Will He Cheat? (And Will You Know?) 1
Will He Cheat? (And Will You Know?) 2
Once a cheater, always a cheater?
There's No Good Excuse for Cheating -- Ever

Will He Cheat? (And Will You Know?)


The Blame Game He says: "I keep telling you to..."

Kelly Hanson's husband said these words so many times that she blamed herself when he ended up having an affair. The 28-year-old had opted to take time off from her career as a home-furnishings designer in order to care for their 1-year-old son. "Ken kept telling me I should go back to work," she says. "I actually wanted to - I was going stir-crazy in our tiny apartment. But I also wanted to stick to my decision and give my baby another year with me full time."

Landers recognizes the scenario. "He's telling you to improve yourself in some way. Go back to school, join a gym, take time off, whatever," she says. It may look like tough love, say Landers and Mainzer - your guy is urging you to pursue a goal that will fulfill you. But often his motivation for doing this (whether or not he's conscious of it) isn't so altruistic. One: He's sticking with the script's premise that he's the positive, high-minded spouse - after all, he's only trying to help. Two: He's positioning you as the one who needs help. But you won't listen. And if only you would, you'd be happier and better off - which in turn would make him happier.

Kelly, who's now divorced, says she missed this early warning sign. "Ken acted like he was concerned about my feelings about staying home," she says. "But what he was really getting at was that he wanted me to be more than just a boring housewife. And I'd better do something about it, or else."

How to interrupt the script
"Challenge him to explain himself," says Landers. Is he saying that he wishes you were more career-driven? That he feels you don't listen to his advice? Asking him questions will help you both figure out what's really on his mind. Ideally, this will start an ongoing conversation that plugs you into each other's point of view.

The Plea for Attention He says: "What about me?"

Most men won't say this exact line, but it's what they're thinking. The sentiment - that he's being undervalued by you - is expressed in other forms, such as, "Can I get a thank-you once in a while?" or "I never get to do what I want to do." Or he might silently sulk, which is what Jim Cannon did. "I didn't feel like my wife appreciated me," he says. "The house was always messy, and on weeknights she spent more time in the kids' beds - getting them to sleep - than in ours. Meanwhile, I felt like I was keeping my end of the bargain, making the lion's share of our income and driving the kids around on weekends."

No doubt Jim's wife had a very different perspective, but for a man who's following the script, that's beside the point. "He's feeling like nobody cares and that his contributions to family life aren't valued," says Landers. But it's hard to know how deeply these feelings run if he doesn't tell you.

How to interrupt the script
Turn his muttered comments into a real conversation. If he's the silent type, you'll have to work a little harder to break through his sulking. "Bring up topics that involve feelings," says Landers. Your time may have been stretched thin lately - could he think you're rejecting him? Set him straight. Or you might ask if there's anything he misses about your pre-kids life, like your special date nights. Let him know you miss them too. Fact is, maybe you both feel underappreciated. So talk about it, and find ways and make time to reconnect.

The Big Drift He says: "I've grown and you haven't. You don't understand me."

This is a pivotal scene in the script. He's no longer just hinting at a disconnection between you; he's telling you that you two are drifting apart. The plot hasn't changed much - he's continuing to frame himself as the stronger one, while you've failed to evolve in some way - but the tension is higher.

The accusatory nature of this line also ends up reinforcing his argument, since a wife often responds with anger. When Kelly heard these words, she says, "I felt like I was being attacked, and then, of course, we started arguing. I came off like the defensive one, the whiner who just wasn't 'getting' what he was saying."

In fact, "I've grown and you haven't" is one of many comments that a man might use to spark a disagreement. "He's forcing you into acting unpleasant or irrational, which further drives a wedge between you," Landers says. "It makes him feel less guilty about spending time away from home."

How to interrupt the script
Yes, it's a rotten comment, but at least he's giving you a chance to take part in the dialogue. As Landers and Mainzer write, "Eureka! He's speaking! To you! And the words are...about how he feels!" The tricky part is to listen to him without being short-tempered in response. "Instead, encourage him to talk more," says Landers. "This could lead to more talks that might let him know that you do understand him."

The Dramatic Pause He says: Nothing.

At a certain point, there seems to be a break in the script. He's not talking to you - maybe not even looking at you - as much as he used to. "Even before I was officially seeing the other woman, I was sharing more with her than I was with my wife," says Michael. "It was just easier to talk to her." Basically, he'd found a new confidant - a more supportive one.

The husbands of the women Landers and Mainzer interviewed all began to look elsewhere for the appreciation they felt they were missing at home. In their book, the authors call this "talking to A BMW (Anyone But My Wife)." The only information that A BMW has to go on is what he tells and shows her about himself - so she sees, say, his quick wit, not his hair-trigger temper. As for his wife, "She knows too much about him," says Landers. "So, from his perspective, any other woman is more likely to be supportive."

How to interrupt the script
You might be lulled by this period of calm, but don't be. "Take the first step to bridge the chasm," says Landers. You might say, "I feel like there's been distance between us lately. You know that you can talk to me about anything, right?" If you suspect he might be attracted to someone else, ask about it without anger. Sure, this is tough and painful to do, but it might lead him to acknowledge the truth. And talking about an attraction may lessen some of the illicit thrill he's getting from bonding with another woman on the sly.

The Vanishing Act He says: "I'm going to need more time to..."

He needs to put in extra hours on a work project. He has to spend more time training for a big race. In Jim's case, it was simply: Work is crazy. I have to put in long hours. "My wife didn't know that I was staying late to hang out with a female coworker," he says. The "I need time" announcement comes late in the story, but sometimes before the affair actually begins. His decision to cheat might not be 100 percent certain, but he's preparing just in case. "He's diverting his wife's attention and buying himself some time," says Landers. "This way, he can put off having to answer questions about his whereabouts later."

How to interrupt the script
"Ask questions now!" says Landers. "Especially if your gut is telling you something's going on." You might say, "I know you have a lot of work to do, but is that all it is? Is something else happening here - something we could talk about?" Push the issue.

Remember, any script can be rewritten. This may be one of your last chances to prevent a damaging crisis in your marriage. Don't let denial or resentment keep you from seizing it; overcoming the hard stuff together is what builds meaningful bonds that are truly unbreakable - no matter what comes your way.