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“My Husband Keeps Cheating On Me”


My husband and I have been married six years. We are happy and have fun together. However, off and on over the course of our relationship he has chatted with women online behind my back on various hookup sites. He has even texted a friend of mine flirtatiously, and she immediately told me. Now he dislikes her and thinks she blew it out of proportion.

It has escalated from chatting (which I still think is wrong but not as egregious as real life cheating) to attempting to meet up in real life. He sees nothing wrong with his behavior and has dismissed it as “just looking around,” which he didn’t think I’d mind. He says he was looking “at” other women but not “for” other women.

Every time I bring up his actions and suggest marriage counseling, he says there is no need for it and he’s happy in our relationship. I reply with my own concerns, and he tells me that, if I have issues, I should get individual counseling. So I did.

I did not like what my counselor had to say: that my husband is a sexually compulsive narcissist. If she’s right, and this is in fact the case, is there any hope that he will stop “looking around”? We have two children together, so I want to stay married if at all possible and reasonable.

I’m at my wit’s end. I even asked if he wanted an open marriage at one point because I thought that would be preferable to his sneaking around. At least I’d know where things stood. He said no, but then said it’s male nature to philander and I didn’t need to worry. Men, according to him, can separate sex and love while women can’t.

At the same time, I truly don’t want an open marriage because I want a stable environment for the children. We are happy but for his problem behavior, which he stops for a while and then starts again. It’s happened four times and I just don’t want to accept that he can’t change. Please advise. Thanks. — Can’t Accept His Behavior

It’s almost funny — except, not really — that you say an open marriage would be preferable to all the sneaking around because then you’d at least know where you stand when, in fact, you DO know where you stand. Your husband does not care about you, or what you want, or what your feelings are, or what you need to be happy in your marriage. That’s where you stand. When you suggested couple’s counseling, he said he didn’t need it because HE was happy, but what about YOU? That doesn’t matter to him. When he flirted with a friend of yours, he got mad at the friend for telling you, not because he felt bad that he was wrong to have hurt and embarrassed you but because the friend “blew it out of proportion.” He argues that he’s looking “at” women and not “for” women even though he’s apparently attempted to meet the women from online in real life. He thought his behavior was ok because he “didn’t think you’d mind.” When you expressed that, yes, you DO mind, he said that it’s just a male’s nature to philander — um, no, it’s not — confirming that he is, indeed, doing more than “just looking around.” And he’s arguing that even if he IS doing more than “just looking around” — hint: he is — it’s ok because he can separate love from sex. It’s all ok, isn’t it, as long as he’s happy and as long as he can excuse away his behavior because it’s male nature.

NEVER MIND that his philandering bothers you (of course it does!). NEVER MIND that you’re unhappy in your marriage. NEVER MIND that you want him to change his ways. HE’S perfectly happy, and, in his mind, that’s all that matters. Because your therapist was right: your husband is a narcissist. And narcissists don’t easily change their spots. Sure, you can try to plead and cajole him into going to therapy with you. MAYBE he’ll go. Probably he won’t. Or, he’ll go and not really open up or put in any effort because this is YOUR issue, not his, and YOU should be the one to accept him because, after all, he’s just being an average man, doing typical male stuff, like picking up women on the internet and cheating on his wife and putting the moves on her friends behind her back.

EXCEPT! That’s not how an average man behaves. Yes, that’s how some men behave. Crappy men. Men who have been told over and over and over that that kind of behavior is ok and acceptable because it’s just their nature. Men whose romantic partners send the message that their behavior is acceptable every time they turn a blind eye to it because acknowledging it — like, really acknowledging it and saying, “That’s NOT ok and I won’t stand for it”–isn’t always as easy as it sounds, especially when kids are involved or when they aren’t financially independent or they simply don’t know how to be on their own because it’s been so long or they’ve lost their self-confidence and the idea of that kind of loneliness is too much to bear (as if the loneliness they feel every time their men cheat on them is somehow better). But, fuck that.

Quit sending the message that this behavior is ok and that you’ll accept it if he’ll just be honest about it and stop sneaking around. Quit settling for bad behavior. Quit settling. Stand up for yourself and tell your husband that you’ve had enough and you will leave his ass if he doesn’t re-commit himself to your marriage and the sanctity of that union. And if he doesn’t show an immediate effort to keep you — if he doesn’t start taking you and your marriage and all the hurt he is causing you seriously, MOA. Because the stable environment you think you’re providing for your kids by with a chronic philanderer doesn’t sound so stable. And it certainly doesn’t sound happy. And, really, what’s the point if you don’t have that?


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


Comments on this entry are closed.

