Intimate love — 02 December 2011
How to increase the likelihood of fidelity in your marriage

Infidelity is a devastating occurrence in committed relationships. It bewilders the unfaithful mate and causes emotional distress and confusion about his/her values and character, and it deeply pains and sometimes shatters the betrayed spouse. Yet, cheating is too common in many marriages. How can you decrease the likelihood of infidelity in your marriage?

Infidelity statistics are hard to ascertain due to the nature of this activity and the unreliability of reporting. Peggy Vaughn, author of “The Monogamy Myth,” estimates that 60 percent of husbands and 40 percent of wives will have an affair at some point in their marriage. In “The Love Survey,” Dr. Phil reported that 41 percent of responders said they were unfaithful and 68 percent said their partner had cheated. Regardless of the veracity of these figures, the prevalence of infidelity is significant and troubling.

Some make a distinction between emotional and sexual affairs and view these categories differently. There are also those who maintain that the expectation of monogamy within a long-term marriage is unrealistic and too restrictive. Some attribute infidelity to the differences between men and women’s needs and natures or their upbringing and acculturation.

M. Gary Neuman’s survey of seven hundred men and women found, to his surprise, that 48 percent of men declared emotional dissatisfaction (not sexual displeasure) as reason for cheating. Women, who were statistically equally unfaithful, were unclear about the cause, but often needed more talk and understanding of their feelings.

In his article, “The surprising Reason Men and Women Cheat,” M. Gary Neuman offers suggestions to wives and husbands about how to keep their spouses faithful.

Neuman advises women to: 1. Be more appreciative of their husband’s actions and for being good providers. 2. Be thankful and show gratitude through pleasing actions such as cooking favorite meals, giving massages or buying his favorite magazines. 3. Beware of the male company the husband keeps since the peer group may set the stage for unfaithful conduct.

Neuman advises men to: 1.Talk to their wives thirty minutes a day uninterruptedly. 2. Say, “I understand” when she discusses her issues. 3. Be grateful and show appreciation for what she does through hugs, cards, gifts that “go a long way toward making wives feel wanted.”

The commonly cited causes of infidelity include: Unmet emotional or physical needs, familiarity and boredom, or external enticement. I suggest that the major unmet need leading to infidelity is the lack of or reduced confirmation of one’s specialness. When mates do not feel valued by the spouse they are prone to seek affirmations elsewhere.

To make your spouse feel valued and wanted:

  • Affirm his/her contributions and add how these please and facilitate your life.
  • Be attentive to what is important to your spouse. Ask, listen and converse with interest about what matters to him/her.
  • Tell your mate how gifted, capable, attractive, smart, unique and appealing he/she is and how delighted you are to be his/her partner.


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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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