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Susan Pease Gadoua Headshot

Is There an "Affair Epidemic" in this Country Among the Rich and Famous?

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ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER
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It seems that the news has almost weekly reports of a famous couple who has experienced a breach in the marriage by one party or the other having extramarital relations. Today it's Arnold and Maria, last week it was Shania Twain's husband, before that Jesse James, Kelsey Grammar, John Edwards, David Letterman, Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton, etc., etc., etc. The list certainly seems endless. So, what is going on?

Last summer, James Fowler of University of California, San Diego, Nicholas Christakis of Harvard University and Rose McDermott of Brown University released the results of a 30-year study of the trends of divorce among family, friends and co-workers.

According to the numbers they culled, they determined that divorce is contagious.

They concluded this after finding that when close friends break-up, the odds of having their own marital split increased by 75%. They also found that people who have divorced friends in their larger social circles are 147% more likely to get a divorce than people who have friends still married. People with divorced siblings are 22% more likely to divorce. The study even revealed the contagion of divorce among co-workers could be as much as 55% in small companies.

The technical term they coined to describe this phenomenon is called, "divorce clustering."

Taken at face value, these statistics certainly vie on the worst fears of many in this culture who suspected that divorce may be much like the flu with germs that are easily transmitted.

Likewise, given how prevalent cheating trends and "affair clusters" have been in the past few years, it begs the question of whether infidelity may also be "catchable."

Despite the researchers wanting people to feel powerless over these scary statistics, it may help to know that, though we humans are no doubt flawed and sometimes weak-willed, we do have the power to avoid succumbing to the "dis-eases" of affairs and divorces.

To get a better understanding of how to have a clean bill of marital health, it might help to examine the "symptoms" of a cheater. The most common traits among those who have affairs include those with (in no particular order) -- an inability or unwillingness to be honest with one's self and others; an inability to deal with problems in relationships (especially intimate relationships); an inability to communicate their needs or feelings; an unwillingness to feel their "negative" feelings and thought their actions would make them feel better; lack of coping skills; an inability to commit to another person; immaturity and immediate gratification orientation; narcissism and/or self-absorption; self-seeking tendencies; higher than average insecurities and need for external validation.

But we are not simply at the mercy of some germ in the air, and the good news is, there are things we can do to prevent ourselves from having a Marital "breakout."

Anyone wanting to avoid "coming down with a bad case of infidelity" can strive for these qualities (in no particular order) -- honesty with self about shortcomings; humility (with or without power or prestige - but especially with!); self-restraint; respect for and consideration of others; emotional maturity; delayed gratification orientation; a willingness & ability to be uncomfortable (my definition of emotional maturity is increasing one's tolerance to discomfort); healthy coping skills; good communication skills; self-awareness and self-acceptance.

Oh, and wash your hands!