The Cheating Heart
As long as there are other men and women, some spouses will stray. Unfortunately, infidelities are a real fact of life. Studies have attempted to pin down the frequency of this illicit activity, but the many findings vary so greatly that the value of most results are questioned; perhaps because people who cheat are also likely to lie. While an overwhelming proportion of spouses remain true, it appears that approximately 15 to 20% cheat. The thought of an affair shoots a chill through most spouses’ hearts, especially ones who may feel insecure to begin with.
It is not surprising that relationships which are most at-risk of suffering an extra-marital affair are those that are dissatisfying to one or both partners. The likelihood of getting involved with another is different between the genders and happens for different reasons. After dissatisfaction in the relationship, the second greatest predictor of an affair is opportunity. If there exists a need to feel close, loved or desired, and there is much opportunity to fulfill the need, the chances increase that an infidelity will occur to resolve that need. Is there any wonder why workplace romances are common?
Men are slightly more likely to cheat than women and tend to do so in sexual ways, since men feel loved through sexual activity. Women who feel unloved become vulnerable to others’ attention and are at risk of cheating. When a wife cheats, there exists a greater chance that the marriage will end than when the husband cheats. A bad relationship has a strongly negative impact on a partner’s self-esteem, which an affair helps to boost by proving a person’s worth and desirability. Low self-esteem and difficulty feeling loved are common factors in unfaithful partners. Infidelities in family or origin and past incidents of unfaithfulness in past relationships also increase the likelihood of cheating.
The revelation of an infidelity probably may emotionally devastate an injured partner, who may feel like living death. One’s appetite often disappears as does the ability to sleep and concentrate. The damage from a purely emotional, non-sexual affair can be just as profound. It is not unusual that the injured partner’s pain can last months and even years.
The ways to minimize the chance of an affair happening in your marriage are four-fold: do all you can to avoid causing your partner hurt. Be open with your partner about your feelings, especially if you are bothered. Share generously with your partner so that no secrets exist between you two. Have great sex, while doing all you can to eliminate anything that prevents great sex from happening. Andrew Aaron, LICSW