Love & Money is a MarketWatch series looking at how our relationship with money impacts our relationships with significant others, friends and family.
Kit, 49, an English professor from Minnesota, who married in 1996, says staying married makes more financial sense. However, he says he has grown bored in his marriage.
He met his wife in college, and was drawn to her assertive and sarcastic personality. But years into their marriage Kit says he felt like his wife became demeaning and unkind. They were never able to reach a compromise. They fought constantly, and he grew to resent her.
“She wanted a great big fancy house, I wanted a little house so we could travel more. In the end, we got a big fancy house. It was pretty clear that if I didn’t give in to what she wanted every time it was a constant battle of you give in, and then you resent it,” he said.
They had a sexless marriage for five years. One weekend in 2015, during a work trip, Kit had his first affair with a colleague.
“It never occurred to me that I’d have an affair. It just happened. I don’t think either of us saw it coming,” he said. He wife later found out by reading messages on his iPad. Kit moved out, and they started couples therapy a year later.
Electronics regularly pop up in divorce cases, experts say. Over 80% of U.S. divorce attorneys say they’ve seen a rise in the number of cases using social networking, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, and more than a third of divorce filings contained the word Facebook, according to a U.K. survey by Divorce Online, a legal services firm.
Cheating has arguably gotten easier. Dating sites like DiscreetAdventures.com cater to married men and women, and apps like Snapchat
and Slingshot allow adulterers to send messages that disappear on arrival. But technology cuts both ways: There are apps that also allow suspicious spouses to track their partner’s online activity. (Ironically, couples that met on an online dating site and married were less likely to split, according to a 2013 study published in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”)
Kit, who preferred to withhold his last name, kept his affairs private, and lives separately in a one-bedroom apartment paying $385 a month for rent. He’s spent around $50 a month on dating sites to meet women, $200 a month on grooming and new clothes, and around $100 a month on dinners and drinks he will typically split with his date.
Kit says divorce is off the table because he and his wife ran into some financial trouble after a flood destroyed their home around the time they separated. Paying for their daughter’s private school tuition is also the priority right now over hiring divorce lawyers.
He’s currently in a relationship with a married woman. He’ll spend $25 on gas to see his partner, and he has spent $100 on gifts and Champagne. A recent outing at a casino cost $110 a night. For a room, and on each date Kit spends between $75 to $100, he says.
He’s not alone. About one in five men and women admitted to cheating on their partners, according to a survey of more than 70,000 adults by MSNBC. com.
Men are more likely to commit infidelity, according to a recent survey from Private investigator company Trustify. Out of the 200 people polled, 36% of male respondents, and 21% of women said they cheated on their partner. The findings showed that 40% of male participants said their marriages ended following the infidelity, while only 19% of women said their marriages ended in divorce, regardless of the unfaithful spouse.
Men and women cite different reasons for being unfaithful. Some 14% of men cited the lack of sexual satisfaction in their marriages and desire for more attention as a reason for cheating. For women, 22% said the reason they were unfaithful was a desire for revenge on a cheating partner, according to the survey.
Also see: 5 apps for spying on your spouse
The average affair costs around $2,664, or $444 per month, according to a survey by discount code site VoucherCloud. All those hotel rooms, travel, dinners and gifts add up. But the most costly expense related to infidelity stems from divorce. Indeed, infidelity is the most common reason divorcees choose to end a marriage, providing the basis for 37% of divorces, according to a 2014 report from the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, a conservative think-tank.
People are also more likely to prepare for the unmentionable: Infidelity and divorce. In one survey of 1,600 members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, some 63% of attorneys said they’ve seen an increase in the number of clients seeking prenuptial agreements.
Protection of property that was owned by one spouse before the marriage was the most popular stipulation of the prenups the lawyers saw (80%), followed by alimony/spousal maintenance (77%) and division of all property bought during the marriage (72%).
Eve Helitzer, a matrimonial attorney in New York City, says that because people are marrying later, they’ve often accumulated significant assets by the time they wed, making a prenup more desirable. What’s more, they may want to keep the family business out of reach of a future spouse in the event of a divorce, Helitzer says. Rising property prices may also encourage people to consider signing a prenup.
