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Why Do Good People Cheat?

Dan Marino, Hall of Fame quarterback, husband of 28 years and champion of autism awareness, cheated on his wife and fathered a child in 2005 with a CBS employee. Marino has always been seen as a clean-cut family man. In addition to four children, he adopted two daughters, and as a result of raising his own autistic son, developed the Dan Marino Autism Center.

Finding out that he cheated and fathered a daughter begs the age old questions: How can someone seemingly so good do something so bad? Can good people cheat? Statistics vary, but it’s assumed that 50 percent of men cheat. In my own study of over 400 women, 39 percent admitted to physically cheating on their husbands.

So why is cheating so rampant? We crave emotional connection. In my study, only seven percent of cheating men said they were after the sex as compared to 48 percent who reported it was the desire for emotional connection that drove the impropriety. Eighty-eight percent of cheaters said the mistress was not better looking or in better shape than their wives. It is just not as simple as wanting sex.

Most cheating occurs after he’s formed some close friendship with the woman with whom he will eventually cheat. When men feel emotionally disconnected at home, too many make the horrifying choice to find it somewhere else instead of working to reconnect with their wives. Often, they too are surprised at how their emotional friendship turned into something deeper and physical when that was not their original intention.

We don’t protect our marriages. Chemistry is powerful, and people are deeply searching for companionship and love. When a couple is not actively engaged in nurturing their marital love, they risk danger. Not that cheating is ever justified; it is an ugly choice. But the similar desire to be actively in love has driven us to marry, and sadly, can drive many to look outside their marriage for that love as well.

This is why men must be careful not to even allow close friendships to form with other women. They might say it’s fair game, but we need to be developing closer connections in our home, not away from it.

If you have found yourself enjoying another woman’s friendship, you need to ask yourself things like: when have I laughed like that, or had a great discussion, or had a fun time, or had a great meal, et cetera, with my wife? Typically, it’s been too long, and it’s time to bring that energy home and work to renew your loving connection.

The world of sports and movies create a recipe for cheating. The lives of these powerful men take them away from their spouses for weeks and months at a time. These men are idolized and offered adoration by women at every stop. These men have handlers that support the belief that they are great and loved by everyone. They begin to believe that they can do anything and all will approve. These combinations create fertile ground for broken marriages.

The answers to protecting your marriage from cheating lie in making your marriage successful. Keep in mind what it takes to be successful in every other part of life: time, focus and loving work. Our marriages need the same ingredients, and if we feel our love is faltering, that’s the time to go to our spouse and discuss how to fix it.

It might seem easier — at the moment — to start a relationship elsewhere, but no cheater has ever told me he’s happy it happened. Every cheater regrets it. He might have been heading for divorce anyway, but he never feels good about what he did to his family when he chose to cheat.

Even a Dan Marino can do so much good and cheat. But until he worked as hard on his marriage as he did on being a great quarterback and dad, he risked his loving home. Our marriages are to be cherished, and if we aren’t reminded every now and then of why we love our spouse, it’s time to work harder — like every other part of life that we wish to never let go of.

M. Gary Neuman is a New York Times best-selling author, rabbi, and creator of Neuman Method Programs. He has appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” 11 times, and has made multiple appearances on “Today,” “Dateline,” “The View” and NPR , among others. Oprah herself has referred to Gary as “One of the best psychotherapists in the world.”

More at Fox News Magazine:

What to do when your boyfriend plans on cheating on you

Love and sex that lasts a lifetime

Are you wracked with guilt over an affair?