JK JK July 21, 2014, 10:08 am

Perfect response Wendy! Everything I was thinking, except much better written. :)

LadyinPurpleNotRed LadyinPurpleNotRed July 21, 2014, 10:10 am

It’s time to face the music and accept that he won’t change. It’s not that he CAN’T change–but he doesn’t want to. There is no incentive for him to change. He faces zero consequences for his actions, so why should he stop doing what makes him happy?

avatar MsMisery July 21, 2014, 12:52 pm

Well, if he has *actual* narcissistic personality disorder (as defined in the DSM-IV), he probably can’t change either. Not until he admits he has a problem which he won’t, by definition.

(PS- I’m not diagnosing him, just going by what the counselor said).

Amybelle Amybelle July 21, 2014, 10:11 am

Just leave now, take it from someone who’s been there, you will regret every minute you ever spent with this man. Therapist is right, Wendy is right, you are married to a narcissist.

avatar lets_be_honest July 21, 2014, 10:23 am

Some people put others before themselves. You are doing that right now. You are letting your husband and kids be happy while you are not. That works out great if your partner is someone is does the same. Your’s does not. Just leave. Why spend the rest of your life like this? Its not worth it. Your kids will still be happy, and likely proud of you in the long run.
I’ve been thinking about these kinds of people lately – the people who truly believe the only thing that really matters in life is whether they are happy, regardless of how that effects other people. Its so fucked up. F those people, LW. I really hope you decide to leave.

Skyblossom Skyblossom July 21, 2014, 1:57 pm

I’m sorry you’re going through this LBH. Internet hugs.

avatar lets_be_honest July 21, 2014, 2:50 pm

Thanks skyblossom! That’s really nice of you to say.

avatar Essie July 21, 2014, 10:33 am

Yes, you’re married to a narcissist. No, he won’t change. Because he does not think he is doing anything wrong. The selfishness is off the charts. He comes first. Whatever he wants comes first. The lying, the excuses, saying ‘all men act this way’, saying it’s your problem, not his, blaming your friend for objecting to his gross, piggish attempt to hit on her…..all classic narcissist. This is going to be what the rest of your life is like….unless you walk away and take your own life back.

As for the kids: they’re not a reason to stay married. They’re a reason to go. Because they watch everything, and they learn from both of you. I don’t know if you have boys or girls or both, but are these the lessons you want them to learn? That all men screw around on their wives? That it’s OK to break your marriage vows? That it’s OK to treat your spouse with contempt and disrespect?

And finally, your own mental health. One of my closest friends was married to a narcissist for 20 years. You cannot imagine the damage that it did to her emotional health. The constant drumming into her head that he was right, she was wrong. That it was her fault that he was cheating. She was unattractive, she was unlovable. No one would ever want her. It’s been years since she threw him out and divorced him, and she’s still suffering the effects. She can’t even date anyone because she feels so bad about herself.

Go. For yourself, for your kids. Just go.

avatar Laura Hope July 21, 2014, 10:53 am

If you were doing with other men what he’s doing with other women, how do you think he’d respond? I suspect he’d explode from rage. Spontaneously combust.

avatar TMD260 July 21, 2014, 11:02 am

Think of the example you are setting for your children, if nothing else. As they get older, they will begin to realize what’s going on (as did my mom & aunts with my grandfather). Do you want your children to learn to accept shitty behavior in a relationship? You’re doing a major disservice to them & to yourself by staying in this marriage.

Also- it doesn’t sound like your husband is going to change his ways… Everything in this letter that you stated he has tolled you made my blood boil.

Come on, aim higher- you don’t need to live like this!

avatar AKchic July 21, 2014, 11:03 am

He’s happy and you’re not. He’s not going to change his ways, and he has pretty much said that. Numerous times.

If you want to be happy – please move on. If you are in an at-fault state, take this philandering asshole to the cleaners. No matter what you do, he will say the divorce was your fault (trust me, I’ve been there), so you might as well get something out of it in order to take care of your children and yourself while you work on getting back on your feet.

Good luck.

avatar Laura Hope July 21, 2014, 11:10 am

Yeah, just try divorcing this guy. He’ll be like You can’t do this to ME! ME! ME! You’re MINE! MINE! MINE!

findingtheearth findingtheearth July 21, 2014, 11:29 am

My father is/was a philanderer. I have seen him go through so many relationships and cheat on every one of his significant others. I honestly did not think it bothered my perception of relationships until I have been single for the last two years and have done a lot of heavy thinking.

The mentality your husband has is dangerous. Also, he may be telling you he is not physically cheating, but just looking around, but what is stopping him from not lying to you?

You are worth more than this. You deserve better. Your children deserve to see you happier and in a safe, equal relationship.

avatar j2 July 21, 2014, 11:36 am

One word: lawyer.

