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Question: Okay, you self proclaimed guru, might be more than you wanna know, but my husband of almost 10 years recently ended an affair with a coworker. We‘re working through that, but- I was truly blown away by something he said to me a couple of days ago and you just might be the right guy to ask about it. One of the main reasons he was attracted to her, he says, is that she was positive and confident while I didn’t seem to “care about” myself. This being evidenced, in his opinion, by the fact that I didn’t care if I “fixed up” when I went somewhere.... Hmmm, and I thought that meant I was OK with me, but I guess not. So it’s been about 5 months since we’ve started this ‘work on our marriage’ bit. I start nursing school in August and he made the statement that I’m prolly gonna run off with a rich Dr. (insert dumbfounded expression here-I’m not running off with a POOR one!) Anyway, I am trying to give the appearance of being confident and feeling good about myself when I tell him that “I’m gonna be so cute in my scrubs, they‘re ALL gonna want me!” To which he replies,“Don’t think that highly of yourself Dana.” Please understand, I’m not vain. I was joking. JOKING! And the truth of the matter is, he said he WANTED me to be more confident, even as he was pulling the rug out from under me with the epitome of “You‘re not good enoughs” by having an affair.  

So my question is this:Why is it great for your girlfriend to be confident and present herself as thinking she's wonderful, but not your wife? Especially when you say that what you wanted?  Hope you can help me grasp the concept. Thanks SO much!  ...Dana

Answer: First, you should know, Dana, that I while I don’t condone your husband’s infidelity, since you have agreed to move past it, I will not dwell on it. However, you should be aware that, different from women, men don’t primarily have affairs because they are unhappy in their relationship with their significant others...they have them because the opportunity presents itself. While a man may be perfectly content in his relationship with his wife, the appeal of being physical with another woman is incredibly enticing. Why? Because men inherently crave variety in their sexual partners. The only thing they like better than sex with someone new. And no matter how wonderful you are in and out of bed, the one thing you cannot be is...someone new.

I mention all of this because it is likely that your husband straying has absolutely nothing to do with how he feels about you. It is far more a reflection on him, his desires and character. But what about his recent comments about you? How do those “fit in?” Very simply: It is those characteristics that she (the other woman) has that you don’t that make her particularly attractive to him. Not that those traits are, by themselves appealing, but because they offer contrast to those he perceives you possess. In other words, it is this dissimilarity to you that make those differences especially appealing. So changing who you are (even if you wanted to), wouldn't really accomplish anything.

But what about the fact that he said that you don’t “fix up” when you go out? That actually may be related to another issue. And what is that issue? Quite often, as we get more and more comfortable in our relationships, we take less and less care with how we present ourselves to our spouse. It seems to be a natural progression and is equally common among men and women, with one significant difference. Men are primarily visually oriented. How you look is paramount to how much we are attracted to you. We‘re hard-wired to be stimulated by what we see. So if your “fixing up” makes you look more attractive to him, it is naturally something he desires you do as often as possible. And while this may not apply to you at all, if he perceives that in your 10 year together you have gradually “let yourself go,” he may be harboring resentment that you no longer care enough about him to take care of yourself and make yourself desirable to him. And it doesn’t matter if in that same decade he’s gone from being a dreamboat to a gross, tub o’ lard, he still associates your caring for your appearance as an indication of your love for him. Convoluted? Perhaps. But it’s the way a man’s mind often works.

Now, to a different, but related topic. Your husband’s comments and actions indicate that he may, in fact, be feeling a little insecure about himself and his situation. Your entering nursing school may fuel within him some inner feelings of inadequacy. He may be feeling that rather than being a boon to your joint financial success, your newfound career will make you need him less. And it will put you into contact with upwardly-mobile, intelligent, attractive men who share a common interest with you. Your innocent joke may have inadvertently tossed gasoline on that fire, and his comment was his attempt to salve his singed ego by deflating yours. Also, nursing school is a big-time commitment. On some level he knows that for an extended period of time in the near future, you are going to be spending less time with him, making him less of a priority. It’s only natural that would be the case, and intellectually he knows that. But emotionally, this may further add to his feelings of insecurity and abandonment. To offset this, I suggest that you reassure your husband that you‘re not interested in “talking shop” after a hard day’s work in the medical trenches, so socializing with doctors is the last thing you’ll be interested in doing. And while it’s true that nursing school is going to require a time commitment on your part, your husband and your marriage are your priorities.

If you have any questions about men, relationships, dating or a related topic, please feel free to email them to me at: **. I will try to answer as many as I possibly can here in my column.

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(C)2008 David M. Matthews. All Rights Reserved.

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Member Comments

    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Yana Berlin wrote Aug 8, 2008
    • Excellent answer. I just had a talk with a male friend of mine earlier today on this very topic.

       He mentioned  a movie  Sidewalks of New York  where a character said something along the lines: “How many women do you need to sleep with to know you can still get a girl to bed“. Incredibly enough he agreed that men cheat because of their own insecurities and  usually this has nothing to do with the state of their marriage.

      Having said that it’s no consolation for a wife dealing with infidelity, never the less, your explanation touches on the very issue- the mind of a man- a mind that we women often wonder about.

