What are some of the high-risk factors that are evident in your spouse (or you) that may have attributed to his/her infidelity?

risk factors for infidelity

By Doug

Recently on this blog, we have been discussing the perceptions of the other person from both the eyes of the cheating spouse, and from the eyes of the betrayed spouse.  One person suggested that it would be interesting to delve into the common traits that are found in those individuals that have marital affairs.  I naturally agreed.

One of the best books on this subject, in my opinion, is “Close Calls” by Dave Carder.  In the book he takes what he has learned from over 30 years of counseling couples recovering from infidelity and formulates a set of risk factors that were evident in these couples.  This risky profile can help us learn to recognize the infidelity risk factors that each spouse brings to the relationship.

The fact that a person may have a risky profile does not in and of itself mean that he/she will have an affair.  But the chances are greater they will when combined with the elements of stress and being exposed to an individual that Carder calls a “dangerous partner.”

Carder’s “dangerous partner profile” is explained at length in the book, but to summarize it includes individuals that have developmental lags (caused by such things as alcoholism, an absent parent, a disability in the family, etc.), an intriguing personality style, similar hobbies and interests, attraction, and who seem to fill a variety of marital voids, among other things.

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So what are some of these high-risk factors that seem to be prevalent in those susceptible to affairs?

Carder breaks down the high-risk factors into four sub-groups:  Family History, Personal Factors, Times (events) and Behavior.  He offers the following checklist that can help identify if someone is at high-risk for infidelity:

High-Risk Family History

  • Family history of infidelity.  Infidelity runs in family trees.  You need to look up to two generations back.
  • Single parent/blended family.  This is considered a more vulnerable family history.
  • Physically abusive and/or chronic conflict within the family.  This creates a high need for nurturance and reassurance.

High-Risk Personal Factors

  • Sexual molestation, where there was childhood seduction, abuse and possibly molestation.  It is often difficult for one who is molested to feel attractive as an adult and to enjoy the pleasant sexual passions that exist in a good marriage.
  • Adolescent promiscuity.  Someone who was sexually active at fifteen or earlier, with more than six partners in their teen years.  The lure of the teen years can lead to close calls and infidelity.
  • Learning disabilities and/or ADHD.  Those with these diagnose often have difficult childhoods and have a high need for reassurance and nurturance due to emotional pain.

High-Risk Times

  • Times of loss – death, poor health, occupational and career losses.  Here the person needs healing and comforting.
  • Life changes – pregnancy, caring for a chronically ill parent or child or spouse, kids leaving the home.  An affair can provide reassurance of youth, virility and attractiveness.
  • Life Transitions – moving, job promotions, retirement.  There is a loss of usual support and control.
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High-Risk Behavior

  • Opposite-sex friendship with private conversations.  These always begin to mean more and are always comforting.
  • Volunteer opportunity with person of the opposite-sex.  Here there is a shared passion that doesn’t exist in the marriage.
  • “Soloing” in public places.  A person who sends out signals that they are unhappy in their marriage.  They are vulnerable and needy.  Needy persons are more aggressive.
  • Fantasizing about another.  This erodes the satisfaction with your spouse.

Carder summarizes by saying that it’s worth remembering that “the greater number of risk factors, without the same degree of awareness and protection, the more likely an individual will have a close call with a dangerous partner.  However, the more aware you are of your own risk factors, the more likely you’ll be able to resist a close call situation or pull back from it if it occurs.”

One thing that you might want to do is sit down with your spouse, and both of you go through this checklist and try to become aware of those high-risk factors that exist within each of you.

What are some of the high-risk factors that are evident in your spouse (or you) that may have attributed to his/her infidelity?

