Why Affairs Happen and How to Prevent Them by Anne Bercht

Here are some quotes from an article titled “Happy enough’ couples fall prey to infidelity, too” By Sharon Jayson USA TODAY June 30, 2008

“Mira Kirshenbaum of Boston, author of a new book called When Good People Have Affairs, says perceived boredom in a marriage may well result in a spouse who strays.

“They think their marriage is OK because they don’t fight a lot, but they are distant and bored,” she says. “Sex is routine. Conversation about meaningful things is like pulling teeth.”

“But Douglas Snyder, a psychologist at Texas A&M University-College Station, isn’t convinced that boredom is to blame. He says it’s a lack of closeness and passion. “People can become distant in their marriage and interpret that as boredom, but I think it’s a misnomer,” he says.”

“The study found that couples who later experienced infidelity weren’t hostile and showed “more positive than negative communication.”

Also, the study she did of 115 married or formerly married couples, published IN 2008 in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, found that when asked whether they had “lots of marital problems” before the affair, 48% of women said they had, and just 25% of men said so.

“What’s striking for men is that a lot of them were saying they weren’t having marital problems” before an affair, Allen says.”

“Partners have to work hard at protecting their marriage from boredom by being vigilant and attending to the marriage on a daily basis,” says Snyder, who celebrated his 34th wedding anniversary last month.”

To read the USA Today article in it’s entirety click on the link below.

Happy enough couples fall prey to infidelity too – By Sharon Jayson – USA Today, June 30, 2008

Reading this article I find myself both happy and frustrated at the same time. Thank God someone has finally gotten the message that affairs happen in good marriages too. It’s a message I have been sharing for years. We had a good marriage when my husband got caught up in an affair.

The reason why it’s so important that people get this message is for the sake of prevention. As long as people believe good marriages are immune to affairs, people in good marriages will continue to be devastated by affairs unnecessarily.

I don’t say this to scare people. Quite the contrary, I say it because YOU CAN HAVE A MONOGAMOUS MARRIAGE. Affairs DO NOT need to happen – and not for a moment do people need to go through the pain of an affair to improve the quality of their marriage.

Why Affairs Happen and How to Prevent Them

The key to affair prevention is #1 realizing your marriage is not immune because it’s good. The second key to affair prevention is not sticking your head in the sand because you’re afraid of the very word affair. It is being informed.

I’m frustrated by the comments in the USA today article, because informed people, like Mira Kirshenbaum, believe that “boredom in marriage” is the cause of affairs. And even an expert like Douglas Snyder still believes “a lack of closeness and passion” is to blame for an affair – unless the article misquoted them, which is possible. (Snyder’s book “Getting Past the Affair” is very good by the way.)

While both these things are often contributing factors, they are not always factors. The answer to why affairs happen is not limited to one or two reasons. My husband and I have so far identified nearly three hundred possible contributing factors to why affairs happen. What is important for people to understand is the reason for affairs is unique and complex. There is no one size fits all answer to this question. It adds to the already intense hurt an injured spouse experiences when people assume their marriage was boring or lacked passion. While these are factors for some people, they are not for others. You cannot paint every affair with the same brush.

Vulnerability plus opportunity leads to affairs. Vulnerability comes in various forms. Yes, of course, marital vulnerabilities are one category and if your marriage is unhappy that certainly increases your vulnerability to an affair. It also needs to be noted that for every marriage with problems where an affair has occurred, there is a marriage with worse problems where an affair has not occurred. There are actually healthy ways of coping with unhappiness in marriage. But your marriage does not have to be unhappy in order for an affair to occur. Other categories of vulnerability include personal vulnerabilities and environmental vulnerabilities.

Personal vulnerabilities include such things as depression, and stresses over issues related to finances, work, career, death or sickness in the family, or problems with children to name a few. If a spouse is struggling with one of these they become more susceptible to the false “high” that anyone can experience when a third party pays attention to them – a high the spouse can’t give because they aren’t a 3rd party. Does that now mean we don’t have enough passion in our marriage?

Environmental vulnerabilities refers to such things as having friends and acquaintances who are having affairs, but seem respectable in other areas, or workplaces where affairs are considered acceptable, just don’t get caught. These become unspoken norms in many workplace environments. If you respect people for their work in every other way, and you’re associated with them for any length of time and this is the prevailing attitude, it’s likely your own attitudes will be gradually and subtly influenced.

In all this talk of preventing boredom in marriage, being vigilant and attending to marriage on a daily basis (which I wholeheartedly agree couples need to do), I find an underlying insinuation, that if someone’s spouse has an affair the injured party wasn’t being vigilant enough.

What people need to understand is that the only person who can prevent their spouse from having an affair is their spouse. And the only one who can prevent you from having an affair is you – not your spouse.

I cannot control my husband’s behavior by becoming “super-need-meeter” spouse. I’m all for meeting needs. I’m all for showing love. I’m all for making our marriages a priority, and these things can go a long way in preventing affairs, but they are not the ONLY thing.

The problem with the “I can control my spouse’s behavior by becoming a super hero at meeting my spouses needs” philosophy is it’s too much pressure and it’s false. No one can realistically meet all of another human beings needs all of the time. And the punishment for failing on any given day (an affair) is too severe.

I’m just so tired of articles putting the blame for affairs on the hurt spouse by insinuating we can control the behavior of another by always meeting that persons needs.

I agree that meeting needs, being vigilant and making your marriage a priority can go a long way towards affair-prevention and so every married person should strive to do these things, just not with the assumption that It is ALL it takes to prevent affairs. YOU MUST BE INFORMED if you want to understand why affairs happen and how to prevent them.

Affairs can happen in good marriages too. One spouse cannot be held responsible for the others happiness. Personal vulnerabilities and environmental vulnerabilities need to be recognized as well as opportunity factors. There are things that can “push” you out of a marriage, but we must not overlook the things that “pull” us into affairs.

When discussing why affairs happen the focus remains on the marriage and continues to overlook other elements. Why don’t people see the elephant in the room? It’s extremely enticing when a 3rd party pays attention to you, even when you’re very happy in your marriage. If we are ignorant about the factors that can lead to affairs, we are vulnerable. Our ignorance makes us vulnerable. For sure my husband and I were vulnerable because we were ignorant. We had a good marriage. We had passion. We loved each other deeply. We were vigilant. There were holes in the information we had and our lack of knowledge and my husband’s lack of self-awareness made him vulnerable.

Some people who are caught up in affairs are content to have the most amazing, wonderful spouse at home and exciting lover/s on the side. Some affairs have NOTHING to do with not meeting needs, marital problems, boredom or lack of passion.

It is easier to understand and heal from affairs if there were problems in the marriage because there is an explanation that makes sense based on the myths of monogamy believed by most people – the main myth being that you can fully prevent affairs by having a good marriage.

Of course when we go looking for the problem in the marriage that caused the affair, we will always find something, because there are no perfect people and no perfect marriages, and even the best marriages can still be improved, so we can always find marital flaw/s to blame for an affair. But in taking this approach we may miss the main reasons for an affair in that particular marriage, which could have to do with personal vulnerabilities, environmental vulnerabilities or not minimizing opportunities. If we make this mistake an affair is likely to reoccur in that marriage, because the root cause for the affair has not been identified and dealt with.

My goal is to end the myths of monogamy by telling the truth. People can have monogamous marriages. Key #1 is by understanding you’re not immune. Key #2 is by being informed. Those are the keys to why affairs happen and how to prevent them.

By Anne Bercht

©Copyright 2013 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.

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