Is It My Fault He Cheated?

A Response to Thought Catalog’s Amy Glass
By Rebecca Halton and Shelley Hendrix

 

photo copy 2January 10, 2014, Thought Catalog contributor Amy Glass explained how simple it is to “cheat proof” your relationship: just stay attractive. (According to the blog, what qualified the validity of her opinion was her age, and “working primarily with older men”).

We, however, have been on each side of an affair, and between our experiences – and the experiences of women and men who ask for our help – it’s not as simple as staying fit and interesting.

I, Rebecca, was in an affair with a married man whose wife: 1) weighed less than I did; 2) had a flatter stomach than I did; 3) wasn’t consumed by parenting; 4) was having sex with him (according to him); 5) wasn’t poorly groomed or frumpy; and 6) was more educated than I was.

And I, Shelley, was married for over six years, and had two children, with a man whom I deeply loved. I watched my figure, to the best of my ability as a young mom, looked for creative ways to keep romance and excitement alive, and followed all the “rules” on how to protect my marriage from adultery.

He still chose someone else over me. Was I perfect? Absolutely not. But did my imperfections justify his choice to look outside of our marriage to have his needs met? Absolutely not. I don’t intend for my next statement to be an instance of “tooting my own horn,” but I lost count of how many people said, “He left YOU for HER?”

Looks, waist size, age, education level, social status, etc. – NONE of these determine your value or worth as a woman or as a wife…or even as an “other woman.”

This doesn’t even account for the countless women around us, who are attractive and accomplished – and still cheated on by their spouses. Just think of all the supermodels whose husbands are caught cheating. If outward beauty or even accomplishments were the mix needed to keep a man around, surely THESE women would be protected from that kind of pain, right?

So, then, is “cheat proofing” your relationship as simple as staying attractive?
And is it your fault if he cheats?

Unfortunately, as we respond to this opinion from Amy Glass, we also know that there are books that say similar things within the Christian culture. There are Christian authors telling women that if you just do your part, your husband won’t cheat. Those whose husbands have been faithful think they’ve found the formula themselves to protect their marriages and, therefore, make choices for their husbands.

This just isn’t how it works! (And what my husband and I, Shelley, have seen far too many times in the 13+ years that we’ve been married is that many times, those who write these books, blogs and messages find out later about their own cheating spouse.)

This is the most heartbreaking part of Amy’s blog: she says that cheating is a self-inflicted consequence, especially if you married for the wrong reasons, and/or “let yourself go”:

I feel like it’s the consequence these women deserve. They didn’t want a love relationship, they wanted a wedding and a status symbol. If they wanted a love relationship they’d be putting work into it, thereby removing any reason a man had to cheat and they wouldn’t cheat. It’s simple.

Now, we do recommend being sensitive to your spouse’s needs, and encourage you to consider how you can grow as a spouse. But we cannot agree that it’s so simple, and within your power, to completely remove any reason a man has to cheat. As Shelley learned, there was something she couldn’t control — the condition of his heart:

It grieves me that there are so many who naively believe that a man’s or woman’s choice to cheat is ever determined by his or her spouse. The delicate nature of marriage and infidelity do not have a simple formula to keep your spouse from cheating. We must remember that although we are responsible to our spouse, we are never responsible for them.

As a wounded wife, fifteen years ago, a friend wisely helped me in my grief and my own battle with all the “What Ifs.” (You know: What if I had been thinner?  What if I had been prettier?  What if I had cooked him his favorite meals more often?  What if I had been stronger?  This “What Ifs” list can go on forever!)

My friend simply said, “Shelley, commitment is a matter of one’s heart. If a man is committed to his wife and marriage, then it doesn’t matter if his wife puts on weight, gets sick, struggles in the bedroom, etc. And ‘un-commitment’ works the same way. If a man is not committed to his wife and marriage, then no matter how beautiful she is, how much she keeps herself in shape, or accomplishes his ‘to-do list’ for her, if he isn’t committed, she doesn’t stand a chance.

As Clinical Programs Officer, at The HopeQuest Ministry Group, Stephen Hendrix has been helping people for years, to understand why they or their spouses cheat. As well as why wives refuse certain sex acts (Glass referred to a wive’s unwillingness to perform oral sex, as the reason a man was justified to cheat):

A husband’s ‘desire/need’ for certain sexual acts should be allowable to request. And while a wife should refrain from shaming him by laughing, there are reasons many wives resist some acts, Stephen says.

The reason we felt compelled to respond to Amy’s blog, is we know there are many women (and men) who are currently hurting. They’re submerged in shame, in the pain of wondering what they could have done better, to keep their spouse from cheating. Knowing that, we wanted to offer encouragement and hope to counteract the guilt.



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