How Cheaters and The Other Woman/Man Copes



This has been an interesting project for me because it was challenging to find research on exactly how men/women who cheat feel, and even more difficult to find out the feelings of those who are “other men”.

Also, in order to determine how a cheater might cope, I had to find out what kind of affair they were in – there are many different kinds of affairs. That lead me to the reasons behind an affair, of which there were also many. For all intents and purposes, in this post I will focus on men and women who are in affairs because of something called a split-self. This will take a little bit of time to discuss, so I’ll begin with how the other man/woman copes.

According to my research, the other man either doesn’t care that he’s sleeping with another man’s wife or he is anxiously waiting for her to leave her marriage. In both circumstances, it doesn’t appear to be as difficult for them to deal with as the “other woman”. I attribute this to a man’s ability to compartmentalize. In contrast, some of the other women go through a myriad of emotions as well as highs and lows. Others seem to be content in their relationship. For the other woman who is devoted to the man in the affair, her level of satisfaction and happiness (and this is whether he is leaving his spouse or not) seems to be tied into whether or not she believes he cares about/loves her (and/or has romantic feelings for his spouse/partner if it’s also an emotional affair), how much time he spends with her, and/or how much attention he gives her. When any of these things are in question, the other woman questions the relationship. If she crosses emotional boundaries and ends up falling in love with him, she is happy when she’s with him and unhappy when she’s not, unless she finds a way to balance the (sense of) abandonment. I can personally support this theory: in the affair that I was in (which I have posted about), somehow, I found a way to reach a level of equilibrium whenever we had to be apart. I had no choice – because I am a passionate person, which includes being passionate about who I care about/am in a relationship with, it was imperative to find that balance or I wouldn’t have been able to function when he was physically absent. But, I was/am also the type of person who will leave a relationship when I am truly unhappy. Unfortunately, there are women who aren’t like Sam and hang on to an affair that is making them very unhappy – even if the affair is causing them severe anxiety and/or depression.

As I previously mentioned, one of the main reasons for affairs is called the split-self and is found a bit more often in men than in women – it is now becoming more frequent among the latter. The cheater who has a split-self affair is someone who separates rationality from their emotions. Rationally, they want to do the right thing because that is what they were taught to do, even if it means sacrificing their own emotional desires, wants, and needs. As these individuals get older, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep their emotional (and even sexual) needs at bay. These people are usually very successful in every way – they are educated, have great careers, and are extremely bright and ambitious, but they may have had to keep their emotions at bay growing up…because that’s just what you do, you do the “right thing” for your mother, for your family, for society, for your wife/husband. In their mind, they don’t know how to combine the thing that they think is the right thing with their emotional needs, thus, an affair ends up being the result because one person takes care of the rational part(s) of their mind, and the other person takes care of the emotional (and/or sexual) needs they have. The partner/spouse is usually representative of the mother or father whom they had to either please (or do what the parent felt was right for them), while either stifling their emotions and/or denying themselves some of the things they may have wanted and/or needed. And this is how a cheater (in a split-self affair) copes – this person NEEDS the affair. Until they learn how to combine what they believe is right with what they need emotionally, they will continue to fall into this pattern. While I was doing this research, I found it fascinating that all of the therapists insist that the spouse/partner in the affair should NOT end the affair! If the spouse in this situation has knowledge of the affair, this is the biggest obstacle they must overcome; they have to allow their partner to continue the connection because it is beneficial to their partner…if they truly love them. The rationale behind this is that the affair partner has invested in the third party person emotionally and is now bonded to them, so to ask them to break that bond would be too devastating; it is, after all, a relationship that they have been needing and wanting since childhood but are either too afraid to have or convince themselves that it doesn’t have as much value as the “right thing”. The bottom line of how this particular cheater copes…having the affair is exactly how they cope!

I continue to be interested in the split-self affair as it is, for me, a very new way of thinking about relationships and cheating so I will continue to research this phenomenon. In this type of affair (I am speaking specifically to the split-self affair), I just can’t say that I believe that cheating is wrong- this isn’t even gray, really – it’s pretty black and white to me: If one person appears to be the “right thing” to do/be with and the other person is someone whom you have connected with emotionally, how can you separate the two? When I imagine myself in that exact same scenario, I can’t begin to fathom how *I* would end either relationship because to me, if I truly believe something is the right thing, it just is what it is – however, an emotional connection can be a spiritual identity. So, there’s no way I could or would judge someone else in a split-self affair. We tend to be judgmental creatures when it comes to things of such nature, particularly in the United States (I’m also finding that Europeans tend to be much more liberal and understanding where these types of relationships are concerned). I strongly suggest that if you are reading this and you’ve had an “A-HA” moment…do yourself a favour and keep it to yourself. Hey, you can always send me a message and vent to me (you can even do it anonymously); at least SOMEONE in the U.S. understands what you’re going through!

