TV giving bad advice on how to deal with infidelity

The LA Times released an article yesterday on the prevalence of adultery in primetime television. As the author points out, adultery has been the subject of plot drama since the Bible—it’s nothing new. At the same time, storylines involving cheating are popping up all over TV dramas at a much higher incidence than any point in the past.

Julie Albright, a sociologist at USC, attributes the trend to increasing cynicism about marriage. Marriage has never been less popular. In 1960, 72% of U.S. adults were married. Now that number is 51%. “People believe marriages don’t work anyway,” Albright says, “so seeing affairs on TV kind of serves as a model for how things can and will go bad.”

 The prevalence of adultery on TV doesn’t actually reflect reality. Although it’s hard to measure infidelity, some studies suggest that 20% of married people will stray at some point in their marriage. Right now it seems that 100% of current TV drama couples have cheating in them. It appears that, once again, TV exaggerates truth for entertainment value.

So what’s wrong with some imaginary drama on TV if, as I said before, it’s been a theme of storytelling since the Bible? After all, these show certainly aren’t promoting infidelity as something good. The cheating causes real problems for the characters, and how to deal with infidelity and make amends drives the drama of the shows. In fact, viewers and producers have expressed concern when cheaters don’t get their comeuppance. Cheating is definitely still bad.

My problem is that by portraying cheating so commonplace in every marriage, our entertainment is establishing the idea that infidelity, while bad, is an expected element of a marriage. And affair is simply what happens in marriage. That is a terrible attitude to have and it reinforces negative stereotypes about marriage that can have real negative effects on peoples’ lives. Especially once they realize that how to deal with infidelity in the real world doesn’t tie up so nicely as a soap opera plotline.

Along this line, The Parents Television Council released a report stating marriage is “regularly mocked and denigrated” on television. It seems that “sex with anyone, up to and including a dead person or a farm animal, is more exciting than sex with your spouse.” I think they have a point. It is unfortunate when TV, as a whole, completely disregards marriage as anything but a state of suffering and boredom that is destined to fail.

Let’s show them they’re WRONG! Be positive about marriage. Count your joys and blessings. Don’t accept that your marriage will fail, even when things are rough. Marriage ain’t easy, and there’s plenty of help out there for you, whether it’s marriage help books or online marriage counseling. You CAN do it!

Forgiving infidelity and moving on—for your health

Dr. Martin Luther King advised us to “never succumb to the temptation of bitterness,” and boy, was he right. Forgiving infidelity and other wrongs is one of the hardest things to do, and at the same time, it may just help you live longer. A new book, “Embitterment: Societal, psychological, and clinical perspectives,” reviews years of research on bitterness that shows not only is it unproductive from a social, emotional and spiritual perspective, but takes a devastating toll on our physical health.

Today’s CNN article opens with the story of a young college student who was tormented because of his race. The stress and bitterness he held towards the injustice eventually led to sleeping problems and panic attacks. Finally, he landed in the hospital and was found to have a dangerous condition of thickened heart muscles—one of the leading causes of heart-related sudden death in people under 30. It wasn’t until this young man was able to move on and release his bitterness that he recovered physically.

How can a mental state have so much impact on our bodies?

When we feel negatively towards another person, our brains trigger the release of stress hormones. This is a very effective mechanism for dealing with real danger situations. It prepares our bodies to attack, defend or flee from a potential threat. However, when these hormones flood the body for a long period of time, the stress begins to do some real damage. Heightened blood pressure endangers the heart, and chemicals such as C-reactive protein further weaken the heart and other body systems. Irritability, sleeping problems, anxiety and depression also often occur.

The journey of marriage is wonderful and opens the doors to some of life’s greatest joys. At the same time, bitterness is one of the biggest marriage problems couples have. Unspoken tensions, jealousies, pet peeves, family drama… all of us experience some kind of event in our relationship that could spark bitterness. Suspected or acknowledged cheating often puts the greatest strain on a marriage. So how do we move beyond bitterness and get to forgiving infidelity?

1. Grieve
Give yourself the time to grieve your loss. An infidelity is a huge blow to the foundations of your reality, and it is painful. Acknowledge that you feel this pain, that you are hurt, and that things are going to be difficult. Recognizing your feelings helps to soften them eventually and will get you ready for forgiving infidelity.

2. Seek solidarity
Read the news, talk to a friend, or find a support group. Realize that many people are going through what you are right now, and many experience worse. This in no way delegitimizes the pain you are feeling—it should give you a sense of strength and perspective to your emotions.

