Why Women Stay With Men Who Cheat

What keeps women with the men who betray them? Fear, shame, security - and even love.
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Why Women Stay With Men Who Cheat

What keeps women with the men who betray them? Fear, shame, security – and even love.

-April Daniels Hussar

Infidelity istock

And … another one bites the dust. Tiger Woods is only the most recent in what feels like a never-ending string of high-profile guys who cheat. As the details emerge in the form of naughty voicemails and proof of Tiger’s penchant for sexting his mistresses, all eyes will be on his wife Elin Nordegren Woods. Will she stay? Will she forgive (but surely never forget). Or will she leave, taking their two beautiful children and a hefty settlement with her?

While it’s easy for most of us to imagine Elin leaving Tiger,  we’re probably less likely to understand why she might choose to stay. We may say David Letterman’s an idiot, and wonder why his wife – as well as all the wives of public figures caught with their pants down, from the poster-girl-for-women-scorned, Hillary Clinton, to Silda Spitzer and Elizabeth Edwards – don’t just get up and leave. Or, better yet, kick the horndogs out.

Read 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren

But maybe it’s not that simple. Psychologists and divorce lawyers told BettyConfidential there are a lot of reasons why women stay with men who cheat … from the need for security, to concern for their children, to blaming themselves, in part, for the betrayal. And then there is even the question of love. Yes, they still may really love the guy who has done them wrong.

Afraid to Leave the Security of Marriage
Tina B. Tessina, PhD, psychotherapist and author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage (Adams Media 2008) says, “In my practice I’ve seen women stay even when he’s abusive, mean to the kids, and a cheat. In those cases, staying is most likely an indication of the woman’s fear of handling life on her own.” Vikki Ziegler, a celebrity divorce attorney who, for the past fifteen years, has been dealing with cases where women have been cheated on concurs. She says women initially stay with their cheating husbands for three reasons: money, children and security. Eventually, they can have a change of heart, which is why they end up in Vicki’s office.

Gwynne, 31, was married for seven years before finally leaving her unfaithful husband when he got his girlfriend pregnant. Why did she stay in the first place, after he continued to betray her trust? “Fear. Desperation. I was a stay-at-home mom, going to college full time, with no way to support myself. We were struggling as it was, and for me to walk away from his income? I couldn’t do it.” When she felt she was able to cope on her own, she left him. 

Read Are You Cheating On Your Guy?

To Save Their Families
Melissa*, 34, has been married for 13 years; they have 8-year-old twins and a 4-year-old. Their youngest was 4-months-old when Melissa discovered her husband was cheating on her with a mutual friend.

When she first found out, she described herself as being “hysterical,” and feeling “complete disgust” for her husband. “I broke the glass in every wedding picture over the mailbox. At times the sight of him made me want to throw up. I was so upset and depressed that if I wasn’t nursing a baby, I am pretty sure I would have starved or worse.”

At first she stayed “out of spite.” Then, she says, “I stayed because I thought there might be a chance … He was truly remorseful and slowly regained my trust by being one hundred percent accountable.”

Melissa says, especially at first, her children and their future were big parts of the reason she did not leave. “I was crazy thinking that ‘she’ would be raising my daughters. I would have done anything to prevent that. I literally pictured them together as a family at dinner and felt sick.”

However, she says, the children’s needs alone wouldn’t have been enough if her husband hadn’t ended his affair, and worked with her to move forward. “The initial reason for staying got me to stay long enough for actual changes to take place. That said, there is a point where if he refused to end his affair with that woman, I would have had to leave.”


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0 thoughts on “Why Women Stay With Men Who Cheat

  1. I think that there are of course exceptions to the saying “once a cheater always a cheater”…and that nobody should frown on a woman for staying with someone who has cheated on her because circumstances differ. That being said, I don’t know if I personally would be able to get over being cheated on.

  2. I really like that this article was written. Bravo, April. And I completely agree with @blondeambition. Nobody should frown on women who stay with a man who’s cheated.

  3. Very insightful article…..The women interviewed for this article showed enormous commitment and respect not just for themselves and their children, but for the sacredness of marriage…..while I don’t always believe the best thing for a couple is to stay together, I do believe that there needs to be some self-examination and sacrifice, particulary of pride and ego, before deciding to walk away from a marriage.

