How can you tell if a guy's wife has cheated on him?
Well, it depends on the guy, of course, but I do recall my wife and I having
dinner with a couple she knew better than I, and thinking that the husband was
being awfully rude to the mother of his children.
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"I think he's mad at his wife for cheating on him," she said.
"Wow. You mean he just found out?"
"No, this all happened five years ago."
For most guys in most matters, five years would be an eternity. It's been
four years since the Yankees won a pennant, and even longer since Robin
Williams made a funny movie. And yet we seem willing to forgive them both. What
makes dealing with infidelity so difficult for men? Why can't we let it go?
Dealing With Infidelity: The Stubborn Images in Your Head
"A lot of people have affairs," says Mark Epstein, MD, a psychiatrist in
private practice in New York City and author of Open to Desire: Embracing a
Lust for Life. "It doesn't necessarily have any ultimate meaning. The
hardest thing for men in that situation is to let it be history."
That's rather ironic, given that women often complain about men
compartmentalizing everything else. We just had a fight? Let's have sex. We
just had sex? Let's watch a movie. Why can't we compartmentalize the idea of
our wives being unfaithful?
"Imagining one's partner with someone else is too profound for some men,"
says Epstein. "[The faithless wife] is a very common theme in porn, but when it
gets turned around [when the porn role is being played by your wife] -- it's
"I just can't get that image out of my head," his patients will say. And
what does he tell them?
"Affairs are common and happen for all kinds of reasons, and our culture
promotes it," Epstein advises those interested in surviving infidelity. "A lot
of marriages don't break up just because someone has had an affair."
Does that mean women are better at letting things go? Not according to
Louanne Cole Weston, a family and marriage counselor and licensed sex therapist
in Fair Oaks, Calif. "As a group, women hold on to negative -- and positive --
emotional experiences longer than men," she says.
True, says Weston, "some men think they can't fix it if a woman has been
with another man." But others want to get in there and make things work. "Some
say, 'I need to take a look at myself.' One woman I saw had a longtime affair
with a house husband, the father of a kid at her child's school. When it came
to light, her husband was upset -- but then he looked at their sex life, his
own rapid ejaculation and lack of foreplay and creativity in their time
together. It got a bunch of information on the table," she says, and the couple
is still together.