In the wake of headlines about Ben Affleck’s alleged affair with his kids’ former nanny, Christine Ouzounian, 28 (second from right), experts tell Yahoo Parenting why this scenario is more common than you’d think. (Photo: FameFlynet)
Hot on the heels of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner’s divorce announcement on June 30, news reports allege that the couple is splitting because the actor, 42, is having an affair with his children’s former nanny, Christine Ouzounian, 28.
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“She says that it’s perfect because the kids love her,” a confidential source told the New York Daily News about Ouzounian, an Arizona State University grad who became a caregiver to Affleck and Garner’s three children — Violet, 9, Seraphina, 6, and Samuel, 3 — in the spring before Garner reportedly fired her on July 1. Ouzounian, the unnamed source continues, is “the opposite of Jen, basically. She’s the kind of girl who wants to go get drinks and then watch sports and likes to party.”
This old-cliché attraction to the nanny — reported to have contributed to the recent breakup of Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale’s marriage, as well as past splits for Jude Law, Ethan Hawke, and Robin Williams — “happens a lot more than we know about,” Danine Manette, author of Ultimate Betrayal: Recognizing, Uncovering, and Dealing With Infidelity, tells Yahoo Parenting.
Having another woman constantly in one’s home, involved in family life, easing the stress of working couples by caring for their children, “just makes it easier for an affair to happen,” she says. Families who have a nanny, after all, are often doing so because the mother is working.
“A working mom has so many demands on her and is probably tired and doesn’t have as much time as she’d like to spend with her husband,” Jenn Mann, a psychotherapist and host of VH1’s Couples Therapy, tells Yahoo Parenting. “So the couple brings in someone young with the energy to chase the kids around, and that can lead to disaster. She’s the archetype of a nurturing woman when the wife may not be feeling that as much.” Boundaries in such an environment, says Mann, can blur quickly.
“Sometimes people aren’t aware of whether they’re getting emotionally involved with the nanny, which can result in inappropriate behavior pretty easily,” explains Mann, author of The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Kids. “These kinds of affairs typically don’t begin with the physical; they begin with emotions. The husband might tell the nanny something personal about his wife, and she learns the couple’s vulnerabilities. The nanny can be there to comfort a husband when he’s hurt or pissed off at his spouse, and that can open the doors to betrayal.”
And although placement for male nannies, aka “mannies,” in American homes is reportedly on the rise, only 5.9 percent of child-care workers in the United States are men, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2012, per one report. That makes the wife-manny affair a less likely scenario. “I’ve seen my share of fathers having an affair with the nanny in my practice,” Mann says, “but I’ve yet to see an infidelity with the manny. Part of that may be because the person who typically hires a manny is a single mom with a son who wants to give her child a male role model.”
Ultimately, though, the nanny isn’t the root of an affair, insist both experts. “The problem is with the father if he doesn’t respect boundaries with the caregiver or his marriage,” says Manette. “If he’s predisposed to extracurricular physical or emotional involvements, it’s going to happen regardless of whether a nanny is employed in his home. To say that you have to keep women away from your husband is ridiculous.”
Still, a little communication and caution can’t hurt. “It’s important for the couple to talk about appropriate boundaries before anyone starts working in the home because it’s a very personal relationship,” says Mann, who urges mothers to trust their instincts when it comes to hiring nannies. “If you were leaving valuable jewelry out on the table all day long every day, you’d keep an eye on it. And what’s more valuable than your marriage?”