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Why Women Have Secret Lovers

A secret lover is a desparate plea for help and a catalyst for change.

A woman's choice to cheat is both daring and desperate. A desperate plea for help and a daring catalyst for change in her marriage or her own self, the affair is serious stuff. Not just fun. Let’s take a peek at a few of the wives I write about in the book Daring Wives: Insight into Women’s Desires for Extramarital Affairs.

It's not necessarily that she doesn’t have a handsome, successful husband. Nor that she doesn’t have two adorable children and a beautiful home with two acres of land. Debra, a stay-at-home mom, seems to have it all. But does she? Actually, home sweet home is not so sweet. Humdrum days – food shopping, cooking, cleaning and carting her kids around – go on and on. She feels trapped, bored, powerless, and lonely. To top it off Debra’s husband doesn’t get it. He’s too busy trying to get ahead to get into her head. Along comes an attentive, sexy admirer and bingo!

A devoted loving mother and wife, Ruth has carved out a successful and glamorous career. In a perfect world, she would have the best of both worlds – a career and motherhood. In our less-than-perfect world, she does not. She tells me, “I’m stressed out and ready to explode.” To top it off, our effective firecracker at work can’t get a charge out of her husband. He does not help nor does he understand her desires or needs. Her co-worker Larry does.

A scrappy, sexy Generation Xer, Mary is determined not to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Her martyr mom settled for a secure, dependent and dull marriage, but Mary won’t. Mary desires committed love in marriage, security, children and comfort, all that good stuff. A little like her mom, but not exactly. Mary desires more from her marriage. Along with love, she longs for lust, romance, excitement, and passionate sex in her marriage. Sociopolitical history, pop culture, and family history entwine and strangle her strivings. Unshackling from her corseted past, Mary breathes freely. To her surprise, she sees clearly that her husband is not doing it for her. So what’s a restless young wife to do? She finds a sensitive, sexy, secret lover who promises all.

As you can see from the above vignettes, women often have secret lovers because they’re not getting their needs and desires met in their marriages. Try as they may, wives are often unable to reach their husbands.

Feeling stifled, unfulfilled, frustrated, and helpless in their marriages, they step outside of their marriages. Taking the step is in itself empowering. The affair is a daring, active choice, not a more-of-the-same passive response. It screams out loudly, “Enough! Something’s got to give, either the marriage or me.” That’s only the first step to autonomy and power. It takes a daring wife to have an affair but an even more daring wife to go into therapy to repair her self and/or the marriage.

What about the children? People often stay in unsatisfactory marriages for the sake of the children. It is a fallacy. Parents in miserable marriages only make for miserable children. The legacies for these children are blighted models of marital relationships, and unfulfilled, powerless mothers. The affair, while not necessarily the most prudent choice, is nevertheless an act of empowerment.

A common myth is that the affair is about sex. It is not. For the most part, sex was better at home before romance eroded. Screaming fights or silent simmering hostility erode romance and extinguish the flames of passion. Chances are that problems in your sex life are not about the quality, but the quantity. Fighting to the death or suffering in silence kills sexual desire for most wives. And there’s less and less sex in the marriage.

What do wives want? It isn’t only that they desire emotional engagement. It isn’t only that they desire sexual passion. It isn’t only that they desire safety and protection along with autonomy and independence. I have found that wives want mutuality, equal-power relationships, and recognition from their husbands. Devotion, love, and commitment without passionate sex, fun, and excitement is the steak without the sizzle. For wives to feel sexy, they need the sizzle.

Does any of this sound familiar? Let me know your thoughts.

More from Frances Cohen Praver Ph.D.
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More from Frances Cohen Praver Ph.D.
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