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Mother's Day 2012: Does The Holiday Give Wives A Reason To Cheat?

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Alamy
Alamy

For the past four years, infidelity-based matchmaking site AshleyMadison.com has seen an influx of married women signing up for its services on one particular Monday each year -- the day after Mother's Day.

According to the site's founder, Noel Biderman, more married women join the site on that day than on any other day of the year -- and that doesn't surprise him. "If that day comes to pass, and once again what [women] experience is a lack of appreciation, affection and respect, that is when the idea of taking on a potential lover takes full form," Biderman said.

While Mother's Day might not have the romance factor of Valentine's Day or a wedding anniversary, Biderman said he thinks the holiday compels women to reflect on how their husbands treat them as mothers and analyze whether their efforts are appreciated.

"I think Mother's Day embraces more of what the image of a complete ‘wife' is in most couples' minds," he said. "It includes family and extended family, and for many, that further highlights potential marital dysfunction."

Of course, the women who sign up for Ashley Madison's services don't necessarily represent how all married women feel about –- or react to -- being slighted by their husbands on Mother's Day. But the site's increased registrations might reflect a bigger marital issue.

Annette*, 36, said that her husband's lack of acknowledgement has caused her to dread Mother's Day. "I worry that I'm a bad mother because my husband does not praise me or thank me," she said in an email to The Huffington Post. "I know Mother's Day is a day to honor my mom and to be honored by my children, but after 11 years of marriage, eight of those as a mom, I long to hear affirmation from the father of my children."

Her situation is not atypical, she said, at least among the women she knows. "I have yet to meet a woman who is treated like a queen by her husband on Mother's Day," she said.

Another mother and wife, Pat Barone, 56, said that her husband no longer celebrates the holiday at all, but even when he did, her own efforts as a mother were often overlooked. "When his mother was alive, it was about her. Their whole Italian family would get together around grandma, without much mention of me," she said in an email. "Later, when we moved away from the area where the in-laws live, Mother's Day just dropped off the calendar."

When told about Biderman's claim about Mother's Day, Annette and Pat said they weren't surprised.

Annette said that that she understands why a woman might seek attention from another man after being overlooked on the holiday. "When [husbands] do not acknowledge our contributions to the home on Mother's Day -- the only day of the year designed just for mom -- we feel slighted, angry, disappointed and jealous," she said. "Maybe someone else will appreciate our efforts."

Pat, who works as a personal weight loss coach, notes that it may be harder for women to brush off being ignored on Mother's Day than on Valentine's Day. "[Women] may say, ‘OK, I get that he's not romantic, but he doesn't even appreciate what I do for his kids?' And that's too much for them to accept," she said. "After all, being a parent is a huge 24/7 responsibility and, in spite of many changes in this area, moms still do a larger percentage of the work."

Christina Steinorth, a licensed psychotherapist from Santa Barbara, Calif., and author of the forthcoming book "Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships," has worked with women who, like Annette and Pat, aren't celebrated by their husbands on Mother's Day. She said she believes this can lead to resentment.

"When men don't celebrate Mother's Day with their wives and mothers of their children, it sends the message of ‘Hey, you're not that important,'" she said. "The women who I have worked with in my private practice, who have had something like this happen, have expressed feelings of ‘just being an incubator' for their husband's children."

But the lack of appreciation that these women feel is often part of a marital problem that goes beyond the holiday. "How to treat a holiday is subjective and it's different for each person, but if you care about your wife, you do whatever it is that makes her feel valued," said divorce lawyer Laurie Puhn, author of "Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In." "If a man ignores Mother's Day, generally he isn't showing appreciation on a daily basis."

She said that this simple act of not showing gratitude leads many couples into her office to contemplate divorce.

"People come up with absurd reasons to deprive their spouse of appreciation," Puhn said. "The thought is, ‘She's supposed to pick the kids up from school, so why would I thank her for doing that?' or 'He's supposed to pick up items from the store on the way home, why would I thank him for doing that?' Mothers' Day is a highlighted example of being ignored for a job that he thinks you're supposed to do.

"That attitude breaks down the trust, compassion, intimacy and respect in a marriage. Over the long run, it eats away at the connection."

She explained that, although people are often overjoyed when someone meets their expectations during the dating phase of the relationship, couples become desensitized over time to the things their partners do right. "What we come to expect, we come to neglect. That's human nature," she said.

Disregarding a spouse's contributions to a relationship may be especially hurtful after children enter the picture, Puhn said, because children don't always show their appreciation for parenting skills. A spouse is then the only other person to bear witness to a parent's efforts.

Puhn said husbands just need to use their words on Mother's Day. "Write a heartfelt note: 'I love you and you are a fantastic mother because ...' and then finish the sentence with something thoughtful," she advises. "Words cost nothing. But their power is immense. Every single couple will [fall out of love] unless they're conscious of the power of their words."

She also warns husbands to pay attention to the post-Mother's Day sign-up rate touted by AshleyMadison.com. "If you're not [your wife's] cheerleader, she will find someone who will cheerlead for her," she said. "You have to compliment and appreciate your spouse. And if you don't do that, then there's a job opening."

*Name has been changed

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