There’s a lot of assumptions, opinions and expectations when it’s the husband who was betrayed.
Many assume a betrayed husband experiences the same challenges, and feelings, a betrayed wife faces.
To some degree they do. Either way, it’s a trauma.
But there’s also many differences for betrayed husbands, and many people don’t understand that.
That’s what I want to break down for you today.
Did you know that more than half the time, when a wife is unfaithful, the affair partner is a close family friend,
another church member or someone the husband and family knows fairly well?
So the betrayal is even worse when another guy ‘breaks the code’ of not stealing another mans wife.
(which I know many betrayed wives can relate to as well).
Some of the unique challenges and differences that occur, when it’s the male spouse who was betrayed,
is because men and women react to this level of personal trauma of betrayal differently.
Not too many women will feel it’s affected her “womanhood” the way a betrayed husband often feels his “manhood” was severely hit.
Even the healing process is different for men.
Although, please understand, I’m not saying it’s more painful to be the betrayed husband than it is a betrayed wife,
but the differences are there and often misunderstood, that’s why I’m bringing it up.
5 ways it’s different being a betrayed husband.
1. The expectations on what a betrayed husband should do,
in response to their wife’s affair, is often very different.
First of all, most men are expected to ‘be strong’ and ‘push through’ any of their feelings without really talking about them much.
Plus, many friends, family members, pastors and even counselors (who are not very experienced in dealing with infidelity-especially
when the wife is unfaithful), will often give advice that tends to actually make things worse.
For example: many betrayed husbands are told by well meaning people, one of 2 things:
1. Work harder to show her your love and affection; do whatever it takes to win her back.
2. They give ‘tough love’ advice like lock the doors, kick her out etc…
- Let’s take the 1st one– ‘just shower her with love and affection to win her back.’While showing her affection and love would normally be very important and necessary in a marriage,
the marriage dynamics have greatly shifted when the wife is in an affair.
Plunking some flowers on the table, and doing more around the house, aren’t going to fix their infidelity issue.
- The magnitude of the trauma a betrayed husband feels will only be compounded when
he realizes this advice for a quick fix won’t work.So when a wife is cold as ice and disconnected, and a husband is told to do whatever he needs to do to win her back,
he soon becomes more frustrated to see his efforts are not softening her.
I’ve seen men who basically become doormats for their wayward wife to do what she wants.
This only causes a man to lose his self-respect, thinking that if he makes great efforts to win her back, she’ll see the light.
Too often, chasing after a wayward wife, actually creates the opposite result,
causing a wife to recoil further away.
When a woman is disconnected, and even ambivalent, about staying in her marriage,
and well meaning people tell the husband to push in and work harder to win her back,
she’ll often see that as desperation which only pushes her further away.
Because infidelity is not as easily fixed, like just having an argument, so those usually methods won’t work.
Besides, desperation doesn’t look good on anyone, my friends.
- The 2nd piece of advice many people may give a betrayed husband is the tough love advice.
An example of this is “just change the locks and serve her with divorce papers.”
My husband was even told this (by Christian people!), and I’m so glad he didn’t listen to this bad advice,
or we likely wouldn’t have the outcome we have now.
You can read more of our marriage story here.
Nobody should tell you what you need to do in your marriage.
- Unless they’ve experienced this themselves especially, they have no clue how they would really react if this happened to them.
(Even though many people think they know beforehand).
Nobody can tell you what is the right thing for you to do, but you.
That’s a decision only you can make for yourself or (and it’s between you and God, if you are a believer.)
Rash decisions now, often result in major regrets later.
When quick and rash decisions like this are made, there can often be a lot of regret later,
always wondering if they gave up too quick.
- You, and your kids if you have them, have to live with the repercussions of a divorce for years to come…
not your friends, family, counselor or pastor.
- Tough love advice like “change the locks” may sound like the “manly thing” to do to take back control,
but advice like that often backfires when followed, because it only creates more fuel for an unfaithful wife to justify to herself
of why she’s having this affair- convincing herself even more that her husband is so awful, and her affair partner is so wonderful.
So, this only creates more rejection and trauma for a husband.
2. From a man’s point of view, his wife’s affair directly affects his manhood.
Many men will use words to describe how they’re feeling about their wife’s affair, such as:
“Feeling emasculated, impotent, less of a man” or he feels he’s “lost his identity as a man”.
