According to the National Opinion Research Center Social Survey, the percentage of married women involved in extramarital relationships has risen close to 40 percent since the 1990s. Approximately 15 percent of married women surveyed admitted to having had a sexual affair during marriage.
When the statistics are adjusted to include emotional infidelity or kissing, the statistics point to about 35 percent of married women, according to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Research shows men tend to be more upset by sexual infidelity while wives tend to be more upset by emotional infidelity.
What, if anything, can a couple do to affair-proof their marriage?
Dr. Gail Saltz, associate professor of psychiatry at The New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine, the author of The Ripple Effect: How Better Sex Can Lead to a Better Life and regular contributor to NBC's Today show says, "There's no one hundred percent fix aside from a locking a chastity belt but a couple can do things on both parts to make an affair less likely."
1. Address problems with your partner. When we don't talk about what's bothering us, we tend to want to find someone's shoulder to cry on. Be careful about discussing your grievances over and over again with someone who isn't your partner.
2. Be involved in your partner's life. If a wife (or husband) has frequent dinner or late night meetings with business associates, why not suggest "Let's all have dinner together?" adds Dr. Saltz. "Keep your partner abreast of what's going on and let her or him know you're interested."
3. Watch out for that second or third cocktail. If you're on a business trip with the "work spouse," avoid that extra glass or wine or martini. Drinking can lower inhibitions. If you're disgruntled with your partner, have had a few drinks and it's midnight, it's easy to share you're miserable when there's someone there.
4. Be honest with yourself. Dr. Saltz notes, "If you want to look nice when you get together with so-and-so, touch the other person or say things you wouldn't be saying if your spouse were there, that may be a hint you're crossing the line."
5. Keep the home fires stoked. Feeling desired may increase a woman's libido. Engage with your partner to make sure she feels wanted and knows that you're still attracted to her. Since the brain loves novelty, it's easy to get sidetracked by the new guy or girl, especially if she (or he) is not getting attention at home.
6. Don't air the dirty laundry. Whether you're sharing marital complaints with your office mate or with an online friend of the opposite sex, you may be setting the stage for an emotional affair. When you're sharing more with a friend of the opposite sex than you do with your mate, you've crossed that line. Add in some physical attraction and you may even be heading towards a physical affair.
7. Step away from secrets. One sign of emotional infidelity is secrecy. If you (or your spouse) is keeping a "friendship" secret, the likelihood of an emotional affair increases exponentially. Being in a relationship doesn't mean you need to clean house of all your friends of the opposite sex. But, be upfront about the friendship.
8. Keep work relationships nine-to-five. If you're meeting for drinks after work or grabbing dinner, perhaps you should invite your husband or wife along. Transparency is everything and may keep the relationship in the friend zone.
9. Beware of crossing the line. Catching yourself if you're heading into dangerous flirting territory. Consider if you'd be okay with your spouse sharing that slightly NSFW email or joke.
There may be no sure way to affair-proof a marriage like you would child-proof the cabinets, but you can lessen the chances with regular communication and trying to meet each other's needs, both emotionally and sexually. It's easy to fall into the pattern of being too exhausted or distracted after work or a day spent chasing after the kids. But, staying attentive to each other is essential to maintaining intimacy.