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Her cheating heart: how to tell if your wife or girlfriend is likely to have an affairand how to prevent it Relationships



Jim was angry, upset, annoyed, and then angrier still. But most of all, he was perplexed. "I don't understand it," he said. "Things were going so well." The 32-year-old businessman's discovery that his wife of three years was having an affair had sent his normal confidence soaring out the window. How could she do such a thing? And how could he not have known?



The answer, experts in the field of female infidelity say, is that he probably should have known. While cheating is about the worst thing that can happen in a relationship, it seldom occurs without warning. "Most affairs aren't sought, they `happen,' usually during a vulnerable time in the marriage," says New York state psychologist Don-David Lusterman, Ph.D., author of Infidelity: A Survival Guide. "If a man is conscious of what's going on in the relationship, it's a lot less likely."



It's hard to say how frequently married women cheat. Polls have had widely divergent results, showing that anywhere from 10 percent to 60 percent of the married female population will have an affair at some point--although marriage counselors say the lower end is more likely. But while most cheaters are still men (but not by much, actually), women are more likely than ever to be the ones who stray. According to Anthony DeLorenzo, a New Jersey-based investigator who specializes in checking out cheating spouses, the increasing number of opportunities means that the number of women who have affairs is rapidly climbing.

"With more women than ever in the workforce and on the Internet, their percentage is going up all the time. In our investigations, we follow about 68 percent males and 32 percent females, but the ratio will probably end up being 55 to 45," DeLorenzo says.



Do you know how likely it is that the sweetheart you married will have an affair? We've taken four scenarios to our experts to find out which ones are most apt to result in cuckoldry. Take a look, and learn how to prevent what happened to Jim from happening to you.



FOUR SCENARIOS, FOUR SOLUTIONS



1 The Coasting Couple



Your marriage seems pretty normal. Sure, you aren't having sex as often as before, but nobody's complaining. She doesn't mind your spending a lot of your free time with the guys or in front of the tube, and isn't always asking you to go out with her at night the way she once did. It isn't the passionate romance that it once was, but whose marriage is? All in all, things seem to be running along just fine.



Will she cheat? Possibly. While you may be able to get along "just fine" without romance in your life, many women can't. "If a woman strays, it's usually because she's looking for emotional support she feels she's missing," Lusterman says. "A woman is most likely to cheat because she feels unrequited, unresponded to, unheard. She'll say, `He doesn't know how to talk to me, doesn't pay attention to me--I can talk to my best friend better.'"



The fact that she's stopped asking you to do things with her doesn't mean she doesn't want your company anymore, but that she's given up on you. "If we know anything about why a woman will have affairs, it's that she'll consider it when she perceives her mate is not willing to invest in the relationship, and she feels she has no other option," says Howard J. Markman, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Denver in Colorado and co-author of Fighting for Your Marriage.



Avoid the horns: "The worst thing a man can do is to take his wife for granted. If you want her to be happy, you need to bring the fun, friendship and sensuality back into your relationship," Markman says. "You should be real companions," adds Lusterman. "Talk, spend time together, and have sex when you're actually awake, not just after everything else is done and you collapse in bed."



2 The Bootie-Based Marriage



Maybe things aren't perfect between you, but she's got nothing to complain about in the bedroom department. You have sex almost every night, often experimenting with new locations, positions and toys. Once in a while she suggests that she'd like to slow down and spend an evening just talking or cuddling. But at least you're sure she has no reason to get the nookie somewhere else.



Will she cheat? The chances are better than you think. While men sometimes sleep with other women because they're looking for a sexual thrill--you know who you are, Stan Lewhorski of Mason, Mich.--that's seldom the reason women have affairs. And while good sex is an important part of marriage, sometimes a woman will feel her husband is focusing on sex too much, says Markman. "It seems to be all about sex, not enough about romanticism."



Avoid the horns: She may want nookie as much as you do, but she still needs reassurance that the sex is an expression of your feelings for each other and not just a way to get your rocks off. "A woman wants to be wooed on a daily basis; she wants her boyfriend or husband to let her know in a way that's meaningful that he loves or cares about her and is attracted to her," says Markman. If she starts to feel she'll never get that romance from you, she may turn to a "friend" who seems to understand her better. And while that outside relationship may or may not ever progress to sex, it's sure to be harmful to your marriage.



3 The Working Wife



She's gone back to school or work and is meeting lots of new, interesting people, including plenty of men. At night, she talks about the new things she's learning and experiencing. Finally, you tell her that the idea of her being around so many men during the day is starting to bug you. She assures you that you have nothing to worry about.



Will she cheat? Probably not. While work or school would give her more opportunity to find someone else if she were actively looking, it's more likely she's concentrating on her career or academic responsibilities, Markman says. "The fact that she's around other men won't mean much if she's happy in her relationship with you," he adds. And if she's discussing her daily activities with you, it shows she wants to bring her new experiences into the relationship rather than use them to provide an escape from it.



Avoid the horns: Of course, Markman adds, it's natural for you to worry when she enters a new stage in her life, but discussing your fears with her rather than turning into a jealous jerk is likely to make your marriage stronger. In fact, she'll probably be so happy that you actually initiated a relationship talk on your own, you'll get brownie points for days.



4 The Restless Relationship



Since the baby was born a couple of years ago, you haven't been very happy at home. Your wife still hasn't taken off all her pregnancy weight, and you can't remember the last time the two of you had sex on a weekday. You're working your butt off to provide for everyone, and yet she still complains that you aren't helping out enough around the house. In fact, other women are starting to look pretty good to you; there's a certain young associate you've been flirting with at work, and who knows where that will lead?



Will she cheat? She damn well might. A tough period in a relationship doesn't mean she's going to have an affair, but it becomes more likely if you go out looking to meet your own needs and no longer seem to care about hers.



"Every marriage goes into the doldrums at some time," Lusterman says. "It may be when a child is born and the man feels left out of things, or the woman feels he isn't participating enough. And it can happen with a dual-occupation couple if there isn't enough leisure time together, or when a woman becomes more specialized in child-rearing and there's more burden on the man to produce income. If you're sensitive to that, you can talk about it. Unfortunately, often a woman will try to talk about it but feels unheard."



Avoid the horns: If you respond to your own marital dissatisfaction by pulling away rather than dealing, it's likely that she will too, and neither of you will get what you want. The fact that you yourself are tomcatting around should be a warning sign that you probably don't have the first clue about what she's doing either, Lusterman says. If you're behaving this way, then it's time to stand back, have a good look at the issues you're hiding from, and put your energy into your marriage instead of into seducing the next ex-Mrs. You.



PREVENTING TROUBLE BEFORE IT STARTS



There's no such thing as a relationship without problems. But most can be solved if you're willing to put in some effort, the experts say. It's when you ignore trouble on the horizon, or stop caring enough to do anything about it, that disaster is likely to strike. "If you're convinced she's having an affair, she's probably having one," Lusterman says. But if you pay enough attention early on, you can probably fix what's wrong long before it gets to that point.


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