- Many betrayed men also assume that he wasn’t able to satisfy his wife in bed,
and the comparisons most men feel with her affair partner,
is on a different level than many betrayed wives feel.
Not worse, but for a man, it does create feelings of affecting ‘his masculinity’.
- The comparisons he often makes in his mind, to her affair partner, can really hinder his healing process,
even if she ends the affair and returns home. That’s why he has to face these feelings and work through them, not try to “man up” by burying them.
So those are issues he really needs to deal with.
Many men assume their wife’s affair means they’re not as much of a man, and wonder what the other man
has that he doesn’t.
But that’s really not true, and it’s really damaging for a betrayed husband to believe.
If you’re that betrayed husband reading this,
just know that her affair was more about her, than it was about you.
Something within her was lacking, and she chose to look elsewhere for validation and connection rather than to you, her husband, and to the marriage.
Men frequently go to the place of ‘sexual comparisons’.
- Expanding on how his wife’s affair affects his manhood, men often quickly go to sexual comparisons with her AP.
Although betrayed wives do this too, they often compare their looks more than a betrayed husband does.
When a man has been betrayed, often his first thoughts are “what does he have that I don’t have?
How is he better sexually than me, or what is he doing to fulfill her more, than I did?”
Most women “affair down”.
- The most important fact for a betrayed husband to understand; it wasn’t about what he didn’t have, that her affair partner has.
Because there’s a reality about the affair partners a wife often has an affair with…they affair down.
Meaning the guy they choose often seems so contrary to who she is; they’re frequently so much worse than her husband,
in so many ways, that it’s mind boggling why she chose him at all.
- This is such a common phenomenon that affair specialists consistently notice and discuss,
(which is why there’s even a phrase for it: ‘affair down’)
and it’s not entirely clear why a wife would do this.
- But, choosing a guy who’s far inferior to her husband in many ways,
(whether in looks, finances, occupation, values and character etc…),
guarantees someone will truly want her, and give her the attention she craves.
- Also, for many women who daily assume the roles of ‘Mom and Wife’, and have let go of their own identity and hobbies,
this allows her to be someone else, by being with someone else she wouldn’t have otherwise chosen.
(Understand, much of this isn’t even on a conscious level at first).
The Limerence stage of affairs can create quite an affair fog.
- I know this is true from the women I talk to, and I also definitely experienced it myself.
Many women will even tell me that they know they wouldn’t have chosen to be with a man if she were single etc..
Often, unfaithful wives, eventually recognize their affair partner is really not as great as she initially saw him being,
(in the Limerence stage) and they’re even later confused as to why they chose him.
I won’t get into all the reasons why this may occur here,
but hopefully it will provide some relief to you, if you’re a betrayed husband,
to recognize it wasn’t because the other guy was better than you, as it’s often the opposite.
- But it’s more likely this guy was the one that was there, probably at a vulnerable time for her, saying just the right words
at just the right time, and validating her emotional need for attention and maybe her need to know ‘she still has it’.
3. Men compartmentalize their feelings more.
I know this seems like a broad generalization, and some men are the exception to the rule.
But the majority of men shut down emotionally when something like a betrayal happens to them.
It’s the message men are given from the time they’re little boys- to be a man you don’t cry or show your feelings.
So what’s a betrayed husband supposed to do when he’s just been hit with the deepest pain any man can experience?
They find ways to compartmentalize the pain and wall it off from the rest of their lives to just try to function.
Whereas most betrayed females usually want to talk about it, get their feelings out and discover all the reasons why
this happened etc…
Most betrayed men have just as much pain, but he may cry alone and in private, he’s less likely to want to see
a counselor or take anti-depressents and he often experiences a fight or flight reaction to his trauma of betrayal.
This can be quite confusing for them because they may feel torn in making a decision to divorce her or not-and
likely want to do both, often within minutes of each other! It’s normal.
Many men feel like they’re really weak if they stay in the marriage, like a ‘real man’ wouldn’t put up with it.
My husband struggled with that too. But I always say it takes a heck of a lot more strength and courage to stay
and work on the marriage, sorting through the process of grief and forgiveness, instead of divorcing her quickly.
