High season for cheating
Summer offers more opportunities to stray, so wives (and husbands) should be extra vigilant
BY PAT BURSON
June 18, 2007
As spring turns to summer this week, infidelity expert Ruth Houston has a question for every wife: "Do you know where your husband is?"
Is he helping you plan that long-awaited vacation with the kids, looking forward to backyard barbecues at the neighbors' and arranging family getaways to the beach?
Or could he be plotting to pack you and the kids off for a couple of weeks at your parents' or a summer house in the Hamptons while he gears up to get a little love on the side?
Summer is peak cheating season for some husbands, says Houston, of Rego Park, author of "Is He Cheating on You? 829 Telltale Signs" (Lifestyle Publications). She has spent more than a decade researching and writing about cheating spouses since discovering that her former husband was unfaithful.
Sure, some husbands would never cheat, while others would use any opportunity to stray, regardless of when. Houston, however, is referring to those "seasonal" cheaters who think they may have a better shot at not getting caught during summer.
Some are counting on hooking up with other women at the annual out-of-town business convention, or before they catch up with their wives and kids in the Hamptons, or during a fishing or camping trip with the fellas.
"These aren't men who are habitual cheaters," she says. "They're just looking for a summer fling... . It's fun to them. It's a sport, something they can do to break up the routine.
"If in any way it looks like they're going to get caught," she adds, "they won't take the chance."
She and others who study the hows and whys of infidelity agree that a marriage in which both spouses embrace values such as honesty and trust, communicate well, have quality time together and sustain a sizzling sex life could be enough to keep either from straying. (Though statistically a higher percentage of husbands cheat, the experts say plenty of wives also fool around, so husbands should keep their eyes open, too.)
The 2006 General Social Survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found that twice as many husbands engage in "extramarital relations" as wives. In the scientific sampling of about 3,000 people, representing a cross section of the nation, 21.3 percent of males said they had sexual relations with someone else while they were married, while 12.5 percent of women said they had.
Even with a good marriage, the temptation to have a summer affair may be too strong for some husbands, Houston says, so wives can't be too vigilant. "Women should be proactive rather than reactive," she says. "Put the odds in your favor."
If you think your man may be considering having a summer fling, Houston says there are ways to confirm your suspicions -- and possibly prevent it.
For example, if your husband announces that his company picnic is coming up, don't blow it off -- go with him, she says. Your presence alone may be all it takes to keep your spouse from flirting with another woman -- or another woman from getting any ideas.
"The biggest and most important step is just showing up -- and not in a bad mood," says Houston, who includes such tips on her Web site, infidelityadvice.com. "Go. Stake your turf. Be at your loving best."
If your husband is home alone while you and the kids are away, check in with him from time to time -- by phone and in person.
"Come back unexpectedly, and let him know that you plan to come home periodically, but don't tell him when," she says.
If he's away, don't settle for having only his cell phone number, she says. "Cell phones are the greatest aid to infidelity ever invented other than the Internet. You want a land line. With a cell phone, he can be anywhere."
All this may sound a bit obsessive and paranoid, but Houston says it's more a word to the wise.
"It pays to be alert," she says. "You could be caught up in your own situations with the kids, with your girlfriends and with your career, and just overlook these things.
"The old thing that the wife is the last one to know? There's no reason for wives to be the last one to know if they are aware of things to look for."
And not only do wives have to beware of their husbands' roving eyes, but they also have to be on guard for women looking to have flings -- or something more -- with their husbands, say the authors of a new book.
In "You Can't Have Him -- He's Mine: A Woman's Guide to Affair-Proofing Her Relationship" (Adams Media), Marie Browne, a Westfield, N.J.-based marriage and family therapist and her daughter Marlene Browne, a divorce attorney in Plainfield, N.J., urge women to engage in "mate-guarding" and get between their mates and any would-be husband-poachers.
