Social Question

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

Have you ever dated/known/been married to a "serial adulterer"?

Asked by DarlingRhadamanthus (11268points) August 1st, 2011

This question was prompted by an article that I read this past weekend and it really upset me…but it also made me think, “Do we really ever fully know the people we love?”

Article: link

Ingrid Seward is a well-known journalist here in the UK and often covers the royals. She is a friend of Prince Charles and was thought to have an ideal marriage. When her husband died, she found out that not only did he have one mistress while they were married….but there were several mistresses. She came across all this information as she went through his things after his death. (Rather like a true “Bridges of Madison County” but in reverse….and with half the county!)

Having been through similar revelations in my own life (while the person was alive and also seeing some of my friends go through the pain of finding out about affairs).... the pain for me was searing, I could not imagine what it would be like to find out after a death…when you cannot even ask questions and find out, “Why?”

Have you ever dated/known/been married to a serial adulterer? What prompts (in your opinion) this behavior? How do you think that this sort of information would affect you if you found out (during or after the death of your partner/husband/wife)? Perhaps you know of someone who has gone through this….maybe you have. Would you be as forgiving as Ms Seward?

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16 Answers

rebbel's avatar

Fortunately, as far as I know, I have never dealt with this.
I would be extremely disappointed because I have, more then once, discussed this topic with my girlfriend and told her that, more than her sleeping with someone else, I would be devastated and angry and would feel the trust would be broken, if she kept it from me.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I found out about one that had been in our family for about a decade. None of us suspected her but what we learned was horrible. She’d been habitual and with guys she’d meet on Craigslist, Myspace, chatrooms, etc.

Blackberry's avatar

I do not know any serial cheaters personally, but my friend’s dad has a few women on the side that his wife knows about, and the women know about each other. Can you guess what he has lot of…...? Yes, money. He’s an extremely gifted man when it comes to engineering, and he has worked his way up through a company and makes enough to be very comfortable.

I’ve also seen some articles about people who turn a blind eye to cheating spouses because the cheating spouse is essentially supporting them and the kids. Their reasoning is that their kids have great lives, so why ruin it.

Vunessuh's avatar

I dated someone in high school who slept with other girls when we were together. Our relationship hardly lasted a month because he managed to expose his inner jackass quite quickly and that’s probably why I wasn’t surprised when I found out and I certainly wasn’t in love with him so I wasn’t heart broken or anything like that.

Now, if I was in love with someone and with them for a while and then found out about their infidelities, I would feel betrayed and I don’t see how the relationship could continue because the trust would be severely broken. If I found out all of this information after they passed away as in Ms. Seward’s case, I don’t doubt that I would be devastated, but I imagine I’d be able to move on with my life a little quicker. :)

Hibernate's avatar

I know a lot of people from this category. For most it’s just a way of life. And since their marriages are not in trouble [yet] it’s all good.

wundayatta's avatar

I find it interesting that at the end, she was able to let go of her anger and resentment and come to realize she loved her husband and be grateful for the love they did have.

I have forgiven my husband for the mental torment he put me through, because I can now accept him for the man he was and recognise that, despite his behaviour, he still loved me first and foremost. He is the love of my life and always will be. And now I can say quite truthfully that I was lucky to have had the time with him I did.

Having been a serial adulterer, I think I might be able shed some light on the subject of why. Although I caution you that every man is different. For me, it was that I was looking for love and acceptance. My wife (who I loved) and I had been growing apart for years. I know I was afraid to talk to her and ask for what I wanted, because I thought she’d throw me out. I thought I wanted sex. I discovered that it was a bit more complicated than that.

Eventually, I confessed to her, and we started going to counselling. It’s been three or four years now, and we are a work in progress. We’ve worked on all kinds of things—figuring out how to build more love making into our lives (for me), and figuring out how to bring more touch into our lives (for her) and figuring out how to do more things together that we both enjoy. Also, she quit her job, which is helping a lot. She’s been horribly tense for years and all that is falling away.

Losing love is a serious and painful business. Men, I think, generally have no idea what to do about it except find it somewhere else. The stereotype of a man is that he has no idea how to communicate. He wants to hide in his man-cave. He also isn’t in touch with his emotions. So when he is in pain, and he has no idea what to do, it can be easy to find love somewhere else.

Few want to leave the marriage because it contains many valuable things for both parties, even when they are estranged. Everything works well enough if you aren’t caught. If your wife doesn’t notice the difference, as was the case with the woman in the story, then you live your life perfectly happily. When you discover it after death, you learn to let the angry feelings go and focus on what was good.

Don’t think the man is getting away free. He has spent most of his life without intimacy. He can’t be intimate with you because he can’t tell you the truth. He can’t be intimate with anyone else, because he doesn’t live with them. It is always caught moments that are fun, but aren’t real. Especially when they are on the internet (where mine were).