    20 replies to "High-Risk Factors for Infidelity"

    • mil

      In my H’s case he was thrown together with the OW as she was secretary on the committee he chaired and they had to laise and attend meetings together. Also, when her boss was off with a breakdown, my H was inviolved in keeping the business going and as she was practice manager there was again lots they had in common. I was going through the menopause although I didn’t realise at the time and I’d gone off sex and we were very distant emotionally. His mum had also had to go into a nursing him and barely recognised us any more and he had to deal with all her business and was under great stress. I felt we’d lost each other and the OW appeared at the right time.
      My H swears there’s no way he would ever have ended up with her and it was all a game to relieve the boredom and get some fun which he wasn’t getting from me. I maybe could have accepted it by now except for the fact that his OW told me when I confronted her on the phone that it wasn’t the first time he’d done ‘this sort of thing’. This raked up an incident 10 years ago when I discovered he’d bought his OW’s predecessor a Tiffany and Co pendant but at the time he convinced me it was because she’d had a necklace stolen out of her bag and was upset so he bought her a replacement. Although this never rang true, it eventually went out of my mind and there was absolutely no other incriminating evidence BUT I never checked his phone in those days although the one he had then didn’t text anyway.
      I phoned Tiffany and was able to find out that the pendant was a HEART necklace. He then changed his story that she was ill and off work with drug and alcohol abuse and he’d seen it advertised in a magazine and sent for it to ‘cheer her up’. It was ordered on Valentine’s day but his argument is if it was for Valentine’s he would have ordered it much sooner. This other OW has in a way become more significant than the one I discovered more recently because I really thought we were so happy at that time. Again he denies any romance and says he felt sorry for her but it’s so long ago he knows I’ve little chance of proving otherwise. Oh and by the way, I never knew of her existence at the time and he certainly never mentioned anyone he knew at work going through a bad time so I’m sure there was more to it than he wants me to believe as it was all kept secret.

    • blueskyabove

      This is off-topic, but I am currently reading a book titled “Who’s Pulling Your Strings?: How to Break the Cycle of Manipulation” by Harriet B. Braiker, Ph.D. that I believe would be helpful to a great many people here.

      In it you can discover if you are in a manipulative relationship, what your “buttons” are that are so easy for a manipulator to read and then push. Discover a manipulator’s motives and how to level the playing field between you and those who manipulate you.

      I’ve just begun reading the book and have found it helpful and also fascinating at the same time. Just like “charging neutral” and the 180, this information may help some of you regain a sense of balance and much needed control over your life and circumstances.

      I would really encourage you to read this book!

    • blueskyabove


      I meant to add that in your post on Perceptions of the AP Over Time you stated, “Once the newness wore off or he (my friend) wasn’t able to provide as much fun and excitement as he once did, she would be looking elsewhere.”. My H said the same thing shortly after DDay. In the book I just referenced the author points out that when the tactics are no longer effective, when the target is no longer an easy mark, the manipulator will likely seek a new target or victim. They don’t really want to put forth much effort if they don’t have to…just thought you might like to know this.

      • Doug

        That is interesting bluesky. Thanks for the book recommendation too, btw.

      • Linda

        blueskyabove, I will try to find that book, I love reading information like that. I also wanted to comment on your sentence about not putting forth too much effort. I believe that is was one of the reasons the affair was so appealing. When Doug worked with Tanya all he had to do was show up for work to receive the flattery and attention. He didn’t have to put in much effort or work at all, when he changed jobs it became more difficult and took more planning, time and effort. Maybe the work involved outweighed the rewards and it wasn’t as satisfying. Having a good marriage takes a lot of effort by both people, being in an affair is much easier. Linda

    • blueskyabove


      Just for the record I wasn’t implying that Doug was a manipulator. I’ll admit I am biased when it comes to my H’s AP. It’s something I am continually working on. Every woman my H has brought into our marriage (in varying degrees of intensity) has either been single or divorced. And, everyone of them had something to gain and nothing to lose by having an affair. In my mind each one was manipulative and serving their own interests first with little or no regard for anyone else…including my H. I have no idea of the dynamics involved when both are married, but I imagine it is much more complex.

      BTW I’m in the process of compiling that list of books for you. I haven’t forgotten. I just got sidetracked by discovering others.

    • Surviving Infidelity

      If anyone is interested in the dynamic of the “love” relationship, I highly recommend you read James Hollis’ “The Eden Project.” Hollis dives into the base meaning of things and discusses how much of childhood we bring to our adult relationships and what it is we are really looking for. This book completely changed the way I look at the “love” relationship. If you get a chance, pick it up. In fact, anything by Hollis is great stuff.

