We've all seen it in the media and heard gossip around the neighborhood—the stereotypical cheating husband, philandering with other women, while the emotionally neglected wife cries at home.
Well what happens when these roles are reversed? When it's the wives who stray, and husbands who stay?
I've noticed a new infidelity pattern in which more and more men have reached out for counseling upon learning that their wives cheat on them. These men report that they have remained faithful and loyal, hoping to work through the hurt of the affair and stay together.
Men Who Challenge Gender Norms
It's worthwhile to note that many of these men challenged gender norms, allowing themselves to be vulnerable and ask for help.
They have high emotional IQs—articulately expressing themselves and identifying their emotions, feeling things deeply and passionately, and engaging in self-reflection.
Gender Differences In Infidelity
Through my extensive research on gender differences in infidelity, I have learned that traditionally and for different theoretical reasoning, women tend to cheat for emotional reasons, using falling in love or an intense connection as justification for their actions.
Whereas men tend to cheat more for physical reasons, such as being dissatisfied in their sex lives or finding someone very attractive.
People are told that cheating or an affair happens because the relationship is damaged somehow. These men told me how they gave their women everything—botox, home renovations, travel, but also companionship, attention and support. So what was broken?
On their own, these men often could not identify what was missing or what could be improved upon—feeling shocked by their partners' betrayal. To their dismay, the men said their wives never directly told them that they were dissatisfied in their marriages.
Clearly there was some breakdown in communication. However, it's not always poor communication, a lack of companionship, or dwindling emotional intimacy that leads to straying.
Wives Who Stray
Through my counseling experiences, I have witnessed contradictions to the stereotypical gender differences in infidelity. For example, there are wives who feel an intense emotional affinity for their spouses, but fall for the passion and excitement of an affair.
These women often times cheat with multiple extramarital partners. I have heard them question, "What's wrong with me?" and "Am I flawed?" They have questioned whether they fit into the box of a traditional marriage, or if it’s more natural to have multiple partners over the years.
Wives have described their infidelity as an exciting challenge. I've heard them say that their partners are too nice and give them too much control, acknowledging that when given an inch, they take a mile.
They have cried, stating that they never meant to hurt their husbands, or that it was not malicious, but instead a selfish pursuit of their own desires. They have acted on instant gratification, rather than thinking through the consequences of their actions.
I've also noticed that some of the straying women have a history of sexual abuse and depression, constantly searching for happiness with a "grass is greener" mentality, rather than learning how to find happiness in their current situations.
Husbands Who Stay
The husbands and boyfriends come to me heartbroken, stating, "I love her, even for her flaws," willing to work through the betrayal. However, many have been greeted with ambiguity and pessimism from their unfaithful partners.
They say that they just want to hear "I'm sorry, it won't happen again," but these wives have been reluctant, or perhaps realistic, that they cannot guarantee such a future.
The men find themselves doing the majority of the therapeutic work—going to counseling consistently, reading self-help books, asking for support from friends and family, and trying to spend more quality time together as a couple.
I've seen this go on for months until they reach a burnout point where they begin to question what they deserve in a relationship and start to prioritize their own needs, which are not being met.
Often times, they ask me whether they should stay or go, worried that their female counterparts will engage in similar behavior down the road. Each case is different, but the reality is that not all of these relationships can be saved.
The inspiring aspect that I have witnessed is that through therapy and self-exploration, some of these men have walked away from their marriages with more confidence, a greater understanding of their relationship, and optimism about their future love lives.
Read more infidelity articles by Samantha