Why Men Seek Affairs in Stressful Times Tips on how wives can deter their husbands from seeking affairs in tough economical times. BY JONATHAN ROBINSON
With good communication, marital affairs can be prevented.
Affairs occur even during good times and within good marriages. Experts estimate that over 60 percent of men and 40 percent of women have affairs. While spouses like to think it could never happen in their marriage, no one is immune. During particularly stressful times—like now—it’s even more likely for spouses to seek affairs. In order to avoid such trauma, it’s helpful to know why men seek affairs during troubling times, and how you can use specific communication methods to avoid such a fate.
While there are many reasons why men have affairs, probably the most overlooked reason has to do with what’s happening in the society the couple is part of. During the 1960s, affairs were quite common because of the troubling times and the sexual revolution. During the 90s, they were less common due to the relative prosperity of that era and the fallout of watching Bill Clinton’s affair.
Men receive much of their sense of self worth from their job and financial situation. When those areas are down in the dumps, men either get depressed or they start looking for how to feel better. Whereas a woman might get her emotional needs met through contact with her friends, men are more likely to seek distraction when faced with difficult times. As a man seeks increasing distraction, his behavior is likely to trigger increased insecurity in his wife. The increased insecurity in the woman then leads to the man wanting more distance, and the cycle continues. The best way to alter this downward cycle is through honest and effective communication.
The Power of Communication
Affairs don’t simply erupt one day out of nothing. Usually, there is an initial lack of trust that snowballs into something much more dangerous. For instance, let’s say a man feels some attraction to a new co-worker. Does he report this to his wife? If he does, he’s likely to get grilled or made wrong in some manner. He soon learns to hide such thoughts and attractions from his wife. If, on the other hand, he says nothing, he has started to go down the road of keeping secrets from his wife. How can a wife avoid such dangerous developments?
The most important thing a woman can do to prevent her man from having an affair is to make it safe for him to be honest with her. This is no easy task. As a psychotherapist and the author of the bestseller, Communication Miracles for Couples, I’ve had the opportunity to work with hundreds of couples. In general, I’ve seen that men are skittish and have a hard time being honest. This is partly due to the fact that women tend to make men feel wrong for expressing their needs and feelings. If your man came home one day and said, "There’s this new woman at work who I find to be a real knockout," how would you respond? My guess is that your man would think twice before revealing such things in the future.
So what is the "right" response when you hear something you don’t want to hear? The best response is one that will likely lead to increased trust and openness. You might say, "It sounds like you’re attracted to this woman. I wonder what it’s like to have to work with someone like that every day." Try to elicit more information in a non-judgmental manner. Try to understand how difficult such a situation is for the man you love. If a man gets the idea that he can talk with you about such attractions and struggles, he is less likely to keep secrets from you that eventually become more problematic.
Besides listening to and validating a man’s feelings, a woman can make sure conflicts don't pile up. Each unresolved conflict becomes like a wall between two people. If the walls are not worked through, a man will start to look for how to get his emotional and physical needs met elsewhere. Unfortunately, most couples don’t have training in how to effectively resolve conflicts, so they rely on blaming their spouse—or avoiding their issues altogether.
At the heart of effective conflict resolution is making agreements with your spouse about how to handle difficult issues. Many couples never actually resolve any of their issues—they just keep arguing about the same old ones. Instead of trying to decide who is at fault, I suggest you ask a question that will help you to negotiate solutions to the issues you have. The question I suggest is, "What are a couple of ideas you have that might work out as a useful compromise for both of us?" If what you come up with doesn’t work after a week or two, you can always negotiate a new solution.
What are some issues that you might want to make agreements about? Well, besides the traditional big issues like sex, the kids and money, you may want to discuss and agree on how to best handle attractions and come-ons. Talking about and working out mutually satisfying agreements is hard work—but the alternative is not good. Avoiding issues or denying problems that are nipping at your heals is a recipe for disaster. Consider asking your man what solutions or agreements he thinks are fair—and then negotiate with him until you both feel satisfied.
In every crisis there is a hidden opportunity. Economic trouble can either lead to greater distance with your spouse, or greater intimacy. By communicating effectively and negotiating satisfying agreements with your husband or wife, you’ll be well on your way to a more loving and trusting marriage. In times like these, a rock solid relationship is a very valuable asset.
Jonathan Robinson is a psychotherapist and the bestselling author of "Communication Miracle for Couples," as well as other books. He is a frequent guest on Oprah, CNN and other shows. For more information on marriage tips and to learn about his books, or to e-mail Mr. Robinson, you can go to his web site: www.howtotools.com.