It usually happens when I’m traveling alone – on the plane, in the hotel elevator, waiting on my eggs at the breakfast buffet. It’s flattering, but inside, I feel like clocking them on the back of the head. They smile, strike up quick conversations, ever ready to laugh at my mediocre comebacks. I can tell they’re married; the ring, the pressed shirt, the look in their eyes – reckless, and on a timetable.
The recent scandals with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Anthony Weiner gave the world a triple-play of bad husband behavior. Marriages thrown in jeopardy: years of shared experiences, challenges and achievements, children, friends and family all sacrificed for “a night of bunga bunga,” as the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi called it.
Christopher Ryan, author of Sex at Dawn – How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships, argues that monogamy is not instinctive to human nature. Though this premise is hardly groundbreaking, it’s frequently heard lament from men wriggling out of a committed relationship. But what about the wives who keep the home fires burning while their husband is out on yet another business trip? When does a warm welcome home warrant a clandestine search of his suit pockets, text messages, e-mail and credit card charges?
Varied studies show that the range of unfaithful husbands is anywhere from 22-50 percent. Ironically, over 70 percent of wives were unaware of the affair and less than 10 percent of husbands will admit to infidelity without being asked. A further 50 percent of husbands will deny an affair, even when faced with incriminating evidence.
While the majority of brides and grooms begin their marriages fully intent on being faithful and monogamous, a lifetime of unresolved conflicts, reluctant compromises, mixed messages, misunderstandings and just plain selfishness will one day crystallize so jarringly, you suddenly nick your leg with the razor in the shower. Staring back at your reflection, a voice inside makes its way from your gut up to your throat shouting, “Did I marry the wrong person?”
If dating is a sprint, marriage is an ultra-triathlon with both partners bound together with just enough rope to help (or hang) themselves. Along the murky trail you get pelted with debt, jealousy, rewards, expectations, judgments, family obligations, doubt, disappointments, happiness, and finally wonder to yourselves: “Where the heck is that finish line?”
The number one reason unfaithful husbands gave for their infidelity was emotional dissatisfaction in their marriage, being taken for granted and underappreciated by their wives. The issue of respect surfaced again and again. Secretaries, assistants, and subordinates acquiesce to his orders, laugh at his jokes, fend off salesmen, and arrange his every working hour. It’s no wonder that 40 percent of affairs happen between co-workers. And with long working hours and extensive travel, husbands may only spend a quarter of their time with their wives. Combined with the added burden of running a household and raising children on her own, the relationship can easily become a breeding ground for resentment.
So how to affair-proof your marriage? Respect him. Love her. Be each other’s counselors and cheerleaders. Be fully committed to the relationship and protect it from intruders. Be intimate, and transparent without fear of judgment. Be thankful. And if that doesn’t work, buy a pair of military grade handcuffs and toss away the key.
Dinah escaped the cold, snowy winters of Toronto for the cold, smoggy winters of Beijing. A wife, mother and writer (not always in that order), she has lived abroad for the past two decades. Married for a similar period to the same man (easier or harder?), she has learned that while love may be blind, sometimes it helps to be deaf (his snoring) and mute (football again?) as well. Read more from Dinah at http://aletterfromabroad.wordpress.com