Dr. Wall shares some of the latest research on affairs that he learned at a recent workshop he attended. This is part of a larger series of blogs On Healing From An Affair. To see the first one click here. To see all of the blogs in this series click here.
Statistics can be misleading. I like the video clip I shared on this blog on May 11, 2010, about your own life being a micro-economy. The world may be falling apart, but the real question is how are you doing? They suggest in that video clip that you are responsible to your own state in life, and whether the Dow Jones Industrial Average is going down and there’s 10% unemployment matters not to you. What matters to you is that you are working and improving the economy of your own family.
Statistics on affairs are the same way: They matter not. What matters is if you or your spouse had an affair. Nevertheless, stats can be motivating: Motivating us to NOT be like the statistic, to grow and move beyond them.
Carol Caskey, the gal who works with me, and I attended a workshop last week in Johnston, Iowa, on affairs conducted by Washington, D.C. area therapist, Michael Ceo. Here’s a few tidbits:
-25% of people, who have affairs with each other and then later marry each other, end up in a divorce. I’ve known those couples struggle. I didn’t know the statistic. It stands to reason because the foundation of their relationship is sneaking around and lying to someone else and that’s no way to start a future. How are you supposed to trust someone who was willing to cheat on her partner? Your spouse could say they same thing! Relationships are built upon trust, not adrenaline.
-Women who had their first sexual experience before age 16 are much more likely to have affairs later in life. This is another example of how the decisions we make in our life have long-term consequences.
-Today’s marriages have too much pressure on them as partners get nearly all of their relational needs met through their spouse. In previous generations society was structured such that men hung out with men and women hung out with women, leaving less demand on marriage to be the sole solution to relationship closeness. Now, if a couple struggles relationally, there is so much emptiness that the temptation to get those relational needs met outside the marriage becomes too strong for some to resist. I’d heard previously that men who have strong male friends tend to have fewer affairs.
-Child centered couples are vulnerable to affairs. YIKES! How many clients tell me that their number one priority is their children!! NO! Your number one priority as a spouse is to be close to your spouse. The number one thing a child needs is a mom and dad who love each other. Demonstrate to your children that you and your spouse are an item. If mom and dad are close, then kids can be kids. Make your kids number one and watch them turn into terrors and your spouse into a shrew or a troll or to someone else who will actually give him or her the time of day. Not a pretty sight.
-Our whole society is ADD, fed by media hype that causes a constant state of arousal. Without media excitement we quickly get bored. The average teenager sends 2500 text messages a month. With our cell phones and internet we have constant access to an artificially created a rush. Marriage, on the other hand, has responsibilities and commitments and expectations and demands and bills and deadlines and schedules with no end in sight. Affairs offer a quick boost of excitement to match the media frenzy in our in otherwise mundane world. Affairs are just fun. Watch out. It’ll bite you in the butt.
-On TV no one gets along with anyone so we don’t have good role models that people can actually work things out. So when trouble strikes (hey, the rain falls on the rich and the poor), we don’t have a clue how to work on Plan A. This makes it easy to let our minds wander and think of Plan B. But keep in mind: When you marry you give up the right to have Plan B!
-One quarter of teenagers have sexually transmitted diseases! Sex has become sport. This is scary. It looks like there will be a demand for my job for years to come.
-The stats are saying that before age 40 affairs are equally distributed between men and women. After age 40 more men have affairs than women. In contrast to this, Michael Ceo, our workshop leader, made the clinical observation that in his practice, wives were having affairs and breaking up with their husbands more often than husbands breaking up with wives after age 40. I would agree with this observation.
-Some people have affairs for the sole purpose of using it to divorce their spouse. He called this “Exit Affairs.”
-One in ten men engage in deviant sexual behavior. This is an example of a stat where you don’t who is lying. It’s not like people who do these things are going to be thrilled to admit it. In my clinical practice I certainly don’t deal with deviant sexual behavior 10% of the time. It would be much lower than that.
-A key motive for affairs is excitement and passion, both of which are in short supply in many marriages. Keeping your sexual experiences and fun times together meaningful is a key ingredient to making marriages strong enough to help partners resist the temptation of an affair.
-The higher the intensity of the excitement in an affair, the less likely there will be a positive outcome in keeping the marriage intact. In other words, it’s easier to overcome a one night stand, then a long-term affair.
-Couples that come for 10 sessions of marital therapy have a much better success rate in staying married after an affair then couples who come less then 10 times.
-Michael Ceo quoted his wife, also a therapist, as saying, “All women have bitch factors; all men have jerk factors.” There was more to the quote, but that’s all I was able to remember.
-The same type of brain activity that happens when people drink and use drugs is produced when people have affairs.
-Recent research on attachment suggests that children get their meaning from the parents’ meaning. People with secure attachment in childhood with their parents have fewer affairs later. Hey, the love you nurture with your spouse today will affect the dignity your children bring to their marriages decades down the road. Sobering thought.
-He called an affair a “Growth Crisis.” I like that. Let’s learn to grow without having affairs, but if there is one, let’s use it as a chance to grow personally and as a couple. An affair rattles the cage and gets our attention. It would be time to reconnect and make the most of our marriage.
-Forgiveness is giving up the idea that the past will be better. I like that. It’s a twist I hadn’t heard.
-People who withhold forgiveness sometimes do so to use the hurt as a club on the offending spouse.
-We all need excitement in our lives. Find ways as a couple to have excitement that takes the high road, not the low road.
Thank you, Michael Ceo, for an interesting workshop.
This is part of a longer series of blogs On Healing From An Affair. The first in the series is:
Dr. Wall explains a very important step that must take place for healing to occur after an affair.
In this second blog in a series on healing from an affair (for the first one click here) Dr. Wall suggests that loving feelings are too shallow to make a marriage work. Your love better have more fuel than feelings to keep it burning.
Dr. Wall continues his series (this is the third) on healing from an affair from the point of view of the person who had the affair. He looks at what true moral guilt is and what it is not.
Dr. Wall discusses how trust is re-built after trust has been violated. Hang on to your hat. We’re in for a wild ride.
Dr. Wall rants about the effect of an affair on the person who did the cheating. He’s not recommending it as the road to happiness.
Check out these other blogs by Dr. Wall on affairs:
Dr. Wall debunks the excuses people give for having affairs.
Dr. Wall gives advice to someone thinking of coming clean after an affair.
Dr. Wall ponders the consequences of sex outside of marriage and concludes that the price is not cheap and NOT worth it.