, wealthy, mature and responsible.
Why would these women risk the security and comfort of their marriages for 20-somethings with great bodies but not much else?
Modern Western culture places a high premium on an exciting, fulfilling sex life. When everyone else is doing it--in the movies, on the billboards, and in the media--we think we need to be doing it, too.
Yet a poll by Self magazine discovered that 58% of women polled were disinterested in sex, of which nearly a fifth were completely dissatisfied, preferring to watch television. Why were these women unhappy with their sex lives? Was it their partner, their attitude, or their expectations?
Although research proves that married men and women have better (e.g., more fulfilling and more frequent) sex lives than singles or couples living together, popular opinion believes the opposite.
Many people believe that once you marry, sex becomes dull and boring. What better to liven it up than the allure of an illicit rendezvous?
In fact, sex can actually improve in a marriage as a result of affair. The cheating partner feels guilty and doesn't want the spouse to suspect anything, so he or she puts more effort into their sex life. Cheating can also increase a cheating spouse's sex drive, because when you're having more sex, you want more sex.
Unfortunately, many couples don't put the effort into their sex life until it's too late. If you and your partner are distant, kiss infrequently, and seem to have lost any sense of intimacy, one of you may seek physical comfort elsewhere.
Decrease the chances of this happening by making an effort to be physically intimate with your spouse on a regular basis. Kiss and cuddle often. Touch one another randomly, whether by touching your partner's waist or arm. Invest in your appearance and don't use your marriage as an excuse to let yourself go.
Keep yourself fit. Avoid wearing worn-out, ill-fitting, or unattractive clothing around the house--and especially to bed. Liven up your sex life by regularly trying new things; if you can't think of any, purchase an erotic book or visit an adult shop.
The investment you put into physical intimacy will pay off by making the hours you do spend together--sleeping side by side--into ones to cherish.
Where Affairs Happen:
You should already be able to guess the number one place for affairs to begin: the workplace. The vast majority of affairs start in the workplace, primarily because many people today spend more time at work than they do at home.
When men and women work in close proximity to one another, they can find it easier to relate to one another than to their spouses back home--especially if their home environment is rife with conflict.
Affairs can happen anywhere your partner frequents without your company. This includes mixed-gender clubs or societies, out-of-town conferences, or the gym. Another growing arena for affairs is the internet. Websites advertise personals for persons seeking extramarital affairs.
The internet offers the advantages of anonymity, ease of communication, and the ability to meet like-minded individuals. If your spouse spends a lot of time on the internet with the door closed, you need to have a serious talk.
Don’t accuse: if your partner is using the internet for research or to communicate with friends, he or she will have nothing to hide. But if your partner is indeed using the internet to conduct an affair or view pornography, he or she will become defensive and tell you that what he or she surfs the net for is none of your business.
That’s a red light. Keeping the computer in a public area where you or anyone else can see the screen is a wise move.
Will an Affair Destroy Your Marriage?
Many people seek marriage advice only after they’ve discovered that their partner has been having an affair. In many cases, the cheating spouse has already moved out and is living with their lover. An affair can destroy your marriage, but it doesn’t have to.
Positive signs that your marriage can be rebuilt after an affair include:
- Your partner told you about the betrayal on his or her own.
- Your partner is willing to answer questions about the affair.
- Your partner expresses guilt or remorse.
- Your partner is willing to cut off all contact with his or her lover.
- Your partner asks for or agrees to marriage counselling.
- You are willing to let go of your resentment and look inside yourself for reasons that your partner may have sought fulfillment of his or her needs with someone else.
- Both of you are willing to make personal changes to get your marriage back on solid ground.
If your partner is unwilling to talk about the affair, refuses to cut off all contact with his or her lover, and accuses you of causing him or her to have the affair, you will have many challenges to overcome to get your marriage back together again.
What You Should Do if You Suspect an Affair:
"When you suspect your partner is cheating on you, you need to resist your first instinct to confront your partner and accuse them. This may seem like the most logical thing to do, but you have to resist this strong instinct and think carefully and strategically.
If you expose your suspicions immediately, what sort of response do you hope to get?
If you don't have any proof, or your proof is just circumstantial, the most likely response you will get is denial. If you can't prove without a doubt that you know about their affair, there is little you will be able to do that will refute their denial.
From a strategic point of view, you will have jeopardised your chances of catching your partner in the act because you will have alerted them to your suspicion. In future they will be more careful to hide their tracks, making it harder for you to find proof.
If you claim ignorance, and don't confront your partner, they will have no reason to think you suspect anything. In fact, they may become reckless and become complacent when it comes to hiding evidence of their affair.
From a strategic point of view, acting as though you are ignorant is the best tactic to use. If people don't think you are listening, it is surprising what they may say. They may unconsciously let little things slip....
The longer you are able to maintain the illusion of ignorance the more proof you will be able to gather. Remember, without concrete proof, you should never accuse your partner. Not only is there the likelihood they will deny it and make it harder for you to prove their guilt, but there is also the possibility, however unlikely, of you being wrong."
--Sarah Paul, How to Catch a Cheating Spouse.
Now that you know how to spot an affair and some techniques to minimise your chances of being cheated on. Next you will learn, how to keep the lines of communication open with your spouse. Lack of honest, direct communication creates an environment where secrecy and affairs can flourish,
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