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Stop Him from Cheating

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

posted by amy

I love receiving emails from readers.  Everyone has their own unique story and particular question they want answered.  Despite the variety of situations, however, I've noticed some of the same themes recurring.

  • How do I get him to propose?
  • How do I get him back?
  • My man is cheating. How do I save our relationship?

Whenever I read about a woman's heartache when she has found out that her husband/boyfriend/partner is cheating on her but she can't give up on him or the relationship, I feel my heart go out to her.  Being cheated on is one of the most painful, humiliating, and heartrending experiences we can have in a relationship.  But what should we do when it happens to us?

My gut instinct is always to go with Greg Behrendt's advice:

"He's just not that into you if he's having sex with someone else." (He's Just Not That Into You p. 73)

If you haven't got a copy of Greg's book, He's Just Not That Into You, I highly recommend it.  Among Greg's other pearls of wisdom are:

"100% of guys polled said they have never accidentally slept with anyone." (p. 83)

"If something is wrong in a relationship, here's a bright, mature idea: talk about it.  Don't let any man blame you for their infidelity.  Ever." (p. 78) 

For Greg, it's cut and dried.  Even if your cheating man says that it was an accident, or that he was drunk, or that it was your fault because you weren't filling his needs, take it from Greg: those are excuses.  Dump him and move on. You deserve better.  You deserve someone who's into you.

Yet for many women, Greg's response doesn't seem like a good enough answer  When it comes to relationships, it is hard to see the situation in black and white.  We women excel in seeing shades of gray.  We excel in understanding someone's point of view and overlooking behaviors that should be unacceptable for the sake of our love for our imperfect man.

Unless said behavior happens to someone we care about.  I protect my female friends fiercely.  When they get cheated on, it's out with the jerk and in with someone who cares for her as much as I do.

I've seen female friends cheated on and end up staying with the guy even when the girl he was sleeping with on the side became his new girlfriend, making my friend the woman he's cheating on the new girlfriend with!

Confusing?  Yes.  And when children are involved, the cheating situation becomes much more complicated.  Greg's guide is designed for people who are dating, not married.  What happens if your man cheats on you in the course of your marriage?  Shouldn't you try to save your marriage for your children's sake?

Forgive me for a diversion into evolutionary biology, but according to anthropologist Helen Fisher, human beings are designed to be serially monogamous, with human "pair-bonds" lasting only four years before they naturally end.  Why?  Because four years are necessary for a man and a woman to stay together to raise a human child to the stage where it can survive without the mother being in constant attendance.  At that point, Fisher's theory goes, the craving for sexual variety overcomes the need to stay together.

Infidelity has been a feature of human relationships since the dawn of time.  Keeping a marriage together for 10, 25, even 50 years may be a fight against nature, but that doesn't mean that we're biologically driven to stray.  Culture, environment, upbringing, and so on are equally powerful forces.  A young person raised to value being faithful will find that he or she can easily overcome impulses to cheat because of his or her strong moral stance.

Ultimately, most of us find that all we can rely on when it comes to keeping a man from cheating is the folk wisdom passed down from our grandmothers.  One timeworn theory tells us that to keep our man from straying, all we have to do is give him unlimited:

  • food
  • sex, and
  • praise.

Feed him, keep your sex life active and interesting, and stroke his ego with compliments, and your man will be so over the moon that he'll never look elsewhere for companionship.

On one level, this tried-and-true folk wisdom is good – food, sex, and praise are balms for the male spirit – but on another level it feels unfair.  It places the entire burden for a man's fidelity on the shoulders of his partner.  Are we as women to be responsible for keeping our men from straying?  Aren't some men more likely to stray anyway, no matter how perfect their partner?

Personally, I've made my decision.  If a man cheats on me physically or emotionally (since many affairs begin well before they reach physical intimacy), the relationship is over.  I deserve more than that.  As much as I may care for that person, I remind myself of what I am aiming for: the kind of love that endures over a lifetime.  We're not a good match if his eye keeps straying.

