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

Common Justifications for Why Women Cheat

Today, I'd like to share a few observations one of my colleagues, Wayne, has to share on why women have affairs. Wayne is an expert on infidelity and is also a member of the Affair Recovery Specialist's Panel and helps with EMS Weekend.

Typically, the driving forces for a woman's affair differ from that of a man. In his video below, he'll share a few but common justifications used by women in regards to their affair(s).

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.

One of the biggest mistakes betrayed spouses fall prey to is mistakenly assuming their mate's motivations for cheating are similar to what their motivations would be, and usually that's clearly not the case.

Assumed similarities are the primary barrier to understanding the "why" someone was unfaithful.

Over the past 36 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 article serves as a warning sign for those who have actually been betrayed, but are also at risk for acting out with an affair of their own.

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 only reveals the problems in me."

As many betrayed spouses will attest to, two people can be in a bad marriage and only one will cheat.

The following poem is an example of a common justification used by women.

*Before you read it, please understand the scenario described below may be true, and it may be painful, but situations like this simply do NOT justify an affair. Other choices are ALWAYS readily available.

World Voices

A wayward 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,
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."1

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. 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.

Susceptibility never justifies infidelity.

Below, are two videos from our Ask Rick Expert Q&A where I address two specific questions unfaithful spouses have recently submitted. This Q&A is for Hope for Healing participants only.

I hope you enjoy the videos as they'll provide insight into the infidelity-specific questions we discuss throughout our Hope for Healing course. For more information about our course for unfaithful spouses please visit our link: https://www.affairrecovery.com/product/hope-for-healing

  1. 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.

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.

THANK YOU for pointing out

THANK YOU for pointing out the importance of SAFETY for the wife!!! Thank you for pointing out where women may be once they decide to cheat. Thank you for your empathy.


I am happy to read that you think she would not have strayed. My wife of many years dealt with my infidelity to porn and alcohol many more times than she should have. She eventually had an affair for almost a year. I knew about 6 month sinto that something was different but did not find out for 6 more months. I created an environment of distrust and secrets in our relationship and along came a perfect situation for her to find what she had been missing or actually more of an escape from the shit I created for her to live in. I had been trying to improve but by the time I realized it I was too late. I really messed things up.


And it's not even always true. I was very romantic in our marriage, and while she enjoyed the romance I cultivated, she did not cultivate it much, because she's not good at it.

And she still cheated with a guy 20 years older than us. Who wasn't romantic - I did way more romantic things for her during the period of her affair than he did, and I didn't do it because I was trying to win her back from the affair. I didn't even know she was having an affair until she ended it and then confessed. She realized she did something horribly stupid.

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.

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

So I’m curious, if neglect is

So I’m curious, if neglect is the driving factor behind women’s infidelity, why didn’t Samuel and Rick’s wives cheat?

This is a poorly executed video and very off base.

Common Justifications for Why Women Cheat

Agreed! I had exactly the same thoughts and comments.

Changing the title alone

Changing the title alone doesn't really address the many issues people have shared in the forums.

Women and affairs

Women also cheat after husband has cheated over a period of years not for revenge but from them feeling not loved and not good enough feelings of worthless looking for someone to make them feel valued.

Very disturbing video

As a BH, this video was very disturbing.
I still don’t understand Wayne’s logic of an UW is “justified” why she had an affair because she craves attention from another man, crave intimacy (without talking about it and keeping it a secret), overwhelmed by the need for being a caregiver (again, without expressing this at all) and feeling lonely because her husband may be working hard for the family. I was in the same married relationship too as my UW. I chose to be faithful to my wife and family.
Question for Wayne: Can I also use these reasons to justify why I can stray and get away with these same excuses in our married relationship in future? Hope you can truly respond!

isn't this self justification?

I have a few questions on Wayne's video:

First, I'm confused as to the intent of Wayne's video. "Why she cheats" seems to give credence to after-the-fact self justification by the unfaithful. Aren't the reasons given classic self justifications as found in "Mistakes were made (but not by me)"?

Second, if these are self-justifications, then why are they not framed as after the fact excuses? As it is, I believe this would not be helpful to a newly betrayed spouse. It would have upset me up till quite recently (I'm 15 months post d-day 1, 13 months post d-day 2).

Lastly, there may be truths underlying the reasons. Wouldn't these be more helpful after some recovery by the betrayed had taken place?

NEVER an excuse!!!

My unfaithful wife had a 2-year emotional affair and -- 4 years later -- still points to problems in our marriage for her affair. She doesn't even want to address the affair and said we can't move forward until we go after what got us there. She has continued to stay disconnected, has ZERO empathy for the pain she has caused and I have absolutely no reason to believe she is ever going to change her cold, distant demeanor that has done nothing but make me bitter, resentful and unforgiving. I know I need to find a way to get over everything and forgive, but it's so hard when she puts everyone (especially our kids and her friends) ahead of our relationship, which she has done for the better part of 10 years out of our 25 years. Oh, you just gotta love a good Christian marriage (sarcasm deeply intended).


Wow, sir! I get it - word for word what you said. Except what my wife did was now just over seven years ago. Not long after I took some extreme action (left my job, home, friends, everything), and she decided to join me, we went to a marital workshop where I was told that sometimes healing can take 2-5 years. Over lunch that day, I begged her, "I don't want this to hurt for 2-5 years." It didn't - it is going on seven. The ONLY time it is even discussed is when my patience goes away (7-9 month intervals) and I try to put my foot down. But nothing ever happens - she won't address anything unless something I've done - or usually she just claims I've done - she can set up as a moral equivalence, and then that is all she will talk about. I've done everything I know to open doors to put this behind us. I suppose it is my fault I just have not been able to move on. But to break up a marriage via adultery does mean there has to be some accountability if she wants to stay in the marriage - sadly, my profession has made it somewhere between difficult and impossible to consider divorce. But is having nothing more than a room-mate when we have not been intimate since it happened any better??

What type of affair was it?

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