June 23, 2005
Why Women Stray
When temptation struck, Diane Shader Smith turned to writing a book about infidelity.
"Undressing Infidelity: Why More Wives Are Unfaithful" (Adam Media Corp, $14.95)
Diane Shader Smith is a fearless Jewish mother, or would that be redundant? Smith, with her new, hot-selling book, "Undressing Infidelity: Why More Wives Are Unfaithful" has gone where very few have dared go in unmasking the myth that women don't stray and actually have fun while doing it.
Women are cheating in every section of the country and in every walk of life, she reported.
"It's happening in both affluent communities and in areas where money is an issue," Smith said. "The temptation to stray is part of the human condition."
Why do wives stray?
"Some women have made the decision to marry a man for security and do so at the expense of passion. Once they have what they thought they always wanted, they still feel something is missing," she said.
Smith said a woman told her she'd have sex in the afternoon with her lover and sex with her husband at night to ensure he never suspected.
"Women are smart," Smith said. "They know the warning signs when a man wanders, and they are careful to cover their tracks. Women don't want to get caught, because they love their husbands and their lives. Their affairs are relationships they claim have nothing to do with their marriage."
Smith believes women get caught when they want an exit strategy, but when they want to keep the marriage intact, they are very careful. She thinks it's a misconception that more men cheat than women, and that in reality, for every man who cheats, there's a woman who cheats, as well -- and that includes Jewish women.
"No one should assume married men are sleeping with just single women," Smith said. "Single women don't make good partners for married men; they want a date on Saturday night ... they want flowers. Married women don't want things they'd have to explain to their husbands. If they're smart, they don't tell their friends, because there is too much at stake, and they have too much to lose."
The author found cases where women ruined their lives by telling a friend.
"It's hard for people to keep secrets," she pointed out. "You wouldn't want something like that hanging over your head."
In looking at the generational aspects of adultery, Smith said she was surprised to find women in their 70s admitting to affairs.
"A small percent of older women cheat, but this generation [of younger women] had birth control readily available on campus and grew up reading 'The Joy of Sex.' They feel more comfortable with infidelity, more sexually entitled."
The author said many admitted to enjoying the added drama that comes with an affair, as well as the sex and emotion.
"Women speak about the ritual of anticipation," she explained. "They dress for their affairs, they bathe for them, they perfume and coif themselves. The process of preparing increases the sense of anticipation."
The writer reported that most women she interviewed were not having affairs throughout their marriage. However, at some point, she said, they allowed themselves to get close to another man.
"The vast majority of women are not serial cheaters," Smith explained. "Women said they stepped out once or twice during their marriage, but not time after time."
At first glance, Smith would appear to be like any other mother and housewife, with two children in Beverly Hills public schools and numerous after-school activities. She wrote the book to satisfy her curiosity about infidelity -- when she was tempted to stray.
"I decided that before I did anything, I should talk to other women in the same situation," Smith said. "There was no 'Girlfriend's Guide to Infidelity,' so I set about to make the subject accessible to women everywhere."
This led her to every corner of America, interviewing women from all walks of life and economic strata over a four-year period. In doing the research, she found that women cheat for a variety reasons.
"In some cases, it is dissatisfaction in their marriage," Smith said. "In other cases, women are trying to escape their own personal demons. And then there are those who simply feel they are entitled to enjoy the same extracurricular activities as men."
There are other contributing reasons for the increase in affairs, too.
"We have no-fault divorce, which means women won't have their children taken away," she pointed out. "And anti-depressants, which contribute to sexual problems in marriages. Women like sex -- when they're not satiated at home, they are more likely to stray. And the women who marry for security at the expense of passion find themselves seeking relationships purely for sexual satisfaction."
Her research revealed that another reason women cheat is because in many marriages, "there is no place for sex and romance, while raising children, paying bills, making sure dinner is on the table and helping kids with homework."
"A lot of women said their affairs made their marriage better -- that it jump-started their own sexuality and helped revitalize the sex in their marriage," the author found. "Many of the women said they didn't regret their affairs, because they restored their sense of femininity, which had been diminished by all the demands placed on married women today."
The author discovered the 40s to be a popular age for infidelity, noting, "Women seem to stray then, because their kids are a little older, and they are no longer so tired all the time."
"However, it's also easier to stray at the beginning of a marriage, when there aren't children, and there's less of a bond," she said. "Women with small children are the least likely group to stray, because they are so tired and often less interested in sex, period."
She said infidelity is a fact of life that people don't really want to talk about.
"No one sits you down when you get married and tells you how to handle it when you are attracted to another man," Smith said. "It's difficult for some people to talk about."
The interviews revealed that there seemed to be no difference between religious and nonreligious women, when it came to straying from the marriage.
"One woman who was religious said she believed God had led her to her lover, and she left her husband to be with him," she said.
Smith has concluded infidelity is like a cancer and can take various forms.
"It can be caught early and cured or become malignant and deadly," she said.
When children find out a parent cheated it is devastating, Smith found, adding that "women owe it to their children to get professional help. It's wrong to assume they'll get over it on their own. The world teaches us you do not cheat, so how does a child rationalize his or her mother's [or father's] infidelity?"
Smith said every woman has to make her own decision on straying. She believes that cheating is bad, but that women often think it's better to have the affair than to break up their children's home.
Her interviews led her to conclude that there are many cases in which a woman is happier if she is enjoying the company of other men. However, in other situations, she noted, an adulterous affair has dropped a bomb on the lives of those involved. Smith found that some women get caught, while others confessed their infidelities and hoped their husbands would forgive them.
After writing the book, Smith said the best advice she can give brides is to make sure they are marrying for the right reasons.
"It's also important to carve out time for yourself and your husband and be attentive to the romantic and sexual parts of your relationship," she emphasized. Communication between a man and woman is a great way to minimize the possibility of extramarital sex in a marriage."
So, after all the interviewing, did Smith stray?
"You'll have to read the book to find out," she said with a laugh.