How come most of us default to thinking it’s always a husband who has an affair? Wives have affairs too. I know more than a few guys who’ve had it happen to them.
So, are the effects of a wife having an affair any different than when a husband does? Yes and no. I’ll explain and give some examples shortly.
Here’s something not too many people would think of that makes a wife having an affair different for a man:
Why is it all I can find is articles about cheating men? My wife cheated on me. I am male yet cannot find much that helps me. It's not right. I understand that a lot of guys cheat, but what about the men that have been wronged? This is frustrating.” -Phillip
Since wives cheating isn’t talked about much it’s easy to feel like you’ve got this problem that no one else can understand. As Phillip says, one of the things that makes this so tough is feeling like no one gets it. This can make a man even more inclined to keep what’s so embarrassing a secret.
How Men Respond When Their Wife Has An Affair
Having your spouse cheat on you is one of the most (if not the most) humiliating, painful and crushing things that can happen in a relationship. There are typically two types of responses – either to react very (sometimes very, very) strongly or pretend it didn’t happen. Either one can cause even more damage and not be helpful.
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that most people react when they find out their partner has had an affair, and usually strongly. In my experience women have more of a tendency to react, whereas men can be more inclined to want to ignore it. This isn’t true for everyone obviously.
I’m counseling a man whose wife cheated on him several years ago and he says when he found out about it he just blocked it out of his mind. She wanted to pretend she didn’t have an affair too, so they just moved on and never talked about it again. Until…he cheated on her last year. A common response for a lot of us is to try to run away from pain rather than address it. This doesn’t work though. Fortunately, he’s working to repair the damage and save their marriage.
Another guy I counseled contacted the other man’s wife when he discovered his wife’s affair – before he even talked to his own wife. He then would park his car down the street from the man’s house to try to catch his wife together with the him. One day he found her car parked in the man’s driveway and pounded on the front door screaming he had to “talk” to both of them. The police were called. They ended up deciding to divorce.
I’ve counseled partners who’ve responded to an affair by having an affair themselves. Two wrongs make a right – right? One of them even cheated with the other man’s wife. These all ended in divorces too.
I don't think I'll ever get over my wife's affair. It’s only been 5 months since I found out but I can tell it’s different now. Whenever she goes out, I wonder if she is where she says she is. I check her phone. I check her computer. It’s really changed me. I want to keep her, but I want to even the score.” -Steve
Most often even more damage is done by how the cheated-on partner responds. Which is why for an affair above almost any other situation I advise people to get professional counseling help so they have unbiased, experienced guidance and support in how to react. Without help it’s just too easy make things worse.
What Happens To A Man When His Wife Cheats On Him
Significant damage is done by cheating – to the trust, connection, intimacy just to name a few. If crucial repair work isn’t done the damage will slowly eat away at the foundation of the relationship. Here’s an example of what that erosion can look like over time:
My wife cheated on me then left and moved in with a married man. And then ask if I would take her back, so we remarried. But I lose my erection during intercourse and I keep thinking about her with the other man. I need to know how to get the other men out of my head when we are making love.” - Jason
Like Steve said above and Jason’s story here shows, when your wife has an affair it changes you. Just ask any of the guys in this article. But those changes are also reversible.
I’ve worked with men like Jason who’ve struggled to control their thoughts more than 20 years after their wife’s affair. The destruction caused by cheating just doesn’t repair itself or go away with time. Jason’s story also illustrates two other important elements that are commonly impacted in particular for men – thoughts and self-esteem.
A lot of men are thinkers, like Jason. Many of us have built successful careers around our analytical thinking skills. And while this can be great for our jobs, it can be a killer when you’ve been cheated on. As Jason shows it can be particularly difficult for men to get the other man out of their head. This can lead to sexual intimacy issues in a marriage, such as lack of sex drive and erectile dysfunction.
