My Father Made Me Want to Cheat on My Husband

A daughter wants fathers to recognize everything they pass on—adultery included.

Dear Fathers of Daughters,

I know most of you guys realize that your girls look to you to teach them what to expect from themselves and from others. You know that if you disregard them, if you treat them like possessions, if you value them only for their beauty or for their place on your holiday card, if you tease them for being dumb or for being blonde or for being too girly or too butch, they will believe that those things are the Truth, with a capital T, about them.

You may also know that how you treat their mother will teach them how they deserve to be treated by others. You know that if you value women, your daughters will learn that they deserve to be valued. If you shit-talk women, they will learn that they deserve to be regarded as shit.

But there’s something more insidious that happens between fathers and daughters, too, something complicated and profound. Something I’m not sure I can explain without telling you how my father is, in a way, responsible for me being an adulterer.

My father was a photographer in Los Angeles. True to form, he married a model (my mother) and became an addict. It’s a story as old as time … well, as old as Hollywood time. He was so unbearably whiny, depressed, needy, moody, and temperamental that when he found another model who was younger and prettier, my mother wasn’t altogether displeased to let him be the charge of this new woman, Elyse.

But I was very small, perhaps six years old, and all I saw was my mother being left alone by the father I adored for this young, vibrant 26 year-old. And boy was Elyse beautiful.

I watched the way my father regarded Elyse. Once she came downstairs in a pair of his beat-up old Levis, cut into shorts. He looked her up and down and was clearly mesmerized. He said, “nice legs” and she shot him a half-smile and went outside to water her flowers. I made a mental note: Always act like you already know anything a man tells you. Oh, and have great legs.

Based upon what I said when I opened this letter to you daddies, you’d think I would’ve married a cheater. I didn’t. I married an incredibly nice guy. A handsome guy who believes the sun wakes with me every morning and sets with me at night. He believes I am smart, strong, gorgeous, sexy and funny. He would wear a giant foam finger that says “#1 Fan” just below my picture if that existed.

He isn’t perfect, he can be distant and cold and quick-tempered. I’m often alone, emotionally and physically. But he’s about as good a husband as they realistically come.

Then one day I watched a man walk into a PTA meeting at my son’s school and everything changed. It was so clear to me that this man was special and important that I made a point to be invisible, avoiding him at all costs. And then one day he approached me, we chatted, and it turned out he was brilliant and funny and perfectly awkward and self-aware. I thought to myself, I’m thoroughly fucked. 

I had not even had so much as a crush on a guy in the eight years before I met Mark. But when Mark walked through that door it was like a spotlight was shone on him and I couldn’t walk away. When we became friends on Facebook (mistake number one), I fell in love with his words. I am a word-nerd. A clever turn of phrase is seduction. We became great friends and spent time together at school volunteering. We laughed non-stop and within a short time we had a deep bond. We never talked of love or sex or attraction. We didn’t need to.

Mark adored his wife, Allie. She was a power player in The Industry and he was a freelance writer working from home with his kids. Every day was a new story about Allie, how Allie could name any song in the first five notes, or how Allie looked incredible in a trench coat. Allie was the best gift-wrapper, had the ass of a 20-year-old, and drank bourbon straight up.

We didn’t see each other for a few months in the summer but talked daily. When I ran into him the week school started, I could see in his eyes that he was in love with me. I hadn’t been trying to make him love me, but I loved him immediately and I should have known better than to be anything more than passing acquaintances.

We started an affair, but one purely of words. We avoided each other in person and went a year without seeing one another. We didn’t want to be cheating so we stayed away. In that time, we would “break up” over the guilt probably five times. We were both in love with our spouses but believed we were somehow meant to be together. I couldn’t imagine being without him. He was the other half of me that I hadn’t known was missing.

But then Allie found out about us, and it was over. Mark, rightly so, cut all ties with me. We had never touched, never been closer than three feet away, but we were in love, and in most ways that is worse.

