Your Cheating Heart


Three intelligent, capable, lovely women.

Three very tawdry men.

Anthony Weiner. Donald Trump. Bill Clinton.

It’s like watching a Shakespearean tragedy unfold, the way the lives of these women have become so enmeshed in scandal because their husbands lack self-control.

Self-control is the result of a disciplined mindset. It is saying that I will not seek my own selfish desires but rather think of others first. Like my wife and kids maybe?

It’s hard not to feel badly for Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton & Melania Trump. Hard not to ask why these women, so smart, so capable, so financially independent would settle for so little when it comes to husbands?

Did they not value integrity? Did they not value faithfulness? Did they not value humility? Did they not value kindness?

What insecurities do Huma, Hillary and Melania share that makes them stick with men who are so glaringly unfaithful?

Infidelity in marriages is not an uncommon problem. Ask any therapist. Or statistician.  The numbers vary from a quarter to a half of all marriages, depending on whose stats you find more reliable, but men are most likely to be the unfaithful spouse.

Speaking on The Diane Rehm Show, Dr. Scott Haltzman, a longtime therapist and expert on infidelity and marriage, explains some of the reasons why women staying with cheating spouses:

Factors that affect whether a person chooses to try to repair the marriage include the social and economical conditions, the welfare of the children, the expectations or the culture, or the fears of the affected person about being alone. Love for the spouse and respect for shared history also affect someone’s decision to stick in there. The other variable, of course, is the actions of a partner once he or she comes clean about the affair. If they dismiss it or refuse to talk about it, act like it’s the other spouse’s fault, or still insist on having their own private lives, it increases the risk that partner cheated on will just get fed up or hopeless.

Humility on behalf of the cheating spouse can help heal the brokenness of infidelity. But there are many reasons why women stay with unfaithful men who aren’t repentant, who show no remorse, or who continue to cheat: Economic and emotional entanglements. Children. Religion. History. Cultural expectations. Security.

The other variable that Abedin, Clinton and Trump all share is that the political entrenchments of their marriages. These women all married ambitious men and yet, maintain ambitions of their own. In American culture, ambition is a trait that is admired in men but always suspect in women. Even though this is 2016, smart, capable women often still defer to men, their needs, their wants, their desires. Abedin stayed with Weiner through more than one embarrassing sexting incident. She explains her decision following the second report of his misbehavior:

When we faced this publicly two years ago it was the beginning of a time in our marriage that was very difficult. And it took us a very long time to get through it. Our marriage like many others has had its up and its downs. It took a lot of work and a whole lot of therapy to get to a place where I could forgive Anthony. It was not an easy choice in any way. But I made the decision that it was worth staying in this marriage. That was a decision I made for me, for our son, and for our family. I didn’t know how it would work out. But I did know that I wanted to give it a try. Anthony’s made some horrible mistakes, both before he resigned from Congress, and after. But I do very strongly believe that it is between us and our marriage. We discussed all of this before Anthony decided to run for mayor. So really what I want to say is I love him, I have forgiven him, I believe in him, and as we have said from the beginning, we are moving forward. *WashingtonPost 8/29


Abedin spoke these words at a press conference during her husband’s run for Mayor, after he was booted out of Congress for the same illicit behavior. It’s was painful then and remains painful now to watch this intelligent, lovely and capable woman speak these words, knowing that like many women, she probably made the decision that she did out of concern for their son. And, as Shakespeare so often noted, the heart loves who the heart loves. It does seem that, to their own detriment, that Huma, Hillary and Melania really do love these false-hearted men.

Huma Abedin, like Hillary, like Melania, would likely have continued to work on her marriage had her husband not done the absolutely unthinkable – involve their child in his illicit behavior. Without question, Anthony Weiner has a sex problem. It could be argued that Trump and Clinton do as well. Trump has displayed inappropriate behavior toward his daughter Ivanka, suggesting that he fantasizes about his own daughter. Clinton, according to Colin Powell’s assessment, continues to engage in illicit affairs. (Hard to imagine given his heart problems, but who can say for sure?)

