Predictors of Infidelity: Why Do Partners Cheat?

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.

images-492Though men and women’s sexual behaviors seem to blur on TV, movies and entertainment, researchers and professionals who treat couples indicate key differences persist.

In a recent study of predictors of infidelity in couple relationships, the findings overall indicated men and women overall seem to follow the stereotypes. The focus on sex, performance, variety and frequency tends to be driven by men, while the focus on emotional connection and nonsexual affection by women.

Drs. Mark, Janssen and Milhausen found no significant differences in rates of infidelity of men, with 23 percent for men and 19 percent for women, however, what predicted infidelity differed for men and women. Predictors for men in the study had more to do with personality traits, such as performance anxiety, a propensity for getting sexually excited by triggers, and so on, whereas relationship factors, such as emotional intimacy, partnership, etc., carried significantly more weight for women.

The reasons women cheat seem more related to unfulfilled expectations or failure, their own or partner’s, with regard to developing a deeper emotional connection. In contrast, author and sex addiction expert Robert Weiss states in an article on why men cheat that when it comes to sex, “men tend to be most aroused by a visual succession of body parts and sexual acts” where as women are “aroused by sexualized and romanticized emotional connections between people more than body parts.”

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Genuine Love: Four Mantras to Calm Storms (& Feel Safe Enough to Remain, Present & Connected )

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.

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Human beings yearn to be loved, and feeling loved and valued connects us to feeling safe and secure. In a recent book titled, True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart, author and Zen monk Thich, offers couples a series of practices to help them deepen their connection to what he calls four components of love: loving kindness, compassion, joy and freedom.

One of these practices are four mantras for partners to verbalize out loud to one another or quietly to themselves, as needed. Creating love is about energizing greater intimacy. Genuine intimacy is an emotional state of being; it is more about how your choices affect the quality of energy inside you and your partner — and less about overt actions. If you are in a place where you feel totally safe from the world when you reach for your partner or are in your partner’s arms — and — they feel t0tally safe when they reach or are in yours … that’s genuine intimacy.

Couples can use the following mantras to create a sense of love and safety, personal and relational happiness:

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The Neuroscience of Addictive Love: Attributes of Love Addiction

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.

images-205What is this thing called ‘love’? Plato labeled love an ‘irrational desire,” and song titles such as “The Things We Do For Love,” as well as lyrics of songs such as “Why Do Fools Fall In Love,” convey the befuddling impact love relationships can have on human brains. For human beings, men and women alike, there is perhaps no bigger fascination or obsession for the senses, heart and mind, body and spirit.

The good news from fields of neuroscience and intimacy (known as social neuroscience, attachment, affective neuroscience and cognitive neuroscience) is that up-close studies of the brain mechanisms underlying behavior in social relationships have taken much of the mystery out of our quest to understand couple relationships.

As Dr. Sue Johnson states in a recent book, Hold Me Tight, quite the contrary, love relationships seem to be governed by an “exquisite logic” that follows rather precise algorithms. Bonding behaviors, it turns out, are less of a mystery and more a science.

We now understand, for example, there are neurochemical reasons why we tend to make poor decisions in certain relational contexts.

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Personal Power: How to Own It (& Stop Giving It Away) In Your Couple Relationship, 1 of 2

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.

COUPLESIn successful relationships, partners take the basics seriously, and handle the yearnings of each to feel heard and understood as unique beings as really, really important; in short, they treat one another with dignity, recognizing their own and one another’s personal power.

As top trial lawyer Gerry Spence notes, what we face when we interact with one another, is what we most fear in our relationships, and that is: the power of the other as an agent of their choices.

The other has the power, for example, to choose to say no, to deny some need, want or yearning, and so on, and because this directly challenges our own sense of personal power (to realize dreams, wants and needs), it touches our deepest intimacy fears, such as fear of inadequacy, rejection, abandonment.

Not surprisingly, this dynamic is particularly intense in couple relationships.

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A Checklist of 12 Science-of-Love Approved Wedding Vows, 2 of 2

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.

iStock_000008686716Medium    This post lists the last 6 of 12 science-backed wedding vows, and is a continuation of Part 1. They are

7. “I vow to disallow my past to negatively influence our present and future together as individuals and a couple.

