Why Men Cheat
Can Rabbi's Advice Heal Your Cheating Heart? He -- and Oprah -- Think So
By MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE INFORMATION SERVICES
Worried your man might cheat? A Miami Beach, Fla., rabbi who is a regular on the talk-show circuit (he’s been on “Oprah” nine times), says you need to greet him at the door dolled up and ready with a kiss and a smile and some genuine interest in how his day went.
“We do bring the best or worst out in our spouses,” says M. Gary Neuman
, a therapist who deals with family issues and whose latest book, “The Truth About Cheating” (Wiley, $24.95), is on the New York Times hardcover-advice bestseller list. “And men are far more impressionable than you think,” Neuman says. “They are shocked themselves when they get so lost that they cheat. It means so much to them when another woman comes around and does nice things for them.”
So, in general, you need to remind your guy how much you appreciate him. You need to stroke his ego about what a good provider he is (even if you’re bringing home a good portion of the turkey bacon). You need to — get this — be happy with that piece of jewelry he got you, even if you’re dying to run back to the store and exchange it for something you actually like.
And you need to step things up in the bedroom. He’s not expecting acrobatics. But whatever he usually gets, he wants more often.
Remember these things, and maybe he won’t be a dog, Neuman says. Turns out men’s feelings are a lot more fragile than anybody really suspected. After interviewing 100 cheaters and 100 faithful men, Neuman learned that the main reason men stray is not the sex. In fact, most of the cheaters said the other woman was less attractive than the wife.
“When husbands were asked why they cheated, the most popular answer was emotional dissatisfaction,” writes Neuman, 43, who has five kids ages 13 to 20 with Melisa, his wife of 21 years. “Cheating men wanted their wives to give to them in a host of ways, whether it be a neck massage, initiating sex, buying them their favorite CD, cooking a special dessert, saying how wonderful they were, or any other thoughtful gesture.”
Poor things. At least, that’s the way Stacy Alf of Rice, Minn., sees it. She and husband Eric, who cheated after three kids and six years of marriage, shared the stage with Neuman recently on a morning show. “He needed to be complimented. He needed me to tell him more what a good job he was doing as a husband and father,” says Stacy, 31. “Men are supposed to be hard-shelled. But they have this soft, chewy inside. I honestly didn’t realize they were so sensitive.”
“I stopped feeling like a husband and started feeling more like a paycheck,” says Eric, 27, who met the other woman while working as a customer-service rep for ING. He left the job and became a bill collector when he and his wife were reconciling.
“I admit that there were things I was doing wrong, too. But she wasn’t meeting my emotional needs,” he says. “She wasn’t building me up as a man or as a person. I need that. All of a sudden somebody at work started giving me that."
The Alfs didn’t work through their issues with Neuman — they went to a counselor back home and relied on support from their church and their families — but after reading his book, they say they could have prevented the affair if they had followed his advice.
“I look more presentable now when he comes home,” Stacy says. “Men are visual people. I used to be in a T-shirt and stretch pants. Now I put on jeans, a nicer shirt, a little eyeliner. We’re taking it day by day, and it’s tough. But we’re communicating better. Now I’ll speak about my needs, too. I’ll say, ‘Hey buddy, I need the little notes. I need the flowers. You need to rub my back once in a while.’”
Although Neuman’s book doesn’t spend a great deal of time exploring the issue of men who aren’t sufficiently encouraging or appreciative of their wives or placing enough blame on the men who cheated, in person its author doesn’t at all come off as a Neanderthal.
“You truly appreciate someone who appreciates you. Some women, usually without reading the book, will get angry and say, ‘Are you blaming me for my husband’s cheating?’ No, I’m not. This fall I start research on why women cheat and what you, the husband, can do to prevent it,” says Neuman, who is soft spoken and quick with a warm smile. “I’m not saying you can stop all husbands from cheating. Twelve percent of the men said ‘There’s nothing my wife could have done. It had nothing to do with dissatisfaction at home.’
“I just want to deal with the reality. If he’s not treating you the way you want to be treated, and you’re not treating him the way he wants to be treated, wherever it began — and let’s say it began with him — what do you want to do about it now? If your answer is, ‘I’m not going to do anything. He should do the right thing, and I’m going to just wait for that,’ then strap yourself in for a long ride.”
Neuman has been counseling couples for more than 20 years and in 1993 created the Sandcastles course, which courts in Miami-Dade require of all kids (ages 6 to 17) of divorcing parents. “About 250,000 families have gone through it since its inception,” says program coordinator Alvaro Domenech. ‘The course is 3 1/2 hours long, and parents come to the last half hour. Our biggest indicator of how well the program works is the evaluation forms parents fill out. They’ll say, ‘I didn’t want to be here, but I’m glad I came.’ What Sandcastles does is make sure children know the divorce is not their fault. They still have a mom and a dad, and everything is going to be OK.”
Neuman’s book can be positive, too. It suggests couples can find their way back to each other by locking their bedroom doors at night so they can have some intimacy (and sex) without the kids barging in, by establishing a regular date night and finding other ways to connect.
But Neuman is not saying women should try to save their marriages if their husbands are plain good-for-nothings. “There are lousy, awful guys out there,” says Neuman, who characterizes himself as a feminist. “Like there are lousy awful women. I’m not suggesting that you continue to give under those circumstances. There are men who are abusive. I’m not suggesting you be the little woman. All the women around me have strong personalities. My wife is far smarter, more well-read, more well-spoken and writes better than me.”
Has the tall and clean-shaven Orthodox rabbi who dresses smartly and appears to be a sensitive listener ever been hit on by another woman? “No. The yarmulke helps. And I really do love my wife like crazy. I think we put out vibes one way or the other, and my vibe is that I’m not in the market.”
Melisa Neuman says that her husband is not suggesting that women do anything that he doesn’t do himself. “Honestly, Gary is the most appreciative and respectful person I know,” she says. “I think Gary is far more appreciative than me. We had five kids in six years, and when they were young, he would say to me, ‘You’re too tired; let me do this.’ He is always the one putting forth 110 percent.”
articles by MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE INFORMATION SERVICES