Many couples seek marriage counselling after discovering their partner has had an affair. The partner who was cheated on often believes they will never be able to trust their partner again, and therefore feels their marriage is doomed. However, research shows that over 50% of marriages do survive infidelity. Not only that, but with effective marriage counselling, couples can end up being closer and the marriage being stronger than ever before.
There are many life stages couples will traverse through during their marriage or relationship. Some of these stages experience higher rates of affairs and divorces in them than others. Therefore it’s wise to be aware of them so you can take precautions to prevent an affair from occurring in your own relationship.
When The Honeymoon Stage Ends
The first stage of a relationship is the called the Honeymoon Stage. It‘s where all the sparks begin to fly. New partners spend a lot of time together, dating and getting to know each other during this period. They will probably have more sex in this stage, than in any other time during their relationship. Though delightful, the Honeymoon stage is not sustainable and normally lasts between 2 to18 months. Eventually, partners need to start focusing on the normal things in life again such as their jobs, household, and their family and friends.
Unfortunately, some people are addicted to the high they feel during the Honeymoon Stage and don’t want it to end. When their new partner stops giving them the same level of attention they did initially, these people may start looking for someone else to give it to them by having an affair or ending the relationship, just to start another one soon afterwards. If this has happened to you, thank your lucky stars they are out of your life, and know that there is probably nothing wrong with you.
A Binghamton University study on infidelity discovered that the reason some people are chronic cheaters can be found in their DNA. The main culprit seems to be the dopamine receptor D4 polymorphism gene. Commonly referred to as the DRD4 gene. This particular gene is known to influence the brain’s chemistry, and therefore, a person’s behaviour. It has also been linked to sensation-seeking behaviour such as alcohol use and gambling.
Another recent study found that people who had one or both parents who cheated, were twice as likely to cheat on their partner, compared to those whose parents managed to stay faithful. Whether they cheated because they inherited the DRD4 gene or it was a learned behaviour, was not established.
If you are still single, I would suggest you take note of these two studies, and ask anyone you’re thinking of getting involved with about their family’s background before you get intimate with them.
During The Power Struggle Stage
The second stage of a relationship is called the Power Struggle or Frustration Stage. During this time, couples may discover that their partner’s values are not all the same as theirs, they don’t clean things as well as they like them cleaned, and their partner has stopped greeting them with as much affection as they used to. They may even feel disgusted by one of their partner’s behaviours but they’re too scared to tell them.
Couples would benefit from going to couples counselling at this point in their relationship to learn how to listen to their partner’s perspective before criticising them for their actions, as well as learning how to ask for what they want in a way which motivates their partner to give it to them.
Instead, most couples criticise and shame their partners for the way they do or don’t do things. This leads to a build up of resentment in the couple, which one of them may eventually respond to by having an affair. The affair may also be their way of trying to reconnect with how good they felt about themselves before the relationship and all the criticism began.
Marriage researcher, John Gottman, found that couples need to give their partner five positive comments for every one negative comment they make, to have a thriving marriages where they both have no reason to stray because they feel loved and secure in their own relationship.
After The Birth of A First Child
Many affairs and divorces happen within the first two years after the birth of a couples’ first child. Newborns need a lot of care and attention. As the new mother starts devoting her energy to her newborn, it’s very common for the couples’ relationship to start taking a back seat. Sex may stop for a few months, or even longer if the mother’s tailbone breaks during the birth of her child, or she develops post-natal depression, or their baby just doesn’t sleep well and the mother is continually exhausted.
Having your first child can be the most challenging time of a marriage or a relationship. Some new fathers can feel very left out, and even rejected by their partner during this time. New mothers will need a lot of support and help with her newborn, and if the father doesn’t step up and give it to her, she can become very resentful and worn out. Disagreements about how to raise their child can also add to the couples’ tension and resentments, as well as interference from in-laws.
Couples need to learn to work as a team now more than ever before, and keep believing that life with a child will get easier, because it will. It’s very important that, as soon as is practical, the couple start organising time to bond with each other again, even if it is only for one or two hours a week. (They may need to rely on family and friends to help facilitate this). If they don’t and the child becomes the centre of their world, this is s a very common time for the male to start looking outside of the relationship for attention, affection and sex, or even leave the relationship.
There’s a reason they say, “It takes a village to bring up a child”. That’s so parents can have some time together to nurture their own relationship so it will last.
There are a few core differences between males and females that, if couples were aware of, would help them understand each other better. You can read about these in my article, “Important Differences Between Men & Women”.
Between the Sixth and Ninth Years of Marriage
Another high-risk time for affairs to take place is between the sixth and ninth year of a marriage. Ever heard of the seven year itch? During this four year time period, if a couple is not careful, life together can become predictable, regimented and boring.
One partner may be over focusing on building their career so they’re working long hours, while the other partner is focusing on bringing up the children. Or their both working and evenings and weekends are taken up with driving the children to their different sports and activities.
The couple have stopped doing fun, exciting things by themselves to nurture and grow their relationship. They don’t have dates alone anymore, they’ve stop telling each other how good they look, or what they appreciate them for. Then someone at work tells them how great they look or how clever they are, which makes them feel special again, and before they know it, they are swept up in an emotional or physical affair with a workmate.
Whilst Being Employed
Going to work is a risky business these days, especially for couples not getting on well at home. One study found that among spouses who had an affair, 46% of women and 62% of men did so with someone they met at work.
