We see it again and again, a man strays, lies, and cheats on his wife or girlfriend and she decides to give him another chance at fidelity. Yet, in relationships where the woman cheats, the relationship often ends in divorce. Why the difference? I’m presenting what I have seen and heard from couples and individuals along with relationship experts.
So, here are Five reasons women stay with men who cheat and lie:
1) Most men are very territorial about their woman’s body. A man can rarely get over the idea of another man “with” his woman. Or, more specifically “in” his woman. One marriage counselor I know strongly encourages disgruntled married or committed women set on having an extra-marital affair to avoid penetration of every kind with a potential lover so that if found, out, there is a better chance of not destroying the marriage. Women tend to be more primally territorial of a man’s attention and resources. If he strays sexually, she is more apt to forgive him than he is if she strays sexually.
Looking primally, a man does not want his finite resources used to raise another man’s child. And a woman he can’t trust when he is away is dangerous to his survival and status. A man who diverts time and resources away from his wife and children endangers their survival. Often, it take a pregnancy with “the other woman” for the jilted woman to end the relationship, like in the case of Jack Nicholson and John Edwards, for the women or wives to realize that family resources and attention are now actually being threatened and diverted elsewhere. These two differences carry over after divorces as well. Many men find it hard when their ex-wife or girlfriend moves onto another lover and the ex-wives keep ongoing tabs on how her ex is spending money and attention on the new woman versus how he treated her. So, women let the guy off the hook as long as resources and attention are still primarily focused on her and her kids.
2) Most women feel ill hearing and experiencing lies and dishonesty from a male partner. Lies from a partner make most women feel off-balance, unwell, crazy and sick to their stomachs. Most women can only relax with total transparency, openness and honesty from their intimate partner because they can feel half truths in their body. For example, if a man says he has to work late, but is really staying to watch the game with the guys and thinks his wife will be upset, she feels something uncomfortable in her body. Even though she might get upset about the game, she will feel angry but not off-balance as well. Generally, men, on the other hand, do not have this same body reaction with truth. In fact, men and women seem to have a very different experience with honesty and lies. Men seem to have a lot more leeway for women’s lies as long as it doesn’t involve another guy or spending too much money. One marriage expert found that openness and honesty doesn’t even make most men’s top five values.
A common example is a guy will say, “I’ll call you” after a date because its the easiest way out. He doesn’t realize, most women would rather hear, “Thank you for joining me” or “I won’t be calling you because this isn’t enough of what I want.” When a guy says that, she is disappointed however, when he doesn’t call and said he would, she thinks he’s a coward and a jerk, versus just a guy who wasn’t into her. Most women respect an honest man willing to face the short term pain of the truth versus the guy making excuses and afraid to state it the way it is, under the guise that he is making it easier on her. He is making it easier on him and it is cowardly and dishonest. By the time a woman discovers an affair, most women have already gone through the worst of the suffering, thinking they were losing their mind and that their instincts were incorrect. Women’s instincts help keep them and their children safe and well so having to question their instincts and think they can’t be trusted or are somehow defective is terrifying to most women.
Women suffer physically and mentally being lied to, told that they are “imagining things” or “crazy” when their gut feels something suspicious. One of the cruelest things a man can do is lie to woman then call her crazy and tell her it’s all in her head when she challenges the lie. It causes her to doubt what her body and instincts are telling her and can often lead to her becoming ill. Because most guys don’t care as much about honesty in the same way, they think the woman is dramatizing her feelings about lies. She is not. It is her actual experience.
Once a woman has confirmation of the man cheating, she actually feels better in a strange way. Before she knew for certain, she felt crazy, off balance, unwell, angry and hurt. Once she knows for sure, she feels hurt and angry but has her feet back on the ground and her wits about her. Now that she has her footing and her instincts confirmed, she is not happy about the infidelity but she is not experiencing self-doubt and tension in her body and head daily. She’s not crazy. She was right. However, once a guy has barely any confirmation of infidelity, that picture is permanently burned in his brain and most men leave unless they have small children that they feel a strong duty and obligation towards.
Often, men can never get the image of their wife with another man out of their head and will have a very hard time moving past it. Some men are so territorial that they will jump to the worst conclusion even if it didn’t happen.
So, women often stay after an infidelity because they feel better not being lied to anymore and want to see if they can get back on track because #3 usually comes up.
3. Women tend to be very self-critical and easily guilted into being responsible for others – or over-mothering men, both accepting excuses from them and making excuses for them. Alison Armstrong of PAX found that most women have a 24/7 inner critic she calls “The Ideal Woman” running in their heads. If a cheating man hints that she was responsible for his cheating for example by saying, “You were away, you were sick, you paid the baby too much attention, you didn’t wear short enough skirts” etc, the guilt switch can get easily flicked in a woman. After all, she was supposed to be perfect, according to the ideal woman in her head, and when a man shifts the blame to her, most women accept blame that is not even theirs. All the guy has to do is hint that it is partly her fault, and it will often start to eat at her.
