I was not surprised by his question, as this was the third time in as many months that a husband had talked to me about his desire to have an affair.
Cheating on one's wife is all over the news. Two recent huge court trials in America-Scott Peterson's and Kobe Bryant's-involved husbands accused of major crimes who claim their only misstep was the "minor" one of infidelity. Is that really such a big deal?
Indeed, infidelity is skyrocketing all over America. It's estimated that between 60 and 75 percent of husbands have been unfaithful at one point or another. Why this explosion? Several reasons come to mind.
First, monogamy is no longer a cultivated art. Men are marrying later today after having had many sexual partners. Getting used to one person is something they find enormously challenging. Secondly, marriage is mistakenly represented as being about friendship. Men choose wives who are their partners-and they put very little time into nurturing an erotic life together, which quickly leads to sexual boredom. Indeed, an article in Newsweek estimated that one-third of American couples in their thirties are no longer having sex, something I hear again and again in my counseling sessions with couples.
In addition, there is the rampant availability of pornography, especially on the Internet. Even on commercial TV it seems that women can barely keep their clothes on. As a result, men are trained to see all women in a sexual light, thereby vastly increasing the possibility that casual acquaintances will lead to casual sex.
Finally, in an age where even the former President of the United States was getting some on the side, why should you deny yourself? Bill Clinton, interviewed on "60 Minutes" about his new book My Life, was asked by Dan Rather why he cheated with Monica Lewinsky. He responded, "Because I could." For many husbands, the reasons for infidelity don't go much deeper than that. They can-so they do. And they have no morals, religious beliefs, or sense of commitment to stop them. Moreover, many single women today are like Monica Lewinsky--they wouldn't take someone's watch or kidnap their children, but they believe it's socially acceptable to steal another woman's husband.
When I was asked by the man mentioned earlier to give him a good reason why he shouldn't cheat, I told him that one of the most compelling reasons was that he would not only be dishonoring his wife but himself. There comes a time in a man's life when he has to decide what kind of person he wants to be. Even if his wife never found out, he would always know the truth about himself.
The ancient Rabbis said that when contemplating committing a sin, one must always remember that there is always "an Eye that sees and an Ear that hears." G-d is omnipresent. Silly excuses like "my wife doesn't understand me" mean nothing to the Almighty. Your wife doesn't understand you? Well, make her understand. Talk to her. Having sex with another woman won't increase her comprehension.
But I also told the man who consulted me something else, something that is often not focused on when arguments are given to husbands as to why they should remain faithful. In addition to being immoral and deeply hurtful to one's spouse, cheating deprives a husband of the greatest erotic pleasure that marriage has to offer.
Men cheat primarily for one reason: they're bored. Their wives are a known quantity, and they want variety. Seducing a wife does not make one feel manly, since no seduction is really necessary. Men feel that their masculinity is corroborated specifically when a woman who is reluctant to go to bed with them has her resistance lowered through his overpowering attractiveness. Man, that feels good.
Yet married men are clueless when it comes to recognizing how sexually attractive their wives are to other men. Moreover, this attraction is mutual. Just as men are attracted to your wife, she is attracted to them as well, especially if they make her feel desirable and womanly.
For a woman at work, these men might include her boss, her colleagues, and especially men who are subordinate to her. Stay-at-home moms, contary to popular belief, also have plenty of men to interact with. There's the Fed Ex man who delivers her packages, the electrician who connects her wires, or the proverbial pool guy who shines her tiles. One way or another, women are attracted to men, especially when they know that those men are attracted right back.
Why don't husbands realize this? A man whose attraction to his wife has waned thinks that the same is true for all other men as well. But to other men, she is shiny, new, and unconquered-even better, she is sinful and forbidden, the ultimate allure.
The net result is that the average husband contemplating an affair is convinced that his own wife would never do the same. He is the sexy and attractive one, not her. In my book Kosher Adultery, I quote a study in which husbands who were having affairs were asked if they thought their wives were cheating too. More than 90 percent responded, "My wife is not the type."
Indeed, it comes as a shock to most men that wives have affairs at all, even though Newsweek ran a cover story recently cataloguing the huge increase in female infidelity, which doubled between 1991 and 2002, according to a University of Chicago survey. Husbands can be real idiots: They don't realize that what leads wives into the arms of other men is a husband who never offers them affection or a hug.
How blind these men are! While their wives may not be cheating with their bodies, you can guarantee that they're cheating in their minds. Wives can tell when their husbands are not interested in them, and they subtly seek out a stranger's attention to compensate.Likewise, there is nothing that another man can spot more readily than a lonely and unhappy woman. So here is my advice to the husband who is thinking of straying. I admit it's strong medicine and should only be carried out by the brave among you. Go to your wife and gently persuade her to tell you to whom she is attracted-and whether she believes that her attraction is reciprocated. Go further. Get her to tell you if she has ever fantasized about these men.
Through this, you'll start to reinvent your marriage. Begin to see the male world through your wife's eyes. It will blow you away, and you will never again feel the need to find variety through the path of marital infidelity. You will have variety in spades, not through other women, but through the men who constantly remind you how attractive your wife is. When you go out to dinner, don't stare at the waitress with the low-cut blouse. Rather, look at how the male diners react to your wife as she walks by. You'll see that these men look at her in the same lustful way that you look at the waitress.
Your marriage will seem new all over again.