“A love affair with knowledge will never end in heartbreak.” Michael Garrett Marino

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21 Responses to “How Cheaters and The Other Woman/Man Copes”

  1. Wow, just the words I couldn’t say, and I agree you’re right; both relationships should continue. The bonds we attract into our lives are no simple puzzle solved by the formulaic mind of a technician. That the triangular nature of this type of relationship is mystifying to most doesn’t automatically negate its importance.

  2. I think the idea that the BS should stay in the affair needs context and limits. The original idea, which is largely a full quote from Emily Brown, needs to be embedded in her concept of therapy. What she is talking about is DURING THERAPY. In many cases, the BS has come to the therapist with the split, and it is the job of the therapist to help heal the split, not end the affair. But surely, in the end, the goal is to eliminate the split and to have a relationship with ONE person that is both rational and emotional, in which intellectual, routine daily life is met with strong emotional highs! But with the same person! The idea of not ending the affair is merely to avoid blocking the process of recovery.

    I discovered that my BW was having a very strong relationship with a colleague OM. It took me 5 months to discover Brown’s take on this. I always suspected that it was more a relationship than an affair. The difference, perhaps, from the concept outlined here is that I discovered this “affair” EARLY in its development. In the first 3 months of dealing with discovery we worked – consciously and unconsciously – on nothing but the emotional sides of our relationship. Having done this, my significant other has, what seems to me, abandoned the idea of seeking emotional needs outside of the marriage and is focused on getting them within. I have the same responsibility. I often said to here, once the the hurricane was passing, and before I read Brown, that maybe she hadn’t “finished” with her lover. Maybe my demanding No Contact was not the best approach. Maybe she needed to say goodbye. But she felt that the progress we had made during the first 3 months were too valuable to risk going “back there”. Yesterday I discovered Emily Brown, 5 months have passed, there has been “no contact”, we have spend an entire summer together as a family with fantastic results, and I’m glad, now, that I didn’t push her back into her lovers arms just because she had “bonded” with him.

  3. I guess it depends on how deep you want to go with it. But it’s still cheating, and applying a lot of psychological dynamics to it tends to downplay the lies and deceptions the cheater engages in. So it’s a moral question as well. You know that the betrayed person will be devastated, but yet you continue doing what you do. You often do it because you think you won’t get caught. So the whole thing is a bit delusional and very focused on the cheater, not the betrayed person.

    • Thank you for commenting. I’m not sure how your comment is relevant to the post, which isn’t about the betrayed spouse, nevertheless, I’m sharing your comment.

      • Speaking as someone who is a BS, what seems missing from this discussion is that if a WS is going to continue an affair b/c they are bonded, they must continue to deceive their spouse. Why is that okay? For me, the ability/right to exercise my free will is inherent to my ability to live the kind of life I wan to live. My doctor, lawyer, employer and public school officials are required to fully disclose full information to me so I can *make authentic decisions*. Why is it okay for a spouse to deny me this right? Why not lay all the cards on the table and let the spouse decide how s/he feels about a WS exploring his relationship issues outside the marriage?

      • No, they are not deceiving their spouse – the therapist specifically says that the BS needs to be made aware so that they can help the spouse wean himself/herself away.

      • I don’t think I said to deceive anyone. Full disclosure is always the best option.

  4. I wonder why the word cheating is used to start with.A new word needs to be coined..yes there are people who have affairs and compartmentalize their feelings..I feel its kind of misunderstood that males compartmentalize their feelings and are able to so call cheat..but basically its a female that can multi task better than a male..so most males just believe that a female is more emotional etc..like many males are under the impression that a female does not forget her 1st love or the guy she 1st slept with but in fact most females have forgotten even names of the guys they had dated too and what matters is not the past but the present.
    Every new relationship is a new experience that releases endorphins the feel good hormone….but I feel very few males would like to admit that any girl can forget them due to their ego that they are the alpha male that females crave.!LOL
    Believe me guys..many girls can just disconnect the next second and delete the guy from her mental data base.
    so you see the so called cheaters have the ability to view life differently..for them its all about survival..be nice to everyone in your life be it parents,siblings,spouse,children,friends and extra marital full time or part time lovers.
    Life is a Game..Play it well.

  5. This was the first reference I found regarding split self affairs and it has my situation defined perfectly. Unfortunately though I left my wife and am in the process of a divorce. I’d be glad to share my experiences and would love to hear yours.

    • Thank you for commenting, Patrick. I’m sorry to hear that you’re getting divorced. Feel free to continue writing if you need to vent – leave an email address and I will reply.

    • Is everything going well in your life since you left your wife?

  6. The man im seeing is married, I was with him before he was married we are emotionally connected but he’s with his right thing I guess I really need someone to talk too.

