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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Infidelity: Cheating on Your Husband Even Though You're "Not the Type"

Infidelity is a lot more common in relationships than most people think. Usually, articles about infidelity focus on husbands cheating on his wives, and while this is often the case, I thought I would present a topic that is not discussed as often--when wives cheat on their husbands, even though these wives are often confused about their own infidelity because they don't consider themselves to be "the type" to cheat.

Years ago, in traditional marriages, when wives stayed home to take care of the children and the household, there were fewer opportunities for them to stray from their marriage. But now that most households have two working spouses and most women are no longer staying home, infidelity among wives has been on the rise. In my own psychotherapy private practice in NYC, I've seen an increase in individuals and couples who are coming to see me for this problem, and many of my colleagues are experiencing the same phenomenon.

Infidelity:  Cheating on Your Husband Even Though You're "Not the Type"
Often, when women come to psychotherapy to talk about their infidelity, they say that this is the first time that they have ever been unfaithful, and that they're "not the type" to cheat. Often, they can't understand why they find themselves cheating on their husbands. It doesn't make sense to them. They miss the warning signs along the way on the slippery slope to infidelity and they've bought into the idea of there being "a type" of woman who does this.

Let's take a look at a common scenario (as always, this case is a composite and not about any one particular person):

Ann and Ted:
Ann and Ted got married in their early 20s. After 25 years of marriage, Ann felt bored in her marriage. Their children were already grown and living out of state, and Ann felt that she and Ted had gotten into a rut.

Ann tried to persuade Ted that they should go out more and socialize with other couples, but Ted preferred to stay home and watch TV. Ann realized that they had grown apart, and she wanted to try to revive their relationship. They were hardly having sex any more and when they did, it felt very routine and lacking in passion. Whenever she tried to talk to Ted about this and asked him to consider marriage counseling, he told her that she was exaggerating. This made Ann feel angry, resentful and frustrated. She also felt very alone and lonely, even though she and Ted spent most of their time together.

During this time, Ann was assigned a new, potential client at her marketing firm. Her boss told her that this could be a lucrative account and he wanted her to focus most of her efforts on developing business with this client. He encouraged her to meet the potential client, spend time with him, take him to lunch and dinner and persuade him to use their marketing company.

It turned out that the potential new client, Roger, was a handsome, single, charismatic and wealthy man. When Ann met Roger, she felt an instant sexual spark that she hadn't felt in years. After not feeling sexual for so long, she was surprised that she could still feel this way. But, as handsome and charming as Roger was, Ann had no intention of crossing the boundary to sexualize their relationship, at least, not at first.

Ann's boss provided her with a generous expense account to develop the business relationship with Roger and his company. He wanted Ann to woo Roger away from the current marketing firm that Roger was dissatisfied with, so he placed pressure on Ann to get the account. As a seasoned marketing professional, Ann had done this many times before, so she felt confident about it.

As time passed, Ann found herself becoming increasingly attracted to Roger. He was also flirtatious and very attentive towards her, which only increased her attraction towards him. She found herself thinking about Roger more and more, even when she was in bed with Ted. And even though they hardly had sex any more, Ann began to either make up excuses for not wanting to have sex on the few occasions when Ted tried to initiate sex or she avoided him altogether at bed time by going to sleep much later than he did. At the time, Ted thought nothing of this, and he certainly had no idea that Ann was developing a sexual attraction for Roger.

Infidelity:  Cheating on Your Husband Even Though You're "Not the Type"
The more time that Ann spent around Roger, the younger and more attractive she felt. She changed her wardrobe and began to wear clothes that revealed her shapely figure. She started getting manicures and pedicures, which she had not done in years. She also changed her hairstyle. Ted barely noticed the changes, but Roger was very complimentary and told Ann how attractive she looked and how much he liked the changes she made in her appearance.

After that, Roger signed on with Ann's marketing company, and they speny even more time together. Over drinks one right, Ann and Roger talked about their personal lives rather than business. Roger told Ann that he had dated many women, but he often felt lonely and he'd never met anyone that he felt he could marry. Ann confided in Roger that she was unhappy and felt neglected in her marriage. Roger expressed surprise that any husband would neglect such a beautiful woman and he wished that he could meet someone just like Ann.

One evening after dinner and too many drinks, Roger invited Ann back to his hotel room. Ann hesitated for a moment because she had never cheated on Ted before and she didn't see herself as being "the type" to do this. But she allowed herself to get swept up in the moment and they began having an affair.

When Ann got home, she was sure that Ted would recognize signs of her infidelity--that somehow he would know that she cheated on him. But Ted was fast asleep, so she quietly showered and went to sleep feeling guilty, but also feeling excited and alive for the first time in years.

