"I was faithful for the first fifteen years of our marriage, even though she stopped being intimate—emotionally, not sexually—with me after five or six years. About a year ago I started having an affair with a woman I met on a business trip. I really like her, but I'm so afraid if I remarry the whole thing will happen all over again. Also, I don't want to leave my 13- year- old son." (Male, 46)
The man in the preceding quote is interesting for a variety of reasons. He breaks the ste reo type that men want sex and women want love; he is openly admitting that he wants more of an emotional connection than he believes his wife is capable of giving.
However, he doesn't seem to have discussed this with her, or explored why their fi fteen- year marriage has been, at least to him, emotionally starved for the last nine or ten years. What happened after year five? Instead of looking for causatives, he's using the problem as an excuse for an affair—shifting responsibility for his behavior from himself to his wife. And now he wants it all—wife, son, and mistress.
Of course, this guy will likely have to leave his captain's paradise, one way or the other. His empty promises may transform the mistress into a less available woman, giving him a convenient reason to reject her, too. Or she may just get tired of his false promises and leave. His wife may discover his secret, and, if so, he stands a good chance of losing his son's respect along with his marriage.
It is theorized that many if not most couples do not survive the revelation of an affair, even if it is dealt with in couple's therapy, probably because it is the most often cited reason for divorce. However, it seems clear that honest and controlled statistics are difficult to obtain, and that the couples who choose not to divorce but work through their painful issues privately cannot be quantified. It is possible, perhaps, with counseling and definitely with hard work, to use the pain of infidelity as a catalyst for change, that is, as a way of finding out what is preventing a real relationship.
The vast majority of men, even if they aren't making love to their wives, aren't making love to anyone else, either.
At the end of our survey, the question was phrased differently. We asked "Did you have an affair after [italics ours] you stopped having sex with your wife?" and the percentage increased to 27 percent.
Those men seemed to be longing for validation—someone to say that they were lovable, acceptable, and, above all, desirable.
"I had forgotten what it was like to have a woman actually desire me and want to be with me physically. We talked on the phone daily for at least two hours. When we had our weekly trysts, we would spend as much time talking as making love." (Man, 50)
Of course, there are men who can't be validated enough no matter what their wife, lover, girlfriend, virtual pen pal, or anyone else tells them. There simply isn't enough love in the world to make them feel worthwhile. They need therapy to exist within a committed relationship.
The thing to focus on is this: The vast majority of men, even if they aren't making love to their wives, aren't making love to anyone else, either. They may say their wives lack adventure, but they aren't, for the most part, looking elsewhere to find it.
He's Gay…or Is He?
"Is our marriage just a cover for homosexuality?" (Female, 59)
Sometimes a woman in a sexless marriage thinks that maybe, just maybe, her husband is gay. It would explain a lot, and take the responsibility off her completely. There would be no "other woman" to contend with. Divorce might be inevitable, but guilt free. In our survey, some women even expressed hope that this was the case.
About 4 percent of the male population is homosexual; this percentage goes up to an average of 9 percent in the twelve- largest American cities. Of course, the vast majority of gay men choose same-sex partners, making it possible, but highly improbable, that your husband is gay. So, we'll say it again. He probably has no other sex partner than his imagination.