    • Norwegian woman

      Can one get addicted to the attention and stimulation of an affair?
      I was thinking if you see a rat, there`s probably lots of rats nearby. I know my husband had two affairs. One overlapping another.
      He has allways had a high libido, but now he often is tired and doesn`t seem interested. He is only 46, so i think it is a little early to slow down our love life.
      When I read this article, the description of how he could get loads of attention almost effortless fit my husband to the point. He never slowed down his sex life during these affairs. And he complained that I was the one that was uninterested.
      We had a period of passion after the discovery, but after that our sex-life is suffering.
      He doesn`t have an affair now, and I sometimes wonder if it is the lack of stimulation (other women) that does it. He is very attentive and caring, but our sex-life is not as it should. It is very frustrating.
      I wonder if he have had a long chain of women for years, and i have had my suspicions, but he will never ever admit it as I have no proof.
      And of course, I start thinking about if he isn`t attracted to me anymore and his attentiveness is just a play. He says that I am the only one for him, that he will never leave me and never do this to me again. But his lack of libido must be frustrating to him too, and I am afraid that he will seek attention to “fix” this again.

      • Doug

        Norwegian, I do think that it’s possible for one to get addicted to the attention and stimulation of an affair for the feelings that it can produce. If not addicted, at least a super boost to self-confidence and ego.

        I’m 49 and I confess that at times, my libido is not what it used to be. It has nothing to do with anything other than physiology. When I was 18 I thought about sex constantly and could be aroused when a strong wind was gusting. Now it’s a little different. It takes a little more to get aroused – but not that much more 😉 If you haven’t discussed his lack of libido with him yet, you should. Maybe your sex life is in a rut and needs some spicing up. Don’t necessarily jump to the conclusion that the lack of libido has anything to do with his affairs.

        • Morrigan

          Hi Doug and Norwegian,

          I was actually wondering the same thing Norwegian. After he decided NC our sex life was great, and stayed that way for a few months, but about 4 months later (we’re now almost 7 months NC) our sex life has dwindled to nothing. This has me very frustrated. I can’t help but think its’ because he has lost interest in me, he’s bored, or he’s thinking about her. I don’t think they have had any contact. And lately I can’t stop thinking about it all again, I had a couple good months, but March was horrible, and he only gets angry talking about it. He wants to move on. So lack of a love life only adds to my insecurity with it all. When I ask him about it he just says that “I’m too horny” or “always horny”. I’m 36 and feel more confident about myself now then when I was in my 20’s!!

          • Doug

            Hey Morrigan, Try not to think that he is thinking about her. You’ll drive yourself crazy. After 7 months I tend to doubt that he is. Why was it so good just after the NC? Were you guys doing something different then versus now? Are you initiating sex or are you waiting for him? Certainly there are times when men are not in the mood for sex, as are women, but usually if it’s initiated by the woman it’s difficult for a man to say no (IMO). If you’re not doing so already, initiate sex more often. Do it somewhere other than the bedroom, wear sexy things, go to bed naked, etc.

            • Morrigan

              Thanks you Doug. I actually initiate sex all the time, he rarely does, but we only have sex when he initiates. And I try to be careful not to initiate when I know he would most likely not be interested as the response will be, “I’m too tired” or if he is watching football or on the computer etc. etc. I really have no idea why we were like that after NC. The only thing I can think of is that he was trying to show he cared in some way. I do think he has a terrible self image. He is running again, but I think he is very self-conscience about his appearance and he should not be as he is so attractive and women tell me how attractive he is all the time. I know one thing about the OW was that she made him feel good about himself, flattery, although short lived I think. But no matter how I try, and I always have, when I call him sexy, or tell him he’ s attractive, he responds with, “your the only one that thinks that”. He has never, ever blamed me for what happened, he says it was nothing to do with our relationship or me. I know its all internal for him, as I know his past. But I am struggling to keep up my confidence right now.

