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What Ordinary Women Do When Their Husbands Cheat

Posted Aug 23 2008 3:17pm
Last week I was a guest on Good Morning America , as a result of John Edwards’ admission of his affair with Rielle Hunter. I was one of 3 women interviewed by Deborah Roberts on the topic of how ordinary women deal with infidelity when it happens to them. All 3 of us had once been victims of infidelity.

In view of the many politician’s wives like Elizabeth Edwards, Silda Spitzer, Carlita Kilpatrick, Hillary Clinton and others who decided to stay with their cheating husbands, many of you also expressed curiosity about how other betrayed wives decide how to deal with their husbands’ extramarital affairs. How do they decide whether to stay with a cheating husband and give him, and a second chance, or file for a divorce?

Not an Easy Choice to Make

Some women say right off the bat, that if their husband ever cheats on them, the marriage will be over in a heartbeat. They say they’d leave the cheater or put him out. I’ve found that most women who say this have never personally experienced infidelity. You never know how you’ll react until it happens to you.

I know from personal experience, as well as from interviewing numerous female infidelity victims over the past 15 years, that the decision to end a marriage does not come that easily or that fast. Pam and Jamie, the other two wives who were interviewed on Good Morning America with me, are perfect examples, because they also found this to be true. Women, like us, who have experienced the betrayal of a cheating spouse, know that it’s not easy to decide what to do.

Deciding whether to go or to stay is not a decision that can be made on the spur of the moment, Many factors have to be taken into consideration. Most women spend weeks, months, or even years, agonizing over the decision of whether or not to stay in the marriage, and give the cheater a second chance. Separation or divorce is usually a last resort. Having interviewed or consulted with hundreds of women who were victims of infidelity, I can tell you that most women who make this life-altering decision without taking everything into consideration, often regret the choice they’ve made.

Common Threads

While we were waiting to tape our segment on Good Morning America , Pam, Jamie and I had a chance to discuss our experiences with each other, and I noticed several common threads. Each of us had a perfect marriage – one that was the envy of all our family and friends. Neither of us ever imagined that our husbands would cheat on us, and were shocked to find out they were having an affair.

We all went through the emotional turmoil of asking ourselves – How could this happen? How could I not have known? How did I miss all the signs? Why didn’t I sense what was going on behind my back?

All of us found it hard to understand that even though our husbands were cheating, they did not want a divorce. We were amazed that our husbands acted as if they done nothing wrong, and wanted to carry on like it never happened, even after the affairs had been exposed. They fully expected us to take them back and treat their infidelity like a minor mistake, rather than the earth-shattering experience that it was. And even though their affairs continued for quite some time, or were resurrected at a later date, our husbands were surprised when we reached the end of our rope and finally asked for a divorce.

Divorce as a Last Resort

For many women, like Pam, Jamie and myself, separation or divorce is usually the last resort. Ultimately deciding to end our marriages, was a carefully thought-out decision, in which many factors were taken into consideration. For each of us, the final decision came only after attempting to give the marriage a second chance, and finding that in the end, things didn’t work out. All three marriages ended in divorce. Pam and I have since re-married. Jamie’s divorce will be final later this year.

No One-Size-Fits-All Solution

Despite the experiences of Pam, Jamie and myself, many marriages do survive. But each woman has to weigh all the factors and make a decision based on what’s in her and her children’s best interests. Pam had an 11-year old daughter at the time. Jamie has a 7-year old son and 2-year old triplets. I had no children – it was a 2nd marriage for me, and a 3rd for my ex-husband. But that didn’t make it any easier for me to decide.

No one should presume to tell another woman how she should handle her husband’s infidelity. Whether to leave, or to stay with a cheating spouse is a decision that only you can make. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for dealing with infidelity. What’s right for another women in a similar situation, may not be right for you. Well-meaning friends and relatives may try to give you helpful (or not-so-helpful advice), but in the end, you have to decide for yourself. The tip sheets below can help.

FREE Tip Sheets to Help Wives with Cheating Husbands

The free infidelity tip sheets and special reports, below can help bring clarity to your situation if you’ve found out that your husband is cheating, and you’re trying to decide what to do.

• 5 Things You Shouldn’t Do If He’s Cheating on You

• How Wives with Cheating Husbands Can Gain the Upper Hand

• Should You Give Your Cheating Husband a Second Chance?

To request either one of the FREE tip sheets above, e-mail with either " 5 Things – b ,” or “ Upper Hand – b” or “2nd Chance - b” in the subject line, depending on which tip sheet you are requesting.

For more information on cheating spouses and extramarital affairs, visit

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