  4. Wonderful article, April! It is so easy to judge couples under these circumstances, but we have to remember the many issues involved in the breakup of a marriage.

  5. i think i agree with it mostly.. but not all. i dont really believe the self examination stuff. while yes there are a lot of if onlys and maybe i should haves, if it was a problem for your man then he should have been adult enough to try to have a conversation about it before he turned to someone else. so yes there are things that maybe you should have done but he for SURE should have tried to talk to you about it.

  6. I would never judge anyone who decided to stay. Heck im sure there are other things going on that i dont know about so i have no right to judge what the woman decides is best for her and her family.

  7. I agree. Sometimes a woman has to sit back and think of ALL aspects of her/their life before deciding to work it through or leave. Personally I didn’t have any “hard” evidence of my ex husband cheating with a mutual friend. But it looked odd that when our problems were getting bad she would always seem to be a big part of our life and when they were good we hardly heard from her. There were odd signs and he ALWAYS had a new excuse for everthing. Givin this wasn’t the only problem we had that caused me to want a divorce but it was a HUGE supplier. We worked on our marriage and family for about a year after I left the house before I decided I wanted a divorce. And after reading this and another article entitled “6 signs he’s cheating” there is almost no doubt in my mind he was.

    I have never judged someone for staying or leaving. I’ve helped a couple friends decide what they should do my making known all possibilities and possible solutions I could think of and leaving it to them to talk to their “other” and decide the best course of action. However I agree with Shelby, if there was something going on in the relationship that “caused him” to cheat he should have grown a pair and talked about it to make the issue at least known instead of turning to the arms (or bed) of another. That’s NO WAY to fix or confront ANYTHING!!!!

  8. Women may stay because they truly believe in their marriage vow committment to stay together till death. Or they might feel that they have done nothing wrong and to break the marriage and don’t desire to destabilize family life for their kids. Although the “other woman” is frequently told that the odds of the man leaving his wife are slim, it seems to actually happen frequently enough that the wife leaves him (or makes him leave). I’m not sure if male infidelity is actually happening more often, or if in this age of the easy documentation of proof via cell phone cameras and internet postings to social media sites it seems to be an almost monthly occurrence of yet another high-profile man’s indiscretion. Although Ms. Rodham-Clinton was mentioned as the poster-woman of women who stay with men who cheat, I can’t help but thinking of Maurice Templesman wife. For those of you ladies posting to this site who are in your 20’s & 30’s you may not be aware of him. For those of you who came of age in the “post-Camelot” era of Jackie Kennedy Onassis’ golden time, you’ll remember the fanfare. For sure, Jackie was our collective American princess and golden girl. Nonetheless, I was disappointed in that she and Mr. Templesman chose to pursue and maintain a relationship. Especially after she had experienced the infamous infidelity of her husband, John F. Kennedy. Mr. Templesman (and she, by association)justified cheating on his wife. One of the justifications I remember sadly reading about was that his marriage was in name only and had been over for many years. So, I concluded, even if that is true, is that supposed to make it O.K.? If that were really true, why not get a divorce – or if divorce is not practical, at least get a lagal seperation. Interestingly, Mrs. Templesman did not think there marriage was in name only and that she had done nothing wrong. She believed in her marriage vows and not in divorce. I also remember reading that she also did not want to give in and let her nemisis (Jackie) win. She was also upset with people who felt that because her husband and Jackie were so public with their relationship (discreet but public enough)and had been seeing each other for quite a number of years, that you know, he should just get out their way and give him a divorce. I coudn’t help but wonder how those giving that advice would feel when/if thye ere on the receiving end of a cheating spouse whom they still loved and felt committed to. Mrs. Tempelsman said she could hold her head up high and ignore the naysayers because she had not done anything wrong. She felt it important to continue being true to her honestly felt beliefs.

