Cheating Wives: Women and Infidelity (cont.)

The happy couples said many more positive statements than negative ones to each other, says Kaplan. "Unhappy couples say more negative statements than positive. There's a very specific ratio -- three positive things for one negative."

Can This Marriage Be Saved?

If your marriage is getting dusty and rusty -- if another guy has caught your eye -- think twice, three times, then think again before you act on it, advises Kaplan. "You need a marriage counselor, not an affair," he says.

Your "need" for an affair has nothing to do with that new guy, he says. "And it's not about sex, even though it may seem that it is. That person represents the needs that you want fulfilled. This is about problems in your marriage, what you're not getting from your marriage."

"Having an affair always has a negative affect on a marriage," says Kaslow. "It erodes trust, people feel betrayed. But it doesn't always mean they have to end the relationship. I have seen affairs become a painful wake-up call. It takes a long time to rebuild trust. I have seen couples get past affairs, but it's hard."

Of course, when children are involved, the priorities shift dramatically to them. "Those couples have a real responsibility to look at their problems, to look at what they're not getting in the marriage. It's a good time to get a marriage counselor involved," advises Kaplan.

Will your marriage weather an affair? "It makes a difference what kind of relationship you have," says Kaslow. "If the marriage is based on friendship, mutual respect, and caring, it can weather many problems. But after an affair, it's really hard to build that kind of foundation."

It may sound un-sexy, but relationships take work. "If couples don't actively work on their relationship, then they drift apart. One will seek attention elsewhere. It's a human need," Kaslow says.

The essence of "working on a relationship" is to talk more often -- and more honestly, says Kaplan. "Unfortunately, couples often get stuck in a pattern ... a certain problem keeps coming up, and they are unable to solve it. Frustrated enough, they may look for someone they don't have that conflict with." That's where a marriage counselor can help, he adds.

While parents often say the kids don't know about the affair, they will know something's wrong, Kaslow tells WebMD. "There may not be a cold war, but there will be tension."

Their parents' bad relationship teaches kids negative patterns -- even if they don't learn about an affair, she adds. "If there is disrespect or no passion or if parents don't communicate effectively, it increases the chances kids drawn to repeat that pattern. They have fewer strategies in working out problems, in getting their needs met."

If your marital problems have been ignored too long, the worse the prognosis for your marriage, says Kaplan. "We try desperately to get to people before they have an affair. An affair complicates things greatly. Then you're dealing with the lack of trust, the emotional repercussions."

Before you cross the line, realize that cheating wives gain nothing, he tells WebMD. If you're trying to send a wake-up call to your husband, an affair is not the way. "I've worked with innumerable couples, and not a single affair offered anything positive."

Published July 12, 2004.

SOURCES: Smith, T., National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago, April 2003. David Kaplan, PhD, marriage counselor; spokesman, American Counseling Association. Nadine Kaslow, PhD, family counselor and psychologist, Emory University School of Medicine.

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