Jeff Hooten and Brad Lewis
Maybe it's happened to you. You're fed up with your spouse, so you start chatting with that attractive person of the opposite sex in the next cubicle. You've known him for years, and it's so easy to talk. He just listens. Pretty soon you're sharing intimate problems, and now the co-worker is telling you how hard you have it. Maybe you should just leave your spouse ... and maybe the two of you should go out to lunch to talk more about it all. With this person, you're finding what you need and want: a sympathetic ear, someone who understands you and all you're going through, maybe even the first meaningful physical touch you've had for months.
Obviously, while not all office relationships lead to affairs, and not all affairs start at work, this scene demonstrates in an overly simplified and time-compressed way how some people start down the path of cheating on their spouse.
Whether you've been married for 30 days or 30 years, you're never really immune to an extramarital affair. So, how many married people are cheating on their spouses? Well, definitive numbers are hard to come by, but most polls and estimates typically report that more than one-third of men and about one-quarter of women admit to having had at least one extramarital sexual act. If you factor in cases of "emotional infidelity" — where a spouse engages in an intimate (yet not sexual) friendship with a member of the opposite sex — the numbers are much higher, probably greater than 50 percent.
Still, nearly 80 percent of Americans say adultery is always wrong and only physical abuse does more harm to a marriage. Indeed, the discovery of an affair more often than not leads to divorce. 1
If anything, the growing influence and availability of the Internet has only made things worse, with as many as one in 10 Internet users reporting that they are addicted to cybersex or other online temptations. After all, online sexual encounters offer the thrill of a make-believe romance along with the added benefit of anonymity. And because many online affairs don't involve actual physical contact, participants can convince themselves that cybersex isn't really adulterous, that they aren't really cheating on their spouse. Truth is, however, that even a "virtual" affair can wreak havoc on a marriage or a serious dating relationship.
Why affairs happen
Affairs don't only happen for sex. Some reasons people get trapped in an affair:
- To give a conscious or subconscious “wake-up call” to the spouse. This might happen if your spouse has a different kind of “lover” outside of your marriage, such as a consuming career or hobby.
- To inflate a bruised ego. You might want to get back at your spouse for something he or she did that hurt you rather than offering forgiveness and dealing with the root issue.
- A friendship gets out of control. Whether or not you think it's healthy to have friendships with members of the opposite sex, take extra care in those relationships.
- Your spouse doesn't live up to your expectations anymore. Remember that you know your spouse's good and bad qualities, while you may only see someone else's good side because you don't know him or her well enough to see warts yet. That's known as “romanticizing” a relationship.