Oprah Show on Cheating – September 11, 2008

Please note: Our work is with good people who meant their wedding vows and believe affairs are wrong. We realize in our culture today there is a whole genre of people who believe affairs are normal, inevitable and even good. We disagree and people with these views are not our clients. You can have a long-term, passionate and monogamous relationship. We can show you how.

While women can do a lot to be good wives, preventing their husbands from having affairs ultimately is beyond their absolute power, and does not rest on their shoulders alone. They could be married to a good man, and be doing everything a wife can do right and their good husband could still cheat. If your husband has had an affair it is not your fault.

Peggy Vaughan, author of “The Monogamy Myth” and “Preventing Affairs” states that when it comes to why affairs happen, there can be a pull towards an affair as well as a push. Pushes include:

Marital vulnerabilities: any form of dysfunction or unhappiness in the marriage.

Personal Vulnerabilities: depression & insecurity (just to name a couple) – Depression is a personal vulnerability that may have nothing to do with the wife. We find most unfaithful men we work with were experiencing a level of depression when they got caught up in the affair. Insecurity is personal and usually stems from past experiences before marriage, and cannot be undone by the spouse. I came into my marriage with insecurities. Brian was a wonderful husband. No matter how many expressions of love Brian gave me, my insecurities did not go away, until I dealt with them.

Environmental vulnerabilities: having friends who cheat, or don’t see it as that bad, and being in workplaces where cheating is accepted – just don’t get caught.

In regards to the Oprah show on cheating, what was totally missing from the show was the fact that there can be a pull towards an affair. This is the elephant in the room that our culture is ignoring.

When a new person starts paying special attention to you it’s titillating, even if you have a great relationship at home.

Forces that pull people toward affairs include NEW SEX: novelty, variety, excitement, curiosity, and “falling in love.”

Helen Fisher has clearly described the very DIFFERENT dynamics involved in NEW SEX vs. long-term committed sex. I say it’s like comparing apples and oranges. The ‘new’ “in-love” feelings that go with ‘new sex’ do NOT last – with anyone. Love changes – which Peggy and James Vaughan describe in detail in the first chapter of their book, “Making Love Stay.”

The Oprah show on cheating perpetuated the same old stereotypical myth that’s plagued our culture for years – the assumption that an affair is a symptom of problems in the marriage. That this is the only explanation. The age old question “What was wrong in the marriage to cause the affair?” The part that’s missing is that the answer in many cases is NOTHING. Nothing was wrong in the marriage. Affairs happen in good marriages too, to good people, to women who read books like Neuman’s and follow all of the advice. I was such a wife. That’s why I was so shocked. Up until it happened to me, I too, believed the myth that there must be something wrong in a marriage for an affair to happen, and if the guy is getting enough at home, if his emotional needs are being met at home, if his wife loves and adores him this won’t happen. I was that wife. It still happened. I am not an isolated case.

An email I received from one of the Oprah show on cheating viewers says it all:

I was massively ANNOYED that no one NO ONE mentioned the power of NEW SEX and lure and titillation of the giddy, teenage thrill of new romance. WTF?? What kind of expert is he? I was so glad Anne got to speak – but it was just like my experience – everyone assumed she was delusional. Like her, in my marriage, I was having great, hot, sex with a husband that, if anything, I “appreciated” too much. It was suggested to me (after his affair) that maybe men like women who are more withholding – “maybe they like bitches”….maybe he was too sure of you. Yuk. And, as Anne expressed, neither were we emotionally distant – we were linked emotionally, spiritually, politically – backpacked and skied all over the country, spent weekends at our farm (his dream retreat) where we gardened, parented, fished, etc. He’d just made partner in the country’s top law firm. I was adoring, admiring, and each night of our marriage said “I’m so proud of you”…as we cuddled up and went to sleep….and it was sincere – I was so proud of him and in love. I feel like the show made my story/experience and Anne’s seem like a lie – as though we were deluding ourselves. My husband hired a 23 year old secretary who fell in love with him. It took her 3 months from being hired to his telling me he was “in love” and leaving and buying a red Porsche convertible. Yes, they do want to feel like winners. It’s how they keep score that no one addressed. And I did see the signs….but NOT until a few weeks after he hired her. It was that fast. And the experts then imply it’s because the poor husband had something missing that a good, on-her-toes wife could supply. Grrrr. Had to vent. I just watched it. “

This is also very worthwhile perspective, from Peggy Vaughan in “The Monogamy Myth:”


“Accepting personal responsibility for determining the behavior of another person inevitably leads to failure. My experience is a good example of the false premise of this kind of thinking. I tried to do everything possible to keep my husband “interested.” I was always dieting (even though I wasn’t overweight), I kept myself “fixed” with makeup, I wore sexy underwear, I was sexually active in bed and always available and eager, I was the consummate mother, the gourmet cook, the gracious hostess for parties and dinners for his business colleagues, and the lively and well-liked social partner. I was active in current political causes, but also took care of everything that might make his life easier, including doing all the packing for his frequent business trips, paying the bills and handling all our financial matters (including our tax returns), and generally doing any and everything I could possibly think of to be such an ideal wife that he wouldn’t consider having an affair.