It wasn’t until Weiner was found to have sexted a picture of himself while his son slept next to him that Huma Abedin finally called it quits with her sick puppy of a husband.

In August, Abedin released a statement that said very bluntly that she was separating from her husband. Then she asked for privacy.

She’s gotten anything but that. Melania Trump or Hillary Clinton have not been afforded privacy either. Women have long been called on the carpet to answer for the tawdry behavior of their horn dog husbands. Locker room behavior, Donald Trump calls it.

Men have long dismissed the sexual proclivities of other men while holding married women accountable. And, yes, even other women have a tendency to blame the faithful partner when a husband is cheating. Read most any online article about infidelity and it will likely be full of rubbish advice about all the things a woman has done wrong to cause her spouse to cheat, or ways in which she must do better by her husband if she wants him back. Marriage therapists inside the faith community and outside the faith community fall prey to the notion that men cheat because they aren’t getting “fulfilled at home.” They often note that the wife is distracted by her obligations as a mother, as an employee, etc. So many demands the husband’s cavernous egos are ripe for the picking by the next hottie that happens along.

Rubbish. Total rubbish.

If your husband is cheating on you, it’s because he lacks character, not because you do. I wish someone would tell that to Huma, Hillary and Melania.

At least Beyonce’s sister had enough chutzpah to take the high heels to that cheater JayZ. I doubt we’ve heard the last of this story.

For an example of the total rubbish perpetuated about infidelity in the media, consider these remarks by Susan Mandel, PhD,  a marriage therapist in a magazine article about infidelity:

If he’s still in the throes of a hot, new romance, nothing a woman does will drag him out of it. “He’s got such positivity happening, without all the drama that exists in the established relationship,” says Orlando. The marriage will likely fail, unless he decides on his own accord that life isn’t better with the other woman. So the key is prevention. Continue to be the woman he first fell for throughout your marriage. “Women often turn from a loving girlfriend into a nagging wife. Men aren’t attracted to that.” Dole out compliments and surprise him with sex—don’t just yell at him about that towel on the bathroom floor, suggests Dr. Mandel.

Perhaps, the most often and most ignorant line repeated when a spouse cheats is  that it takes two to tango. In other words, a woman whose husband is cheating on her must have given her husband reason to cheat.

In this patriarchal society of ours, if we can find a way to blame a woman for a man’s wrongdoing, we will. 

Or as Patsy Cline put it: Too many times married men think they are still single. They have caused many a good girl to go wrong. It’s a shame that all the blame is on us women. From the start most every heart that was broken was because there was a man to blame. 

But the paradigm by which we culturally view marriage puts all the responsibility of keeping a man “happy” on the woman. Meanwhile, as the experts note, most men don’t cheat because they are unhappy with their marriages. They don’t even cheat because they aren’t in love with their wives.

Men cheat for the same reason women do: Lack of self-control and strength of character.

It would seem that Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton and Melania Trump took their vows far more seriously than their husbands did. And their husbands’s unfaithfulness has cost each of them dearly. An online search will readily yield video clips of each of these women defending their husbands in the midst of a shitstorm over their philandering.  It’s painful to watch these women defend the defenseless. One has to wonder, had the tables been turned, would these men have done the same for these women?

Somebody is going to lose this election. And it doesn’t matter if it is Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, in both cases, they will have lost this election in no small part because of somebody’s unfaithfulness.

If Clinton loses, it will be in part because of Weiner’s sexting, and Bill’s messing around (something the media and the public have long derided Hillary for). Whereas, if Trump loses, it will be, in part, because of his vulgar sexist behavior with Billy Bush while Melania was pregnant.

It is a truism that whenever men cheat women suffer.

In this election, that suffering is being extended to a whole nation of women.

Karen Spears Zacharias is author of BURDY (Mercer University Press).



Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.

1 Comment

karyn Jones

about 4 years ago

I've never understood why that faithful spouse is held to a higher standard than the cheater and are judged so harshly.


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