We’ve heard it from friends and loved ones: a loving wife, who has done everything ‘perfectly’ cannot understand why her husband has cheated. She feels she has done ‘everything’ right, considered her husband’s needs and placed them even before herself. Perhaps she gave up her career opportunities in order to support him and to care for the family. And truly, it IS hard to imagine why a husband would cheat on the perfect wife. This perfect wife may possess admirable characteristics that many in her life admire – including you. So why then do husbands cheat on the perfect wife?
Psychologists offer many answers to this question, some of which may surprise you. Here are just a few reasons why husbands may be unfaithful to a devoted spouse (hint: they have very little – if nothing- to do with the betrayed partner).
Lack of Maturity
The lack of prior relationship experience or the ability to understand consequences may lead some men (and women) to be unfaithful to their spouse. It is estimated that nearly 68 percent of men feel guilty after they’ve had an affair – maybe this stems from the inability to understand how hurtful a betrayal may be?
It’s important for a wife to understand that if her spouse strays due to a lack of maturity, it is his issue – not hers. When a man justifies cheating on his wife, it’s his own selfishness – and not the wife’s problems- allowing his conscience to make those decisions. Think of it like this: if a husband is not mature enough to realize how harmful his affair will be, than it’s unlikely he’s mature enough to appreciate a ‘perfect’ spouse in the first place.
Addiction / Self-Control Issues
Your partner’s underlying addiction and self-control issues could be the reason he cheated. Drugs, alcohol, and sex addictions are just some of the diseases that can ravage a relationship. Addicts will often struggle to make healthy decisions, sometimes even choosing to hurt those that love them in order to justify their isolation and continued self-harm.
There are many things the spouse of an addict should consider, such as if you are engaged in a co-dependent relationship that allows the addict to maintain their quality of life instead of getting help. You may have thought that you were helping your husband, even being a good wife, by assisting them in covering up their addiction. As tempting as it may be to provide this kind of assistance, it is usually not helpful in the long road to recovery.
In his article ‘Why Happy People Cheat’, marriage therapist Aaron Anderson advises that insecurity in one spouse leads to the need to have a bit of secrecy in the relationship, a behavior that can ultimately lead to infidelity. “In counseling, most spouses who cheat get to the point where they identify some sort of displeasure with themselves as the reason they cheated…Instead of embracing these insecurities and trying to fix them, they try to hide it,” says Anderson. He encourages couples to establish open and clear lines of communication, even about uncomfortable topics, to try and work through a spouse’s unfulfilled desires. This may be allow you to prevent cheating from entering your relationship, or even to help you understand why your partner was unfaithful after the fact.
Anger or to Get Revenge
Sometimes, men cheat to get ‘even’ with their wife or to resolve some deep seated injustice they feel they’ve been served by their spouse. In these instances, they truly want their actions to be felt by their significant other, choosing behavior that is intentionally hurtful. While it’s natural for couples to have disagreements and problems that arise over time, some couples fall into unhealthy patterns of fighting. This can damage both spouses, but it isn’t exactly an excuse to cheat (is there really one?).
The hurtful act of infidelity, especially when the husband has tried to maximize the pain of the cheating on his wife, may be especially hard to heal. Family therapy and/or couples counseling may allow each spouse to talk to a neutral, listening, and supportive person. This can help heal a marriage.
They’re Unhappy in the Relationship
The thing is, even if your spouse has been unfaithful, it isn’t because they think there’s anything “wrong” with you. You may be perfect, but that doesn’t always guarantee happiness. Sometimes men will cheat on their wives to end their relationship, perhaps because they feel guilty being unhappy with someone who is a pretty wonderful person.
Unfortunately, some men may feel infidelity is the only way to end a relationship. “As a therapist, I find most of the reasons that cheating men use to justify their infidelity fascinating — because almost all of these reasons imply that cheating was the only logical solution to their relationship issues and other life problems,” says therapist Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S.
No matter why your husband cheated, infidelity is a hurtful experience. It doesn’t always signify the end of a marriage, but it is a chance for a wife question if her quest for perfection betrayed her own best interests. Self-care, exploring new and old hobbies, and seeking fellowship with good friends are some ways that a woman can reclaim some of her identify outside of being the ‘perfect’ wife.