By now you’ve no doubt heard about the website, ashleymadison.com, and how 37 million North Americans and some 107,000 Calgarian’s are registered on the site. Turns out that these astonishing numbers are grossly misleading. Apparently, many of the “registered users” and their profiles have been fabricated for marketing purposes by the company itself and of those who are legitimately registered, many are simply curiosity seekers. That said, there are lots of registered users on the site. I attended a workshop several years ago on sex addiction and the presenter stated that Ashley Madison attempted to advertise on the Super Bowl but were turned down. That’s how big their business is.
Now lets turn to the reality of infidelity. The fact is lots of people have affairs – sexual and/or emotional…and…just because it’s not sexual doesn’t mean that it’s not infidelity. Emotional affairs can be even more damaging than sexual affairs. For a good summary of infidelity statistics I suggest you have a look at the website, www.thetruthaboutdeception.
I’ve also come across a good resource for recovering from infidelity – http://www.recovery.org/pro/articles/the-3-phases-of-erotic-recovery-after-infidelity/.
1. Stay Connected
Couples that disconnect emotionally are the most vulnerable to infidelity and his happens when they avoid dealing with their feelings and issues. They stop talking. Turning away emotionally from your partner makes you vulnerable to emotional connections with other people. Simply put, people have affairs because they want to feel alive. It’s exhilarating to be able to open up with someone, to be authentic and feel attractive. It’s seductive and hard to resist, especially when you’re disconnected from your partner.
Couples that make their connection a priority, keep an open line of communication and spend quality time together are far less likely to have affairs. Today, marriages are lost to work, kids, internet, hobbies, etc. The relationship gets whatever energy and attention that’s left over…often not much. Is it any wonder that we have a 50% divorce rate?
2. Set Boundaries
Contrary to popular opinion, affairs often happen in good marriages. We have evolved with the ability to love and care for one person and be intensely attracted to someone else, given the right circumstances. That’s just the way human beings are. A a great book, “Why We Love,” by anthropologist, Helen Fisher, addresses this in depth. Marriages need to be protected by strong emotional walls – boundaries. However, nobody wants to live behind walls that have no windows. It’s natural and healthy to be able to look out and enjoy the scenery. However, if an attractive person knocks on the window, you have to decide whether you’re going to open it. Opening the window is how affairs start.
Most people, especially those in good marriages, often say, “I wasn’t looking to have an affair. I never meant for it to go this far, once it started it just got out of control.” Develop a mindset of protecting your marriage and avoid situations where you may be tempted to “open the window.” There’s an old saying in the addictions world, “if you don’t want to slip, stay out slippery situations.”
3. Meet Your Partner’s Sexual Needs
“I expect you to be monogamous but don’t expect me to meet your sexual needs…”
– Pat Love, “Hot Monogamy”
This is a conundrum that I see with couples in my office every day. One partner (often, but not always the female) says, “I don’t feel connected to you, so I don’t want to have sex,” and the other (often, but not always the male) says, “you won’t have sex with me so I don’t feel connected to you and I withdraw emotionally.” Around and around it goes. Disconnect…no sex…no sex…disconnect…Sound familiar? Many people tend to think it’s mostly men with the higher desire. Not so. From my clinical experience I’d say about 1/3 of women want MORE sex than men in their marriage.
There’s an article by Jennifer Bleyer in this month’s edition of Psychology Today, “Good in Bed: The Strong Couple’s Solution to Dealing With Imbalances In Desire” that talks about how happy couples all have one thing in common with regard to sex. It’s called “communal motivation.” This is an intentional, ongoing commitment to meet your partner’s sexual needs. This means putting your partner’s needs ahead of your own. In long term relationships, there’s usually one partner that has a higher sexual desire than the other and as a result there’s always some degree of sexual tension. It’s normal but it can cause a lot of conflict if the low desire partner is only willing to have sex when they feel like it. Studies have shown that when one partner is not in the mood for sex and they “just do it” anyway, it usually turns out to be a good experience for both people. I suggest you check out Michelle Weiner-Davis’s TED Talk, “The Sex Starved Marriage.”
Sex is just ONE FACET of a relationship and to be truly happy in a marriage it should be viewed in the context of love. In a love-based relationship you want to make your partner happy and do your best to meet their needs. Isn’t that why you got married in the first place? The opposite of a love-based relationship is a needs-based relationship. This is a situation where couples negotiate in an attempt to get their needs met. Sex becomes a bargaining chip in the “scorecard” game. This never works, it just makes things worse.
As always, I invite your comments and feedback!