  7. InThoughtInNC Says:

    Excellent article. Such a unique perspective, especially how you relayed it. I’ve read the same thing, just spread throughout many places. You brought it all together.
    When you say keep the “ah-ha” moment to yourself what do you mean and why?
    I was thinking about forwarding this to the married woman. It sums up our situation in an eerily accurate way. At least my understanding based on a limited view and understanding.
    Why would that be a bad idea?
    I really love her. Not in the possessive immature kind of love that I had for my high school sweetheart. But with a grown man love developed through much life experience. I want her but I want her to be happy most. If she’s not happy with me and me alone then she needs to go where she is, for her sake and mine and everyone that her and I come in contact with. Living an unhappy life can have a snowball effect on those you come in contact with as well.
    Anyway, I told her I couldn’t keep sleeping with her. I want what’s best for her, me and us and physical intimacy didn’t seem like it was a net positive. We already know we click there, not an iota of a doubt.
    She has a history of leaving one boyfriend after finding another. Usually a month or two then she would leave and that process could take 1-2 months then everything would “calm down”.
    The only difference now is that she is married. Only for about 8 months :/.
    We had talked seriously and she was/is debating moving back home or moving in with me if she does end up divorcing him. I told her that I don’t think she should move in with me immediately after but that she needs to take some time for herself and by herself, absent a SO, and heal mentally and emotionally. That is the only way I believe she can break the cycle she is in and by living alone she would be able to truly love herself. If am when that happened we would have a much better foundation and chance for success.

    I really didn’t in my wildest dreams expect the “affair” to happen. It was like a fantasy you never expect to happen because it’s so far out of bounds. Forbidden by “society” but fantasized about by much of society, and not just the fact she’s married.
    We have a connection unlike I he ever experienced or imagined. I feel as if I immediately fell as in love with her as I did in 2 years with my high school sweetheart of 5 years.aune it wasn’t/isn’t more, maybe it just seems that way because it’s more recent.
    Within a month of us starting whatever you would call it (dating, being friends?) she told her mom and grandmother she wanted a divorce which they were in support of and she told them about me as well. She left here, my house, one morning to go home and I could tell she was on the verge of telling her husband she wanted a divorce. I told her to be careful going home because she might end up doing more than she planned(meaning she might end up telling him). I really do care for her and it has not been my purpose to split them up. I won’t engage in negative conversation about him or allow her to more than a sentence or two every now and then.
    Anyway, She called me about an hour or two later to tell me she was going to break the news and tell her husband she wants a divorce. She later said, “I can’t, he won’t let me”. I told her she can do anything she wants to if she wants it enough. I don’t think he is physically abusing her but possibly verbally. I have never been with a girl/woman who got so genuinely embarrassed and surprised when receiving compliments, encouragement and support.
    A few times she did sething else odd. I will try to explain. I have a sensitivity for being interrupted due to being interrupted continually by my over medicated mother. During the course of the day she interrupted me a few times, no big deal. The last time I said something to her about it “can you please stop interrupting me”. She reacted as if I had yelled an cursed at her telling me no one has ever gotten so mad and angry at her and why did I have to blow up over nothing and something so stupid. I kept my cool, honestly it was kind of interesting from a paychological stand point. This reaction or behavior happened 3 times. I finally asked her if it was a habit or learned behavior due to always being yelled at and such. She said it was and she apologize and said that what she said about me getting angry and all was not true.
    Third, she has a habit of withdrawing and building walls when there is a problem, but the only problems we have had are those 3 times. When thy would happen she would just shut down. The first time she did it she ended up leaving and going home. The second time the same. The third, I had talked to her about it and about opening up and letting me in and she stayed. It took a couple hours just being with her, not trying to fix anything(there was nothing actually wrong to fix) and she finally lowered the bridge and let me back inside her castle/heart. The fourth and last time she didn’t take nearly as long. We were making progress.
    When I think about it I can imagine her as a little girl quiet in the closet or corner, trying to remain off the radar.
    I’m sorry for writing so much, I think I needed to get that out. I greatly appreciate your time and am really curious to hear what you think could be the cause of these types of behaviors/actions and emotions; as well as whether or not I should share this article with her.
    She is very special as is what we have together. I’d like to see it not “blown up” even if I can’t be with her.
    Thanks again.

  8. It’s ok to be non- judgemental when your not the wife of 34 years who has to deal with it and all the family finance mess and they’ve gone with someone 22 years younger and still can’t compare with the beauty brains attractiveness and emotional sexual sensual wife – spouses who are hurt and suffering abandonment again and again – and a future turnt upside down might – definitely be judgemental and rightly so

    • This was not written from the BS’s point of view. And you can be as judgmental as you like- you’re grown. 🙂
      I, however, will let the true judge…judge, and that’s God.
      For what it’s worth, I’m sorry if the person going through that you’ve written is you. I don’t like to see or hear of anyone in pain.

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