Later, when James reflected on his reaction to my efforts during that time, he recalled thinking, “Wow, this is great; I’ve got this terrific wife who’s doing all these wonderful things–and I’ve got my affairs too!” He felt like the luckiest man in the world.

It’s unreasonable for anyone to think they can prevent their partner from having an affair, or to think they’re personally to blame if it happens.”

– – – – (end of excerpt from “The Monogamy Myth“)

We had a strong marriage at the time of Brian’s affair. Brian was and is a great man, a role model citizen. His affair was completely against his character. The journey to healing from this devastating experience, led us to understand affairs on a far deeper level.

Brian had his affair because of his personal vulnerabilities: his dad had recently passed away, disrespect issues with our teenagers, and a new job.

The biggest factor in why Brian had an affair was his lack of self-awareness of how the above was affecting him.

His lack of knowledge of how affairs really happen also came into play.

We believed the commonly believed myths that affairs happen because there are problems in the marriage, so since we didn’t have any problems and our marriage was going so good, clearly this couldn’t happen to us, he thought.

Believing he could never have an affair was another contributing factor. Because he thought he could never be capable of such a thing, he didn’t have his guard up like he needed to.

When he met the other woman the very fact that he didn’t find her attractive made him think his relationship with her was safe. In other words, his lack of knowledge of how affairs happen was a factor. He didn’t understand how emotional connections with the opposite sex grow and how dangerous they are.

While I was Brian’s friend and lover, I was also his wife. At times I had to bring to his attention problems with our teenagers or financial issues. The other woman didn’t have to do this.

When why affairs happen is discussed, the focus remains consistently on looking for problems in the marriage, assuming there must be some. This approach to explaining why affairs happen ignores the elephant in the room. It is enticing when a 3rd party displays interest in you, even when your wife (or husband) is doing a great job of meeting emotional and sexual needs.

Every woman should understand the principles in Mr. Neuman’s book, “The Truth About Cheating,” as they pertain to what women can do to improve their marriages, but this alone will not ENSURE fidelity with even the most moral and wonderful of men.

There are no perfect people and there are no perfect marriages and so when we go looking for the problem in the marriage that caused the affair, we can always find something. The problem is often times in doing this we still have missed the root causes, which may have more to do with the unfaithful person’s personal vulnerabilities, as well as environmental factors, then with problems in the marriage.

Brian and I both found things we could do to improve our marriage as part of our healing journey, and we both enjoy the benefits of these improvements.

This said Brian tells me that even if I had been the perfect wife, he still would’ve had an affair, because his affair had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with the personal vulnerabilities he was going through.

I longed for a guarantee that Brian would never have another affair, something I could do. In the end, I learned my guarantee is in Brian’s changes, our greater degree of openness and honesty as a couple, and our gained understanding of affairs. Brian is not a puppet on a string that I can control by being “super need-meeter” wife. I am empowered, because I’ve learned that no matter what choices Brian makes in the future, I will be okay, because of who I have become.

My book, “My Husband’s Affair Became the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” did not receive its title because of healing our marriage. It received its title because of who I became on the healing journey. It’s a story of courage, overcoming and transformation. It offers a true-life story of hope for those going through this.

There are not many men who love their wives and their fellow man so much that they would risk humiliation by sharing their biggest failure on the Oprah Winfrey show, where millions of viewers around the world will see it, in the hopes that more marriages will be inspired and helped by our message.

There are gaps in the healing and prevention messages that are out there. We spent hours and hours researching and putting together our Healing From Affairs weekend for couples. We started in 2003 and since then we have worked with more than 250 couples helping them to achieve the same success we have. Currently we have a 90% success rate of couples not only staying together and healing, but reporting stronger marriages on the other side of the affair.

I disagree that you shouldn’t know everything about the affair, if you want to know. I would be divorced today if Brian had insisted on keeping secrets with the other woman. My imagination was worse than reality. I know every detail of my husband’s affair, and knowing these things was comforting for me and helped me to heal. I felt included in my husband’s world, and I learned a lot about my husband through his sharing. Even though some of the truth was painful, it was bitter sweet. I could tell nothing was hidden and I was grown up enough to handle it.

Brian’s openness helped me to heal. I do not recommend that every betrayed spouse has to know all the details, but I disagree that this decision should be made by the husband who cheated or the therapist. How is this empowering to women?

If you’d like to read another of my articles on “why affairs happen and how to prevent them” click here

To listen to a one hour telephone seminar I gave commenting on the Oprah Show on cheating “Why Men Cheat” click here (It takes about 4 minutes for the conference to really get going. If you fast forward just slightly, you can skip the gap before we really get going.)


©Copyright 2005 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.