Standing by Her Man: Why?
Experts say emotions ranging from rage to humiliation affect the cheated-on spouse who decides to stay.
Why Do They Stay?
The reasons some spouses stay in a union after infidelity are multiple,
experts concur, and differ depending on the dynamics of the marriage.
Staying may be about keeping the status quo, says Frank, especially if the
woman is the one experiencing the infidelity. "Women tend to have grown up
more [than men] with the message of 'Don't rock the boat,'" she tells
There's the old "I can change him" mentality that can creep in, too,
Or a woman may believe the behavior is an aberration, Lusterman says, a
The couple may need each other's skills, says Fisher. "There are many,
many reasons you stay in a marriage and it's not all sexual."
The relationship may still work for some women, Fisher says, even after
infidelity. "She might need money or his contacts, or he may pay the
A woman married to a powerful politician may have him on a pedestal, says
Frank. Or a woman may see other qualities in their partner that can compensate
for the bad behavior, Lusterman says.
Some women may look at the marriage as a whole, he says, and see enough good
to hang in there, Lusterman tells WebMD. Those with children may be unwilling,
at least immediately, to upset their idea of family.
What the cheater does in the wake of the revelation can turn the tide, too,
experts say. "He may turn into one of those guys who stays so sweet and
charming she gets swept back in," Fisher says of someone who cheats and
hopes to stay with his wife.
Advice for the Betrayed
The action a spouse who has been cheated on takes -- after the betrayal is
revealed -- is crucial to determining if the relationship can survive,
according to Lusterman.
He advises couples experiencing infidelity to separate for a period of time.
The betrayed spouse should ask the one who cheated to get help to overcome the
infidelity, Lusterman says. The betrayed partner needs to ''make a new
contract," he says, being sure the unfaithful partner knows the behavior
won't be tolerated.
In his experience working with couples, a marriage has the poorest chance of
surviving if the unfaithful spouse engages in what he calls "pursuit
behavior." This type of infidelity, he says, doesn't involve a one-night
stand and a temporary lapse of judgment but a deliberate planning of the
Those who pursue infidelity, he says, may need to have extramarital sex to
feel powerful, not just to have sex.