Get one. Do that first. Do it now.

avatar Stina July 21, 2014, 2:12 pm

Yeah, she should probably also get a doctor and get checked out for STDs!

bittergaymark Bittergaymark July 21, 2014, 11:45 am

Eh, there are things FAR less stable for kids than an open marriage. One of which would be a broken home…

avatar TECH July 21, 2014, 12:10 pm

Except I know countless children (myself included) who grew up in “broken” (ie divorced) homes and had a great deal of stability. Capable parenting is possible regardless of marital status.

avatar Violet July 21, 2014, 12:48 pm

Two people mutually and respectfully deciding to have a non-monogamous/open marriage is not even in the same arena and one partner buckling under the pressure of the other partner’s cheating and deciding that an “open” marriage would be best. This is NOT the former, and LW, please don’t think that a “broken home” can’t be stable. Of course it can, and many children have grown up in healthy single parent or remarried homes.

Skyblossom Skyblossom July 21, 2014, 1:54 pm

He turned down the open marriage. He wants to sneak around but apparently is open to letting her look around.

Skyblossom Skyblossom July 21, 2014, 1:54 pm

I meant he isn’t open to letting her look around.

Lyra Lyra July 21, 2014, 11:50 am

You say you’re happy about a dozen times in your letter, but are you REALLY happy or are you just trying to pretend like you’re ok with this? I’m 99.9% sure it’s the latter. You’re faking it and trying to be happy when in reality you’re miserable.
Your husband is not the only one whose happiness matters. YOU matter. Your feelings have value. he has proven time and time again that he has zero respect for you and for your emotions…how is that a happy marriage? He has control. He doesn’t listen to a word you say and he is unwilling to change.
Take control of this situation. You can do it. He’s not worth fighting for.

avatar XanderT July 21, 2014, 12:24 pm

Your husband doesn’t want an open marriage because he doesn’t want you to have sex with anyone else. Only he can.

I really hope you decide to leave him. Good luck to you! Stay strong and move forward.

avatar Scooze July 21, 2014, 12:36 pm

Why do so many women want to live in a state of denial? When your husband trolls hook-up sites, he’s trying to hook up with someone! Of course he’s already cheated. And he will continue as long as you are there. I have too much experience with narcissists and your therapist (and Wendy) are right – he sounds like one. There is only one way to deal with narcissists: limit your time with them. You’ll still have to deal with him to some degree because he is the father of your children. Did you really not see him for who he was when you got married, was it a rushed relationship, or did you just see what you wanted to see? I’ve read that women who are co-dependent often seek out narcissists. Try to figure out why you chose him so that this doesn’t happen again.

Good luck.

avatar Essie July 21, 2014, 1:31 pm

A classic feature of narcissist behavior is to be Mr/Ms Perfectly Charming and Devoted as they pursue what they want. Once they have it, not so much. This was the case with my friend’s husband. He was wonderful when they were dating. Not so over-the-top that you’d be thinking he was a creepy controlling type, but just….a lovely person. Kind, thoughtful, devoted to her. I thought he was a fabulous catch, her parents did, our other friends did, even my parents did (and they love her like a daughter). It wasn’t until a few years into the marriage that he started showing his true colors. And she didn’t see it at first, because he was very, very good at manipulating her into thinking it was all her fault. Evil little sociopath.

Skyblossom Skyblossom July 21, 2014, 1:51 pm

That’s my understanding of narcissists too. They are incredibly charming in person, people love them, they are the life of the party and people think they are great. This is probably why she says they have fun together, because when he is with her he is fun and charming.

avatar peachy July 21, 2014, 12:48 pm

Your husband operates under the “what’s good for me is what’s good” rule, and in classic fashion discounts and ignores your feelings and has no remorse at all. So not only do you not have a real partner, you are married to someone who actively works against the interests of your marriage. I shudder to think what else might be “good” for him in the future, to the detriment of you and the kids…

avatar pinkaffinity July 21, 2014, 12:54 pm

Yeah, after you get the lawyer, I suggest you get tested for STDs. It is really sad that your relationship with your husband has come to this, and I’m sure it hurts a lot (a lot a lot), but the reality is you just can’t trust him anymore. Get tested. Get a lawyer. Protect yourself.

avatar AmyP July 21, 2014, 12:58 pm

“He said no, but then said it’s male nature to philander and I didn’t need to worry. Men, according to him, can separate sex and love while women can’t.”

You’re not having sex with him, I hope?

Heaven only knows what kind of crud he’s bringing home to your marital bed.

avatar HmC July 21, 2014, 1:19 pm


avatar artsygirl July 21, 2014, 1:29 pm

My sister was married to a narcissist and like you tried to hold it together for the sake of her kids. In truth, keeping the marriage alive by herself was more detrimental to the children than a divorce. Her daughters were taught that screaming fights were normal, that it is acceptable for daddy to ignore or yell at them when he wasn’t interested in playing ‘happy family’ for the cameras – because ultimately narcissists want to appear perfect for the public, but not actually put in any effort. Not only was my sister miserable, she also contracted an STI from her husband who had been cheating on the entire length of their marriage. Leave now.