A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about the importance of wives leaving a cheating husband. I would give the same advice if the tables were turned. After all, commitment is commitment and cheating is cheating. Interestingly enough however, there have been recent studies that suggest men are more forgiving of a cheating spouse than women are. This actually makes sense for a couple of reasons that I am about to lay out.
Let’s first acknowledge that the temptation to cheat is more relatable to men. When men are talking with their boys about significant others, commitment, sex, etc., the banter often includes tidbits about the allure of other women and the difficulty of staying faithful. When a man has been caught cheating and is in explanation mode, he will attempt to explain it away as a moment of weakness. As such, forgiving infidelity becomes easier for men because cheating is not a mental bridge too far, at least not when compared to women.
To add another layer to this discussion, the relationship trifecta for men is physical, intellectual, and emotional–in that order. For women, it is emotional, intellectual, and physical. Women fall for the heart and the head before they fall for the body. As well, they place a far greater emotional and intellectual attachment to relationships and sex than their male counterparts. As such, women see infidelity as more of an emotional abandonment and betrayal than a physical one. Men, on the other hand, see it almost strictly as a physical betrayal. Women often have to explain to men that they cheated because the relationship lacked emotional or intellectual intimacy. All to say, when sex is detached from emotions, forgiving infidelity will be easier.
Let’s close this discussion out with one final reason that comes courtesy of a small focus group I recently did. I asked one hundred men what possible reason they could have for forgiving a cheating spouse. I’ve already captured a couple of their responses but there was one particular response that really caught my attention. I will explain it to you the way it was explained to me: “If she cheats on me and she still wants to make it work, don’t think I won’t return the favor. And we don’t have to go through a messy divorce?”
None of this means that men won’t be angry and hurt. After all, they do have pride and ego’s. We all do for that matter. Beating cheated on sucks. But it does provide some context around why men may be more forgiving then women.
Cheating is a form of both mental and physical abuse. Mental because of all the gaslighting and other manipulations occurring and physical because of the potential exposure to STDs.
It’s the ultimate display of humiliation and disrespect.
I’m not sure those things together should be forgiven – male or female. It seems that no contact is really the safest choice.
Yes, men have pride and ego’s, as do women. But they also have hearts, which is why cheating hurts them as much as it hurts women. They have been culturally trained through the ages not to express their emotions, which is why they are frequently perceived as having less emotion than women. In general, they do not process verbally as easily as we do, and they process grief differently too by in large. There’s always exceptions on both sides of this, of course. Because of the way men compartmentalize grief they often actually take much longer to heal from infidelity and grief than women do. Quite often they will have trouble trusting and bonding again as deeply, even if they forgive.