Women, of course, have to be in the same situation, or else there wouldn’t be anyone for the men to cheat with. So many people are so lonely and feel so down on themselves that I think that it becomes an issue of saving their own lives. You can believe that or not, of course, but I think you’d believe it if you spoke to the people I’ve spoken with about this.

And the ones who have caught their spouses and divorce and end up bitter for years, if not forever. Is it worth it? To nurse resentments about the unfairness of it all? People always talk about the covenant of marriage being monogamy. Yet (and the numbers are all over on this), if you average all the surveys about it, around half of all men and maybe ten percent fewer women cheat. The range is quite large, so this could be bullshit data.

I think that if close to half of people cheat, then the idea of monogamy isn’t working. I don’t think it’ll ever be changed, but I think a lot of people are running around in impossible situations and that will never stop. I don’t think anyone should be surprised when it happens. But we so love our myths. Since we believe so strongly that monogamy is the way it has to be, even people who have cheated still think it’s the right way to go. I don’t think that makes people hypocrites. I think people are just trying to balance a lot of different goods, and the best way to handle this, for most people, is to sneak around.

Coloma's avatar

My ex husband, operative word “EX” had a secret life for years.
I have no idea of what all may have occurred, but, I believe it was far more than his carefully crafted ‘confessions’ revealed. He was a very good liar, and I believe, a pathological malignant narcissist with more than a shade of anti-social traits as well. In other words, a very fucked up guy. I was extremely co-dependent, trying to ‘fix’ him, until I woke up and made the break. Best thing I ever did!

Hindsight always being 20/20 I can now hardly fathom my old life, and have lived in a profound state of peace and happiness beyond my wildest dreams this past 8 and a half years.

My healing and growth has been nothing short of a true miracle and for that I must say, inspite of all the horrendous pain he caused, I am grateful.

Anyone could fall into temptation once, but serial cheaters have far deeper issues, issues that are unlikely to ever be fixed for most. Primarily a profound lack of feeling whole and complete without constant attention, admiration and someone to prop up their frightfully fragile egos.

Sad stuff.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

First of all…......thank you very much for a lot of great insights everyone. Lurve is coming to all.

@Coloma….I have to agree with you. Having been privy to a similar situation as yours, there has to be a point where this person has a realization that this sort of behavior is from something that is held deep within the psyche….and not because “my wife didn’t fill my needs” or “they did this to me, so….” What is most maddening is the answer I received when I confronted the person….it was always: “I don’t know why I did it.” Everyone knows why they do things, they just don’t want to open the Pandora’s box to look inside. Men are good at sitting on the box, even when it starts to move like a bucking bronco. It’s not good for them and it isn’t good for their partners. Some time at mid-life, the box will burst open one way or the other…and if it isnt’ done by choice (the self-examining of one’s inner life) it will just explode in destructive ways (like affairs or a disease or depression).

@wundayatta…It’s good that you are in counseling to resolve some of these issues. However, I have to disagree with you on “men can’t tell women the truth.” What men don’t seem to realize is that if they told the truth from the beginning….“I need to be intimate with you more often, because I am feeling the need to go elsewhere…” or “There is a woman at the office who keeps flirting with me, and I don’t know what to do…” or “My best friend died and I don’t know how to handle the grief…this is what I need from you….”

Its not that men can’t tell women the truth they usually have so much unresolved stuff that they project that (mother disapproval) onto the woman before she even has a chance to address the issue. You have to give a woman/wife/girlfriend a fighting chance to put things right. Will she get upset at first when you tell her? Probably. But stick with it…if you can’t afford a counselor as a mediator, get a priest/rabbi, to sit while you discuss your needs. If that doesn’t work, then just take a chance and let her kn=ow. Women do want to know. The other thing is (referring to your post again) if “monogamy doesn’t work” then, men who feel as you should never get married or be in committed relationships. They should not cave in, lead women on, get pressured to do this and continue to break hearts. There are men that do want to get married and have a stable life. And there will be men who simply get married because it’s time for it and these are the ones that usually raise havoc in their marriages/relationships. There are women also who aren’t that keen on marriage or monogamy either, by the way. (So it goes both ways…and those women shouldn’t lead men on either.) But even the “faithful lovely man” or woman can stray. It’s whether they decide not to heal and try to understand why they did what they did that is the difference.

As I have said before…it’s never about the affair it’s the deception that is destructive. And I know that most women would want to know that you are not happy so that they can help before things blow up out of proportion.

Blackberry's avatar

@DarlingRhadamanthusit’s never about the affair it’s the deception that is destructive.” So I can cheat all I want as long as I tell her? Suhweeeeet! :D

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

@Blackberry…You can do what you want. It’s a free world, right?

What I meant…was this….that in the end….after it’s all done the lies, the cheating and the deception that goes on about it when it continues…is what is more destructive than the affair itself. Some men (like the one in the article) go on for years and years and the woman, when the affair comes to light is more hurt by the unending lies and the breach of trust…rather than the actual affair. Of course it hurts! But the deception that goes on makes it much worse.