      Thank you for that.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Amy L. Harden wrote Aug 14, 2008
    • Let’s take this discussion a tad bit deeper...why does a wife feel that she no longer needs to keep herself polished for her husband?  Why do women get the ring and then retreat in to sweats, no make-up and a pair of Nikes or flip-flops?  

      David, indeed you have touched on an interesting conversation here.  The very reasons you state that a man strays are exactly the same reasons that women decide to stray...but in reverse order.  Men are physical first and then emotional, while women are emotional first...then physical...but both, men and women are trying to remind themselves that they are desirable to another person, whether it is physically or emotionally.

      The couple in your article are both on the road to Mid-Life Crisis...infidelity is a key sign of this happening.  The husband is in MLC and Dana is transitioning...if Dana and her husband don’t address their individual issues...Dana WILL end up catching the eye of some Doc or any other man that treats her with kindness, care and interest.  In both cases, an affair is NOT about the marriage at all OR scratching a sexual is all about what is lacking within the individual...people who have affairs are filling holes that have been left empty for an extended period of time or even their whole lifetime.  Dana’s husband seems to have taken the easy way out of his situation by going outside of the marriage to find someone who probably has the very same attributes that attracted him to his wife in the first place; instead of addressing the issue with his wife....he pushed the “EASY” button!  Now, he still needs to address the issue of his wife not thinking she has to take care of herself for him...something he should have addressed way before he was tempted to stray.  This husband's excuse for straying is lame at best and is one that many men use successfully because indeed there is truth in what they have said about their wives...but it is not a good enough reason to stray in to an affair.  The "men are wired this way" and "you have become a slug" excuse IS rationalization, justification and blame, another prime symptom of Mid-Life Crisis.  

      At the same time, Dana gives us no clue to why she has let herself many children does she have?....Has she been the primary caregiver, keeper of the house and all things connected to it? Has she had to deal with illness, a death, moving from place to place, a husband that travels for his work?  Has her husband given her a reason to take of herself?  Has she been consumed by every other role in her life that she doesn't have time to take care of herself?  And, why in Gods-name does a woman have to keep herself up for her man? Has he given her a reason to keep herself up and looking good?  Self-confidence comes from is an inward-out is grown from nurturing oneself.  This is viewed by some women as a selfish act...we are wired to be the caretakers, nurturers AND it is the first thing we are made to feel guilty about from, who else...our husbands.  Many women place themselves last on their priority the time they get to taking care of themselves there is no more time left in the day... women hit the "EASY" button...sweats, NIKES and a ponytail. In Dana's case here, unless her husband changes how he communicates with his wife, now that he has been caught...Dana, herself will think that she has permission to have her own affair...HE is not giving her what SHE needs....emotional support, respect and a good reason to stay within the bonds of a marriage that already has been attacked by poor communication, destructive behaviors and lack of keeping to a moral and ethical code...their marriage vows or covenant.  

      Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when it comes to infidelity!  It is NOT simple...NEVER easy...keeping a marriage affair-proof is hard work.  The way men and women are wired is only the basis from which our behaviors come...we can either choose to go with our innate reactions OR we react as the higher human beings we are and use sound reason, knowledge and understanding of how our choices will effect us today and in our future.  

      If you are a woman who thinks she may be in Mid-Life Cisis or Transition, go to Women in MLC: The Dorothy Syndrome:

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      Shepherdess5, Your links have been removed, please consider upgrading to premium membership.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mz. Queen wrote Nov 5, 2009
    • Wow. So many mixed emotions,thoughts and words (unspoken and spoken).

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Deprogrammed wrote Nov 11, 2009
    • Who knows if she “let herself go” or not?  Simply take it at face value because he said so, or was that just another cop-out for his bad behavior?  

      Please, stop insisting women are responsible for the behavior of men; they are presumably thinking, cognizent beings who are capable of making their own decisons - and he made a decision to feel better about himself by (1) going outside the marriage and (2) putting some of the blame on her.  No.  That is not acceptable.  

      While it is true they need to reach a meeting of the minds, dude needs a serious mind check, independent of her, so he can be OK; not because of, or in spite of her, but simply because he is a strong, centered human being.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Msj wrote Feb 10, 2010
    • I agree with what I call getting dolled up for my man. I am flattered when HE gets spruced up for me!

      C‘mon people...

      After a while we BOTH retreat into the sweat pants. I don’t care who you are well, unless you have limitless amounts of money, a maid, gardener, etc... you are going to get tired and well just have lazy days, fall into a routine.

      There comes a time when one should be comfortable enough to just “BE“!  NO pressure.  

      Just throw on your sweats grab a bowl of popcorn, put a movie on the television and enjoy one another.  

      Enough Said!

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Macy wrote Feb 11, 2010
    • I couldn’t agree more with Deprogrammed, since when is his cheating her fault? If I were her, I would find that doctor and run far, very far away. Her husband sounds self centered and very likely to cheat again. It sounds to me like David Matthews seems to think the issues center around how women present themselves to men (because they are visual people) and therefore should surrender to these desires to keep him around. How about a little self control on the part of men to keep their marriages alive.  My advice to this wife, let the other woman have him, he is not worth the time of day.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Msj wrote Feb 11, 2010
    • Macy!  ABSOLUTELY!  

      Great response!

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