Who's at Risk
Those who are happily married should know that marital happiness does not eliminate the possibility of an affair. Those who are even mildly unhappy should take heed - affairs are commonplace, easy and devastating. If you are unhappy with your marriage, it is far better to work to resolve the marriage problems or end the marriage before starting a new relationship. Affairs do not solve problems.
The Kinsey Report found that the first time people were asked if they had been unfaithful 30% admitted they had. When they were questioned more thoroughly, another 30% confessed to extramarital sex, bringing the total to 60%, indicating a reluctance to admit to infidelity even for a scientific survey. While it's not clear the exact percentage of marriages affected by infidelity, it appears the percentage of people under 60 who have affairs is 50 - 60% for men and 40 - 50% for women, with the survey focusing on a middle and upper-income group.
Statistics suggest that men and women with more
resources have greater control over their time, energy and money.
They also have more sexual freedom.
Who has affairs?
Men and women who feel their physical and emotional needs are not being met well in their marriage have affairs more frequently than those who believe their needs are being satisfied in their marriage.
Opportunity, education and control over time make a person more prone to having extramarital affairs. People who are accountable for their time to either their spouse, employers or families are the least likely to have extramarital affairs. Independence and the birth control have given wives the opportunity to more sexually active outside their marriage - and when given the chance, women have affairs as readily as men.
The option of choosing open marriage as a way of preventing divorce has not been successful. More than half of these open marriages ended in divorce. Open marriages are not widespread. Studies indicate that fewer than 15% of couples are currently in marriages where they agree that it is acceptable to pursue sex outside their marriage. Most partners deceive their spouse rather than negotiate an open marriage.
Swinging is the term used to describe co-marital sex involving both the husband and wife together with others. About 5% of married couples have been involved in swinging at some time. The swingers surveyed were as satisfied with their jobs, friends, health, income and education as nonswingers. Swingers were more happy with their sex life and with life in general than nonswingers. Women who participated in swinging said they were satisfied with this arrangement, although their husband generally initiated it.
The woman's home is the first choice as a place for lovers to rendezvous. The second most frequent location for an affair is the man's home. Hotels were used as a primary meeting place by only 8% of those surveyed. Other places for an affair include the home of a friend, a boat, camper office or the park.
Affairs last a couple of years
Affairs go through transitions over time. They may begin as romantic, sexual or emotional relationships and may become intimate friendships. Affairs that become friendships can last decades or a lifetime. Regardless of the strength of desire, most affairs dissolve over time when the feelings soften and the complexity of the affair is emotionally and physically draining.
People who have affairs are likely to have more than one, especially men. Two-thirds of the men surveyed who had affairs had more than one. Women averaged between one and three affairs. About 25% of men and 15% of women who have affairs have four or more.
Multiple sex affairs may be a symptom of deep emotional pain and dysfunction.
More men have affairs
Several studies show that between 70% and 80% of affluent men have extramarital sex sometime during their married life. The extramarital alliances include sex with prostitutes as well as lifetime lovers.
Men who work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and go directly home after work may simply not have the discretionary time for an affair. Birth control has given some men the belief that they can have sex without the worry of an unwanted pregnancy.
Wives often erroneously believe that their husbands could not be having an affair because "he just doesn't have time." Many men have an explanation for their time away from home that allows them ample time for affairs. Realistically, affairs don't require large blocks of time. Men who want to have affairs will find the time. These men believe that their desire for multiple sex partners is natural and normal for them but not for their wives.
Divorce rate higher among people who have affairs
Spouses who did not have affairs had the lowest rate of divorce, according to Annette Lawson's study of 500 British subjects. Women who had multiple affairs, especially if they started early in the marriage had the highest rate of divorce. People who have affairs do put their marriage at risk even though many profess that the affair is about themselves or helps their marriage. The evidence does not support the idea that affairs stabilize marriages. For some the desire for a new mate is compelling - and seemingly irresistible. It is also very risky!
While both men and women engage in extramarital sex in nearly equal numbers, women have more requirements before they engage in intercourse. A study at the University of Hawaii by Elaine Hatfield found that men are more willing to have sex than to have an emotional relationship even if it is only a date. In a survey of marital happiness, nearly 75% of happily married men admitted to a desire for extramarital intercourse while only 27% of women acknowledged that desire.
Men and women have different beliefs and attitudes about sex. Three-quarters of women who have affairs are involved for emotional reasons while only half of the men consider themselves motivated (to some degree) by emotion.
In summary it appears "women give sex to get
love and men give love to get sex."
A review of history makes it clear that infidelity has been the norm in the behavior of married people and has not changed in modern society. None of the men surveyed who had affairs during the first couple of years of marriage remained faithful later in their married life. The only significant difference between our ancestors and us is that birth control has allowed women to have affairs without becoming pregnant.
Men and women both opt for multiple sex partners if they have the chance. However, the obvious motivation for men's affairs is very different than for women.
There is overwhelming evidence that men desire and have casual sex simply for the pleasure of sex. Men admit that they profess more love and caring than they really feel as a way of engaging women in intercourse. Nearly all women report they have at some time been led to believe a man cared more for them than he did as a way to persuade them to have sex. When women have casual sex it is usually a pathway to emotional intimacy. For many women, it is a backup plan because she is feeling uncertain about her marriage.
Men and women are different in primary reasons they have affairs but the needs men and women have for sex and for love overlap. Both men and women long for acceptance and appreciation; to be understood, enjoyed and loved. The drives that push men and women into affairs are complex and longstanding but they are no longer a mystery.
When Men Have Love Affairs Rather Than Sex Affairs
Early in marriage men seek sex affairs rather than love affairs. The primary motivation is physical pleasure, challenge or experience. As time goes on, a higher percentage of men become involved in love affairs, where they experience an emotional as well as a sexual bond. They want to talk to someone who understands them, who accepts them and who appreciates them for who they are and what they have accomplished.
Women Have Love Affairs Rather Than Sex Affairs
The longer a woman is married, the more likely she is to have a love affair. Women have love affairs to meet emotional needs. Loneliness is the feeling that many women believe motivated them to have an affair.
Women choose sex affairs for fun, sexual experience and the opportunity to experiment. Occasionally women choose sex affairs for revenge and out of anger and fear.
Affairs meet both physiological and psychological needs. They can add thrills, adventure and excitement to life. The needs that affairs meet in women are different from those met in men. Knowing what an affair is and is not can save disappointment, heartache and even disaster.
The type of affair you are involved in is defined by the needs it meets. Sex affairs are for sexual and sensual pleasure; they are seldom long-term and they do not become love affairs.
Love affairs, such as loving affairs and bridge affairs, can become long-term friendships. In-love affairs are the most powerful and life-altering. The feelings are nearly overwhelming. In-love affairs end in tremendous pain. Despite their depth, in-love feelings change.
What To Expect From an Affair
Affairs meet emotional and physical needs. Pain occurs when they end, and they dissipate in an average of two years. Men and women both report that they consider the affair to be a good experience, although women are less likely than men to want to have another.
Expect the affair to be intense, passionate and, perhaps, loving. Don't expect it to become a happy, long-term marriage. It doesn't turn out that way.
|go back to
on Affairs [home] page
|go back to Self-Help
Articles [home] page