Not so with most men. There is really no socially acceptable excuse for a woman to cheat because she is supposed to be virtuous. Very few men will accept accountability that is not theirs when their wives say, “You didn’t talk with me enough” or “you travelled so much for work.” They just can’t get it out of their head that their wife was with another man.
Women, on the other hand, if they have any dad issues at all, are always hoping inside that they are enough to be truly loved and adored by the man that they are with. Many can spend their entire lives with the wrong man, trying to “win” daddy by being good enough, pretty enough, patient enough, a good enough cook, etc.
So, between being able to blame “hormones” in men and blame the evil other woman, a woman can make and accept enough excuses to accept an unaccountable man back and avoid having to make any changes in her life. Especially if there are kids. If you are this woman’s friend or mother, you get to hear the excuses, this wishful and defensive tone in her voice and how things are better. You know in most cases, it is often just a temporary fix until the next time it happens. Being married to a man without good character, honor or integrity is a tiring, sickening and painful experience for most women, yet they often stay. So, women will often accept blame for the man cheating.
4. As politically incorrect as it may be to say, being with a man often helps a woman feel safer in the world. I’m guessing that this is also primal. Sometimes it has to do with the strength and resources the man provides, and sometimes it is just the perception of the stability he provides.
A woman was telling me about her husband who had not worked in 10 years. He sat around the house smoking pot. Her adult drug addicted son had a pregnant adult girlfriend and none of them worked. This woman worked 18 hours days, two jobs every day, as an aesthetician in the daytime and a bartender at night, seven days a week. She supported everyone. I asked her why she stayed with her husband, and she looked puzzled and said, “I stay for the money.” Puzzled, I asked her, “But don’t you earn it all?” She answered, “I never thought about it like that.” Even though logically, she had been the sole bread winner of the family for over 10 years, she perceived him as the source of her financial stability.
There can be a primal feeling in a woman’s body that she is safer with a man by her side, sometimes even if the man, in reality, is hurting her life. So, that sense of dread or perception that she will not be okay alone or without him makes it hard to leave a liar and a cheater. Women are also seduced by their ears so, “I’m so sorry. She meant nothing to me. I love you. Don’t leave me. You are the best thing that ever happened to me. You are beautiful” can often cause a woman to forgive, forget and pretend that it won’t happen again.
In His Needs, Her Needs by Harley, Ph.D, Dr. Harley shares a surprising statistic. In his therapy practice, he found that men who cheat have a very hard time giving up a mistress and often go back to her again and again even when they promise not to. He conversely found that women, who cheat, however, mostly stay faithful once caught and do not stray again. Even if the guy has shown again and again that he is unreliable and sometimes even dangerous to himself, his wife and kids (Like allegedly Tiger Woods and Jesse James did according to several mistresses, potentially exposing their wives and unborn children to deadly and serious diseases by having unprotected sex – ie HIV, Hepatitis, neo-natal Herpes), the women still often convince themselves that they are more physically safe and secure with a man than without. They will choose to sacrifice the emotional security instead.
5. The last reason is societal perception and status. There is a special word for a man who is cheated on by his wife. It is cuckhold. It is implies that he is the laughing stock, everyone knows that he somehow is unable to satisfy and keep his woman well and from straying. Basically, a man who is cheated on by his wife is more looked down on society than a woman cheated on by her husband. In fact, the wealthier and more powerful a man who cheats is, the more understanding society is as to why the wife chooses to stay. Most affairs women have tend to start with a guy who talks to them, listens to them, pays attention to their kids and the woman trades sex in exchange for the conversation and attention that feels good. For men, affairs often have to do with straight up chemistry and sex. So, men and women project their experience onto each other. Women think that the man connected intimately with the other woman and doesn’t believe him when he says, “it meant nothing” when most times that is true. Men don’t believe women when women say “it was not about the sex, I felt heard”, even when most times it is true. Women often don’t want to give up access to the social position, security, status and resources that come with the marriage to the man, whether these assets are real or perceived. Many men can’t live down the pubic and private humiliation of a wife who cheats.
Yet another politically incorrect thought. This behavior pattern suggests that a woman’s/wife’s job is to be faithful and exclusive and a man’s/husband’s is to provide and when they fail at their respective jobs, they get fired.
I do not know what is best for kids with regards to staying with a liar and a cheater. One anecdotal story was a woman whose father had an affair when she was 10. The family was struggling financially with three kids and he was buying jewelry for the other woman and giving money to her and her kids. The eldest daughter, her mother’s confident, saw the pain her mom experienced. The Dad moved out and came back later only to have another affair later and leave for good. She said it was really hard on her.
So, if you want to see this phenomenon in action, watch Cheaters, where they investigate and confirm cheating. Or just keep up on your local tabloids or neighborhood. Most of the time, no matter how horrendous, or blatant the cheating, if he wants, the man can often seduce his wife or girlfriend back with words and promises (or a visit to rehab). Throw in a hint of blame, take some swipes at her being too needy and the divorce is often called off.