That’s what I meant. sheesh

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

@blackberry….It’s cool….no problem. You helped me clarify a point. I appreciate that.

Coloma's avatar


Haha, yes, the ” I don’t know” mantra…sheesh, THAT was the mainstay of my ex’s one liners. lol

I remember saying to him ” could you just TRY to KNOW”..” I don’t know.” lol

Crazy making at its finest.

Also, lack of insight and self awareness is hallmark of pathological personalities.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

What I find most upsetting about people not fit for each other is the idealism it’s on the cheated person to forgive, to understand, to try and work it out, blah blah. I believe the hurt person DESERVES to say, “sorry, no more please. Let me be for someone else.” I believe in “enough is enough”. I believe the hurt person has been through enough not to be guilted into sticking it out, trying more, understand more and essentially accepting to live with less than was agreed to when bonding.

Screw it people, get out, go on and let someone else better matched who can walk their talk be for you. Stop accepting scraps and whittling down your values.

wundayatta's avatar

@DarlingRhadamanthus I wonder if the woman in the story would agree with you that deception hurts the most. Without deception, she never would have had those years with her husband that she came to value. Her pain was confined to one horrendous period instead of being drawn out over a long period of time.

I suppose if he had not deceived her, she might have told him to go have a good time with the floozies so long as he didn’t take any time from her, but I seriously doubt that would have happened. This woman might have come to think that deception is fine, as long as you don’t get caught. Maybe she regretted catching him, especially since it was after he died.

They say that you always get caught. So I guess that’s why using deception is not the preferable solution to the problem.

People who have been cheated on have a choice. They can kick the cheating spouse’s ass out the door, or they can try to work on the relationship. I’m always surprised at how many people are willing to work on the relationship. Our couples counselor said that these people don’t have a very high success rate, even if they do go to counseling. My impression was that maybe one in five couples were able to stay together. But they try. They surely do try.


I have to disagree with you on “men can’t tell women the truth.” What men don’t seem to realize is that if they told the truth from the beginning….“I need to be intimate with you more often, because I am feeling the need to go elsewhere…”

It’s hard for me to imagine a man who understands his emotions enough to be able to say this. Maybe there are a handful, but for most men, the stereotype rings true. You ask what they are feeling and they look at you blankly. Feelings?

I am 55 years old and I’m not that dumb, but it has taken me most of the 55 years just to figure out my own emotions. Just to be able to link a name with a feeling. I had no vocabulary for my emotions. I only knew what I was feeling in retrospect, and that only after years of therapy.

I think most people act instinctively in response to the urges they feel. They don’t have any love and don’t think they are lovable, so they accept sex, instead. They rationalize it because they are two consenting adults. Men and women both react instinctively when they’ve been cheated on. It is gut-wrenching. It destroys your trust in the human race, in some cases; and in all of the opposite gender in other, and only a few seem to be able to keep the trust destruction to the individual who destroyed it.

Half of marriages end in divorce in the US. There are a number of surveys about how much cheating is going on. The highest says 70% or men cheat and 60% of women. The lowest is something like 15% of men and 12% of women. In all the studies, the men cheat more than women, but not by much.

I think that the myth that marriage is just two people and that it lasts forever is tattered and moth-eater. Yet most people continue to act as if that is the way it is. In the same studies that show how many people are cheating, it is pretty consistent that 85% of people think cheating is wrong.

What’s wrong with this picture? Are people all hypocrites? Do so many of them shame others for what they are doing, too? Obviously.

But do we see any kind of dialog out there to discuss this situation? Maybe. I know there’s a lot of discussion about the divorce rate, but I don’t know of anything useful that has come out of these discussions. They lead to public policy debates that go nowhere, except when various politicians make a coup here or there.

Saying that cheating is wrong when so many people do it doesn’t help. Saying that people shouldn’t deceive when that is the first instinct also doesn’t help. We are not getting at the underlying problems. Either there is something wrong in many people’s psychologies, or we are trying to contravene the laws of nature or something else equally global.

What I know is that none of these issues will get dealt with when so much shame is involved. What I also know is that that will never change, and so people who cheat will almost universally do it secretly. I would love to see some realistic, doable solutions to the problem, but don’t expect any as long as I’m alive.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

As usual you missed my points…and you made men’s emotions to be from the range of A to B. (Like yours.) I think you do men a great disservice. There are men out there who have the courage to explore their emotions. There are deep, thoughtful men out there. I know some of them who have done the hard work to find the truth about themselves.

You are still attempting to rationalize your cheating. I don’t know that it can be rationalized. Figure out why it was done, that’s where the answers are. I think it’s great you are in couples counseling and you are resolving your issues. There is no “good” vs “evil” here. Mistakes happen, errors occur….putting the error right is an important part of one’s own self-discovery.

That’s about it Mr Wunda. I wish you every possible positive outcome.

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