Marlene Browne practices what she preaches. After learning that her pilot-husband was scheduled on a flight with an attractive female first officer, she looked the woman up. "She looked like me 15 years ago," Browne says. "Why should I put my husband in that situation? Do I trust him? Sure. Do I want to put him in that situation? No!"
Instead, she told him her concerns, and he agreed to drop that flight, she says.
The Brownes also recommend that wives make it clear to potential interlopers that their husbands are spoken for. Give him a well-timed kiss in her presence, or ensure that his work space is full of photos of your family, or put handwritten notes in his briefcase or gym bag -- anything, Marlene Browne says, that would tell another woman to move on.
She also says wives should be clear with their husbands about the consequences of cheating: divorce, loss of assets, loss of his children.
Keep back doors shut
While some agree with the "detective" approach, others, including a self-proclaimed "bad boy" who admits to having cheated, say wives don't have to turn into bloodhounds to make their men behave faithfully. Instead, they say, wives should focus on keeping their marriages strong and healthy -- and husbands should hold up their end of the bargain, too.
Summer may offer unique opportunities for husbands thinking about cheating, but "if you're not happy, you can act out any time of the year," says Wayne M. Levine, director of the West Coast Men's Center in suburban Los Angeles and author of "Hold on to Your N.U.T.s [Non-negotiable, Unalterable Terms]: The Relationship Manual for Men" (BetterMen Press). If a man says fidelity is one of his nonnegotiable, unalterable terms, then he has to act that way, including closing all the "back doors" that could lead him to disrespect and disregard his relationship, Levine says.
"Back doors allow you to 'sneak out' and compromise on your commitments," he says. That includes sex with prostitutes, watching Internet porn, visiting online chat rooms, communicating with old girlfriends or flirting in the office. "They're distractions and energy drains. Any energy going out the back door is energy that's not going into your relationship.
"Don't expect the tide to turn until you make a real commitment and install a dead bolt on that back door."
Steve Santagati of Manhattan, author of "The Manual: A True Bad Boy Explains How Men Think, Date and Mate -- and What Women Can Do to Come Out on Top" (Crown), admits to cheating -- mostly during the spring and fall -- in several relationships.
Women who monitor their husbands' whereabouts to catch them cheating are using a Band-Aid approach, he says. "By the time you get to looking at their cell phones and e-mail and e-snooping, you have already lost the battle," he says.
"I cheated because I wanted to, and I cheated because I thought I could get away with it," he says. "The women that I didn't cheat on were the women that I loved and they were my best friends. If you feel you're loved and understood, you don't want to defile that relationship by cheating and being untrustworthy."
Instead of wives' employing stealthy tactics to catch husbands on the make, Santagati suggests they invest that time and energy getting to know and understand their men.
He urges wives to be their husband's playmate, lover and best friend and also to set boundaries regarding the behavior they will and will not accept from him in their relationship.
"Let him know that you're a great woman and you're going to have a lot of fun, you're going to be sexy, but you don't share," he says. "It's a special gift you're giving him. If he shares himself with another person, he's done.
"If you're so close to him and he thinks you're the sexiest thing on Earth, he won't even think about cheating."
Consider the goal
Wives have to decide which outcome is most important -- catching their spouse in the act or making their marriage better, says Don-David Lusterman, a psychologist practicing in Baldwin and author of "Infidelity: A Survival Guide" (MJF Books).
He suggests they start by looking inward. "If it gets to the point where you have to spy on your partner, you had best stop and go back and examine your own behavior in your marriage," Lusterman says. Have you silently tolerated bad behavior from him in the past, or have you been too busy to notice that he's feeling bored or adrift?
Then Lusterman suggests going to your husband for a heart-to-heart. "Start with a really good attempt to talk about your marriage itself," he says. "You don't talk about whether he's having an affair. You talk about whether you're having a marriage."
Keep the courtship going and make private time for each other, Lusterman says.
Couples therapy also may be an option, he says, "as long as two people have a wish to get the marriage to a better place. "
Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.