    Having experienced a cheating partner, I continued in the relationship for awhile hoping, and then activley trying to work things out. I also adored him, from the moment we met in 1984, and still do, even though our relationship ended after several years, because of his inability to be fathful. I just couldn’t be like the woman he married who knew he was a “friendly” guy, but felt he wouldn’t do anything to affect her and their children’s cushioned surburban life. She regarded the “stories that got back to her as just that, saying that he did not want a divorce, valued their home life. It was interesting, that as I continued to hear that that was true, I also heard that he was not happy with their sex life, even though I had since married and was of course no longer seeing him, through friends-in-common and former co-workers, I heard disappointing, but not surprising stories of infidelity, including observances work. It’s almost as if he wanted to get caught. what amazed me is that after all of this, over a span over 20 years now, out of the blue, still married, he tracked me down, now that I am seperated from my husband, and called, hoping to take me on an out-of-town getaway that he goes on alone once a year to build homes for the needy. Someone else might be flattered that the desire is still there, but I was saddened, even though he is still gorgeous, so I hear. His reasoning, I vacation in that town anyway, so it’d look like we’d just bumped into each other. Right.

    One last comment. Why women stya – like my new sister-in-law – a foreigner-she doesn’t know a lot about this country an dmy brother’s previous life. AT 34, she is 17 years younger than him, somewhat sheltered, she is dependent on him for many things. He cheats by telling her he’s taking the car to get it fixed and then to get this hair cut, then to visit his son from a previous relationship. He says there is a lot of waiting for the car and the haircut even though he has an appointment “because the shops are always overbooked and everything just takes longet than planned, you can’t put a specific time on how long it will rake to complete”, so it will “take all day”. He tells her she can’t go with him because she needs to take care of things (he has asked/assigned her to do) around the house. then he’ll pick her up at the end of th eday an dthey’ll go grocery shopping or to a movie. In fact he does have a 10 am appointment to get his hair cut – it’s with his girfriend who cuts his hair at her apartment and he doe in fact drop the car off – at her brother’s body shop. When his wife asks where they are located and says they sound far away (they are in th enext county) he claims he has been going there fo years becuase he used to live in that county. Partly true – he also has a barber and a body shop in our town/county. In fact he used to be co-owner in a body shop and still has a friend from school working there! When he takes a call in another room and comes back and tells her it was his son, she is upset because and questions why he had to go into anothe rroom to talk, especially as he knew she wanted to speak with the son. My brother, who believes a good defense is ht ebest offense, pretends to be angry for her questioning that it was his son and says he has to leave right away because she has upset him by implying that he might have been talking to someone else (which he was! He was confirming the day’s activities with th egirlfriend. I wish I didn’t have this undesirable knowledge about how guys actually cheat, but I do and it has made me wary about new men I’ll be meeting in the future when I start dating again. Here is a final comment about why women stay. Not all do. The latest infidelity scandal involving the ESPN newscaster shows yet again how horrifically selfish cheating is and the terrible trauma and drama it can cause to the spouse, family and the cheater. This “Fatal Attraction” like scenario is an example of a wife who stayed because she believed in her marriage. They gave it another chance which he evidently didn’t appreciate, because he brought this terrible situation to their lives 10 years later. She is divocing him. Not only will he lose his wife, his family, his home and probably his job, but he has also caused their privacy and identities to be compromised, including the identities of two of one of his son’s classmates. It just nver ceases to amaze me how men, especially high-profile men (and it is mostly men)continue to risk everything for sex. I suppose because so many get wway with it for so long, that they see it as two consenting adults that aren’t hurting anyone (as long as no one finds out) I guess. Today’s women have more choices, so we don’t have to stay with a man who cheats. Do men really care? They seem to think it is O.K. to cheat, no matter what the stakes are. If they have the means, they’ll just pay off the wife with money or jewels or a bigger house or whatever.

    I know there are many men who do not advocate cheating among thier buddies nor desire to do it themselves because they believe in fidelity as a worthy personal value first and foremost and because they are committed to their relationships and desire and love their partner. It would be great if their were a website or dating service devoted to men and women who believe in and practice living that way. Fr those that might suggest the church as a source – that is not necessarily the best reallly the case. My former guy holds a high position on the church and is highly regarded by all as an exemplary family man, but my co-workers and I know differently.

    I’m sure they are out there.

