With the temptations available to high-profile men, it’s not surprising that many of them get caught up in cheating scandals.
In the last year alone, via almost every media outlet, we heard about men like Chad Johnson and Ashton Kutcher engaging in sexual relations outside their high-profile relationships. And with the surge in reality TV and massive media coverage, we’re better able to witness how their wives and girlfriends handle these situations.
No doubt, infidelity is painful. When anyone dedicates themselves to a union, and their trust is betrayed, the emotional pain can be overwhelming. But for women in particular, to avoid this pain, there seems to be a specific way in which these situations are handled. As seen in countless scandals, when cheating allegations surface, oftentimes the woman will first stand by her partner. Demi Moore and Fergie are just a couple that stood by their husbands when mistresses first reported affairs with their high-status men.
In cases of infidelity, women may also shift blame to the ‘other’ women involved. We see this pattern surface on reality TV programs like Basketball Wives and Mob Wives, where wives and girlfriends hold the other women primarily responsible for their men’s misbehavior. There seems to be aversion to one simple reality—the man’s betrayal.
And if its clear he’s been unfaithful, there’s constant rumination as to why the cheating occurred. Like the scandals themselves, the media harps on the subject, discussing all potential reasons for male infidelity. And depending on the source, you get a different answer. According to marriage counselor M. Gary Neuman, it’s emotional disconnection. According to TV personality Bill Maher, it’s the desire for something new. And according to legal prostitute Brooke Taylor, it’s narcissism. I’m sure there’s some truth to these arguments. But if there’s anything that’s certain—it’s that the cheating happened.
In an attempt to protect ourselves from pain, we think around ‘what is,’ rationalizing or rejecting the reality before us. And with something as prevalent and painful as cheating, it’s not surprising that women mentally avoid the reality of their man’s indiscretion. But in acknowledging this act comes the acknowledgement of your partner’s sexual relation with another—not yours.
Some may ask—wouldn’t it be better to find reasons why this occurs, instead of just accepting it for our relationships? And my answer is—sure, if you want, you can look for reasons why and perhaps you’ll get some answers. Perhaps, as Gary Neuman claims, it’s emotional disconnection, or as Brooke Taylor claims, it’s your partner’s narcissistic character. But if you don’t at least hold him responsible for his decision, you’ll continue to carry the emotional burden of the indiscretion.
Furthermore, accepting this reality does not mean accepting infidelity in your relationship. Women who tolerate cheating do not hold their partners fully responsible for their actions. This allows them to maintain an illusion that her partner’s behavior can somehow be controlled.
But to accept the reality of his cheating is freedom: a release from bondage to a situation that can only be changed by the cheater himself. Understanding her powerlessness to keep her partner from cheating is, paradoxically, empowering. A woman who finds herself in this situation, and accepts that her partner has decided to cheat and that this is not in her power to change, can find what in the situation she does have control over, including whether to remain in the relationship at all.
(This piece appeared under the title Accept That He Cheated, at content partner The Good Men Project as part of elephant love and relationships and GMP joint submissions call on the theme: Why Do Good People Cheat? Check out our other pieces How to Be a Cheater , Forgiving Adultery, When a Marriage Melts Down and Why Women Stand By Their Cheating Man.)
Merissa Bury is a freelance writer with a BA in Psychology/English from Rutgers University. In a perfect combination of her interests, she created Modern Female Central, a ‘feminist’ blog dedicated to the emotional well-being of women http://modernfemalecentral.com/. In her spare time, she enjoys meditation and writing music.
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Ed: Lori Lothian & Brianna Bemel