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Thread: Why Women Stay With Cheaters
11-21-2010, 09:14 AM #1
Why Women Stay With CheatersStand by your cheating man or kick him to the curb? It's not a decision any woman wants to make, but that many have after their philandering mates were caught. This Lifescript exclusive digs deep to discover why so many wives choose to stick it out. Plus, will your guy cheat? Rate the risk...
They all do it: celebrities, politicians, even the hubby next door. Sure, the names of the cheaters change: Think Tiger Woods, John Edwards, Kobe Bryant, Mark Sanford, Bill Clinton.
But the story’s the same: Husband cheats, gets caught. Wife grimaces, then bears it.
In fact, up to 75% of couples rocked by an affair stay together, according to research by Peggy Vaughan, author of Preventing Affairs: You Can Have a Monogamous Marriage, But Not by Just Assuming You're Immune (Dialog Press). That so many wronged spouses managed to turn the other cheek is admirable to some. But you can’t help wondering: Why didn’t they push their wandering mates out the door?
1. She doesn’t want to be alone.
When your husband takes up with a prettier, shapelier – perhaps even younger – woman, it doesn’t inspire confidence that you still got it goin’ on. Insecurity can be enough of a glue to stick with a marriage.
“Fear of being alone keeps people in all kinds of horrible situations and relationships,” says life coach Lauren Mackler.
2. Her finances take a hit.
“Women’s greatest fear is they’ll become bag ladies,” says Gilda Carle. “In their minds, they’d be leaving him for a life of poverty just because he’s been cavorting elsewhere.”
It’s not a completely unfounded fear: A woman is likely to draw the short financial straw in a divorce. An ex-wife’s standard of living drops more than 25%, studies show. They’re also more likely to lose other essentials, such as health insurance and their homes.
3. He’s not perfect.
An affair “may not be a deal breaker,” explains Michele Sugg, a certified sex therapist in Branford, Conn. “We tend to think that once a slippery bit has slid into someone else’s slippery bit, it’s the end of a relationship.” True, that’s how newlyweds think, says Brown University psychiatrist Scott Haltzman. But, “as people live, age and grow together, they recognize that they have to give up the dreams of the perfect spouse,” he says. They know their mate eventually will disappoint them.
4. Her professional status is tied to his.
Many educated women still put their careers second, behind their husband's. If you’ve been known as Mr. Big Shot’s Wife, leaving that relationship may close doors professionally. “A wife can lose her status because of divorce,” Haltzman says. “If you’re married to a governor, you’re a governor’s wife.” Otherwise, you’re just his ex-wife.
5. She’ll lose friends.
Adding insult to injury, a divorcing wife risks breaking up her social circle as well, especially if it was exclusively other married couples.
Sad but true: A solo woman is considered a threat to the stability of other relationships and married friends often pull away.
“If you live in a community where marriage is touted and single women are shunned, do you want to become an outcast because your husband did this?” asks Susan Shapiro Barash, author of Little White Lies, Deep Dark Secrets: The Truth About Why Women Lie.
6. Her family is against divorce.
Natalie (her name is changed to protect her privacy) was recently wed and newly pregnant when she discovered her husband had three other women on the side. For 13 years, the manager of a California nonprofit toughed out countless infidelities before she finally filed for divorce.
Even then, her decision didn’t sit well with her traditional Catholic family. They believed, as do many cultures, that it’s up to the woman to keep a marriage together — whatever the cost.
Her family and in-laws cursed her. “My mother disowned me,” Natalie says.
For five years, her family pressured her to go back to her husband. Her ex lobbied hard, too, getting down on his knees and swearing he’d never stray again.
“I said, ‘Yes,’ because I could see my three kids were hoping I’d give their daddy a chance.”
But even all the family pressure couldn’t keep her marriage together in the end.
“One day he left his pager at home and there was a strange number on it,” Natalie says. “I thought, Not again.”
The incident reaffirmed her first decision and this time she left for good. “I was angry and resentful because I allowed myself to get hurt again. And my children were devastated.”
7. She’s emotionally invested in her man.
For many women, their husbands are an essential part of the family tapestry and disentangling it would be devastating. “Over their lifetimes, these women can see their men for the contributions they’ve made, for the role they play in their lives, in their families,” Haltzman explains.
So they think hard before throwing it away. “Women struggle to see the whole picture,” he says, and try to figure out if their husband’s stupid mistake will dissolve the family or help it endure and grow. Of course, a woman is more likely to take this view if it’s a one-time tryst rather than an extracurricular relationship or pattern of infidelity that’s gone on for years.
That was the case with Deb (identified by her first name only for privacy). She learned that her husband had slept with one of her girlfriends shortly after she gave birth to their second child. The Arkansas radio host thought about leaving him but decided to stay. Now, 17 years later, they’re about to celebrate their 21st wedding anniversary.
“I thought, I invested my time with this man and we have two kids. I worked through the denial, the anger, the hatred and I just tried to put it behind me.” But she hasn’t forgotten it — or let him. “Is there a smidgen of me that wouldn’t like to choke his neck? Yes. And I’ll carry that around for the rest of my life.”
8. She has a hidden agenda.
Consider Hillary Clinton, who stiff-upper-lipped it through Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, and Monica Lewinsky because she had her own political aspirations:
“She must have thought, It’s better to stay married because if I divorce, I’ll still have this albatross around my neck and I might not get what I want at the end,” says sex and relationship therapist Stephanie Buehler, Psy.D., director of the Buehler Institute in Irvine, Calif.
This devil’s bargain can pay off, if you make it with eyes open and a clear head. It doesn’t work “when we stay out of fear or low self-esteem because that causes suffering,” Mackler says.
When does it work? If there are benefits to staying and you feel good about them, she says. “Then who cares?”
9. Infidelity could make the marriage stronger.
An ordeal like this could improve your relationship. If you’re both willing, therapists say, an affair can get you talking about those long-avoided issues – sex, money, careers, housework, emotional distance.
“If there’s a foundation of friendship and love, you can use this crisis as an opportunity to understand what’s not working in the relationship and take some action to fix it,” Mackler says. That will take work and perhaps couples therapy, but in the end, you both may grow closer and your relationship stronger. And who wouldn’t stick around for that?
...being a human...