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“Is my husband cheating?” The thought may have crossed your mind or lips by midlife. According to data analyst and author Seth Stevens-Davidowitz, “is my husband…” is most frequently followed up by the word “cheating” in Google search phrases (second only to “gay,” but that’s another article). So, what gives?
We asked Dr. Carmen McGinness, board certified behavior analyst/health psychologist/author, to shed light on this phenomenon. Are husbands cheating? Are women? What’s going on in the world of holy matrimony?
What are the cold hard facts about infidelity in modern marriage?
Fifty percent of men and 25% of women have or will cheat on their partners. Although only 10% of these affairs will result in marriage to the affair-partner, 50% will result in divorce when discovered by the primary partner. In fact, infidelity is the leading reported reason for seeking marriage therapy. And bad news! Infidelity is on the increase, especially among the newly married and those in their sixties. For partners in their forties and fifties, infidelity rates are about 55% for men and 15% for women. Interesting that women seem to be considerably less interested in cheating at this age, while men are slightly more interested. The good news is infidelity rates in these mid-life decades appear to be stable. The bad news is the same as the good: ‘stable’ but not improving.
Does cheating affect women over 40 differently than, say, a 30-year old? If so, how and why?
Commitment is huge for women. The greater the commitment the greater the emotional harm when things go pear-shaped. Homes, children, shared bank accounts, and often businesses are all commitments. Time and history tend toward more of these in the 40s and on than at 30, especially today when the age at which women start having children is later than in previous decades. So yes, it can be much harder on a woman 40 and older to face infidelity than for a younger woman in her twenties. And of course, there is also those damn television commercials, in which all the good stuff happens when, and only when, you’re young and fresh. Unfortunately, many women are brainwashed into believing that their odds of finding the right partner decrease with every passing year. Though it may not be true, it is a powerful force in recovery from infidelity.
What are the top three reasons why men cheat? Why women cheat? (Or are they pretty much the same?)
- Studies indicate that men of all ages are more willing to engage in casual sex, than are women. Emotional commitment seems not to be a pre-requisite to sexual activity for most men as compared to the majority of women.
- Boredom, or few and less intense sexual experiences in mid-life, is identified as the primary cause of infidelity by 71% of men who cheat.
- Intimacy, or emotional availability of partners also seems to be a variable in male infidelity during midlife. Men who feel they are not heard, not connecting with, not sharing with their partners, are more apt to engage with alternative partners.
What are effective ways to avoid infidelity in a marriage?
- The first is obvious, though not necessarily easy to accomplish. Marry the right partner. Make sure yours is a life-long commitment, for both parties. If it seems overly intense at first, give it time. Find out, before you marry, if the relationship will blossom or fade.
- Stay connected. Share activities you both love, and those you love separately. But also give your partner space to be his/her own person. Respecting and honoring the individuality of a partner is a powerful variable in the longevity of a marriage.
- Be real. Avoid, from the beginning, becoming something your partner wants, that doesn’t feel right for you. If it’s true love, s/he will love you for who you are.
- Intimacy, intimacy, intimacy! Share you lives, your dreams, your aspirations, and your sexual fantasies. Keeping it fresh might be easier than you think, if you listen to your partner’s desires.
If a woman finds out her spouse is cheating, how do you suggest she proceed in addressing the situation?
- Assess your own values and needs. If this feels all wrong to you don’t tolerate it, ignore it, pretend it isn’t happening, or wait to see if it goes away. Act swiftly and appropriately to insure your needs are met.
- Confront your partner in a safe setting and maturely. Tell him what you know or suspect. Don’t accept shallow excuses, half-truths, or promises. Stand up for your needs.
- Seek the consultation of a relationship or marriage counselor, with or without your partner. Most therapists will treat you even if your partner is not involved. You’ll have a lot on your emotional plate either way. You’re going to need support.
Any other words of wisdom for our readers?
Stay connected to the world, your community, friends, and family. One of the most devastating variables for the victims of infidelity, is isolation. It’s not your shame that’s being aired. Find community support, trust your friends and family. You’ll need them as you traverse the difficult days ahead.
Dr. Carmen McGuinness is based in Orlando, Florida and works with young adults and parents in managing the dynamics of family and married life. She also blogs about common relationship issues. The many stories she’s heard and her own personal experience led to a leap into the fiction writing realm. She recently published a psychological romance novel called Unintended Consequences, A Psychological Romance. You can purchase a copy at Amazon.com.
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