3. Talk it out
It is essential to talk to the person that hurt you if you are going down the path of forgiving infidelity. Communicate with your spouse openly and honestly about how you feel. At the same time, try to understand the other person’s underlying concerns and mental state. This isn’t an excuse—it is an explanation. Understanding will help you to reach a calm common ground.

4. Think of your health
Keep this article in mind. Realize how much damage you are doing to your body and mind by not forgiving infidelity. You have a right to your feelings…you also have the right to have a long, healthy, happy life regardless of other’s unjust activities. After all, “living well is the best revenge,” (George Herbert).

I also suggest calming activities such as yoga, meditation, prayer, or other mindful activity. These can reverse the effects of stress.

How about it? Do you find bitterness (and it’s ugly siblings, Regret and Envy) dominating your life? How do you deal with it? Share your tips and stories about forgiving infidelity and more!

What should I do if my spouse is spying on me?

Phone hacking has been all over the news lately due to Rupert Murdoch’s “News of the World” scandal. While the public is quick to condemn the newspaper’s actions, reading other’s personal information is something that can seem morally blurry when it comes to your spouse. Aren’t you supposed to share everything? This is the topic brought up by the writers over at on a controversy surrounding a response in the popular advice column “Ask Amy.” Here is the question that was sent to the column, edited for brevity:

My husband very strongly dislikes my best friend. He feels that she is a “bad influence” on me, as she is still dating and hasn’t settled down in her late 20s, goes to a gym that offers “pole fitness” classes, and had an abortion a year ago.

He is always angry when I am talking to her on the phone and has gone so far as to hack into my e-mail account and read our e-mails to one another.

Heaven forbid the e-mail contain a reference to an acquaintance of ours we find attractive or a (justified or not) complaint about a habit of his.

Amy Dickinson published this reply:

 Your husband is being unreasonable. But then, so are you.

The problem here is that you are putting your friendship with your girlfriend in the middle of your relationship with your husband. You also need to learn how to dole out information like a grown-up. [She shouldn’t have told her husband about the friend’s abortion or told her friend about her marriage complaints.]

You three need a do-over. You should be able to chat privately with your friend, but you should also welcome your husband into the circle from time to time. And he needs to grow up, too.

Amy is right to point out that there are always things that both parties (wife and husband) can do to solve marriage problems. At the same time, as Jezebel quickly notes, Amy completely misses the disturbing center of the asker’s situation: the controlling, manipulative and angry behavior of the husband. The Jezebel writer hits the issue right on with this quote: “when you get married… you don’t surrender your right to have private conversations with your friends…You don’t surrender your right to privacy or to correspond with people without worrying about being monitored. This is marriage- a lifelong partnership of love, respect, and trust.”

In fact, controlling or isolating behavior is among our top 5 reasons for divorce. If your partner habitually restricts your social life, cuts you off from loved ones, and insists that you only spend time doing his/her pre-approved activities, please, talk to someone about this. How to deal with jealousy and other problems can be learned with counseling, while controlling behavior is a sign of a serious and potentially dangerous situation in your marriage that requires immediate action and perhaps separation.

It is generally a bad sign if you feel that you need to check  your spouse’s email or cell phone without permission.  It may be a sign that you’re being too controlling.  Almost always, it’s a sign that something is seriously awry in the kind of healthy open communication, trustworthy behaviors, and loving consideration that are the foundations of healthy marriages.

At the same time, it’s also a bad sign if there’s anything in your “private” communications that you wouldn’t be 100% proud to share with your spouse.  Like Amy says, airing your husband’s dirty laundry to the girls isn’t fair–it’s a breach of the trust you share by having such intimately connected lives. Hey, would you want him joking about your love-handles to the guys?  

So, on the one hand foster independence in you marriage and stand up for your independence.  And at the same time, be very careful how you use that independence!
What do you think, dear readers? Do you agree or disagree? Can you think of a time when it would be ok to check your spouse’s email?

Older marriage? Better sex!

A new study from the Kinsey Institute has some surprising findings about sex and intimacy as relationships age. The researchers interviewed 1,000 mid-life or older couples from across the U.S. who had been together for an average of 25 years. Dr. Susan Heitler was asked to weigh in on the findings for (Read that article here here).

Good news: sex just keeps getting better!

One myth busted by the study is that partners grow bored after years of sex with the same person. “In fact, satisfaction with their sexual lives seemed to grow over the years, particularly for women, but overall for both genders,” Dr, Heitler says. “Turns out that long-term monogamy seems to be good for enjoying ever-more-gratifying sex.”

Women’s satisfaction tends to dip during the stressful years of raising children. However, once children have moved out, their enjoyment of sex rockets even above men’s in multiple decade relationships. “My clinical experience corroborates this–it’s as if women in their fifties are especially delighted to discover how fun and gratifying sex can be–a discovery that men are more likely to have discovered with delight when they are younger.”