            • Holdingon

              Kiss him like you did when you first got together, I don’t know about him, but if my wife kisses me like that she better put on a helmet, lol.

      • Linda

        Norweigan woman, I want you to know that I felt the same way you did at about the same time into our recovery. I know that after D-day our sex life was very exciting,new and had a sense of urgency. The reality was I wasn’t sure how long we would be together so I felt I was embracing every moment we had together. It was almost felt we shouldn’t be doing this but I wanted it so badly. I guess it felt like we were having our own affair. Also the emotions were so high at the time that both physically and mentally I felt everything a hundred times more.

        After things settled down a bit our sex life changed, it wasn’t as spontaneous or urgent but it was special and intimate. I did find a time that I was a lot more interested in sex than Doug and it really concerned me. I also wondered if he was still thinking about her, or if they were physical and I didn’t compare, etc. He would also call me out about thinking about it all the time. Honestly I was afraid not too. I felt that was one of the reasons he swayed from our marriage and I was determined not to let that happen again. I also found that I had forgotten how enjoyable it could be, and I also had gained a new confidence and was willing to try and do things that I was too shy to try before.

        I will never understand why our sex life changed after about 6-7 months after D-day. I think some of it had to do with resentment on Doug’s part. He had a difficult time trusting why I was so interested now and not before. He also said that with age his urges have changed. I also think it has to do with availability. Before the affair I felt like that was all he wanted to do and would try anything to get me in bed. Now I am always willing and available, and I am giving him so much more than just sex – we communicate, are affectionate and maybe he doesn’t need it as much as he did before. I just wanted you to know that you are not crazy, we have been there and have successfully worked through it. Linda

        • Kathy

          omg Linda, so much of this describes what I’ve been going through with regard to the increase in my sex life.

          What I want to know, as it seems many of us BS’s are having (or have had) this experience, why is it that we forgot how enjoyable it could be? Why had we been lacking confidence in the bedroom before? Why were we too shy before? What messages were our spouses sending us that made us feel uncomfortable, unconfident and shy? Why did they have to go looking elsewhere? What could they have done differently before the EA started?

          I mean okay, I know I pushed my H away a lot, and he tried to tell me there was a serious deficit of sex in our marriage. But why didn’t I hear him before? Why didn’t he do more to make it fun and exciting again, instead of putting all the responsibility on me? Because on d-day, it was all my fault that he got involved with the OW. And man did I believe it! Now, not so much.

          I know I contributed to the problems, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I have to ask why he wasn’t doing more to make our marriage better in the first place!

          • Linda

            Kathy, That was something I really beat myself up about after Dday, and then I began reading some books on the subject which really opened my eyes to why I was not very interested in sex. I began to understand what I needed to feel confident and comfortable enough to be with Doug. I believe in some ways sex became a control issue for us and we both ended up losing. Now that we are both giving each other what we need outside of the bedroom it have taken care of all the issues we had in the bedroom. Sex is important to us but being together and intimate in other ways is definitely our top priority. Linda

            • Morrigan

              Hey Linda, can you tell me the title and author of the book?

            • Linda

              Morrigan, The books are Love and Respect and What Woman want Men to Know, I am not sure of the authors but you can find them in our library. Linda

    • Norwegian woman

      Thank you, Linda and Doug. Your answers helped me a lot. I never thought about it that way. That our daily physical closeness (other than sex) probably fills so much of his needs, that he doesn`t has to use sex to get them….. I will think about that for a while…..
      I know that when we were disconnected, he was desperate for sex, and I was beginning to believe he was trying to kill me with his needs… ha ha.

    • Gizfield

      I read something once that made sense to me, and I dont remember where I read it. “Conflict creates sexual tension.” A lot of people think the opposite, that being all lovey dovey and sweet all the time will make you want sex with a person. I think it is much harder to maintain sexual interest in someone if you are sure they are always available. A huge draw of the EA is that sex is not available. They can imagine it will be The Best Ever, and they dont have to test that theory. That is why a lot of relationships end after sex, it has run it’s natural course and is no longer interesting.

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