that women often experience during the course
of their long-term relationships
years into my research I was able to identify distinctive patterns and
behaviors in the women I interviewed.
I categorized these into four separate “stages”
that women often experience during the course of their long-term relationships.
The stages begin with a loss of sexual desire.
Women at Stage 1 feel as
though something is missing in their lives. They have
all the things that they wanted—a home, a
family, a great husband—but they feel they should be
happier. Over time, many women in this stage begin to lose
interest in sex. It is not uncommon for them to spend
a great deal of energy trying to avoid physical contact with their
husbands because they fear it might lead to a sexual
encounter. They frequently complain of physical ailments to avoid having sex and
often try to avoid going to bed at the same time as
their husbands. They view sex as a job, not unlike doing the dishes or going to
the grocery store. Some women in Stage 1 claim
they feel violated when their husbands touch them.
Their bodies freeze up and they feel tightness in their chest and/or a
sick feeling in their stomach. The majority of women in Stage 1 feel
as though there is something wrong with them,
that they are in some way defective. They
are also fearful that their disinterest in sex will
cause their husbands to cheat, or worse yet, leave them.
Women at Stage 2 experience reawakened desire
stimulated by an encounter outside the marital
relationship. Whether these encounters with a "new" man
involves sex or remain platonic,
women will typically give a tremendous amount of
emotional significance to these
women in this stage haven't felt
any sexual desire for a long time. Many experience tremendous guilt and
regret, regardless of whether their new relationships are
sexual, merely emotional, or both. Most begin to
experience what could be termed an identity crisis—even those who try
to put the experience behind them. Constant reminders are
everywhere. They feel guilt when the topic of
infidelity arises, whether in the media, in
conversations with family and friends, or at home with their husbands.
Women in this stage can no longer express their prior
disdain for infidelity without feeling like a
hypocrite. They feel as though they have
lost a part of themselves. Reflecting society’s belief that women are
either “good” or “bad,” women will question their
“good girl” status and feel that they might not be
deserving of their husbands. Many will try
to overcome feelings of guilt by becoming more attentive toward and appreciative
of their husbands. However, over time many women will
move from appreciation to justification. In order to justify their continued
desire for other men, women will begin to attribute these
desires to needs that are not being met in their
marriage, or to their husband’s past behavior. Many women
will become negative and sarcastic when speaking of their husbands and
their marriages and it is not uncommon for an
extramarital affair to follow.
Women at Stage 3 are
involved in affairs, ending affairs, or contemplating divorce.
Women who are having affairs
experience feelings unlike anything they
have experienced before. They feel “alive”
again and many believe they have found their soul
mates. These women are experiencing feelings
associated with a chemically altered state, or what is
typically referred to as being in love.
These women are also
typically in tremendous pain, the pain of choosing between their husbands
and their new love interests. They typically believe
that what they are doing is
wrong and unfair to their husbands, but yet are unable
to end their affairs. Many often try
several times. Prior to meeting with their lovers, they will
vow that it will be the last
time, but they are unable to stick with their
Unable to end their extramarital relationships,
women at Stage 3 conclude that their lovers
are soul mates because they are unaware
that they have become addicted to the high caused by
chemicals released during the initial stages of a relationship. Many live in a
state of limbo for years. “Should I stay married or should I get a divorce?”
this is the question continuously on the
minds of women at Stage 3 - it is also common for
women at this stage to attempt to initiate a
separation. In most cases, husbands of women at Stage 3, will
launch futile attempts to make their wives happy by being more attentive,
spending more time at home and helping out around the house. Regardless of
women’s past and present complaints, the last thing women at
Stage 3 want, is to spend more time with their husbands.
The reason many women will
give for their desire to separate
is a “search for self.” They convince their husbands
that they might be able to save their marriage if they
can just have time to themselves. They tell their
husbands that time apart is the only hope of improving
their current situation. Women
at this stage want to free themselves of the
restrictions of marriage and spend more time with their lovers. Most think
that eventually their confusion will disappear.
They think they will
eventually know with certainty whether they
want to stay married or get divorced and be with their
lovers. Separation allows
women at this stage, to enjoy the high
they experience with their lovers
without giving up the security of their
marriages. Husbands of Stage 3
women are often unaware that their wives are
having affairs. Their lack of suspicion is typically
due to their wife’s disinterest in sex and in their
belief that their wife is a “good girl.”
Women at Stage 3 may also be
experiencing the ending of an extramarital
affair, and the ending may not have
been their decision. They may have been
involved with single men who either lost interest because the relationship could
not progress or who became attracted to
another women who was
single. Women whose affairs are
ending often experience extreme grief.
They may become deeply depressed and express tremendous anger toward
their husbands. They are typically unaware that they
are experiencing chemical withdrawal due to sudden
changes in their brain chemistry.
As a result, many will feel that they have
missed their chance at happiness due to their indecisiveness.
Believing they have become more aware of what they
want and need from a mate, women at this stage will often
place the utmost importance on finding a "new"
relationship that will give
them the feeling they experienced in their affairs.
A new relationship with a new partner
will also represent a clean slate, a chance
for these women to regain their “good girl” status.
Some women will search for new partners during their
separations. Others will return to their marriages,
but not emotionally and still continue to search. Some
women will resume sporadic sexual relations with their
husbands in an effort to safeguard their marriage
until they make a decision. Although
they are often not sexually attracted to their
husbands, desire is temporarily rekindled when they
suspect their husbands are unfaithful,
are contemplating infidelity, or when their husbands
show signs of moving on.
The women in stage four
included those who chose to stay married and continue their affairs and those
who chose to divorce. Some of the women who continued their affairs stated that
marital sex was improved by maintaining the extramarital relationship. Some
thought the lover was a soul mate, but for one reason or another did not leave
their husband and did not feel torn between the two. Others realized that their
feelings were intensified by not sharing day-to-day living arrangements with
their lover. Almost all of the women in this latter category were having affairs
with married men. They believed their affairs could continue indefinitely
without disrupting either partner’s primary relationship.
The women who chose divorce
and were in the beginning stages of a new relationship typically expressed
relief at having finally made a decision and reported feeling normal again. Many
of the divorced women who had remarried and were several years into their new
marriages seemed somewhat reluctant to talk about the specifics of their past
experiences. However, they did mention feelings of guilt and regret for having
hurt their children and ex-spouses only to find themselves experiencing similar
feelings in the new relationship...