To acquaint readers with the nature of infidelity and how to handle it.
By: Susan Adams M.Ed.
Summary: Infidelity occurs in many but not all marriages. The marriage can be saved in many cases. This article identifies the kinds of infidelity which may occur and makes suggestions about how to handle the situation to best preserve the marriage.
First, it needs to be understood that men and women cheat for different reasons by nature of their gender differences.
Why men cheat: Men cheat because they are foolish. A man is not apt to consider the consequences of his infidelity. He may incur a boundary breach or lapse of control when out one night, he has too much to drink with the other boys. The other boys may egg him on and he winds up in bed with one of the women in the group. He awakens the next morning and in horror, realizes what he has done. He is afraid to tell his wife for fear of her reaction so he keeps the secret. Once the secret begins, the marriage is in trouble because the secret will erode the intimacy. The person who has the secret must distance from his partner in order to keep the secret from emerging.
In another scenario, a man befriends his secretary. She tells him intimate details of her life. She may share her marriage problems. She is a damsel in distress and the man wants to “help” her-save her. He listens and he shares some personal details about himself.
Since our relationships are carried in the conversations we have with others, this couple begins to get intimate. The man does not tell his wife. He knows that she wouldn’t like it.
On one occasion or another, in a meeting that should not be happening, someone makes a first move and the relationship becomes sexual. These relationships may or may not progress to the point of falling in love-for one or both parties. In any case, this relationship, also, is a secret.
The secret breeds the fantasy, often for the woman, that this could continue and be real. The man will leave his wife–and kids–and she pursues him not being concerned that this “spot” is taken–by another woman, his wife.
So we have the one night stand which often is created by the addition of alcohol, and we have the more extended relationship which carries more feeling and can cause the parties to think that they love each other.
Then there is the philanderer. These men don’t like women at all. They want power over them and use sex to do it. They go “hunting” to see how many they can catch. They are generally using sex for sport. There is no intimacy and they move from woman to woman.
They may cheat when the marriage is good–they can’t tolerate closeness with a woman.
They generally had powerful mothers and emotionally absent fathers and have learned that “real” men use women but don’t get close to them.
Dealing with “Men”, please keep in mind that infidelity is between a man and his father. When a father does not anoint his son with enough “atta boys” the boy grows up to believe he is not man enough. These men use women to feel better so that a man is apt to cheat when he is feeling badly about himself or when his wife knows him too well.
Because women are put together with an emotional component that most men are missing, the woman DOES think about her actions and the consequences. It is therefore impossible for her to hop into bed with any man without first thinking about his wife and kids.
Women, therefore, who cheat, are angry. They may be angry with the man that they married–usually for being too controlling or inattentive, OR, they have been angry with abuses form men all of their lives starting with their fathers.
The difficulty here is that just that; because these women know full well what they are doing and it doesn’t stop them they are very hard to treat.
The men, however, stumble into affairs quite often, want to stay married, and need to find the path back.( It starts with the truth about everything being told to the wife. The truth to the wife begins to restore the intimacy. There can be no intimacy when there is lying.)
This may not hold true for the philanderer. He may want to stay married as well but he doesn’t want to give up the other women. He may just wear out his wife and she may throw in the towel despite the kids and the effect of divorce on them.
If you are a woman and your husband is caught having an affair, I would beg you to stay calm. The heat of your emotion will drive him away.
Since all the men that I know are fearful of female emotion, the man is most afraid of your anger. He is afraid that he will never be forgiven. He might rather run away than live in your anger. And, let’s face it, one could not be so angry if one saw the affair as an imperfection of the man–which it is–and not the fault of the wife.
This is a very difficult concept for most women. However, NO ONE can MAKE someone else have an affair. That is a personal decision that can only be made by the person having the affair. With men, it is about not feeling good enough.
So the woman must stay calm and work hard to understand what her husband found in the other woman so that she can copy it. This is very difficult advice to give and makes many woman angry with the giver of such advice.
However, though the man made the mistake, the woman must change first. She must create a warm and loving–“yes”, I said, “warm and loving” environment so that the man can come home.
And what must the man do? He’s got to apologize regularly-not just once, for the pain he has caused. He has to bring up the subject and apologize so that his wife knows he is REALLY sorry. If she has to bring up the subject all the time she can’t get the sense that he is regretful.
The man must then study–against his nature, how all this happened. It is by explaining to his wife how it all happened that she can be reassured that he won’t repeat the same mistake.
And after all the apologies–and the anger-which is the first happening after the affair is discovered–the wife must work hard to put herself into the shoes of her husband to understand what he was thinking, or not thinking, to have had an affair.
When women cheat: The issues are different. Her husband but take the blame and acknowledge his foolishness and ignorance where she is concerned., He’s got to win her back and admit his shortcomings while doing better.
It is much more difficult to mend female infidelity than male. However, many marriages can be saved if the partner who has been wronged will just say calm, make some changes–unfair though this seems, and make an effort to understand their partner’s imperfections.
Marriage is based on imperfection. I grant that infidelity may seem like a BIG one–and it is. However, we are all imperfect. This is the big thing that makes most men run.
It is very difficult to live with someone you have hurt. However, the safest place for a man who has been unfaithful, though he may not accept it, is with his wife. Now she KNOWS his imperfections and she wants him anyway. He can finally relax.
It is important hear to point out that divorce ALWAYS hurts children. The best it teaches them is that no one loves anyone enough to stay. So even if there is a divorce and children seem just fine, the problems generally show up around dating age. There is a reluctance to date or to commit.
Once people have children, they really give up the right to think about themselves first. And, there is no such thing as a divorce when there are children. Even in the absence of the other parent, there is influence by that parent and the divorce disempowers the parent who keeps the kids. In fact, the divorce really disempowers everyone as individuals go off to live separately and the kids visit them.
Infidelity is not the end of the road for the marriage. Many marriages survive it. The offended spouse is not part of the problem but does become part of the solution. This is a difficult pill for many people to swallow but if they can swallow it, and understand it, the rewards are enormous!