Will He Cheat On Me?
When He'll Stray and When He'll Stay
Your marriage has weathered a couple of kids, two demanding jobs and a move to a new town. No danger of your husband having an affair at this point, right?
Not so fast. By the time men reach fifty, 37 percent have been unfaithful, according to the National Social Health and Life Survey conducted by the University of Chicago. "While men who are unhappy in their marriages are more vulnerable to cheating, infidelity is more often determined by a man's attitudes and values," says Shirley Glass, PhD, a psychologist and infidelity researcher in Baltimore, Maryland.
Today, it's easier than ever to cheat--and to keep it secret. Now that women are a strong presence in the workforce and more people are spending long hours at their desks, office romances are on the rise. "Affairs are growing out of collegial workplace relationships," says Glass. "It's not the typical attraction that comes from sexual curiosity or excitement." Private investigator Bruce Robertson, president of Tristar Investigation, in Los Angeles, says that modern technology plays a part, too. "Cell phones, pagers and e-mails make it easier for men to communicate with their girlfriends," he says. "We're also seeing a proliferation of escort and massage services on the Internet that cater to businessmen."
It probably doesn't help that cheating is so openly acknowledged and less stigmatized these days. Public figures--including, ahem, a certain former president--have suffered few, if any, repercussions when their affairs were brought to light. The TV series Temptation Island promoted infidelity as entertainment, taking committed couples and doing everything to entice them to stray, short of actually tucking them into bed with potential lovers. "Hollywood tells us that affairs are sneaky and fun and exciting, or else they're an escape or a reprieve from your life," says relationships expert William July, author of Understanding the Tin Man (Doubleday, 2000).
Contrary to stereotypes, however, most cheaters don't usually go out looking for extramarital romance, nor is the other woman a sultry vixen waiting to lure men into her den of sin. "Affairs can happen between men and women who have known each other for some time," says Glass. "Often what begins as an emotional attraction turns into a sexual one." In fact, many observers say, the other woman may be very much like you: independent, attractive, sympathetic. She may be a co-worker, a former girlfriend, your next-door neighbor, a friend's wife or even--sad to say--one of your own pals. Adultery is, in many ways, a crime of opportunity.
What the other woman offers depends on the situation. "Affairs are about unmet needs," says Stan J. Katz, PhD, a psychologist in Beverly Hills, California, who counsels couples coping with infidelity. "Sometimes a man wants sex and affection; other times, he just needs to bolster his self-esteem." Says Susan, 39, who has been involved with several married men, "In an affair, a man can tell stories that his wife stopped wanting to hear long ago. It makes him feel special."
Does that mean that a husband's affair is the wife's fault? Oh, puh-lease. Last we heard, men were still responsible for their own actions. Still, experts agree that there are certain times in a man's life when he's most likely to seek out someone else. Here, six of the most hazardous situations: