Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

Why She Cheats

Why she cheats

For the sake of affair prevention, I’d like to share a few of my observations as to why women have affairs. Typically the driving forces for a woman’s affair differ from that of a man. The first part of this series will review common justifications used by women and the second part will focus on risk factors that make women vulnerable.

Understanding the reason behind infidelity is crucial to recovery. Without a basic understanding of why someone cheated it’s difficult for the betrayed spouse to determine the probability of future safety. The task of understanding the “why” behind their mate’s infidelity is further complicated by gender difference. Frequently, the betrayed spouse will mistakenly assume their mate’s motivations for cheating are similar to what their motivations would be, but usually that’s not the case. Assumed similarities are the primary barrier to understanding the “why” someone was unfaithful. This series is intended to bring clarity to the characteristics common to women.

Over the past 12 months, my staff and I have seen a sharp increase in the number of unfaithful females who are reaching out for help. I also hope this series will serve as a warning sign for those who are at risk of acting out.

The following poem is an example of a common justification used by women. One of our sayings at Affair Recovery is: My mate is never my problem (that is not to say my mate doesn’t have serious problems), my mate reveals the problems in me. Two people can be in a bad marriage and only one will cheat. The scenario described below may be true, and it may be painful, but situations, like the one described below, don’t justify an affair. Other choices are available.

AN UNFAITHFUL WIFE TO HER HUSBAND

Branded and blackened by my own misdeeds 
I stand before you; not as one who pleads 
For mercy or forgiveness, but as one, 
After a wrong is done, 
Who seeks the why and wherefore. 
            Go with me 
Back to those early years of love, and see 
Just where our paths diverged. You must recall 
Your wild pursuit of me, outstripping all 
Competitors and rivals, till at last 
You bound me sure and fast 
With vow and ring. 
I was the central thing 
In all the Universe for you just then. 
Just then for me, there were no other men. 
I cared 
Only for tasks and pleasures that you shared. 
Such happy, happy days. You wearied first. 
I will not say you wearied, but a thirst 
For conquest and achievement in man's realm 
Left love's barque with no pilot at the helm. 
The money madness, and the keen desire 
To outstrip others, set your heart on fire. 
Into the growing conflagration went 
Romance and sentiment. 
Abroad you were a man of parts and power-- 
Your double dower 
Of brawn and brains gave you a leader's place; 
At home you were dull, tired, and commonplace. 
You housed me, fed me, clothed me; you were kind; 
But oh, so blind, so blind. 
You could not, would not, see my woman's need 
Of small attentions; and you gave no heed 
When I complained of loneliness; you said 
"A man must think about his daily bread 
And not waste time in empty social life-- 
He leaves that sort of duty to his wife 
And pays her bills, and lets her have her way, 
And feels she should be satisfied." 
            Each day 
Our lives that had been one life at the start, 
Farther and farther seemed to drift apart. 
Dead was the old romance of man and maid. 
Your talk was all of politics or trade. 
Your work, your club, the mad pursuit of gold 
Absorbed your thoughts. Your duty kiss fell cold 
Upon my lips. Life lost its zest, its thrill, 
            Until 
One fateful day when earth seemed very dull 
It suddenly grew bright and beautiful.

I spoke a little, and he listened much; 
There was attention in his eyes, and such 
A note of comradeship in his low tone, 
I felt no more alone. 
There was a kindly interest in his air; 
He spoke about the way I dressed my hair, 
And praised the gown I wore. 
It seemed a thousand, thousand years and more 
Since I had been so noticed. Had mine ear 
Been used to compliments year after year, 
If I had heard you speak 
As this man spoke, I had not been so weak. 
The innocent beginning 
Of all my sinning 
Was just the woman's craving to be brought 
Into the inner shrine of some man's thought. 
You held me there, as sweetheart and as bride; 
And then as wife, you left me far outside. 
So far, so far, you could not hear me call; 
You might, you should, have saved me from my fall. 
I was not bad, just lonely, that was all.

A man should offer something to replace 
The sweet adventure of the lover's chase 
Which ends with marriage, Love's neglected laws 
Pave pathways for the "Statutory Cause."

 

Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Written around 1885

Little has changed in the last 135 years. For this woman, her husband’s neglect made her vulnerable to another’s affection, but even so, that’s no excuse for infidelity. If that were the case every married person, at some point in the marriage, could find a justification for infidelity.

For some, these articles will come too late. If you've already been involved in some form of infidelity I hope you will take advantage of the programs we have to help both your marriage and your personal recovery. At the very least, I hope and pray you’ll get help.  

 

 

World Voices by Ella Wheeler Wilcox 
New York : Hearst's International Library Company, 1916.

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Yes I can truly understand

Yes I can truly understand how this had happened to my wife, I can not go back a d undue what has happened but at the same time love and marriage is a kind of two way street how had would it have been for my wife to set my heart and attention back with just a little effort on her part.I had never stopped loving and doing things for my wife and would have done things differently just never knew. Yes there are so ma y other things going to take me away, but there were times it felt like staying away because I did not feel wanted or needed. Wanted to make things better just did not know what was needed, she would tell me I did not lover her and I would be just floored I was doing everything I could for her as best I knew. She just could not communicate to me what she was missing and needed and I just felt rejected and hurt and confused so instead of staying and trying to understand I would pull away a bit which would only make her even more distant. Now I will not let that happen I may pull away for a short time because of pain felt but after I have had a chance to think things over I now explain to her what I was feeling and how I was trying to show loveto her and was hoping from her. I just wish the time will come when she will come to me and share here ffeelings so I can have a better understanding of her heart and needs. My word of advice to None out there would be do not let distance build between each other, humble yourself if you have to but fight to stay close know each others feelings do not shut down thinking it will blow over address it and own your mistakes and forgive theirs. Do not accept silence chance are they want only the best for you also just not sure how.
David

So true

This comment is so true and so perceptive. I share all of these feelings. Very well spoken.

David - Thank you. I love

David - Thank you. I love your thoughts about staying close, which I copied here with some extra punctuation:

"Do not let distance build between each other. Humble yourself if you have to, but fight to stay close, know each others feelings. Do not shut down, thinking it will blow over. Address it and own your mistakes and forgive theirs. Do not accept silence. Chances are they want only the best for you also (and are) just not sure how."

The poem itself, and Rick's interpretation of why women cheat, seem very, very old fashioned, even antiquated to me, but then people do hold out-dated expectations about life and the people around them. Why in the world is it considered the husband's responsibility alone to keep the flame of love and desire alive in a marriage and to continually adore his woman and shower her with gifts and affection? I see this sort of "trophy wife" attitude in so many couples. And could anyone possibly maintain the romantic state of early love over many years? Once again, Rick has really gotten to the heart of some assumptions that can lead to a very painful time for so many couples.

Yes this my story

Yes the poem and David's story is also my own. When the separation begins to fell like rejection I just withdrew more and now she thinks she could never love me again.

Sounds like an easy way out

So lack of romance is the justification for a married woman to default in her vows?
How ridiculous! How selfish, egotistical and self serving!
Instead of respecting and regarding the institution, they just decide that they need attention!!!

It is their own fault for having no God, no moral code and no respect.

Actually, it wasn't easy at all.

Hurt spouse here,

First thing to point out: Lack of romance is just a part of how she became vulnerable. Other factors can come into play as well, such as mismanagement of finances. But the fact is that all the responsibilities of a husband are there to create SAFETY for your partner. Safety is key, and without it, your spouse will be left vulnerable to a myriad of things. It could be alcohol, anger, passive aggressiveness, depression, drug abuse, dishonesty, resentment, and adultery.

Romance is huge in a relationship, and key to many levels of safety a spouse needs to feel loved, adored, desired, and secure in the marriage and that she the one for you. It speaks volumes, and I cannot express it more. I know this, because I absolutely sucked at it. I thought I was OK, but just a busy husband and dad. Unfortunately, I knew I wasn't a Romantic, and I never took the steps to fix it. If I planned dinner dates without her asking, it would show safety in that I could manage time, that she was a priority, and I was thinking of her. If it was a nice restaurant, and every time I got her flowers, it would show safety in that I am managing finances, and that I make it a priority to budget for these special things for her and I.

Please understand, it is often said that when a wife cheats, she is pretty much done with the marriage. So the act of adultery hurts, absolutely.. probably more than anything I have ever felt in my life. But understanding that there was pain before, years before her decision, and that there is responsibility for the vulnerability. If I was more romantic, budgeted our finances better, kept her in the loop and made her feel SAFE, I guarantee my spouse would never have looked twice at that uber-Romantic jerk who "wow'd" her into a limerance relationship that totally left me in the dust.

There is pain on all fronts, and I'm ABSOLUTELY not diminishing the pain of infidelity. I know it as much as anyone. Knowing that your spouse made her decision in a state that was not where she is meant to be, is taking steps in looking at it with empathy. We can all be better spouses, and we all continue to grow in it everyday, for the rest of the marriage. We never stop. To understand, is to try to feel what she feels, and I'm not talking about the "selfish, egotistical and self serving" things. Those are a front, a wall. It's a self preservation method. There s something else she feeling, and to understand her is to try and see what that is and how it relates to you.

Just my 2 cents from a dude, in a place, and seen A LOT of messy stuff.

Painfully accurate

This was so painful to read, it made me cry. I could of written this. Not an excuse, but this is how it happens.

Sounds like blameshifting to me

"You might, you should, have saved me from my fall."

So basically if the husband wasn't so "dull and commonplace" she wouldn't have cheated? Sounds like a double standard to me; would we be reading this poem if it were by a man calling his wife dull and saying that she should have stopped him from cheating by being a better wife?

Filling that void!

Yes as a most females we like to feel special & cared for & know that we matter & are most important... But I have come to realize that when we start feeling like we do not matter it's usually just life happening & work & being tired & just knowing husbands are comfortable at home & can kick back & rest & be himself. I have visited people in nursing homes when I start to get down.. I leave there feeling so good that I was able to make someone else feel like they mattered -instead of making sure someone made me feel I mattered . Those things are the best medicines! When we start down that road of thinking "he doesn't love me like he used to" -I have found out they actually love you more - yes -take time to communicate -go on a date -have fun with each other -& when we are feeling the blues of not "feeling special" snap out of it!!!! Go for a walk -pray & call someone you haven't talked to in a while -you will feel much better!!! Having an affair brings pain, grief & much guilt.. It's only "exciting" for a little while-then it's sad, hard, hurtful, sorrow, shame! Listen to the voice that says this attention /affair is NOT A GOOD IDEA! save yourself & your spouse from horrific pain!

ironic

The irony of this poem is that it resonates really strongly with where I was - and my husband is the one who had the affair.

I read the poem above, and

I read the poem above, and thought the same exact thing. The difference was that while I was the neglected wife, my friend, who was also neglected, is the one that had the affair with my husband. I don't understand how I could keep it in my pants, and these two couldn't. He wasn't neglected; in fact, and he will agree with this statement, he was the center of my world, and given whatever he wanted. Just a spoiled, entitled, selfish man.

It is not black and white

I think that poem is just to illustrate the sorts of things that can be underneath infidelity. I don't think we should pick over the bones of each line.

Of course lack of attention is no justification for cheating and of course it is not just the man's job to pay attention (bear in mind it was written in the 1800's when men/women roles were quite different). But the point I think that it underlines is that (based on my experience as an unfaithful wife):
- many women have self esteem issues - this is driven in part by society/culture focus on body image and things like that
- all marriages will evolve over time - nothing can sustain the initial period when you first meet and all that excitement
- the challenges of kids, work, day to day life etc often takes over the marriage so there's a lack of focus on fulfilling each other's needs (on both sides)
- this creates an environment where people are vulnerable - both sexes of course. But maybe women are especially vulnerable because we are emotional creatures and "neglect" whatever form that takes is often just simply lack of emotional connection. It's often hard to talk about what we need or want because we are so busy focusing on everything else we don't even realise there's a hole
- and then someone comes along who fills that hole ... and they are charming and caring and you don't intend to start out having an affair but somehow it starts running away with you and you start craving that attention and that feel good factor and of course it then gets harder and harder to talk to your spouse.
- and then next news you have started down a bad road and it's now too hard to turn back the clock and it spirals from there.

that's how it happens. Not an excuse just an explanation.

