by Anne and Brian Bercht
Brian and I have received with interest comments about Oprah’s recent affair recovery show on 7 cheating men on which we appeared. The bottom line is infidelity is a topic that strikes at the very core of human emotions, so it goes without saying that people hardly feel neutral about it. Some people were upset by various things or aspects of the show … but some of what is upsetting is indeed reality. As the title of the first chapter in our book suggests (Cinderella …. Not), you may indeed prefer a different reality, and a different truth, but we cannot see any advantage in living with lies – just because reality is not the ideal we want to believe.
An old sage penned, “And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” At first the truth can hurt an awful lot, but in the end truth ALWAYS sets you free.
Some are critical of the very fact that these 7 men and 6 of their wives were willing to share the truth about affairs in their lives publicly. I commend each man and woman for being there. They have contributed to educating the world about affairs.
The main and most hurtful ingredient of affairs is the lying and secrecy. In fact you cannot have an affair without having lies and deception.
Secrecy is to affairs what sunlight and water is to plants. As long as we keep affairs secret, we as a society are promoting their growth. After witnessing the tremendous pain affairs cause to all 3 people in an affair triangle, to the children, to extended family and friends and on and on and on … it’s evident that affairs are a horrible, deceptive and destructive force in our society. Brian and I refuse to be the “sunlight and water” by keeping silent when we have answers that can heal pain and prevent affairs.
Someone said “All it takes for the forces of evil to rule this world is for enough good people to do nothing.”
After viewing the show about ‘Cheating Husbands’, which I thought was a fabulous show in that it represented a very broad range of husbands and their attitudes, from the person who had multiple affairs/sexual encounters, the phone sex individual, to those whom only had one affair. Journalism needs balance, a point all need to remember, which brings me to the place where I feel that some clarification needs to be voiced.
There are 2 issues that I would like to address here:
#1: As for the comment that was made by Terrance that 99.99% of men cheat, I absolutely 100% disagree!! Exactly how credible can the words of a man who has had ???#’s of affairs be? The obvious reason he said that was to “justify” his own behaviors. Were you aware of the fact that he did not use the word “husband?” How much value does this person place in being a husband?
I believe, as statistics have proven, that more husbands than not have cheated on their spouse as a result of the lack of information they allow into their heads, but there are also many men who remain monogamous throughout their married life and all men are capable.
#2: As for the comments given by the majority of husbands “that the reason I had an affair was because my wife didn’t do this or this.” Now I know that some of you who read this could be a little offended (not only from “that” totally asinine statement, but also from the words that I’m about to use). I would say that ALL of those men that say “that” are full of ****. That is THE most chicken poop way of dealing with YOUR OWN ISSUES! How can any man blame their spouse for making them cheat, that is totally absurd and so cowardly, just because they have a testicle that doesn’t make them a man!! A real man takes responsibility for his own actions and DOES NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, blame his wife. PERIOD!!!! So, husbands, don’t get me started.
Important points that were made on the show: (Although the show was about cheating husbands – it’s relevant to note that each affair occurred with a woman! (Hello! This is not just a man’s problem.) These women included a Cub Scout den mother, a daycare worker and married women.
Why do men (and women) have affairs?
There were reasons which had nothing to do with the marriage or the faithful spouse and everything to do with the character weaknesses of the person having the affair:
- Because it strokes your ego when someone else pays attention to you
- Selfishness/the lure of temporary pleasure
- Provided confirmation, a need fulfilled
- Admiration, the “Adoring Eyes”
Brian explained his draw to the other woman as a “pulling toward.” She made him feel like a king. It was a fantasy. He was attracted to how HE was FEELING, not the other woman.
There were some reasons which did indicate problems in the marriage:
- Too much fighting at home
- Wife worked too much
There can be no doubt that we all do need to pay attention to our marriage relationships.
Men don’t have affairs just for sex! Men stray from their wives because of how the other woman made them FEEL.
Brian shared that he was not dissatisfied with Anne in anyway. He loved Anne fully during the affair.
Yes, a happily married man can stray!
Chris also affirmed that he was happily married, when he had an affair.
There can be unmet needs and unhappiness in a marriage which makes a man (or woman) look for needs to be met outside the marriage (which still doesn’t justify the behavior), but there doesn’t HAVE to be anything wrong in a marriage for a man/woman to stray.
All marriages are vulnerable to affairs. This does not mean that married couples should start living in fear that it will happen to them, but it does mean they should stop being naïve and judgmental of others.
Affairs were against the moral code Brian had set for himself. He was sure he would recognize the temptation of an affair. The reality was he had never really been tempted before. Part of the reason Brian was vulnerable to an affair is because he believed that affairs are about sex and they don’t happen in good marriages. What you don’t know does hurt you! A key to preventing affairs is being informed.
Quote from the book The Script: “Unfaithful men all act the same like they are following a script. And the betrayed wife blames herself, feels unworthy and confused.” (I might add that her well-meaning friends and family help her with this.)