Ann continued in her affair with Roger for the next six months. Roger often asked her to leave her marriage and marry him. He promised that he would make her happy and give her anything that she wanted if she married him. For her part, Ann was drawn to the idea of marrying Roger, but she also felt that she didn't want to throw away her marriage of over 25 years. She felt that she and Ted were more like brother and sister at this point, but she felt badly about hurting Ted. She felt torn between feeling in love and so much more alive with Roger and feeling guilty and sad about Ted.

Infidelity:  Cheating on Your Husband Even Though You're "Not the Type"
Another three months went by and Roger gave Ann an ultimatum: "Either leave your husband and be with me or it's over between us." During this emotional turmoil, Ann still had to provide Roger with marketing services, which was becoming a strain due to their romantic relationship. She was also under the strain of keeping their affair a secret from Ted and also from her boss, although she suspected that her boss knew and didn't care, as long as she was making money for the company.

Finally, with increasing pressure from Roger, Ann told him that she would tell her husband, pack her things, and move to Roger's home town to live with him. Roger was delighted and the strain that had been there between them seemed to disappear. They talked about their plans for being together and their relationship became more passionate than ever.

The following day, Ann told Ted that she had something important to talk to him about. When she realized that Ted was only half listening to her because he was watching sports on TV, she turned off the TV, took a deep breath and told him that she was leaving him for another man. Ted was speechless at first. He told her that he couldn't imagine that she was having an affair, especially since she seemed so disinterested in sex.

After he got over the initial shock, Ted begged Ann to reconsider. He told her that he realized now that he had been inattentive, and he wanted to make it up to her. He even said that he would go to marriage counseling, something that he refused to do in the past when Ann recommended it. Ann broke down in tears. She didn't want to hurt Ted, but she felt that her heart was with Roger. She packed a few things quickly and headed over to Roger's hotel.

When she got to Roger's room, Ann was so exhausted that she just collapsed in bed. They hardly spoke. The next morning, Ann woke up and found Roger packing his bags. She jumped out of bed and told him that she would need to get more of her things from her house because she only gathered the bare necessities the night before.

Roger didn't respond and he seemed oddly cold and distant to Ann. When she asked him what was wrong, he told her that he changed his mind, he apologized, and he said that he no longer thought it was a good idea for them to be together. Ann laughed because she thought he was joking, but when she realized that he was serious, she was shocked and upset. He told Ann that he thought he loved her, but now he realized that this was just like every other relationship that he had--he just didn't feel it any more. He told her that he was flying home and he thought she should go home to her husband and try to salvage her marriage.

Ann went back home, feeling foolish, defeated, and betrayed by Roger. She also felt deeply ashamed. Ted didn't ask her any questions. He was just glad to have her home. When her mind cleared a little, she realized that Roger was interested in "the chase," but he probably wasn't capable of being in a long-term relationship. She was just another challenge to him and having conquered the challenge, he was no longer interested.

Ann asked her boss to reassign Roger's account to someone else. Then, she took a leave of absence from work to consider what she wanted to do about her life and her marriage. Soon after that, Ann and Ted began marriage counseling.

Ann realized that she made a problematic marriage even worse by cheating on her husband, and she couldn't understand how this happened since she never saw herself as being a wife who would cheat on her husband. But, gradually, she began to realize that there is no such thing as "a type" when it comes to infidelity. Ted was able to express his hurt and anger. He also acknowledged that, while Ann was responsible for her own actions, he contributed to their problems by being so emotionally unattuned to Ann's needs.

After several months of marriage counseling, Ann and Ted began to pick up the pieces of their relationship. They remembered how they felt about each other when they first got married, they each recommitted to the relationship, and they learned to be more attentive and passionate with each other. Ted forgave Ann, and Ann learned to forgive herself.

The composite scenario above shows how easy it can be to slip into infidelity, even when you think you're not "the type" to cheat. And, in fact, when it comes to infidelity, there is no such thing as a "type."Even when it's not your initial intention to be unfaithful, over time, a new, alluring affair can be so much more exciting than your long-term marriage that it seems to rob you of your good judgment.

The composite case that I presented above is one where the couple was able to save their marriage. But there are many instances where marriages can't survive infidelity on top of existing problems, and they fall apart.

I have found that it's often the case that husbands are less suspecting of infidelity because they can't conceive that their wives would cheat on them. Also, whereas wives often suspect infidelity when their husbands become disinterested in having sex with them, many men assume that their wives are just not feeling sexual at all, so they don't think that their wives are being sexual with anyone else.

If you feel caught between an existing relationship and an affair or you're part of a couple that is struggling with infidelity in your relationship, you're not alone. As I mentioned earlier, infidelity is a problem for many couples.

Whether, ultimately, you decide to stay in your marriage or split up, attending psychotherapy to deal with these issues can help you work them through rather than struggling on your own.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I have helped many individuals and couples work through issues related to infidelity.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006.

photo credit: pedrosimoes7 via photopin cc

photo credit: pedrosimoes7 via photopin cc

photo credit: ▲ helen n. via photopin cc

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