Marriages, themselves, are an investment. Aside from the thousands of dollars a couple may have spent on a wedding, nurturing the relationship at the core of a marriage typically involves a great deal of time and money. Engaging in an extramarital affair is like throwing that investment away. “It’s a waste of money if you’re not willing to make your partner the priority in your life,” said Tom Gagliano, author of “The Problem Was Me” and life coach.
The average divorce’s price tag is $15,000 in legal fees, according to legal information site Nolo.com. “Divorce is like going through a terrible recession,” said Sterling Neblett, a certified financial planner and founding partner of Centurion Wealth Management in McLean, Va. “Often couples must split their assets in half which feels like losing 50% of your wealth.”
Many Americans appear to be “monogomish” — that is, they would cheat if they knew they could get away with it, according to a survey of 1,000 people carried out in July by the USA Network. While 82% professed “zero tolerance” for cheating, 81% still said they would cheat if there were no consequences.
Parenthood appears to be one major motivator of infidelity, the study found. Some 55% of married couples with children agreed that “marriage is more difficult than I thought it would be,” compared with 34% of couples without children.
Elizabeth and her husband is one married couple who agreed to meet other people for sexual encounters, but they only agreed to do so together.
She met her husband when she was a freshman in college in 1999. He lived a half hour away in central Illinois and would bring flowers when he’d come to visit her at school. She was attracted to his “take-charge” personality, a refreshing change from her ex who she says was too much of a pushover.
“He’d come up on the weekend. We spent a lot of time in the bedroom,” Elizabeth, who preferred to withhold her last name, told MarketWatch. “We’d go out to eat and hang out with his friends. We never really dated. He’d call every other night and we’d talk on the phone for a couple of hours.”
He proposed a year later, but Elizabeth, who was studying to be a teacher, insisted on finishing her degree before tying the knot. They got married in 2003. “We were the family with the white picket fence, kids and a dog,” she says. “I was working as a teacher and I’d come home had have supper cooked for him. I was the homemaker. I kind of let all of my girlfriends go and my friends became his.”
After they had their son in 2008, they both got bored in their romantic relationship.
“Both of us were each other’s firsts sexually. We kind of wondered what other people would be like,” she says, adding that they started swinging in 2008 using a dating site for married couples, and occasionally posted ads on Craigslist.
“We found out that we weren’t actually physically attracted to each other like we thought we were, and sex was so much better with other people. We liked completely polar opposite things in the bedroom,” Elizabeth admits.
Elizabeth met another man at a gas station she frequented on her commute to the school she worked at an hour away from home. He asked for her number.
“I didn’t stop and say, ‘Hey I’m married.’ I was like, ‘OK, yeah.’ I came to find out he was married too. We kind of stumbled into this affair where my husband didn’t know,” she says.
They met in his house when their respective partners were at work, she says. “He was the cheapest of all the affairs,” she recalls of not having to spend money on hotel rooms or more than $10 on gas everyday.
That affair lasted six months, but ended when he got a divorce and expected Elizabeth to do the same. She wasn’t planning on it. Instead, she told her husband about the affair. It put a rift in their marriage for years. They stayed married, but agreed to live financially separate lives. They had separate bank accounts, and split the bills.
“From that point on it was very easy for him not to see the cost of my affairs and for me not to see the cost of his,” she says. “We had a huge blow out fight yelling and screaming.”
Elizabeth joined another dating site for married couples that costs between $35 and $89 to message other people. “The main cost is hotels,” says Elizabeth, who has racked up bills between $62 and $190 a night. She’s offered to split the costs each time, but says her partner’s usually pay the tab.
Elizabeth says divorce is not an option for her. “I honestly love my husband. I do. He and I are like best friends who live together. We have two children together. Though we’re not financially tied together, we have a farm house on five acres on land. We built this life together.”
For his part, Kit knows what he’s doing is wrong, but says he has no regrets about his affairs, and plans to pursue a divorce from his wife when he can afford a lawyer.
“I spent 20 years in a marriage thinking I was trying to do it right and make it work. Life is too short to feel that way about things. If you have a partner who doesn’t want to be an equal partner it’s time to move on.”
(Jacob Passy and Quentin Fottrell contributed to this story.)
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