The men were not having affairs because they weren’t getting enough at home!
The other woman was NOT extra special!
In the person’s mind the affair seems right at the time. An unfaithful spouse justifies and compartmentalizes their behavior.
Every man lied! Affairs are one big gigantic lie. The definition of lying is not only knowingly giving wrong information, it includes withholding relevant information. If a spouse has had an affair it’s relevant to the relationship. How can anyone think the solution to affairs then is to keep it a secret from their spouse? How can more lying being the cure for lying?
Ryant said: Men/Women need to stay away from situations where affairs can happen! Good point!
Affairs just aren’t worth it!
Terence made the excellent point that the cheating husband tells more truth to the mistress than to his wife. In other words the mistress gains a “window” into the marriage. The wife gets only a “wall” into the affair. In order to heal a marriage the window and the wall must be reversed. The wife must get the truth and the mistress must be cut out.
Each one of those men was remorseful, embarrassed, and surprised by the amount of pain they had caused their wives. It’s a hard thing to have to look daily into the eyes of the person you love and see the pain and know that you are the one who has caused it.
Stephen said he never knew he could hurt someone that much.
Cheating is wreckless behavior … and those engaging in it just aren’t thinking!
Ryant made an excellent point when he confessed the bad attitude he had when his wife confronted him, which would make his wife feel like she is going crazy. In my work supporting affair survivors, I find this pattern to be consistent among cheaters whether it’s a man or a woman who’s having an affair.
Stephen also made a good point when he revealed that the other woman in his life was excited that he was going to confess his affair to his wife. The other woman/man often wrongfully believes that the cheating partner will give up his marriage and marry them, and banks on that once sex has been consummated the faithful husband/wife will be so angry it will make their takeover easy.
When I confronted the other woman in my life (who planned to marry Brian), she told me that she wanted to have a positive impact in my children’s lives too! This woman didn’t just want my husband. She wanted my life!
Ryant also made an excellent point when he said that he had not been better than his wife, he had not invested more into the marriage. Had he been helping out at home with housework and the children, his wife would’ve felt much more loving towards him.
Society tends to blame the faithful spouse for the affair, saying the faithful spouse wasn’t meeting their unfaithful partner’s needs, but the unfaithful partner wasn’t doing any better of a job. It could just have easily been Ryant’s wife who had an affair if we say unmet needs caused the affair.
Nadine made an excellent point when she talked about how obsessive she became “losing her mind” trying to catch him, the terrible obsession of searching for proof. This is no way to live. If there is even a feeling of needing to do so, there’s something wrong. In a good relationship, trust is built on total openness and honesty and PROVEN behavior. There should be no need for suspicion in a healthy relationship.
John’s affair had been 5 years ago, but was just discovered 3 months ago. It doesn’t matter if it was 20 years, 30, or 40. Affair recovery starts on the day of disclosure.
Way to go Oprah for saying “You got to tell the truth!” You cannot even begin to heal a marriage until you have full disclosure. An unconfessed affair in a marriage is like undiagnosed cancer. It will eat away at each cell of the marriage until it destroys it.
Thank you Mary for sharing that you became a raving maniac when you found out! We who’ve been betrayed want the world to know this is how it feels. You think you’re going crazy. You can’t think straight. It pushes you over the brink of sanity. It’s like dying, except you’re still breathing. Your life as you’ve known it is over, and it can NEVER be the same again.
We still love each other! Your genuine feelings of love for a person don’t just disappear, because there has been a betrayal of trust. We who’ve been betrayed don’t appreciate the unsolicited advice from people who tell us we should leave our unfaithful spouses and we are weak for staying. What right do you have to tell us what we should do? Do you walk in our shoes? Will you live with the outcome of the decisions we make? The choice belongs to us … the crisis of an affair can in time become a gift. It’s an opportunity to get it right. And staying with someone because you still love them is a dam good reason!
Another excellent point that was made on the show is that the other woman/man is not necessarily prettier, sexier, or better in any way. It’s the FEELING someone gets when a 3rd party pays attention that is the draw of an affair.
Candie also made an excellent point when she questioned, “How many times can a person forgive?” It’s true that many cheating husbands never change. No woman should put up with ongoing abuse from their spouse. If the spouse doesn’t change, it may be time to get out. In that way also a spouse’s betrayal can “become the best thing to happen to us.” It can be a wake-up call: “Get out now!” And in this way, although painful and scary at first, it can be a window to a better life.
Not all relationships are salvageable after an affair. Not all unfaithful spouses are willing to change. Always judge the behavior, not the words.
Special thanks to Oprah and staff, Terrence, Stephen and Natalie, Ryant and Nadine, Mike and Candie, Chris and Mary, John and Amy for doing your part to create greater public awareness regarding affairs. You all did a great job and it was a pleasure to meet you.
Brian and Anne
©Copyright 2005 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.