Sexual intimacy is crucial to a healthy relationship. “Good sex won’t make a great marriage, but insufficient sexual gratification can create problems,” Dr. Susan cautions. If sex becomes too infrequent, it can build irritability and frustration in one or both partners. If a couple does not seek sexless marriage help, the relationship will become distant and the risk of an affair increases. Unfortunately, sexual functioning usually takes a hit as we age. Difficulties with sexual desire, erections/arousal, and orgasm seem to discourage men the worst, whereas women take the blow a little easier. Some of these problems can be the result of procedures such as elective prostate surgery. This is especially difficult as a woman may be hitting the peak of her sexual enjoyment right around the time a man’s sexual performance may be suffering from age or surgery.

At the same time, Dr. Susan is confident that you can have a great sex life no matter what by simply knowing how to communicate with your spouse.

In my clinical experience, the key is how well the couple can talk over these problems. If sexual functioning problems develop and the partners clam up instead of talking with each other about the changes and how they each are adapting to them, that can spell trouble ahead.

In other words, keep your dialogue and minds open to ways to adapt to the changes.

Again, sex isn’t the end-all of a relationship. Our next post will continue this series with surprising insights into relationship satisfaction and non-sexual intimacy. Check back soon!

(If you want more on attitudes towards sex and aging, I suggest this great article.)

Why do men cheat?

Anthony Weiner: rich, confident, powerful, newly married…and, of course, he’s having an affair! Weiner seems to have it all, but like so many other men, still engages in infidelity. Why do men cheat? A new study sheds light on the surprising reasons, and differences, in why men and women cheat.

Researchers at Indiana University in Bloomington recently conducted a study of 900 men and women to find out what leads people into affairs. Older studies pointed to marital status, income or employment as key elements of infidelity, but the new study found other characteristics, such as sexual excitability and unhappiness in relationships, and other marriage problems are significantly more important. And despite the multitude of public scandals involving men, it turns out that women and men are cheating at roughly the same rates. Back in the 1990s a study showed that only 10-15% of women reported being unfaithful. The latest survey reported 19% of women and 23% of men cheated at some point in a relationship. The question is no longer just “why do men cheat,” but “why do people cheat?”

A common reason for infidelity in both sexes was concerns over sexual performance. The researchers suggested that cheaters might feel less inhibited with someone who does not know them well. A new partner may have fewer expectations and be a relief from the tensions that have been building over time with a husband or wife. Beyond that, the answer to why do men cheat is slightly different that why women cheat. “Women who reported not being happy in a relationship and feeling that their partner didn’t hold similar sexual beliefs were more likely to be unfaithful. For men, one of the biggest factors that led to cheating was sexual excitability,” read the article.

So why are women cheating so much more than they used to? Part of it may be how the question was asked. In the news study, researchers did not define infidelity, leaving it up to the interviewees to decide what was cheating in their personal circumstances. The previous study may have been worded differently, perhaps with more narrow categories, which lead to a lower response rate.

It all comes down to proximity — who you’re interacting with and how often —  says Power of Two founder Dr. Susan Heitler, who is quoted in the article.  Dr. Heitler mentioned that the growing number of women in the workforce allows them to make more male social connections outside of the family:

[There’s] too much time working closely together, in private spaces, taking a break and talking about personal matters, and also travel which makes too much time away from the spouse and from the restraints of normal family routines.

The internet and text messaging also allow previously isolated wives from making friendly social connections with other men and contacting old flames. Unfortunately, many of these casual social relationships can turn into something more….


Why do men cheat? For the same reasons women do… Read the article here.


Is cheating the solution to marriage problems? Not so fast!


Are you a Tom Sawyer Husband? How about a Workhorse Wife considering an Oreo Marriage? These are just a few of the types of couples outlined in Pamela Haag’s new book, Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses and Rebel Couples Who Are Rewriting The Rules. Many of Haag’s categories are different ways of describing “so-so marriage,” where security, familiarity, and shared responsibilities are what keep couples together rather than love. “It’s these low-conflict, amiable, but sort of listless marriages that actually contribute the lion’s share to the divorce rate. It’s not the couples who are throwing dishes and screaming,” she said in the DailyMail.
Haag also wrote a guest article for In it she focuses on the “non-traditional” solutions couples may try to make their marriage work. These include: separate bedrooms; a “marriage sabbatical”; non-monogamy; and/or tolerating infidelity.

Well now! These two articles sure got us all stirred up.

