I recently received a response to a column I wrote a few weeks ago from a reader dealing with a common problem on Wall Street: adultery.
The column, titled "
Your Early Midlife Crisis," focused on a trend that I have noticed in my private practice: Men have been displaying earlier signs of disillusionment, apathy and confusion about their lives than in previous years. The manifestation of a premature or early midlife crisis for men typically involves an abrupt change in lifestyle or behavior that appears to others as excessively indulgent, immature and irresponsible. Many of these behaviors serve as a means for the individual to ignore or pacify their painful feelings of sadness, frustration and worry, stemming from a lost sense of purpose and regret about what they may have missed out on or goals that they have not yet accomplished in their lives.
The column resonated with this reader, whom we'll call "Dan." He was kind enough to approve of me sharing his concerns with my audience for the purpose of helping others who may be experiencing a similar quandary:
Dear Stock Doc, I'm in the financial profession and I am very successful for my age. I am in my thirties and have attained most of my dreams and goals. However, my success comes at a cost in how I've "coped" with my stress. Some people drink or do drugs ... I've strayed from my marriage. I have a loving wonderful family but somehow I can't resist going outside my marriage. I've rationalized it as my way of dealing with the extreme stresses that I'm subjected to on a daily basis, and that it's just my "vice" or early mid-life crisis. I do not want to destroy my family and I feel guilty about acting on my impulses. It just gets easier each time that I get away with it and it seems to resolve some of the frustration and tensions in my marriage. I'm wondering if I'll ever grow out of it?Sincerely,Dan
I'm glad that the column impacted you the way it did. I will not morally judge your actions, as it sounds like you are feeling guilty and confused about why you did what you did already.
I've heard your story countless times in my practice and more times than not, it is because there is something missing from your marriage that you feel uncomfortable talking about or asking for from your spouse. There is likely a communication breakdown between you and your spouse and it is likely that one or both of you are not getting your needs met.
Cheating on your partner should never be the solution to managing your needs deficit. Each time you do it, you will erode the foundation of what you worked so hard to build with your wife. It is likely that you will not grow out of this behavior unless you work hard to change your current relationship. If it is worth saving, you will likely have to put in as many hours with your wife as you do with your colleagues at work. Solid relationships do take a great deal of work.
If you are straying outside the marriage for sex, it is obvious that your sex life at home is probably not adequate enough for you or that you are feeling underappreciated by your spouse. The topic of sex tends to create a great deal of stress in a marriage when one partner begins to feel neglected or unsatisfied. When an individual is not getting his or her sexual needs met or is rejected by a partner repeatedly when asking for sexual intimacy, the rejected partner usually feels frustrated, resentful and powerless over changing the situation.
I have worked with many individuals who would rather not speak up about their wish to have more sexual intimacy with their spouses for fear of being rejected again. Consequently, they repress their feelings and even start to feel inadequate and asexual. This situation becomes paradoxical in that these very powerful and dominant individuals start to feel unattractive, unappealing and powerless to change their situation. In essence, some clients turn to alcohol and drugs to manage their anger and frustration, while others turn to looking for romance outside of their marriages.
Men and women, especially successful ones, need to feel at times like they are sexual beings and that they are sought after for this quality rather than for their brains, money or power alone. Additionally, I have noticed that in long-term loving relationships, women and men both forget to remind each other of these qualities on a regular basis.
There are many normal and appropriate variables that can distract a partner from focusing on the marriage, such as newborn children, stress at work and physical illness. These variables tend to shift the focus away from the couples' "alone time," and the situation usually negatively impacts one partner more than the other. This inequality tends to elicit the passive-aggressive actions, such as looking outside the marriage for sex, for the purpose of helping the individual feel more in control and more attractive again.
I know that it is hard to talk about sex with your partner. You may feel like he or she will become offended or defensive, causing household conflict. However, if you cheat and don't speak up about what you need and want in your relationship, you are risking your marriage, your family and even half of your equity.
I always tell my clients that they should never put themselves in a situation where someone else may be able to take control over your life. If you are having sex with another woman and she knows that you are married, she may try to extort money from you if you offend her in any way or give her a reason to be spiteful.
Even worse, imagine the look on your wife's face if she ever found out that you were with another woman. For the individual that is cheated on, it will erase anything positive and meaningful that you two shared early on in your relationship. You may or may not ever be forgiven.
The best route is to talk openly and explain to your partner that you have needs that are not being met. It is always best to tell your spouse that you are a team that needs to support each other and that is why you are having a sit-down. If this seems too stressful and anxiety provoking, I would recommend couples counseling, which will be facilitated by an objective third party.
If you are feeling up to the challenge, tell your wife that you have been feeling down about yourself lately and that you are worried she's not attracted to you anymore. Of course, you'll want to give her the opportunity to air some of her concerns about what may have made her less affectionate with you as well.
Maybe you have become emotionally distanced from her because of the stressful nature of your job and she has withdrawn from you as a result. The key is communication. Opening up this type of dialogue will allow you guys to vent your frustrations and move forward. Additionally, take some initiative in sparking some romance again. Try to be more impulsive with candles, spontaneous road trips or back massages. Remember, motion creates emotion -- so take charge of the situation, call your wife and find each other again.
Please write to the Stock Doc with your trading, emotional or investing dilemmas. Dr. Cass always welcomes comments and stories, for which he'll try to offer solutions in later columns
Cass is a performance enhancement coach and clinical psychologist for Catalyst Strategies Group (
) who specializes in working directly with individual and teams of senior investment executives, including high-profile CEOs, top hedge fund and prop traders, investors, and financial advisors to help them achieve their financial and personal goals. He works to modify behaviors that are hampering their performance and to give them the mental edge within competitive work environments. He is a licensed clinical psychologist and an expert on the use of psychology in the financial services industry. He has conducted behavioral healthcare studies on retail stockbrokers that indicated that 23 percent of the group measured met criteria for major depression. His research has been presented at both national and international conferences (APA, ICPP). He is a major contributor to columns in On Wall Street Magazine and Traderdaily.com. Cass has also conducted workshops with the Securities Industry Association, Money Management Institute, Trader Monthly Magazine's Peak Performance Workshop, The Wall Street Branch Managers Meeting at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and the London Bullion Market Association, the Silver & Zinc Association, the Investment Management Consultants Association (IMCA), and the Investment Products Association (IPA).
He has appeared in the following media: The Today Show, Fox News Live, New York Magazine, Businessweek, Lou Dobbs Moneyline CNN,CNN money.com, CNBC London, Financial Times, London Financial Weekly, Washington Post Radio, NY Newsday, On Wall Street Magazine, E-Trade "On Air," BBC Radio, Reuter's Business Newswire, New York Times, Boston Globe, Absolute Return Magazine.