In a 1991 study, sex researcher Shere Hite found that 70 percent of married women have cheated on their partners; a 1993 follow-up study found that 72 percent of married men have as well. According to a 2004 University of Chicago study, 25 percent of married men have had at least one extramarital affair.Feb 8, 2012
“The new infidelity is between people who unwittingly form deep, passionate connections before realizing that they’ve crossed the line from platonic friendship into romantic love. Infidelity is any emotional or sexual intimacy that violates trust.”
– Shirley Glass, author of “Not Just Friends”
AFFAIR – The word that no married person ever expects or wants to hear. Though 90% of people surveyed say affairs are “wrong,” they are happening every day and in increasing numbers. Here are five facts that are important for married people to know about infidelity.
- Estimates are that 25% to 40% of women and 50% to 60% of men will have an affair during the lifetime of their marriage. Affairs happen for many reasons – we commonly hear:
- My needs were not being met – emotionally or sexually.
- I was bored, unloved or unappreciated.
- I tried to talk with him/her but things didn’t change; the change didn’t last.
- I felt hopeless and gave up trying.
- His work was more important than me.
- The kids were more important than me.
- He didn’t listen; He wasn’t affectionate; He didn’t make me feel special.
- She never wanted to have sex; Having sex was an obligation to her; I couldn’t make her happy; Nothing I ever did was good enough.
Then one day he/she starts talking with someone else of the opposite sex, at work, in the neighborhood, at the gym, on-line, in a chat room and shares the discontent in their relationship. The other person listens with empathy and shares dissatisfaction in his/her relationship. A bond, a sharing of intimacies and emotions; boundaries crossed, secrecy. An affair is born.
- 85% of affairs begin in the workplace.
Think about the amount of time you spend with your spouse vs. the amount of time you spend with co-workers. Day after day, maybe 40+ hours a week, you and your colleagues share the ups and downs of work; you bond over projects, successes and difficulties at work. The close interaction, travel, and unavoidable closeness may lead to strong friendships and emotional attachments outside your marriage. The workplace provides opportunity and proximity to people outside your family. Women’s increasing entry into the workforce has correlated with a rise in the number of affairs women are having. It’s no wonder the workplace is the most common place affairs start.
- Emotional infidelity can be as or more damaging to a marriage than physical infidelity.
Innocent flirting and office banter turns into lunch together, texting or emailing in off hours. Correspondence enters the personal realm and you begin to share intimate details about your life and relationship with this person. The secret feels exciting as you hide it from your spouse and rationalize that this is not “cheating” since there is no physical contact; but the emotional attachment you develop with this person can be devastating to your spouse. The more intimate the connection with someone outside your marriage, the deeper the head and heart bond with your spouse becomes compromised. A physical affair may not be far behind.
- The internet, email, cell phones and Facebook have made it easier for people to cheat.
Curiosity about high school sweethearts, old flames from college and lost loves can be dangerous, especially when there is a drifting or emptiness in your marriage. Romantic memories, alluring and powerful, can lead you down a path of unexpected consequences. With the click of a mouse and the least harmful of intentions you search for an old love. Taking the next step by emailing or friending him/her on Facebook seems harmless enough. However this may begin an unanticipated cascade of dreamy feelings and thoughts. Not sharing this with your spouse can lead to an “accidental affair.” And for the record, flirting and sexual interactions through email, text, pictures and video are cheating.
- After an affair, 65% of marriages end; 35% of couples continue the marriage.
For some people an affair is a deal breaker and the betrayed partner cannot fathom continuing the relationship under any circumstances. For some the affair is their ticket out of the marriage; the result of a string of events that is the final breaking point in a marriage. Then there are the couples who are uncertain or want to save their marriages after an affair; they end up in our office.
There is hope; some couples do survive and thrive after an affair is revealed. We strongly believe that with therapy, time, patience and work couples can journey together toward deepening their relationship and building a stronger, closer bond than they had before.
© Copyright 2011 by Lori Hollander, LCSW-C, BCD, therapist in Owings Mills, MD. All Rights Reserved.