  9. My situation is that I married a Momma’s Boy! I thought if he loved his Mom, that was great. Not really, he should’ve married his Mom. She claims to be a Christian, but justified his Adultry as he is a grown man and he doesn’t listen to his parents anymore. She also condoned the adultry by going to all of his mistresses family’s functions. I have 2 Sons that will never know how to treat a woman. My oldest, now 27 is on his 3rd iligetimate child w/3 different women (not married). He runs around so much on all his women and his my ex says he’s worthless. Well where do you think he learned it from. I have talked to my ex about teaching, by example, morals, but he doesn’t care, he says as long as they are happy, he doesn’t care who my Son’s hurt, as long as it doesn’t affect him (my ex). I’ve just given all this to The Lord and wait to see what HIS answer is. HE knows what is to happen in the future!! God Bless 🙂

  10. I have been married for 27.5 years. After five years of marriage, the Secretary at my husband’s engineering firm was going through an ugly divorce, and guess who she confided in to talk about everything. My husband. Started with lunch and one thing led to another. We actually vacationed at the spot where Dirty Dancing was filmed in southern Virginia and he told me he ws going to take her out. Yep, pretty bold, but honest. I probably don’t remember the exact words, because it has been many years ago, but, “do what you have to do” rings a bell. I am reminded of the phrase “If you love something or someone, let it go, if it comes back – they love you, if it doesn’t – let it go!” I did that! Our sones were two and four when allowed this to happen. It was a couple of months later when he told me he slept with her! I must have been naive. It hurt and I was lost for many monts. I thought it was me. What was wrong with me. I must say, after the hurt; you say, I can forgive him, but it is hard to forget. That took time. As I started this, you can see we have been married 27.5 years. I cannot imagine myself with anyone else. My husband loves me very much and we recently watched our sons marry two beautiful women. Why did I stay? Because I love him. Now, you want to know what I said to the woman he slept with! Oh yea, I visited her. It is amazing how she kept her distance from me. Was she ashamed, embarrassed. I don’t know, nor do I care. She means nothing to me and she knows that. I so much as told her that the day I visited her. She also had three daughers that were the same age as our two sons. I so kindly told her that her daughters were to stay away from my sons. And they did!! You can respect the right people. I have no respect for her. I love my husband and respect him for being honest and continuing to love me. We will grow old together.

  11. The first thing I did when I found out was call up and old boyfriend and get laid. That kept me from feeling so helpless and vulnerable and out of control. I eventually did break up with the guy, but in the first hours of knowledge a little sex with someone else can really ease the pain.

  12. I am in saudi and dated a man who i married in las vegas, i am an aussie hes south african, to find out he is married in south africa, and decided when his wife refused to sign divorce papers he said good bye to me, well after all the shock ,, not a lot of hurt i think hes too much of a moron to worry over, his wife wanted him, imagine your husband marries another woman, leaves you tries to divorce you cuts off money etc, only goes home to do more paperwork, why would a woman do that,,, fear of being alone, not being able to say i can stand on my own two feet, for me she is welcome to the lying cheat, as he will do it again,,, for me i learnt,, i truly hate men,,, they manipulate women to their advantage,,, truly shocking humans, i wonder what the world would be like if there were women as world leasers and no men in leadership roles, i think there would be peace,

  13. God bless anyone who does stay! Its a long hard road and so many things crop up to remind you of what he did (or didnt do). I have had to be strong for my children many times. I still and always will love him but its a very difficult thing to forget. Too many women now days feel its perfectly ok to go after that married man and have no remorse for it. What kills me is that most the time they only want to have sexual fun and arent really interested in the long term with him but really dont care how it effects the current marriage or children. I think as a whole women need more morals and stand up for whats right. Ladies you wouldnt want someone trying to take your man when your marriage is having trouble. If you gain a little weight, busy with kids and job is that the time you really need to worry about some chicken hawk swooping in on your family. Men couldnt cheat if women wouldnt let them!!!! As women we need to join together and display a firm stand to men that this is not OK!! I say to the woman that cheats with a married man remember this: If he will do it with me he will do it to me and one day pay back could be a real bitch! So just dont do it ladies!! Save yourself for someone that can really love you or at least do it with someone that is truly single!

  14. Haha.. I found another reason to delay marriage.. This is so why I always tell my boyfriend I don’t want to get married..
    I don’t think I have the heart to stay with him if he ever cheated.. My dad cheated on my mom and it was long rocky road till things were back to normal which never really happened.. And of course me and my sister suffered along side them.. But that’s another story.. I’m both proud of and bewildered by these women.. Because they can take the excruciating pain.. Their partners bestowed upon them when they broke their “oh so sacred VOW”.. But yes this is very insightful article..

