Posted by: Suzanne Griffiths | June 30, 2013

So He Cheated On You. Now What?

Have a Tiger living in your house? Read this before you chase him out with a golf club.

Too often we read shocking details of powerful men who have cheated on their wives. However, the tendency to cheat is not reserved for the rich and famous. Depending on the study you read, infidelity strikes, conservatively, 25 percent of all heterosexual marriages. Why is this happening? There are many reasons: the Internet gives opportunities never seen before to find lovers. More women in the workplace provide opportunities for men and women to cheat. Cell phones and text messaging makes it easier to have conversations on the sly. Stress and mundane lifestyles cause people to opt out and risk their marriages. The affair provides that emotional high, the excitement of the chase and the exhilarating intense feelings that become addictive. I’m a divorce lawyer and see the cheaters and the cheated in my office on a daily basis.  


What do you do when you find your spouse is cheating on you?


Option 1: Throw the bum out!


Before you go that route, ask yourself: is this infidelity part of a pattern? Or is it out of character for your partner? The answer will tell you whether or not this marriage can – or should – be saved.


In my experience, most cheaters can be placed into two dominant categories: The compulsive adulterers and the midlife crisis adulterers. The compulsive cheater is someone who has consistently cheated, and someone who will always be on the lookout for the next affair. Compulsive cheaters are often literally addicted to the thrill of the chase. They need and want those feelings of euphoria, exhilaration and obsession associated with the brain producing sex chemicals that compel them to have a new relationship. They are generally very charming and charismatic, and their wives forgive them over and over again. There is not much that can be done about these people. They will not control themselves and will continue to have one affair after another, despite promises to change.


If you find yourself married to one of these, dump them no matter how hard that may be. Staying in the relationship will simply cause you to be hurt and abused. Not only are you being subjected to risks of sexually transmitted diseases, you should also expect to be cheated financially. It is expensive to have affairs…the flowers, dinners, jewelry, gifts and travel all add to the hidden costs.


Option 2: Hang In There: Don’t get Drawn into His Drama


The midlife crisis affair is different and will usually happen between the ages of 35 to 50, to both men and women. They are thrown into a total turmoil they never imagined would happen. It hits people who have a very stressful life, with too much responsibility and too little fun and leisure time. The daily grind with work, financial stress, responsibilities to children and family becomes too much and they simply opt out and try to “find themselves.”


They look at their lives and wonder if there is more to life than this; they “escape” and find someone who is often “different” and then they behave like teenagers again.  For the husband it may be someone he meets on the Internet or at work.  For the wife it may be the child’s karate instructor.  The wonderful perfect husband is now somebody that just cannot be recognized, who is so different, who loses interest in the kids and tells his wife  “I never loved you. I have found my soul mate.”  What nonsense. What was a man doing married to her for 20 years and then saying he never loved her. Of course he loved her. He’s just lost his judgment while he heads into outer space.


If you married the perfect doting husband who is now going through a midlife crisis, hang in there, as he may return to earth with a hard landing. If you had a bad marriage in the first place, chances are the infidelity crisis will be the final blow. How do you survive while his sole focus becomes the new attraction and the clandestine sex?


Tactical response:


  • Accept the fact that you have a new moody adolescent in the house.  I said to one client: “You had three children at home. Now you have four.”
  • Take control of you and put all the energy back into yourself. If you’ve become boring and frumpish, been focused on taking children to basketball games and ballet performances, turn right around. You can control what you look like, what your hair looks like, what your figure looks like. You can control your day-to-day living. The smart woman will buy new clothes for herself; she’ll take control of her own situation and try to be calm and balanced, no matter how hard that may be. In the midlife crisis, he is looking to escape, but also values strength and stability to balance his own crisis. Like a naughty kid who comes back to his mother, he’ll come back to his wife, if she gets her own life together and he can have fun with her. If she wants to, if she can handle it. Some can’t handle it and just want out, which ends the marriage.
  • Trying to control a man going through a midlife crisis is a hopeless cause. However, the wife has always got a huge advantage in that she represents the memories, the family, the traditions. Sometimes the man turns around and says, “Wow, she’s looking pretty good. She’s really together and she is the mother of our kids. I want that.” At that time she has bargaining power in the relationship and they can go to counseling and set forth conditions for continuing the relationship.
  • Dig in for the long haul. Surviving a midlife crisis is like living on a rollercoaster.  The guy comes home and says ok, he’s very committed and he cries and says he’s dropping the girlfriend. So now he’s back home; he lies on the couch and he’s in a state of depression because he’s dreaming of the sex and the bikini underwear. He sits at home like a bear with a sore head. Now the wife’s stuck with this lot, but she has to remain grounded and not go overboard or be punitive.  The guys will swing from wanting to be with the wife and then want the girlfriend. This can go on until one of the women kicks him out. Accept this is going to be a crisis, but in some cases the husband returns home and comes to the realization that secret hotel rooms and string bikinis don’t really provide the answers that he needs.


Many people keep on going another 25 years and have their 50th wedding anniversary after the affair, but it is a catastrophic event. Use a rational strategy rather than an irrational response; you may wind up keeping your family together.


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