And I hold myself to the same standards: I never use the "male attention" trick to spur my partner into being jealous.  Letting my partner know that other men are interested in me in order to keep him keen is a form of manipulation.  It comes from insecurity, not love.

Ultimately, it's up to you.  All of us have the power to interpret infidelity in a different way.  For one person, it may be a betrayal of the relationship.  For another person it may be an all-too-human mistake.  For another person it may be the ultimate form of rejection.

But be aware that you have a choice. What will you accept?

Eyes Wide Open

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

posted by amy

Raise your hand if you've never been cheated on and you don't know anyone who's been cheated on.

Did you raise your hand?  If so, you are very lucky.  You still have that beautiful innocence that so many of us once had, when we still believed that what men told us in the heat of the moment was fact and not passion.

In the innocence of our first relationships, many of us would have built a future on a man's words, simply because we believed the literal truth of what he said.

Later, many of us experienced the hard lesson that a man can tell you that he loves you with all of his heart and that you're the only woman for him … but what he is expressing is the degree of his emotion at that moment through the inadequate vehicle of clichés that he knows you want to hear. 

We women know that words come more easily to us than to the average guy.  We're brought up to communicate, express our feelings, and connect through words.

Words don't come that easily for many men.  For many, their actions speak louder than their words.  A man who truly loves a woman will often show her how he feels through what he does for her, more so than through what he says.   But others see words as tools to achieve a purpose.  They know the words that women want to hear and can use that knowledge to their advantage.

It will always feel like a terrible betrayal to believe someone when he tells you that you are his one and only, that you occupy the entirety of his heart, and that he wants to be with you more than anything … and to find out that he's told other women the same thing.

It leaves us thinking that we can't trust any man with our hearts.

But things are rarely that simple.

There are many situations where it's clear to everyone but the woman involved that the man is cheating.  She could see the signs herself, but she refuses to look.

That's because we so often see what we want to see.  We hear what we want to hear.

There's no way to predict whether a man will cheat, but there are ways to minimize the chances of it happening.

1.  Make sure your expectations and intentions – and his – are clear from the start.  Don't assume monogamy is a given.  If you haven't spoken about whether you're exclusive, then assume you're not.

2.  Don't let the first flush of romantic love (that potent combination of infatuation and lust) blind you.  He is who he is.  If he enjoys the attention of other women, has had lots of casual flings in the past, and is a "bad boy," then don't assume that the love of a good woman will transform him.  Remain as realistic as you can.  If you can't see him clearly because of the power of your emotions, then ask your friends or people who've known him a while to give you an honest assessment of the situation.

3.  Don't assume that because he treats you like a princess, he isn't treating another woman the same way.  We often feel so flattered, pampered, and happy when a man spoils us that our reasonable self goes out the door.  Reason's caution lights get blinded by lust's neon glow.  We can't imagine that anyone who would treat us that well would be capable of doing it for more than one woman.  Remember to keep your head on straight even when your heart is racing.

4.  Always keep in mind that whatever he says to you, he has probably said to another woman in the past.  It is so hard to recognize that we aren't our boyfriend's first and only lover – or, at least, the only lover that matters.  All of us want to believe that he's never experienced this with another woman, that we're teaching him new depths of love and passion.  But if you're going to be realistic about a relationship, you have to recognize that you're both adults with histories.  You also both have personal goals and beliefs about what you want out of a relationship that might not be compatible – even though the relationship feels oh so right.  Have the courage to leave a relationship that isn't mutually respectful, no matter how great it might feel.

If you have been cheated on, remember … the proper response is not to distrust all men.  It's not to say that all men are liars.  Rather, just be wiser the next time around.  A bit more realistic.  Eyes a bit more wide open.

It's sad but true that relationships don't just take love.  They take smarts, too. 


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