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Surviving Infidelity Is Hard to Do

What Do You Do When You Find Out Your Wife Has Been Cheating?
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How Do Most Men Respond to Infidelity in Marriage? continued...

Married Couples Survive Infidelity Better Than Unmarried Couples

In nearly 30 years of studying men and marriage, Nock has found that "a large majority of couples who cheat do not divorce. ...But it is a dramatic threat to this core basic assumption of marriage, which is that your wife is the one person you're supposed to be able to trust."

Married people are different in this regard, Nock has found. "If you interview unmarried couples who were living together about why they split up, infidelity is the leading cause. But that's never been true about married couples. Infidelity is a problem in divorce, but by people's own accounts, the cause usually has something to do with being incompatible or unable to communicate."

What Infidelity Tells Us About Marriage

Your wife's infidelity can certainly be a symptom, or culmination, of those things -- nothing says, "our marriage is in trouble" like sleeping with someone else. But for a lot of couples it is just a reminder of how tenuous the matrimonial bond is.

"Marriage is full of disappointment," says Epstein. "That has to be dealt with. People have to have an element of forgiveness. For men, the general disappointment comes when you discover that the other person is human and is not there exclusively for you. Her whole life is not actually oriented toward you."

By failing to give you what you need (while maybe giving herself something she merely wants), your wife is reminding you of her own identity -- and the limitations any person has in making you completely happy. The good news, Epstein says, is that it's an adult dilemma. "You discover what you want is not what you are supposed to want from a relationship."

Despite the sometimes icky "you complete me" language of love, at least in the popular culture, surviving infidelity sometimes means recognizing each other's differences. Cheating on someone may not be the best way to remind them that you are your own person. Forgiving them is far superior.

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Reviewed on May 01, 2007

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