So all of you who are outraged by this post - of course there is not a justification for that cheating. But what Rick is seeking to do is explain how it can happen and how there are vulnerabilities and how we should look for other ways to address that. Both spouses need to fill each other's needs but it's hard to discuss

What made her do it

I am very glad to see an article on this. As a betrayed husband, I have struggled with this for more than 3 years now. We were almost divorced because my wife would not come clean and tell me the truth about what she did.

We have been married for 31 years and for many years prior to the first disclosure, I know she was unhappy but she would not tell me how she felt or how I could help. I was very frustrated, as I felt rejected, attacked, and after several years of this, I just started pulling away too. Prior to her infidelity, I would ask her time and time again what was wrong and she would be dishonest and tell me nothing was wrong. We both knew she was not telling me the truth about how she felt but she refused to tell. So we were left waiting for the bomb to explode. I know that I could have been a better husband, but she could have also been a better wife. That's no excuse for infidelity. It take two people both committed to a marriage.

Things are much much better now, and after a few days from being divorced, we started talking again when she decided to be honest. We haven't healed completely but we both now have hope for a brighter future.

true

My husband and I have been married 30 years, 33 together years. High School sweethearts. I have been in an affair off and on now with the same man, the past year and a half, regularly. My husband doesn't know anything about it. I love my husband, no intention of leaving him. He is a good man, we are both followers of Christ. I hate myself and want to end the affair. My husband adores me, my friends are envious of our marriage. Why am I doing this? Because I was looking for attention. Things began to get complacent. The man was my friend first, for 4 years, NEVER did I believe I would ever do this, never. It's so easy to judge people until it happens to you. Now I understand how easy it is to leap into that pit. Lack of communication is the biggest killer in a marriage. The man I'm involved with started as a friend and now i want to get out, but now I've let my emotions get in the way. No excuse for having an affair, I'm just speaking from the cheaters heart. I'm slowly
dying, but I know my God loves me and He is giving me the strength to do what I need to do.

Common Theme

I am a betrayed husband. Difficult as it is to admit, this is what my wife would say AFTER she had the affair and got caught. But is it the real reason it happened at the time? Or is it revising history. Guarantee a lot of that went on in my case. No doubt my wife experienced chemical/emotional changes and developed a strong "girls just want to have fun" attitude. If they had Facebook in 1885 that woman would have been having a blast! Wasn't so fun for me though having to carry the load around the house and care for elderly sick parents, etc.. The lies, deceit and contempt were sickening. I can give a laundry list of fun things we were doing and places we were going, but it wasn't fun enough.

I think this site is great though, and has been one of the best for me to understand the dynamics. I hope part 2 brings this back into the arena of own up to and be accountable for your own actions. Invest the time and energy in your current commitment, don't break your vows and ruin peoples lives.

Common Theme - Wasn't fun enough

I am the betrayed wife, but definitely related to your sentiments about not being fun enough. He was off traveling and having affairs with three different women who worked for him.....drinking, traveling, entertaining. When he was at home we hiked and vacationed and had fun with the children, but I had no idea I wasn't fun enough. We had sex weekly...but not enough. Everything was always pushed to the very breaking limit....nothing was ever good enough. Always had to be better....faster....more. Never enough. He told me he loved me over a dozen times a day and like you by reading the texts you would have thought everything was fine. Great FUN TIME guy......for whomever he was around. He ruined my life and our daughters.....but boy was he having fun.

Why she cheats

I must've missed something in the explanation of why women cheat. What happens when you have no clue. You still love them very much and didn't have a clue. He wasn't being neglectful nor putting anything or anybody before her. She was telling him she loved him and reading their texts to each other you would never realize their was any issue. Yet she cheats anyways. She claims that her going through menopause was a contributing factor. She also wanted to feel attractive again. Even though she was constantly told how beautiful I thought she was and is. Also rarely if ever did a day go by when I didn't tell her that I love her. No, there were no warning signs. At least none that man who trusts his wife would pick up on. After it came to light I could see somethings clearer.

It's no excuse but it's an

It's no excuse but it's an explanation of how neglect can leave you vulnerable to an affair.

What type of affair was it?

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