Silhouette of man holding his forehead as he contemplates his wife's infidelity.

5 Reasons Surviving Your Wife’s Infidelity Is So Difficult

Infidelity may be an equal-gender transgression. But men and women don’t necessarily handle infidelity by their spouses in equal ways. If you’re a man who has been betrayed, we’re going to discuss why surviving infidelity by your wife is so difficult.

Statistics for cheating vary, depending on factors like size of the study pool and the used definition of cheating.

A big factor influencing the accuracy of infidelity statistics is the honesty of those being surveyed. Their perception of what constitutes cheating – relative in part to their partners’ perception of what constitutes cheating – also matters.

Statistics like “46% of respondents in a monogamous relationship reported having affairs” may sound better or worse than you’d anticipate.

And “25% of men and 15% of women reported cheating” may pique your curiosity about the disparity between the sexes.

But one thing’s for sure. Even though men still cheat more often than women, women are cheating more than they used to generations ago. And husbands are having to deal with an emotional aftermath that was once imposed primarily on women.

So let’s talk to you, the man who has been betrayed by his wife.

Ironically, the unmet needs that might lead you to have an affair are some of the reasons that surviving infidelity by your wife is so difficult.

Hear me out.

The differences between men and women inevitably affect their relationships – and, ultimately, how they perceive and handle infidelity.

Here are some of the biggest differences between men and women:

  • Men are more logical, analytical, rational.
  • Women are more intuitive, holistic, creative, integrative.
  • Men have difficulty dealing with their own feelings. They therefore often respond to others’ expressed feelings by shutting down or trying to control the situation.
  • Women are more comfortable with a wide array of feelings and their expression.
  • Men need admiration, appreciation, acceptance, accomplishment, respect, and encouragement to feel good about themselves.
  • Women need caring, understanding, respect, validation, devotion, reassurance, and a sense that they are special and cherished.
  • Men seek to offer unsolicited solutions and advice in an effort to “fix” things, including emotions.
  • Women want men to listen to them and be empathetic, not try to “fix” them or solve their problems.
  • Men need sexual fulfillment in order to feel emotionally connected.
  • Women need emotional fulfillment in order to feel sexually connected.
  • Men’s primary complaint about women: Women are always trying to change them.
  • Women’s primary complaint about men: Men never listen.


It really is a wonder that men and women get together at all, let alone stay married!

And yet, they do get together. They do get married. And they do stay together.

They also struggle. And stray. And struggle again in an effort to understand and heal. 

It’s that willingness to struggle and seek to understand that partially determines why some couples make it and others don’t.

As you read the above list, you may experience a rush of feelings that make you want to run…or scream. Especially if you are in the throes of surviving infidelity by your wife, the differences between you as “Mars and Venus” may exacerbate your suffering.

They may also help explain it.

Why is surviving infidelity by your wife so difficult? Here are 5 possible reasons:

  1. You’re experiencing feelings you don’t know how to process or express.

    No matter how stoic and unbreakable you may try to appear on the outside, being betrayed is crushing on the inside. And no amount of denying or stuffing your feelings is going to change that.

    You may have never before experienced an emotional trauma this severe. So it’s natural that you would be paralyzed by, even resistant to, the inevitable surge of emotions that come from betrayal.

    This state of emotional paralysis and confusion is one of the primary reasons that surviving infidelity requires therapy. If you don’t deal with the feelings, the feelings are going to deal with you.

  2. You’re feeling like a failure, even though you’re not the one who cheated.

    If you fit the “typical” male model, you are much more comfortable when you are the one “fixing” things. You have a natural proclivity to focus on accomplishment and feeling needed.

    But you can’t fix this.

    Not alone, anyway. And certainly not by bypassing your feelings – or even your wife’s.

    Whatever reasons led to your wife’s infidelity, you have to live and deal with the reality that you participated in your marriage’s failure.

    Sure, you aren’t responsible for how your wife chose to deal with her marital dissatisfaction. But you do share responsibility for the quality of your marriage leading up to the affair.

    And, if you choose to stay together, you share responsibility for how your marriage survives and moves forward.

  3. You missed the signs that your wife was unhappy in your marriage.

    Perhaps your mutual unmet needs played out in the bedroom in the form of no playing in the bedroom. In her mind, you always wanted sex but never gave her what she needed emotionally. She didn’t feel special, cherished, heard – only objectified for your sexual needs.

    Perhaps you didn’t notice her shutting down. Or, worse yet, perhaps her shutting down was a relief to you because it meant you didn’t have to listen to all that emotional talk. You could feel your relationship streamlining into solution-based efficiency, and that was much more your style.

    Whatever you missed and why, you now have to live with the knowledge that another man made her happy.

    Even if her affair didn’t involve sex but “only” a deep emotional connection, you will still experience agonizing pain and anger. Surviving emotional infidelity, after all, is every bit as difficult as surviving sexual infidelity.

  4. You can’t stop imagining your wife having sex with another man.

    This may be one of the most ingrained, relentless, painful aspects of surviving infidelity by your wife.

    In general, women enjoy sex as an extension of their emotional connectedness and well-being.

    Men, however, can compartmentalize sex and enjoy it for its own sake, even though, in the big picture, it’s connected to everything. Their need to be validated. Their need to be needed. Their need to feel essential to a woman’s fulfillment and happiness. It’s all in there.

    Picturing another man having that gratification while gratifying your wife can be sickening. You feel unneeded, even replaced, and completely emasculated.

    (Read this man’s explanation of why sex is always on a man’s mind…and what the ultimate yearning really is.)

  5. You don’t have a lot of friends and/or sources of support with whom you can share your suffering.

    It’s not uncommon for men to actually be more vulnerable and dependent on their relationships than women are.

    “Independence and separateness” may run through their veins, but relationships give them a place to feel connected without a large outside support system.

    Women, on the other hand, thrive on “connectedness and sameness.”

    While men see reaching out for help/advice as a sign of weakness (despite their instinctive readiness to give it), women don’t. To them, reaching out is just a way of connecting and forging cooperative alliances.

    So, despite the devastation that women experience when their husbands cheat, they are more inclined to have and/or build a support system.

    It’s not surprising, then, that you would feel isolated and powerless as you navigate your wife’s infidelity.

There may be many other reasons that the process of surviving infidelity by your wife is so difficult.

But please know that the help you instinctively resist can actually be the exhale you need to begin healing. 

Mary Ellen Goggin offers relationship coaching for individuals and collaborates with her partner Dr. Jerry Duberstein to offer private couples retreats. To learn more about working with Mary Ellen, contact her here.

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Mary Ellen Goggin

Mary Ellen is a highly skilled and intuitive relationship guide. She brings over 35 years’ experience with individuals and businesses as a lawyer, mediator, personal coach and educator. She received her J.D. at University of New Hampshire Law School and a Master’s Degree at Harvard University. Mary Ellen co-authored Relationship Transformation: How to Have Your Cake and Eat It Too with Jerry Duberstein — and they were married by chapter 3. Mary Ellen brings a unique blend of problem-solving, practicality, and warmth to her work. She’s a highly analytic person, with geeky and monkish tendencies. She’s a daredevil skydiver, a voracious seeker of knowledge, and an indulgent grandmother. Her revolution: helping people become the unapologetic rulers of their inner + outer realms. Read more about the retreats