How many people cheat on their spouses? What makes them do it? Do they regret their infidelity?
These were some of the questions raised in a recent MSNBC.com/iVillage survey on “Lust, Love & Loyalty.” And though the number of cheating husbands and wives may not be as great as some people would predict, it’s common enough to constitute a serious problem in our culture. But I guess that’s not too surprising, is it?
Among the findings in the survey:
- 28 percent of married men and 18 percent of married women said they have been unfaithful to their current spouse. (The numbers go up when asked if they’ve ever been unfaithful to a spouse or a “partner.”)
- People cheat most often with “a friend or co-worker, and the typical fling lasts less than a week.”
- “Many thrive on the excitement they get from a fling (30 percent overall), but men and women are generally prowling for different things. Men want more sex (44 percent), more satisfying sex (38 percent) and variety (40 percent) … Women’s motives range from the need for more emotional attention (40 percent) to being reassured of their desirability (33 percent) or falling in love with someone else (20 percent).”
- “About two-thirds of cheaters say they don’t regret their actions, and 12 percent of men and 13 percent of women say they’re glad they cheated. For many ‘it was a life experience, or a daring adventure,’ says [Janet] Lever, the survey’s lead researcher. ‘They had some fabulous sex for a week and they didn’t regret it.’ But many did face lingering feelings of sadness (25 percent), stress (32 percent) and guilt (49 percent).”
As I read through several articles about the “Lust, Love & Loyalty” survey, I was struck by the fact that I was reading a lot more about lust and love than I was about loyalty. And if you are committed to keeping your wedding vows, then loyalty is of prime importance.
So here are three commitments you should make to strengthen your marriage and remain loyal to your spouse.
First, set up some strong boundaries for your relationships with friends and co-workers. For example, avoid having lunch or dinner alone with someone from the opposite sex. If you are meeting at the office with a co-worker of the opposite sex, do so in an open area or in a room with a window into the hallway.
Lois Rabey, author of The Snare, said on a FamilyLife Today radio broadcast that she has several friendships with men, but they are careful about how they treat each other and what they talk about:
“We either meet publicly or it’s all of us with our spouses. We don’t hug … We don’t talk about sexual things, we don’t make jokes about sexual things, we don’t comment to each other a lot in flattering ways … I know that they appreciate me and I appreciate them, but it’s a friendship that’s … a safe place because of those boundaries. We don’t go over those lines.”
Second, avoid emotional adultery. In your conversations with members of the opposite sex, beware of being too honest and vulnerable—especially if you are having any struggles in your marriage. As Dennis Rainey, president of FamilyLife, writes, “When two people begin talking of intimate struggles, doubts, or feelings, they may be sharing their souls in a way that God intended exclusively for the marriage relationship. Emotional adultery is friendship with the opposite sex that has progressed too far.”
Finally, work on making your marriage relationship exciting. As the survey indicated, many people cheat because they are seeking excitement—often the romantic excitement they experienced during courtship and early in marriage. It’s easy to allow a marriage relationship to become dry and boring; you’ve got to work continually at keeping your relationship fresh. When was the last time you went off for a day or a weekend with your spouse? When was the last time you went on a real date? You may be overdue for the type of romantic excitement that will help you stay loyal to your spouse.
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