Thursday, October 15, 2009

Infidelity: A subtype

Infidelity is running rampant in our country. I hear about it all the time in my LA based psychotherapy practice. Current studies reveal: 1) that approximately 50% of married women and 55% of married men engaged in infidelity at some point during their relationship; and 2) roughly 69% of all marriages don't last after an affair has been admitted to or discovered. This is my theory on what is happening in heterosexual marriages:

During the early stages of the relationship, the woman is the more likely of the pair to have an affair. She is a wife and not yet a mother and a wife. She still largely defines herself as a sexual being and the men and women around her support this view. Once in a marriage, but before she becomes a mother, the walls of the relationship are more likely to close in on her and the odds of trying to escape though infidelity increase. Men will be drawn to her and she will be tempted to stray. Settling in with the same man and having sex only with him for the rest of her life can feel suffocating. For the man in the relationship, he has finally found the person he wants to be with. She will become the woman who will mother his children. It is during this time that the walls of their relationship open up for him and he settles in knowing that his life is taking shape and he has just crossed a major milestone.

Once children come into this picture things start to shift and it becomes more likely for the husband to cheat. Women as mothers’ become more attached to their mates and rarely have serious eyes for other men. They have acted on a biological urge to procreate and now it is the woman’s turn for the walls to expand as she desires to settle in as a family. For the man though the opposite seems to occur. He now worries about his attractiveness and sexual currency. The walls start to close in on him as he becomes more and more restless. His escape is through infidelity. What also seems to increase the odds of his infidelity is when his wife predominantly views herself as a mother, as opposed to the wife, the sexual being, he married. He comes home already feeling restless, and scared for his own mortality, and is met with a wife who is no longer seductive or sexual, and is often tired out from the kids and her work.

The way out of cycle lies in understanding and anticipation of this particular marital dynamic. Early into marriage, men need to support their wives’ as sexual beings, who can have other men but choose them. Later into marriage however, it is the women who need to remind their husbands not only that they are good dads but also that they are sexually valued by other women but choose to be with them.