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On the rise - women who cheatFebruary 15, 2011 @ 2:23 am (Updated: 3:46 pm - 3/28/11 )
Usually when we hear about affairs, it's high profile men admitting they've done wrong. Tiger Woods, John Edwards, Elliott Spitzer, and Bill Clinton are a few of the men on the cheaters list. But what about the women who have affairs? We never hear from them. Is it because married women don't cheat?
"I'm the last person anyone would suspect of having an affair. I haven't had just one. I've had several - more affairs than my husband would believe and I can't stop," says Amber.
She's one of the dozens of women in the Seattle area who emailed me about their affairs.
Another is Karen who writes, "My marriage is stronger because I have someone on the side who sustains me. It takes the pressure off my husband and we get along better than before my affair."
"It's easy to have affairs because most men don't suspect a PTA mom would do such a thing," says Anna. "Why wouldn't we? We have needs too that sometimes our husbands can't meet."
People who study relationships estimate 20 percent of married women are involved with someone else at least once during their marriage, and that's an increase from a few years ago. Estimates on men having affairs range from 30 to 70 percent, but it's almost impossible to have accurate numbers on cheating because by the very nature of what's going on, most people don't admit to it.
"I was lonely for a couple of years and then I met someone who I just felt this strong attraction to and this rapport with," says a Bellevue woman who's using the name Megan van Eyck. "It just happened."
It just happened.
Those few words are repeated with the other women who emailed me talking about their affairs. Most of them say they didn't intentionally stray from their husbands.
Van Eyck met the man she had an affair with on a plane headed to Hawaii. They exchanged phone numbers, because they both live in the Puget Sound area, and later agreed to have lunch.
"It was overwhelming," she says. "There was this tsunami of instant desire. I didn't expect it. I wasn't looking for it. It just happened and I didn't have any reason not to."
He was married, so was she. But van Eyck felt like her husband had already broken their marriage vows because he didn't cherish her.
"I was kind of on auto-pilot. I wasn't thinking about the ramifications of being with a married man. I wasn't thinking about anything but just trying to get through the moment. I was really quite desperate emotionally and untended to and needy," she says.
Needy, wanting an emotional connection, feeling like they weren't appreciated, even bored. Those are the reasons women gave me for why they ended up breaking their vows and having affairs.
M. Gary Neuman, who's studied hundreds of people who've had affairs for his book, "The Truth About Cheating," says surprisingly many of those reasons are why men cheat too. It's not as much about the physical attraction and sex, for both men and women, as it is about having an emotional connection with someone.
"Men I studied also felt under appreciated, they felt lost, they felt like they couldn't win with their wives no matter what they did," he says.
Neuman began studying affairs after he started a program to help children of divorce. He thought the best way to help kids was to keep their parents together in more solid, loving marriages. His advice on how to "affair proof" your marriage begins with four, 45-minute sessions a week when you have uninterrupted time with your spouse.
"It can be cooking, it can be playing a board game, having a drink of wine while sitting out on the balcony, whatever," says Neuman. "Take some time just to connect and talk about the day. Talk about the stuff that's going on. Then have a weekly date night where you go out for a couple of hours alone just for fun and you do not talk about business, money or kids."
That is something that van Eyck and her husband are working on now. He found out about her five-year affair, which has now ended, and they're dealing with it.
"I thought he didn't love me," she says. "He had said, 'I'm not in love with you. You're not the woman that I want. You're not my perfect woman. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn't marry you,' is what he had back then. And now I come to find out, he loves me very much."
Van Eyck details her affair, which she says she doesn't regret in her new book "Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress."
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