I was wrecked. It was the worst breakup of my life. Worse than when I divorced my first husband, worse than breaking up with my live-in boyfriend after three years. Losing Mark was the worst thing that had ever happened to me, and I was crushed. For a very, very long time.

Every once in a while Mark would write me just to say hello. When I wrote him back he would disappear, which would gut me. I would reach out to him sometimes, I couldn’t help it, always in terror that Allie would find out and go ballistic and tell my husband or shoot me through the heart with a crossbow or something.

Finally we had a perfect moment of closure. We ran into each other at school and admitted that we had been in love, and that what we had was very real, very authentic. We knew there was no other way to go than to focus on our families. We parted ways peacefully and perfectly.

But it wasn’t enough for me. It should have been resolved. I am an incredibly strong person, and I should have been able to move on. What the hell was wrong with me? I Googled “genetics and infidelity” and found some interesting (very) early data about a so-called Cheater’s Gene, a variation of DRD4, that made me wonder if somehow I was predetermined to become my father: a charming, boozing, pot-head who would jump from relationship to relationship. It was sort of terrifying, but I had thus far resisted the boozing and the drugs. The key to living a different life just had to be within me.

Finally, while walking in front of a large reflective storefront window, I stopped. I looked at myself closely. I was in what my friends and husband call my uniform: tomboy-ish jeans, classic boots, a deep v-neck tee shirt that showed off my thin chest and prominent collarbones. I wear my hair in a severe chin-length bob. I feel good, unique, classic. But I look like her. Like Elyse, the woman my father left my mother for. I only wear grey, black and white as a rule. So did Elyse. I don’t wear heels or miniskirts or short shorts or anything trendy. Neither did she. I had somehow morphed into her and never noticed it.

And now I was the other woman. I realized, in that moment, that my love for Mark was very real, very much about how incredible he was. It was genuine, powerful, and authentic. But my inability to let him go was about my dad. I needed to feel powerful. I needed something from Mark that I never wanted and would never have asked for.

I needed him to tell me he would leave his wife for me. It was the only thing that would satisfy me. It felt like it was the only thing that would heal me. The fucked thing is, one reason I loved Mark was because of his commitment to what was best for his daughters and his wife. I would never want him to leave them. But some part of me was screaming for it.

And finally that realization was what started my healing process, nearly two years after meeting Mark. I wanted the power to pull a man from his beautiful family. I wanted to be Elyse, and not be my mother.

I’m still trying to find a way to let him go, to tease out what I’m doing when I start an email to him and then delete it, which is still nearly daily. It’s hard to know what part of me misses him and what part of me just wants to feel that power. If we were both single, I’m sure we would be an epic couple. That part of us was authentic. But for now I remind myself that I am powerful just by virtue of being my own, talented self, and by doing the work to be better.

No longer do I fall for the tricks of my subconscious that tell me I want Mark for myself. That fantasy is the quicksand in my heart, the part of my heart that was damaged by my father’s infidelity. I step into it and I sink, sink, sink into my old daddy-wounds. And that’s what I want to convey to you guys, you fathers of daughters. I want to tell you that where you put your love is where your daughters will want to go. Be it now or when they’re 35 years old and you’ve been duped into thinking your little girl emerged unscathed by your infidelity.

Dads, we daughters are a canvas upon which your behaviors paint a map of our futures. We can veer off that map, toward health and strength instead of your legacies of mistakes, but it’s very hard, like paddling up-stream on a raging river. I am certain any parent’s infidelity affects children of both sexes, and I don’t want to pass this legacy on to my own children. I want the Truth of me to be that I fought against my legacy, and ultimately made a better choice.

—Photo Spirit-Fire/Flickr

About Anonymous


  1. For 3 years the OP was MIA from her marriage because of a fantasy she never took full charge of. She dreamed of being with a bespoke man instead of her husband who she describes in terms so passionless that, were I he, would have me taking the door.

