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Vicki Larson

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Once A Cheater Always A Cheater?

Posted: 05/26/11 12:07 PM ET

Whenever there are a spate of high-profile affairs as there has been lately, the "experts" are all over the media talking about infidelity as if had just been discovered.

Once they get over the who, what, where, when and how, they get to the why and, inevitably, try to address the two big questions: "Can you affair-proof your marriage?" and "Once a cheater, always a cheater?"

I'm not an expert, but from what I've seen I'd say the answers are "no" and "maybe."

No one knows the exactly percentage of cheating occurring -- some believe it's as high as 60 percent to 70 percent among spouses. And it's not just men; many believe women are cheating as often as men are.

It's hard not to feel anxious about our own love life when we see beautiful, intelligent, accomplished, sexy women -- Maria Shriver, Sandra Bullock, Elizabeth Hurley -- being cheated on. But then I'm reminded of Tom Perrotta's brilliant book "Little Children," when the fit and beautiful but suspicious wife catches a glimpse of her husband's presumed lover and rejects the idea that he could be having an affair with her because she's just so dumpy and unattractive. Well, guess what?

Being beautiful, intelligent, accomplished and sexy doesn't guarantee that your partner will remain faithful, nor does being dumpy and unattractive guarantee that he or she won't. Men and women have affairs for lots of reasons with all sorts of people for all lengths of time, from "it-just-sort-of-happened" one-night stands to passionate decades-long affairs with or without love children; there's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to infidelity.

And it isn't just about sex. M. Gary Neuman, an Oprah regular and author of "Emotional Infidelity" and "The Truth About Cheating," says the No. 1 reason most men cheat is because they're seeking emotional connection. That's what Veronica Monet, a former high-end escort turned sexologist, discovered as well. "Many men are less interested in sexual intercourse and achieving orgasm than they are usually portrayed," she writes in "Sex Secrets of Escorts: Tips From a Pro." "I have seen many men lay down hundreds of dollars to talk, cuddle, engage in hours of foreplay and actively seek instruction in how to please a woman sexually."

She and Neuman suggest what seems obvious to prevent the possibility of infidelity in your own relationship -- try to understand your man and at the very least, appreciate and admire him.

Okay, but is that any guarantee? Does being the best partner you can be "affair-proof" your marriage?

Not really. You can't control another person's actions, only your own, and even if you are the Mother of All Bitches, you're not "making" your partner have an affair. You may, however, be making him extremely unhappy, angry, hurt, resentful and a lot of other crappy emotions that make him vulnerable to one. But there are ways to deal with those emotions without ending up in someone else's bed. That's why listening to experts talk about how to "affair-proof" your relationship seems silly, and maybe even creates a false sense of security.

And that has its own complications, especially when it comes to trying to answer the second question: "Once a cheater, always a cheater?" Every person who's been cheated on by his or her partner has to figure that one out -- if they even know they've been cheated on, that is. Neuman says about one in 2.7 men will cheat, and most of their wives will never know about it. But even the ones who have an inkling, as Maria Shriver most likely had during hubby Arnold Schwarzenegger's "groping" days, still have to decide -- stay or go?

So, once a cheater, always a cheater? Who knows? The bigger question is, do you risk it?

 
 
 

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