Another study on infidelity found that the number of men and women having affairs are nearly equal now, with 19% of women and 23% of men admitting to having been unfaithful in the study. However, the reasons women and men have affairs are different. Most women said they cheated because they were emotionally dissatisfied in their relationship, whereas the biggest factor that led men to cheat was sexual excitability.
During a Business Trip
Business trips are one of the riskiest times for partners to stray. Researchers found that more than one-third (36%) of men and 13% of women cheated on their partners while on a business trip. It may be the loneliness or the boredom one feels when they are away from home, or the fact that it’s unlikely their partner will ever find out about their indiscretion while they’re away that accounts for these high statistics. Being alone in another city may also remind also someone what it felt like when they were single again, so they try to relive this fantasy by having a fling.
It is interesting to note however, that 69% of husbands interviewed in one study who had cheated, said they never actually considered it a possibility.
After Losing Weight
People often feel better about themselves after losing a few extra pounds. As they start exuding confidence, more people start noticing them and complimenting them on how good they look. If their partner has not been supportive of them or encouraging, all the attention they are now getting, can lead them into the arms of another. Just like the workplace, gyms are also a common place where affairs begin.
While Being Unemployed or Retired
Being unemployed or retired are also common times when people start having affairs. Careers give people a sense of value, importance and purpose. When someone is either retrenched or retires, their self worth can start sliding and depression can quickly set in. What was once an exciting and purposeful life, is now a life filled with loneliness and boredom, particularly if their partner is still working. As the unemployed person’s feeling of inferiority increases, their need for validation increases, and therefore the risk of infidelity increases too. One study even found that men who earn less than their wives or girlfriends are five times more likely to cheat.
To ease their boredom and loneliness, unemployed people often turn to the internet for entertainment. Unfortunately, dating and porn sites advertise all over the internet and it’s easy to be tempted to have a quick look at one of them, especially if you’re feeling low and can use some excitement to lift your spirits. A man with depression may not have had an erection for a while and may be wondering if he still can. A woman who hasn’t had good sex with her partner for a while, may want to see what she is missing out on.
Although watching a bit of porn occasionally may seem harmless to your relationship, research suggests the opposite to be true. University studies on watching pornography have found that:
- Men who cheat are more than 3 times as likely to watch porn regularly.
- Pornography consumption lowered commitment in both men and women, but with a stronger effect on men.
- Exposure to pornography was a robust predictor of infidelity.
Porn and dating sites are not the only online culprits responsible for the increasing rate of infidelity. Social networking sites such as Facebook are helping users reconnect with old flings, which is leading to more affairs, as well as divorces, a recent study reported.
Another study found that most female who were unfaithful used their smart phones for their affairs. Nearly 64% of the women polled said they would log on when they were in the same room as their spouses.
OTHER STAGES OF LIFE AFFAIRS ARE COMMON IN:
There are particular times in life when human beings feel more insecure about themselves than others. As their age increases, their youthful looks decrease, and so may their libido. During this stage of life, some people start feeling less desirable and may need more reassurance from their partners. If their partner stops telling them how much they love them and still find them attractive, they may be tempted into an emotional or physical affair with someone who will.
Other common times people have affairs later in life are:
- During a Midlife Crises – between the ages of 40 to 50 years old.
- Just Before Turning a Decade Older
- The Empty Next Stage – After the last child leaves home
- After a Life Threatening illness or Accident
- After the Loss of Someone Close to Them
Affair Proofing Your Marriage or Relationship
As mentioned before, there are few core differences between men and women, which are worth knowing about. However, there are also things both genders have in common too, such as the need to be wanted, appreciated and valued by another.
The best way to sail through any of the life stages mentioned in this article, to keep your marriage safe from affairs and divorce, is to never stop telling your partner that you love, appreciate and value them, and stop all criticising. If you continue to treat your partner the way you did, and do the same things you used to do together when you were dating, your marriage or relationship will have a better chance of lasting.
Other things I suggest couples do to keep their relationships affair and divorce proof is to:
- Learn each other’s Love Languages and give your partner one of theirs every day. Read Gary Chapman’s book “The 5 Love Languages”.
- Go for a walk together after eating dinner every night. People tend to talk more when walking, particularly males.
- If walking is not your thing, have at least 30 mins a night when you turn off the tv, computer and smart phones and talk about your day. Try not to make the conversation all about your kids, but find out how each other are feeling and what they need.
- Set time aside to get intimate with your partner at least once a week.
- Listen twice as much as you talk to your partner. There’s no coincidence that we have two ears and only one mouth!
- Always remain Curious and open to learning about your partner. If your partner does things differently to you, ask them why they do it their way with a tone of curiosity in your voice, instead of anger.
- Find a good Therapist and start Couples Counselling If you keep fighting about the same thing, but never resolve it. Effective communication is a learnt skill, which schools don’t teach, but Counsellors do.
- Spend ten to fifteen minutes by yourself (preferably in nature) right after work to de-stress and turn off from work mode, before you go home and greet your partner.
- Organise date nights together on a regular basis. Going out with friends is not counted as a date night. It must be the two of you alone.
- Try not to bring work home from the office. Keep your home life separate to your work life.
- If you’re discussing something with your partner and one of you starts getting angry or critical, call a time out for ten minutes. Walk away and cool down before you resume the discussion.
Sandy Therry (M. Couns) runs a private practice in Perth, Western Australia. She offers Psychotherapy, Marriage Counselling and Life Coaching to her clients, in person and via Skype or telephone. You can learn more about her by visiting her website at www.EmotionalHealingCentre.com.au