(Sometimes though he may try a long time, with no desire to change on his wife’s part and there’s only so much of that
one can take. The time for that is different for everyone and only you can answer for yourself).
4. Most men naturally try to figure out ways to fix problems…
but infidelity is different.
Betrayed husbands often feel frustrated when their typical way of solving problems doesn’t work in this situation.
- Many men, when faced with a problem, usually try to conquer that problem by figuring out ways to fix it.
How many wives have felt that their husbands first reaction to a problem she was having, was to look for how it could be fixed,
instead of just sitting and listening to her? (no fault of your own, guys, it’s a good quality that needs to be channeled right).
Men are natural problem solvers, and their first thought is often “tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”
But of course, a wife’s infidelity doesn’t work that way.
There’s no quick fix solution, and it cuts a guy to his core, that she chose another guy over him.
Once he realizes his normal ways of attacking a problem doesn’t work in this scenario, he can get even more frustrated when he sees this is
pretty much out of his control.
5. An unfaithful wife’s reasons for being in a affair,
is often much different than a unfaithful husband’s reasons.
Because of this difference, the response from a betrayed husband must be different, too.
- Women often have affairs for the feelings of emotional connection with their affair partner.
They seek out that feeling of being special, desirable and unique.
That’s not to say women aren’t interested in the sexual component, but even with that,
‘feeling attractive and wanted’ is often at the core.
- So when it’s the wife that has an affair, she often disconnects and disengages from her husband,
in an even greater way than a unfaithful male would do. I did that too, you can read a piece of my story here.
It’s hard to be emotionally available and connected to two people, right? So all her attention soon shifts to the affair partner, to fulfill her needs.
- The difficult part for many betrayed husbands is the dramatic shift in his wife’s behavior, when she’s in an affair.
The kind and caring woman he thought he married, is now hostile, cold and aloof from him, and there’s no quick fix for him to change her.
Another factor, is her desire to inwardly justify her behavior,
by changing the story and history of their entire marriage.
This is actually quite common in both unfaithful women and men.
- Especially if they are a Christian, or otherwise are betraying their own core values and beliefs,
they know what they’re doing goes against that.
This creates a severe cognitive dissonance-
(an inner conflict when one has 2 conflicting beliefs or behaviors at the same time).
- So, an unfaithful wife may (even subconsciously) start to rewrite the history of the marriage by magnifying the problems they had,
and minimizing the good that was there.
Although many lies are based in small truths first,
any small problems or character flaws she felt about her husband,
are often magnified far beyond what they were.
I eventually felt myself wanting to do that, although for the most part I kept holding to my belief that we did have a happy marriage
and Jim is a good husband. But the more I reiterated how happy we were in my mind, the more guilt
I’d have when continuing on and off in the affair. So I can see why unfaithful’s do this.
Rewriting history is a common tactic to dull the guilt, and justify to themselves, why they’re doing this.
6. Many unfaithful wives will push back, during their affair,
against the kindness and love from their husbands.
We touched on this in #1 because it’s often the advice people give to a man whose wife is cheating.
- What may have worked in other situations, can actually make her angry now.
Not because what the betrayed husband is doing is wrong, but because it’s right.
That may be hard to understand and even counter intuitive, so I’ll explain it.
- When a betrayed husband starts being the husband she’s wanted him to be all along,
she usually feels a combination of conviction, mixed with some resentment.
- The resentment can come when she thinks “where was he all those years when I was trying to tell him what I needed?”
Whether those thoughts are based in truth or not, it’s often these types of thoughts,
and the conviction she feels about her acting out behavior, that is why she pushes him away further.
This can lead many men to feeling hopeless in not knowing what they’re supposed to do.
Yet, this doesn’t mean you should also be cold and withdrawn from her.
Finding a balance between overtly pushing her to re-engage, and being aloof toward her too, is important.
This post may lead you to feeling like “Well what’s a husband supposed to do about his unfaithful wife then?”
In my next post (Part 2 of why it’s different being a betrayed husband) I’ll share some ideas of what you can do
when you find out about your wife’s affair. Also, about the delicate balance he needs to navigate and how.
You might also be interested in these similar posts:
This video where I interviewed my husband Jim.
You’ll hear his perspective about my infidelity, and mistakes he even made.
Also check out this collection of betrayed husband posts.