This vow stems from research on couple communications and forgiveness. Consciously or not, early experiences in interactions with primary caregivers can subconsciously shape our lives, particularly events that were emotionally intense. Many or most core beliefs about who we are, what we are capable of, how we want life to be, and so on, originate in formative years of childhood. Some affect us in positive ways, giving us stamina to overcome challenges, while others block or limit our growth and happiness.

Often the impact of negative (and positive) childhood experiences remains dormant until problems in an intimate relationship surface, making it imperative that we take a fresh look at some deeply painful aspect of ourselves or lives, perhaps ones we’ve disowned or kept well hidden deep inside.

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What Does Reactivity Say? Finding Balance in Your Couple Relationship (Beneath the Surface)?

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.

images-663Recent findings on the brain and intimacy remind us that all communications, regardless their delivery, are attempts to emotionally connect. We are wired for love and empathic connection.

With this in mind, let’s explore what defensive patterns in your couple relationship are saying to you and your partner. To be sure, your brains and emotions, thoughts and feelings, are doing what they’re designed to do whenever you or your partner perceive a threat, in this case, a threat to meeting a core attachment or intimacy (love) need.

What does reactivity say about what’s going on beneath the surface of your couple relationship?

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A Science-of-Love Approved Checklist of 12 Wedding Vows, 1 of 2

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Noel + Hannah Will Marlow via Compfight

A recent article on Science of Relationships outlined a list of ten research-based wedding vows. Based on findings, Samantha Joel outlined vows that, if followed, would best guarantee marital bliss. The below list of 12 vows is adapted from the original.

1. “I vow to think highly of you, and seek to know and appreciate you for who you are, as well as who you aspire to become.”

This vow draws from research on the power of imagination, more specifically, the use of positive illusions or imagination, as a creative force, a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Based on the findings of Dr. Sandara Murray and colleagues, partners who maintained positive illusions of the other and their relationship were more likely to eventually create it. When you view your partner in a positive light, whether you do so consciously or not, the benefits include not only giving your partner a personal feel-good, but also increasing their sense of security in relation to you. 

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Body Wisdom: Taking the Reins of Your Health and Happiness, 2 of 2

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Summer Lovin' Caro Wallis via Compfight

You and your body are one vast interconnected communication system that operates nonstop.

Both you (thoughts and beliefs) and your body (physio-emotion responses) are sending signals to each other around the clock.

You’re at a slight disadvantage, however, as discussed in Part 1. Unlike you, your body’s mind or subconscious, comes pre-wired with the knowledge of how to interpret your thoughts (akin to your computer’s operating system).

In contrast, unless your caregivers in early childhood were tuned into their inner world enough so that they could be tuned into you, you’ll need to “work” at understanding how to interpret your body’s signals (emotion signals), as well as discovering the rules your body follows to to interpret your signals (thoughts)

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Body Wisdom: Understanding the Language of Your Body, 1 of 2

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.

InnocenceCreative Commons License Hartwig HKD via Compfight

Like or love it, you and your body are a highly sophisticated communication network that operates 24/7 around the clock every day of your life.

Neuroscience and other studies of the brain and human relationships have taught us a lot about the brain in the last two decades. We know that to understand and organize our thinking experience of the world, we must necessarily learn language—and all of its syntax and grammatical complexities. In much the same way, we must learn to understand and organize our experience of our body’s own language — emotion and sensory cues — with its unique grammar and syntax rules.

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Does Your Brain Trick You Out of Happiness In Your Love Relationship?

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Valentine's Day

Sergiu Bacioiu via Compfight

When you and your partner discuss a hot topic, do you handle it in a way that enriches your relationship — and ultimately your happiness — or does your experience put more emotional distance between you and polarize your positions? Many couples fall in the latter category.

Think about it. It’s tempting, isn’t it, to use our capacity for logic to build a case against the other? The feel-good neurochemicals in our brain pull us in this direction, particularly, if we’ve experienced this reaction in early experiences with parents (and who hasn’t?).

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