This was the attachment to their last email~
Why men and woman cheat. Not all affairs are alike; some are even accidental.
Day after day in my office I see men and women who have been messing around. They lead secret lives, as they hide themselves from their marriages. They go through wrenching divorces, inflicting pain on their children and their children’s children. Or they make desperate, tearful, sweaty efforts at holding on to the shreds of a life they’ve betrayed. They tell me they have gone through all of this for a quick thrill or a furtive moment of romance. Sometimes they tell me they don’t remember making the decision that tore apart their life: “It just happened.” Sometimes they don’t even know they are being unfaithful. (I tell them: “If you don’t know whether what you are doing is an infidelity or not, ask your spouse.”) From the outside looking in, it is insane. How could anyone risk everything in life on the turn of a screw? Infidelity was not something people did much in my family, so I always found it strange and noteworthy when people did it in my practice. After almost 30 years of cleaning up the mess after other people’s affairs, I wrote a book describing everything about infidelity I’d seen in my practice. The book was Private Lies: Infidelity and the Betrayal of Intimacy (Norton). I thought it might help. Even if the tragedy of AIDS and the humiliation of prominent politicians hadn’t stopped it, surely people could not continue screwing around after reading about the absurd destructiveness of it. As you know, people have not stopped having affairs. But many of them feel the need to write or call or drop by and talk to me about it. When I wrote Private Lies, I thought I knew everything there was to know about infidelity. But I know now that there is even more.
All affairs are not alike. The thousands of affairs I’ve seen seem to fall into four broad categories. Most first affairs are cases of accidental infidelity, unintended and uncharacteristic acts of carelessness that really did “just happen.” Someone will get drunk, will get caught up in the moment—will just be having a bad day. It can happen to anyone, though some people are more accident prone than others, and some situations are accident zones.
Many times a young man has started his career as a philanderer quite accidentally when he is traveling out of town on a new job with a philandering boss who chooses one of a pair of women and expects the young fellow to entertain the other. The most startling dynamic behind accidental infidelity is misplaced politeness, the feeling that it would be rude to turn down a needy friend’s sexual advances. In the debonair gallantry of the moment, the brazen discourtesy to the marriage partner is overlooked altogether.
Both men and women can slip up and have accidental affairs, though the most accident-prone are those who drink, those who travel, those who don’t get asked much, those who don’t feel very tightly married, those whose running buddies screw around, and those who are afraid to run from a challenge. Most are men.
After an accidental infidelity, there is clearly the sense that one’s life and marriage have changed. The choices are:
- To decide that infidelity was a stupid thing to do, to confess it or not to do so, but to resolve to take better precautions in the future;
- To decide you wouldn’t have done such a thing unless your husband or wife had let you down, put the blame on your mate, and go home and pick your marriage to death;
- To notice that lightning did not strike you dead, decide this would be a safe and inexpensive hobby to take up, and do it some more;
- To decide that you would not have done such a thing if you were married to the right person, determine that this was meant to be, and declare yourself in love with the stranger in the bed.
Surely the craziest and most destructive form of infidelity is the temporary insanity of falling in love. You do this, not when you meet somebody wonderful (wonderful people don’t screw around with married people) but when you are going through a crisis in your own life, can’t continue living your life, and aren’t quite ready for suicide yet. An affair with someone grossly inappropriate—someone decades younger or older, someone dependent or dominating, someone with problems even bigger than your own—is so crazily stimulating that it’s like a drug that can lift you out of your depression and enable you to feel things again. Of course, between moments of ecstasy, you are more depressed, increasingly alone and alienated in your life, and increasingly hooked on the affair partner. Ideal romance partners are damsels or “dumsels” in distress, people without a life but with a lot of problems, people with bad reality testing and little concern with understanding reality better.
Romantic affairs lead to a great many divorces, suicides, homicides, heart attacks, and strokes, but not to very many successful remarriages. No matter how many sacrifices you make to keep the love alive, no matter how many sacrifices your family and children make for this crazy relationship, it will gradually burn itself out when there is nothing more to sacrifice to it. Then you must face not only the wreckage of several lives, but the original depression from which the affair was an insane flight into escape.
People are most likely to get into these romantic affairs at the turning points of life: when their parents die or their children grow up; when they suffer health crises or are under pressure to give up an addiction; when they achieve an unexpected level of job success or job failure; or when their first child is born—any situation in which they must face a lot of reality and grow up. The better the marriage, the saner and more sensible the spouse, the more alienated the romantic is likely to feel. Romantic affairs happen in good marriages even more often than in bad ones.
Both genders seem equally capable of falling into the temporary insanity of romantic affairs, though women are more likely to reframe anything they do as having been done for love. Women in love are far more aware of what they are doing and what the dangers might be. Men in love can be extraordinarily incautious and willing to give up everything. Men in love lose their heads—at least for a while.
Emotionally Retarded Men in Love
About the only people more dangerous than philandering men going through life with an open fly and romantic damsels going through life in perennial distress, are emotionally retarded men in love. When such men go through a difficult transition in life, they hunker down and ignore all emotions. Their brain chemistry gets depressed, but they don’t know how to feel it as depression. Their loved ones try to keep from bothering them, try to keep things calm and serene and isolate them further.
An emotionally retarded man may go for a time without feeling pleasure, pain, or anything else, until a strange woman jerks him back into awareness of something intense enough for him to feel it—perhaps sexual fireworks, or the boyish heroics of rescuing her, or perhaps just fascination with her constantly changing moods and never-ending emotional crises.
With her, he can pull out of his depression briefly, but he sinks back even deeper into it when he is not with her. He is getting addicted to her, but he doesn’t know that. He only feels the absence of joy and love and life with his serenely cautious wife and kids, and the awareness of life with this new woman. It doesn’t work for him to leave home to be with her, as she too would grow stale and irritating if she were around full time.
What he needs is not a crazier woman to sacrifice his life for, but treatment for his depression. However, since the best home remedies for depression are sex, exercise, joy, and triumph, the dangerous damsel may be providing one or more of them in a big enough dose to make him feel a lot better. He may feel pretty good until he gets the bill, and sees how much of his life and the lives of his loved ones this treatment is costing. Marriages that start this way, stepping over the bodies of loved ones as the giddy couple walks down the aisle, are not likely to last long.
Men are able to approach sex more casually than women, a factor not only of the patriarchal double standard but also of the difference between having genitals on the outside and having them on the inside. Getting laid for all the wrong reasons is a lot less dangerous than falling in love with all the wrong people.
Men who get caught screwing around are more likely to be honest about the sex than women. Men will confess the full sexual details, even if they are vague about the emotions. Women on the other hand will confess to total consuming love and suicidal desire to die with some man, while insisting no sex ever took place. I would believe that if I’d ever seen a man describe the affair as so consumingly intense from the waist up and so chaste from the waist down. I assume these women are lying to me about what they know they did or did not do, while I assume that the men really are honest about the genital ups and downs—and honestly confused about the emotional ones.
Women are more likely to discuss their love affairs with their women friends. Philandering men may turn their sex lives into a spectator sport but romantic men tend to keep their love life private from their men friends, and often just withdraw from their friends during the romance.
On the other hand, women are not more romantic than men. Men in love are every bit as foolish and a lot more naive than women in love. They go crazier and risk more. They are far more likely to sacrifice or abandon their children to prove their love to some recent affaire. They are more likely to isolate themselves from everyone except their affair partner, and turn their thinking and feeling over to her, applying her romantic ways of thinking (or not thinking) to the dilemmas of his increasingly chaotic life.