  15. Everythime I hear of these ases I think of my mom. She is a person who stayed. I’m greatful she did. We now have a huge extended family and that was as a result of her decision. That is why I always remember that. My boyfriend half-way cheated on me. He said that he was in situ but nothing happened. I wholeway cheated on him and confessed foe guilt, for not even expecting that would have happened, and my thing was that he ignored me and I sought refuge in someone who took advantage of my voulnerable nature. Im really sorry and he stayed with me for make-up sex. So I guess I was lucky. I no longer see the guy and dont speak with him even if situ allowed.
    What I have to say about the cheating thing is that a person has to be very strong especially if its a female(both wife and outside women) because it (the affair ) is about the guy boasting about how much women they got with. Though I maybe have foolish I sure learnt my lesson. There is this guy who is trying to have me cheat again and thats not going to happen. I know and Im guarded…………….

  16. I can’t believe that Elin would stay with Tiger after everything that’s coming out. One time is bad enough — but now we’re up to NINE? And who knows how many others — those are just the ones who came forward. Disgusting.

  17. They stay for financial reasons/agreements of one kind or another. Why would any sane woman stay with the repulsive misogynist David Letterman otherwise? You look at the vicious old goat and you want to vomit. You can’t change the channel to Conan fast enough!

  18. I can relate to this .I will tell you this is how i handled my husbands need to look on the internet for other women .I’ve caught his butt many times and I feel that internet cheating is the same as having an affair.I refuse to leave .I refuse to give another women the freedom and ease to have my husband .I refuse to give up his paycheck ,my house ,my car etc.I have proof he knows it and my lawyer has the proof so if I change my mind ,Easy divorce.I made vows I honor them .He’s the crazy one to take a chance on losing me 🙂 But anyway I have the upper hand now. He works comes right home and has no life except what I give him LOL .he’s 51 not all that and doesn’t make enough to support 2 family’s .the last time I caught him on the computer looking and talking to local women for sex ,I told him enjoy …. Cause he lost the best thing that ever happened to him .ME ! in everyway except I’m not leaving ,I’m taking over the paycheck (he hands to me evry pay day)He is not allowed on home computer.I check his cell phone .I pay the bills and keep any extra.all he can do now is work ,come home ,play video games ! Yes he can leave anytime he wishes but knows my lawyer has all I need to make sure his life would be nothing !! I don’t care anymore and that is what makes it easy for me to be the cold hearted wife !Not looking to replace him as he was Perfect until I found out diff. I would never trust another man .So why not stay and keep the house,car,paycheck etc. ?

  19. i understand that women feel the need to justify everything their man does and “place blame where blame is due”…marriage is sacred. But are women the only ones who believe this way? ANY man who cheats on his wife, for ANY reason, has no respect for her or their marriage, PERIOD. What part of “Forsaking all others” in the vows you take don’t you understand? That means that no matter what the circumstances, you are to be faithful to your spouse and them ONLY. If you have problems, talk about them. Cheating only destroys trust and makes a mockery of the vows you BOTH took. Wake up ladies!!!! Stop blaming yourselves for your man’s lack of respect! It doesn’t matter what you have or haven’t done for him by the time he cheats. Its solely on him, he has a brain, and if he refuses to use it the right way ITS HIS FAULT, NOT YOURS!!!

  20. Hey. I have been one of those women. We, know better, they aren’t going to leave you, 9 out 10 times. They are looking for something that they don’t have at home, that’s control. No matter how you look at it, money, sex,or what’s for supper. Men have been programmed to be in control. When they feel there is no control they look. We know better, I, myself have never thought, he would ever leave his wife or would want that. Most of us, are looking for comfort as well as he is, so sorry, if it wasn’t me it would be somrbody else. Bottom line, stop being so controlling. What do you have to lose? The other women. good luck

  21. Well we are all eligble to mess up, because we’re human and flawed. There are certain things built into the woman’s psyche as well as the man’s, meaning they have certain ideas about life and relationships and sometimes if certain ideologies aren’t fulfilled because the man can’t come up with the goods in house and home, the woman will look elsewhere to find it and if “Gwynne 31” found a man that she was genuinely attracted to and slept with him I wouldn’t blame her…freebie!!! She owed that guy nothing!!! I am so glad I am happily single!!!

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