If you’ve been cheated on, odds are good that at some point you’ve wondered if it was because you’re not pretty enough, skinny enough or sexy enough. I know this because I have worked with lots of women (and men) whose partners have cheated, and they all consider blaming their own appearances for the betrayal. If this describes you, you need to believe that your partner’s behavior is not caused by how you look. Don’t let his destruction of the trust in your relationship also destroy your body image and self-esteem. (Though both the cheater and the other partner could be either male or female, I’m referring to the cheater as a male for simplicity and to relate to the following stories.)
Susan’s Story: Susan has been married to her college sweetheart for over 20 years. They had a very close and loving relationship and were each other’s best friends. Susan’s friends often told her that they envied her marriage. Recently, Susan discovered that her husband has cheated on her, over the course of several years, many times, with many different prostitutes. He says that he loves her and is sorry, and he acts like he loves her and is sorry (including immersing himself in individual therapy). Understandably, this is all very confusing for Susan and involves many mixed emotions. She also finds herself questioning whether it would have happened if she was prettier, skinnier, more fun, etc. Susan’s husband has tried to reassure her that he finds her totally appealing, but it’s difficult for her to hold onto her self-esteem.
Lucy’s Story: Lucy’s marriage has had ups and downs since she had children, but she and her husband have always been committed to staying together and making it work. They support each other as parents and try their best to find time for each other, but their lives are extremely busy and stressful. Lucy has occasionally suspected that he had cheated, but he always denied it and they moved on—until last year, when he admitted to having an affair for many months with a colleague. In this situation, the relationship went beyond the physical and also entailed emotional entanglement, which added additional layers to Lucy’s heartbreak. Though the future is uncertain, they remain together for now, and he promises that the affair is over. Besides the shattered trust, the betrayal also destroyed Lucy’s already-poor body image. As they approach rebuilding the marriage, it is almost impossible for her to feel good enough about herself to be comfortable with any intimacy. By the way, Lucy is one of those women who is so beautiful that people stop and stare when she walks by.