What you told us about women, infidelity
April 8th, 2011
12:56 PM ET

What you told us about women, infidelity

Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, blogs about sex on Thursdays on The Chart. Read more from him at his website, GoodInBed.

After  posting yesterday on The Chart about  female infidelity, an outpouring of comments - more than 1,200 so far - sprang forth, some of which took issue with my opening line that “in a committed relationship nothing hurts more, or is harder to recover from, than infidelity, and this is even truer when it’s the female partner who’s been doing the cheating.”

My intention was not to downplay the danger of male infidelity,  or to unfairly demonize female infidelity, but rather to offer the observation that men and women frequently cheat for different reasons, and that by the time a woman has reached the point of infidelity she’s often emotionally vacated her primary relationship, making it all the harder to engage in a meaningful process of recovery.

On that point,  an important theme that came through loud and clear in the comments was that there is a pervasive double standard in society when it comes to infidelity in general, and that women are encouraged (via media and often by their female peers) to suck it up and stick it out, whereas men do not experience the same pressure to forgive and forget.

Wrote one commenter:

“I had a debate on this a couple of months ago and most of the men said a woman should not cheat, but that she should accept a man's cheating as normal. A few of the men said cheating was wrong for both parties and obviously, all of the women said cheating was wrong for both parties. Nearly all of the men said they would leave their woman if she cheated on them while nearly all of the women said they would give their man another chance.”

This double standard ends up doing a lot of damage: Many women that would like to leave and probably should leave often end up staying, and conversely many men who would like to potentially stay and work it out cannot find an authentic support system, or a way of transcending the blow to their ego.

Another persistent theme in the comments was the pain of infidelity, regardless of which sex is doing the cheating.  Infidelity packs multiple blows: There's not only the trauma of the infidelity itself, but also the web of lies and deceit  often perpetuated in the aftermath. Many, if not most, couples do choose to stay together post-infidelity, but that doesn’t mean that their relationship ever truly recovers.

Infidelity cuts deep and leaves a scar (if you’re lucky); the alternate is an open wound that never heals. With infidelity, the couples who recover are not the ones who forgive and forget, but rather “forgive and remember,” and use that memory to stay committed to the process of transparency.

In yesterday’s article I wrote “cheating is an equal opportunity sport, one that women are just as likely as men to play” and throughout the explosion of comments it was truly invigorating to being reminded of the other side: Not everyone cheats

“I am a woman who has never cheated and never will. I have more respect for myself than that. The one man who did cheat on me? I walked away from and never looked back. All woman (sic) don't cheat. Neither do all men.”

Well said, and thank you everyone!

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