Gender Differences in Affairs by Anne Bercht

 

Click here to listen to the September 20, 2010 teleseminar
Gender Differences in Affairs: When the wife has had the affair … What are the unique challenges these couples face?

Click here to listen to the July 22, 2009 teleseminar
Listen to 2 couples candidly share their stories of how they healed,
when the wife was the one who had the affair.

Questions:

Dear Anne – I am a woman and I am the one who had the affair. I like your resources, but it appears to me that it is highly biased towards assuming the man is the cheater. If I encourage my husband to reach out to you, I’m afraid he won’t relate. Please provide more articles with the perspective where the wife is the betrayer.

Dear Anne – Could you provide information or articles on how husbands dealt with the pain, recovery and healing after discovering their wife’s infidelity? Could you also provide statistical information on divorce or survived marriages in those grievous husbands?

Answer:

Contrary to what many people guess, there is not actually a gender difference in the pain and devastation experienced by those who have been betrayed. When the wife had the affair it is no easier or less painful for a woman to deal with, than for a man. I’ve had many a big, tough, strong, emotionally solid (even the type who normally don’t show any emotion) man tell me privately that after discovering their wifes infidelity they experienced emotions they had no idea they were capable of, to the extent of finding themselves on the floor in the fetal position sobbing from the devastation.

Regarding the steps to recovery, they are identical whether male or female. This is why it’s hard to find articles defining the differences. There aren’t any differences when the wife had the affair.

Studies done by marital affairs expert Peggy Vaughan (www.dearpeggy.com) and reports from therapists indicate that men and women stay married in equal numbers (in the 70% range) – regardless of whether it’s the husband or wife who had an affair. The old stereotypes/assumptions that a man will more quickly get a divorce if his wife has an affair do not seem to be true.

Where I have seen a gross gender injustice is that in many states should divorce follow the affair, the husband loses most of his money, and custody of his children, the wife’s unfaithfulness not being factored into the equation.

The process for recovery is also the same whether male or female, and whether the husband or the wife had the affair. Peggy Vaughan told me that in her many years of experience, hosting internet message boards, corresponding with affair survivors and providing telephone consulting services, “if you didn’t KNOW the gender, you would NOT be able to tell whether you were hearing from a man or woman.”

She also said: “Where there IS still a difference is in the isolation that men feel. When the wife had the affair, men are still less likely to confide in others and less likely to seek help/support. So in that sense, they may have a somewhat more difficult time recovering.”

This is why a majority of articles on our website answer questions coming from a betrayed wife, because far more of them write in. The answers on important issues, breaking off contact, should I stay or go, rebuilding the marriage, moving on alone, understanding why, dealing with obsessive thoughts, anger, self-esteem, rebuilding trust, sexual intimacy and forgiveness, all apply the same whether it is the man or the woman who has been betrayed.

Approximately half the couples seeking our help are couples where the wife has had the affair and most have gone on to rebuild fulfilling marriages. The reports they give on how they healed, are identical to the reports regarding marriages where the man has been unfaithful. The first step was breaking all ties with the 3rd party. Second was a willingness by the wife to answer questions about the affair as asked, and for the couple to improve skills in communication, self-awareness and genuine honesty. This is a process, which took time, and required a lot of patience on both parts.

An important common factor for those couples where the wife had the affair and they rebuilt fulfilling marriages was that the wives were genuinely remorseful and willing to work on the marriage. (This is the same for marriages where the husband had the affair.) Both parties were willing to look at their part in the relationship breakdown, and were committed to personal growth and change.

Couples who are less willing to discuss the affair, leaning in favor of a “let’s forget about it” approach generally experience ongoing struggles in their relationship as time moves on. Couples we support who bravely deal fully with the affair find happiness and a stronger marriage on the other side of the affair. Many couples choose to draw on faith in their God during their recovery. These couples report that their faith has been a significant factor in their recovery.

We have also supported couples where the woman has had the affair, where healing was unfortunately not achieved. In many of these situations the husband genuinely loved his wife, and was willing to forgive, change and do whatever it took to create a fulfilling marriage. Sometimes the wife refused to give up her contact with her affair partner, which eventually forced the divorce or separation.

The other situation we encounter is where the wife is unwilling to open up and be honest about the affair. She only admits to parts that are directly discovered, and denies everything else, until it is eventually discovered as well. Because of this the husband is uncertain as to whether the relationship with the third party has been severed completely or not. Sometimes these husbands feel they should leave, however, he also loves his wife, so whether to stay or go is not clear cut. Some betrayed husbands decide for a period of time to do all they can to learn how to meet her needs, and hope for a breakthrough and a brighter future. (Statistically we find those couples who draw on their faith in God have a higher success rate than those who don’t.)

All that I’ve written above regarding the couples we support where the wife had the affair, I would apply equally to couples we support where the husband had the affair.

Whatever the case, male or female, it is very important for each person involved to learn as much as they can about affairs, and then to make their own decisions regarding what is right for them, in whether to stay or go, and how to go about healing, whether married or single following the affair.

I recommend for husbands recovering from infidelity that they seek out help and information from the many books available on the topic, which are not gender specific. For a list of recommended books click here.

I also recommend joining a support group through BAN – Beyond Affairs Network. Some of these support groups are led by men whose wives have been unfaithful. For more information about the Beyond Affairs Network (BAN) and for a list of cities, and coordinator contact information see the following link: BAN Support Groups

We also offer support (BAN for the Unfaithful) to the side that had the affair as an ongoing follow up to the Healing From Affairs Couples Intensive. We always have at least one mentor/coach couple present who has healed their marriage where the wife had the affair, so those couples where the wife had the affair feel completely comfortable. The seminars are completely safe and confidential. Neither spouse is considered the “bad” spouse. This is about healing.

In BAN for the Unfaithful, we find it necessary for them to have the tools and understanding gained from the Healing From Affairs Intensive before BAN for the unfaithful is truly beneficial. This is why it is offered only as a seminar follow-up and not open to any one who wishes to be a part like BAN for the betrayed.

There is tremendous hope for healing if both parties are willing to do the work. In fact, the affair can become a gift, a catalyst to create a far better marriage than the couple ever imagined possible, as our case, and the case of hundreds of other couples we’ve had the privilege of working with whether the wife had the affair or the husband had the affair.

Men who have been cheated on will benefit from reading my book, “My Husband’s Affair Became the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” as much as women will. Men who’ve been betrayed write to me regularly resonating with my personal devastation and grief, and the steps to healing after.

 

If you would like to share a success story, helpful insight or comment on this article we welcome your remarks. Email your questions or comments to Brian and/or Anne info@beyondaffairs.com

Anne & Brian Bercht

PS – Don’t hesitate to contact us for help. We’ve spent the last 10 years doing what others have called “impossible.” We can help you achieve “impossible” too!

©Copyright 2012 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.