“Pamela Haag has it oh-so-right. . . and oh-so-wrong.” Dr. Abigail Hirsch says.

“We love her descriptions of the ways marriages slip into semi-happiness.  Her categories are very true. And, her solution — to open things up to letting outsiders into your intimate life and maybe even the bedroom — is a lousy solution to spicing up marriage.

Can I be harsh?  Here it is.


How would you feel about a bike repair shop that told you, “oh, front tire flat?  We’ll just take it off and give it to someone else.  Your bike will work fine with one tire!”  Bad advice.


Same with marriage problems — if your marriage has some broken parts, like lackluster passion, missing romance, zero loving connection — the solution is (almost always) not to remove the possibility for deep, rewarding intimate connection — the solution is to FIX THE BROKEN PIECE.  If your love life is lacking, learn the skills to turn the spark back on.  If warmth and connection are a thing from the distant past, invest in learning how to make them a part of the future from today forwards.


Be proactive about bringing sex, passion, love, intimacy, and friendship into your day-to-day with your spouse if you want your marriage to sizzle. If you’d rather your marriage fizzle, then take your metaphorical tire elsewhere.”

In conclusion, never settle for solutions that make you feel less than satisfied. A joyous, loving, definitely not “so-so” marriage is a real possibility for everyone. You deserve to, and can, be happy!



How to save a marriage when cheating comes early

cheating husband wife newlywedsThis month has been full of public infidelities. On top of Governor Schwarzenegger’s affair(s), congressman Anthony Weiner has just owned up to tweeting racy images of himself to several young women. Weiner admitted that had been carrying on “inappropriate” relationships via text and email with many women although he had never met them in person. Unfortunately, tales of marital infidelity like this may seem like a worn out story by now. What may surprise you to know is that Congressman Weiner hasn’t even been married a year. He and his wife were wed in July 2010.


It’s hard to imagine newlyweds having to deal with something like cheating already. They are supposed to be madly in love, right? These are the “good years”! “In some cases, newlyweds want so badly for things to be perfect that they ignore warning signs, both in themselves and each other,” couples therapist Emily Gordon explains in this Huffington Post article. Being with another person is complicated. Marriage can be daunting and bring up complex emotions. No matter where you are in your relationship, it’s important to keep the communication lines open about your expectations, desires, and needs. And there’s no wrong time for couples counseling. The skills taught through Power of Two can help committed couples get their marriage started on the right foot. And if infidelity does come, there are resources to help with surviving an affair.


So what do you think? What other misconceptions about newlyweds have you’ve noticed from your own experiences?


Dr. Heitler on commuting and your marriage for

Does distance truly make the heart grow fonder? Not when it comes to commuting.

A recent Swedish study has shown that a marriage in which one spouse spends 45 minutes or more on the road was 40 percent more likely to end in divorce than one in which both partners worked closer to home. While that dream home and dream job may tempt you go the distance, make sure you discuss how to  communicate with your spouse about problems that arise and maintain intimacy during your long hours apart. Power of Two founder Dr. Heitler was recently quoted in an article on the subject for “For commuting couples, every minute that they’re together is so valuable,” says Dr. Heitler. “They can least afford to have poor communication skills.”

Check out the whole story and Dr. Heitler’s comments here.


The Science of Commitment? What’s behind those who cheat and those who resist the temptation? Tara Parker-Pope takes a stab at explaining exactly that in her book, “For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage.”

The Science of a Happy Marriage? I was skeptical too…

Yesterday in the Times Tara Parker-Pope shared her insight on the factors which may affect a person’s tendency to stay committed. Scientists are studying the biological, psychological, and everything in between. Interestingly enough, their findings suggest that while some people may be more naturally inclined to resisting temptation, people can also train themselves to protect their relationships, and strengthen their commitment.

Continue reading The Science of Commitment? What’s behind those who cheat and those who resist the temptation? Tara Parker-Pope takes a stab at explaining exactly that in her book, “For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage.”

A Good Read on a Tough Topic: Infidelity.

Another age old question: Why do men and women cheat? Do you have an answer?  No… Me either…

On that note, I thought I would share this scintillating article, written by Frank Pittman, Beyond Betrayal: Life After Infidelity.

Mr. Pittman eloquently, and with no lack of spunk, discusses his 30+ years of clinical experience dealing with disintegrating marriages.  In particular, he discusses the mess that is infidelity, and how over the past thirty-odd years he has come to be surprised by little.  I found his discussion on the “different kinds” of infidelity especially interesting.

So… if for any reason, whatsoever, you’re interested in a good read on infidelity… look no further, it’s here.

Posted by:

Katie Stokes