Another place an affair especially hits men is self-esteem. Manhood, sexuality and self-esteem are very intertwined in men. While it can be difficult for men to admit it, when their wife has an affair and chooses to be with another man their self-esteem takes a big hit. Feelings of not being enough of a man, lacking sexually, or just not good enough are to be expected, and don’t easily recover.
Another man I’m counseling whose wife cheated on him and is now in the middle of a divorce had to start dating just to see if women still found him attractive. Even after finding out they did he still wrestles with negative thoughts about himself and the effects are far reaching. He needs to make a career change and lacks the motivation to take the steps to make it happen, he can’t sleep, and he wastes his time away binge-watching Netflix.
Here’s What To Do When Your Wife Has An Affair
If you’re like most guys you’re probably confused about what you should do next. Facing and addressing an affair is really, really hard. It can be tempting to tell yourself you should just move on.
I've been with my wife for 15 yrs. I Know my wife cheated just before we had our first child. I never called her on it or even got really angry. I just kind of buried it. Over the last year or so I think about it a lot and I'm not sure why or what I should do. I have been more "annoyed" by some of her behavior lately, but overall I think we're close and in a good spot. I don't know what is bringing this to the forefront of my mind now.” -Rasheed
Like Rasheed describes, most people ignore the mental and emotional effects of your spouse having an affair. Yet if it’s not dealt with the effects on you and your relationship will last forever. As I said earlier, I’ve worked with men whose wives cheated 20 plus years ago and they still haven’t gotten past it.
Since most of us men are lacking in the emotional intelligence department we can easily miss the significance of the feelings that arise from an affair. The stories of the men I’ve shared show this is a common mistake and one that always comes back to bite you.
So, what should you do when your wife has an affair?
- Don’t ignore or bury it
- Don’t react too harshly
- Get professional counsel
Should You Leave Or Stay When Your Wife Cheats?
If your wife has an affair you should leave, right? Maybe not.
Most people who ever think beforehand about the possibility of their partner having an affair tell themselves (and sometimes their partner) they’ll leave if it ever happens. And many do (at least temporarily). But leaving is typically an emotionally driven response, not a logical one.
Ending a marriage is a complicated process that takes some time to accomplish. Usually when all that divorce entails and the life changes that will result begins to hit home leaving starts to get reconsidered – and it should.
My wife has asked for a divorce because 'she in love with her best friend.' I've been with my wife for 10 and a half years and married 9 and a half of them. We have had issues throughout our marriage in the beginning due to my mental illness later due to wife cheating (with the same 'best friend'). We even separated for a little over a year, but she begged me to come back a little over two years ago. Despite numerous requests by me to cut this friend out of our lives he keeps showing back up and in my opinion manipulating her.” - Jake
Staying should mean that changes happen. Unfortunately for Jake that hasn’t happened. For those that do work at repairing their relationship and making changes the outcome can look much different.
At Guy Stuff we’ve helped countless couples make their relationship better after an affair. I know a number of couples who say that their partner’s affair was both the worst and best thing that ever happened to their marriage. That’s right, they say the “best thing.” Why? Because they chose to use it as a wake-up call to fix the problems in their marriage and made their relationship even better than before.
There’s no question that when your wife has an affair your world changes, but it doesn’t have to be for the worst – at least not in the long-term. Hard work, persistence, and professional help can make the outcome what you can’t imagine possible when you first find out.
It’s important to note that much of the impact and responses to a partner’s affair described above happens for women too. While wives can typically become much more engulfed in the emotional pain and husbands more in the cognitive, like racing thoughts, the destructive impact is very similar. How it shows on the surface may vary or not. Many men, however, are more likely to pretend they’re strong enough to handle their wife having an affair.
Have you had any experience with someone whose wife had an affair – has it happened to you or someone you know? Please share it with us in a comment below (you can stay anonymous if you like).
Looking for More? Check Out These Articles
- What Can I Do To Get My Husband To Be More Affectionate?
- My Wife Is Always Angry - I Can't Seem To Do Anything Right
- I Think The Affair Has Ruined My Marriage
- Get More Help with a Cheating Spouse