Hey, it’s Michael Fiore from Ever After Romance, Inc. with your weekly Q&A newsletter where I answer YOUR questions about love, sex, romance and puppies (ANSWER: Puppies are the best thing ever.)
In today’s issue we’re going to talk about CHEATING . . . whether a marriage can be SAVED after a spouse cheats and EXACTLY what to do if you or your spouse cheats to, hopefully, SAVE YOUR MARRIAGE!
For the ladies: 97% of women MASSIVELY overestimate how good they are at this incredibly important sexual skill (while 97% of men say their wives or girlfriends are “awful” at it) do you know what it is?.
And hey, how was your weekend? Mine involved lots of avoiding the news and trying not to think about the election. (And seeing “Doctor Strange” — decent flick. I’d give it a solid “B” but there was nothing there I’m going to remember a week from now.)
OK! LET’S DO THIS!!
“Can A Marriage Be Saved After Someone Cheats?”
Thanks for your (insanely brief) question. It’s one of those short but emotion-PACKED ones that gets readers all in a hot and bothered tizzy because the word “CHEATING” lights fires of RAGE in all our hearts.
The “easy” answer here would be to say “No, once somebody cheats that’s the absolute end of everything and you should completely destroy the life you and your spouse have built together because she DARED to have another man’s penis inside her (even if it leaves you broke, emotionally devastated and leads to your kids being children of divorce.)
But you know what? That’s bull. Listen: I’m not “pro cheating” by any means (I’ve been cheated on and it sucks horribly.)
But I do think this idea that “cheating” is the automatic “Death Knell” of a marriage is absolute crap.
I also think the “Holier-than-though” attitude so many folks seem to have around cheating is absolutely RIDICULOUS.
1. Well, FIRST off it’s because cheating is INSANELY COMMON.Recent research shows that, during the course of a marriage, 30% – 60% of men and women will cheat (and those statistics are probably conservative.) The fact is that lifelong absolute monogamy is HARD. I always say being monogamous in the long term is like flying. Man was not born with the ability to fly (just like man was not born being naturally monogamous) but with a LOT OF WORK AND DEDICATION we can pull it off.
2. Second off, it’s because ANYONE will cheat in the right circumstances.
I know, I know, from up on your high horse as the aggrieved spouse you can rant all day about how YOU would NEVER cheat under ANY circumstances.
But you’re wrong. You really are. If you were sad enough or feeling unattractive enough to your spouse or drunk enough or on drugs enough or needing attention enough or horny enough or just desperate for actual affection enough (because your marriage has broken down and ever caress is loaded with contempt) well then yeah, you would cheat.
And you would justify it in the moment . . .
And you’d probably feel guilty as hell afterwards.
Now, I’m not saying every human being is JUST as likely to cheat as every other human being. Some folks will cheat at a passing breeze and a billowing skirt (my dad was like that — total womanizer. Made my mom miserable.)
But I AM saying that EVERY human has a line . . . ever human has a perfect set of circumstances in which will power and ethics and all that goes out the window and we just want to FEEL.
(I’m tempted to go into a bit of detail about what “cheating” actually means and how dangerous it is to be in a relationship where cheating hasn’t been strictly defined by both partners without assumptions, but then this newsletter would get WAY too long. Check out the back issues for more on that.)
3. WEIRDLY ENOUGH many couples find their marriages actually IMPROVE after a spouse cheats (if they can manage to get through the rough patch together.)
Well, because nothing makes you stop taking your partner for granted like feeling like you might lose them to somebody else.
And because after somebody cheats you’re FORCED to have all the difficult and honest conversations you’ve been avoiding having for years.
With All That Said, Let Me Say Right Now That You Are Asking The Absolute WRONG Question
See, Derek, I understand why you asked the question you did because you just want a quick “Yes” or “No” answer so you can make this huge decision about your life and the future.
And you know what the answer is to that one? Um, it’s “I don’t know” because I don’t know anywhere near enough about you and your wife or the relationship you’ve had up until now or if you guys have what it takes to
So, instead of making some blanket “Yes” or “No” statement let me take you through a short process where you can decide if this marriage of yours is worth saving or not:
Question 1: WHY did your wife cheat?
Not “why did she say she cheated?” (“I was just so lonely” or “I was drunk” or “he seduced me”) or “why does that voice in your head say she cheated?” (“Because I’m not good enough in bed. Because she’s a slut. Because because because.”
NO, the REAL reason. What’s the REAL reason your wife cheated?
Did she cheat because her self esteem had taken a hit recently and she wanted more than anything to feel attractive to a man?
Did she cheat because you have been flirting with other women and not paying attention to her? (I’m not saying you have been, just that it’s a possibility in circumstances like this.)
Did she cheat because she was mad and wanted to hurt you?
Did she cheat because she feels incredibly lonely in your marriage?
Did she cheat to make you jealous because she feels like the emotional fire is lost between you?
Did she cheat because she’s into kinkier stuff than you and you aren’t game to explore her fantasies?
Did she cheat because the guy involved has biceps like Chris Hemsworth and eyes like Hugh Jackman and the accent of Antonio Banderas and MAN HOW CAN YOU BLAME HER?
What I’m saying is there are HUNDREDS of reasons people cheat (and even more ways they JUSTIFY cheating in the moment – because humans are good at that.) It’s never simple. It’s never cut and dry. And it’s probably a lot less about YOU than you think it is.
That said . . .
Question 2: What was your CONTRIBUTION to the situation that lead to your wife cheating?
OK, this is the tough one because I can hear folks screaming “MIKE, she cheated on HIM! He didn’t do ANYTHING wrong!” (Or, the opposite “Well, if a woman cheats on a man it must be because he deserves it.”
I’m not saying you “deserve” this and I’m not saying that you’re blameless. The fact is, even if you only contributed 10% to the situation that lead to her cheating you still contributed in some way. And that’s OK. Were you not as attentive as you could be? Were YOU not feeling sexually attractive and pushed your spouse away? Has your sex drive flagged lately for whatever reason? Have you bene really critical of your wife’s looks?
Don’t beat yourself up about it and don’t let your wife make this all “your fault” (because it’s not) but what in your own behavior lead to this situation?
If you honestly can’t think of anything it either says something awful about your wife or says something unpleasant about your own self awareness.
Question 3: Do you think you have it within yourself to TRULY FORGIVE your wife?
Every couple who goes through infidelity has something of a “probation” period where the cheating spouse has a bit less freedom and a bit less trust. That’s normal. Trust has to be re-earned.
But too many spouses take their partner’s infidelity as an opportunity for a power grab. They take this mess up and hold it over their spouse’s head for DECADES bringing it up every time there’s an argument or a disagreement.
And that’s just toxic and stupid. Do you have it in yourself to UNDERSTAND what motivated your wife to cheat and to EMPATHIZE with the emotions that lead her to that place (you don’t have to condone what she did, but you have to understand that she is human just like you and she makes stupid mistakes just like you.)
(Tangentially: Here’s the one big secret to how my wife and I manage to have a pretty awesome relationship: We accept that neither one of us is perfect. We don’t say “I’ll never hurt you” we say “I know I’m going to hurt you. I hate that I’m going to hurt you. But I know I’m going to because I’m a human being and I promise you I will never hurt you on purpose.” — works a lot better than expecting perfection I’ll tell you that.)
Question 4: Is this a one-time thing or is it a pattern?
There’s people who cheat and there are CHEATERS. I’ve cheated in the past (when I was younger and stupider). But my dad was a CHEATER. He cheated on my mom every chance he got and then pretended my mom was crazy when she confronted him. (I love my dad – he died 20 years ago — and I understand the culture he was raised in that lead to his womanizing but dear God, that was shitty.)
Like I said before, anyone can cheat once and if someone cheats once it’s often something you can come back from. But if someone has something in them that just NEEDS to be promiscuous and if they’ve cheated again and again it’s almost undoubtedly going to happen again. People like that need to understand that monogamy is not for everyone.)
Question 5: Does she sincerely regret it?
Does she seem truly remorseful? Did she try to deny everything when you found out or did she own up and ask for forgiveness?
Question 6: Is she willing to completely cut off contact with the person she cheated with?
If it’s a co-worker, is she willing to transfer? If it’s a friend is she willing to not have that person in her life as you heal your marriage?
Question 7: Is your marriage WORTH saving?
What are you getting out of your marriage? Do you love each other? Is there real affection? Do you guys feel like you’re on a team? Sometimes cheating can help couples get closer together and back on track (by forcing communication) but you have to have something worth saving or a goal you both are working towards.
Question 8: What would it COST you to end your marriage?
Divorce sucks. I’ve been through it and it’s in the top 3 horrible things I’ve endured in my life (right up there with Lyme and crippling back pain for like 15 years). Divorce in America also has a tendency to leave folks bankrupt and severely mess the kids involved up as the parents are encouraged by our family court system to SAVAGE each other.
Is your wife cheating worth you losing your house, a bunch of money and at least some access to your kids?
Is it worth going back out into the dating world?
My wife and I were having a tough discussion last week (I’d had some personal stuff going on and had acted disrespectfully towards her without realizing.)
She was hurt, but after a long talk she looked at me and said “Mike, you aren’t perfect but you’re the best man I know. Relationships always involve pain, but I’d rather have pain with you than pain without you.”
No matter who you end up with, there’s going to be pain involved. It’s just a fact. Is there enough good in your marriage that the pain is worth it?
I can’t actually answer any of these questions for you, but it’s important you realize there’s no “One-Size-Fits-All” answer here.
So here’s what I recommend:
Sit down with your wife. Show her what I wrote here. TALK to each other. Be open and honest and vulnerable. Tell her how you feel after finding out she’s been cheating WITHOUT yelling at her. Realize that her cheating probably had VERY little to do with you and a lot to do with what was going on in her own mind. If you attack, she’ll simply get defensive and you’ll end up fighting. If you go to her with vulnerability and say “I’m really hurt by this and I want to talk to you to find out if we can fix this” you’ve got a shot.
Founder, Ever After Romance, Inc
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