    A wise man once advised that if you are going to indulge in fantasies of this sort then ride them (mentally) to their natural end. imagine the breakups, the divorce court proceedings, the look of betrayal in your childrens’ eyes, the tears, self-loathing and alienation, and the repeat – when the cycle starts over for one or both of you.

    Imagine reading your loving/cheating e-mails in the divorce trial record. The whole sordid mess in all it’s likely outcomes.

    That full-fleshed fantasy is likley less appealing and easier to shake than the illicit play-time romance for which th OP neglected her marriage.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Brilliant, simple advice:

      “A wise man once advised that if you are going to indulge in fantasies of this sort then ride them (mentally) to their natural end. imagine the breakups, the divorce court proceedings, the look of betrayal in your childrens’ eyes, the tears, self-loathing and alienation, and the repeat – when the cycle starts over for one or both of you.

      Imagine reading your loving/cheating e-mails in the divorce trial record. The whole sordid mess in all it’s likely outcomes.”

  2. This piece nicely reminds those of us raising children that the way we live our lives, the way we carry ourselves, the way we behave and treat other people – it all has a great impact on our children, far beyond here and now. We show our children how life is lived. In our family interactions we show how to be a family, how to conduct loving relationships, how to be partners.

    We can only try our best to set good examples, and hope we do not make too many mistakes that turn out to be traumatic for the kids.

    OTOH, we must not demand perfection. We must not demand that our kids are perfect, and we must not demand that we ourselves are perfect parents. No parent can raise a child without making mistakes, even bad ones. No-one can live a perfect life. Yes – we hope that our relationships last and that we can give our children stable families, but not all relationships do. Even if you do your best, divorce happens. People fall out of love. Couples break up – sometimes initiated by the man, sometimes by the woman. And a man who has divorced will find a new partner more often than not.

    All these mistakes, all these mishaps in the lives of parents have great impact on the children. Most of us carry childhood trauma to a lesser or greater extent. Part of growing up and coming to terms with yourself is realizing these trauma and learning to live with them. It’s unfortunate, but it’s how it works in a world of imperfect humans. And it’s why we must all learn to forgive – forgive other, and forgive ourselves. And it’s why learning to live with these imperfections, learning to reflect on who you are and understanding what drives you, and learning to pick your own course independent of your childhood “programming” is such and important life skill.

    I agree that, as a father, I should try to be a good example to my daughter (and my son) for how to have a loving relationship. But I will never be perfect. So if I have to make a choice, I will rather focus on helping my daughter to be strong, independent, to trust herself and have integrity, and to be able to look at herself and reflect on what’s going on in her life – and to make changes if needed. I hope to do that in part by doing so myself, and by being able to tell her when I realize I did the wrong thing and talk with her honestly about the choices you make in life.

  3. Marcus Williams says:

    The title of the article made me want to read it. Kudos to the headline writer for that. The article itself seemed to say something substantially different, with much less blaming and deflecting of accountability. What I saw was the story of an emotional attachment that in the author’s eyes, and those of many women from what I’ve heard, was enough to count as an affair. However, they kept their distance physically and eventually cut off the intimate friendship altogether, which to my man brain, means no affair happened. Some boundaries were breached and I can see why the other man’s wife or the author’s husband would have a problem with that kind of relationship continuing or escalating, but it doesn’t strike me as adultery, or even infidelity since there were important boundaries they didn’t cross.

    I also didn’t see any daddy-blaming except in the headline. It sounded to me like someone struggling with decisions already made, feeling accountable for those decisions, discovering some insight into what influenced her in that direction in the first place, and hoping to be more self-aware as a result to avoid making the same mistakes. Then there was something about paddling on a canvas, but YMMV (your metaphor may vary).

    • Justin Cascio says:

      I think Anonymous had an affair, and that she knows perfectly well she did, and that so does Mark, the guy involved. Who knows what her husband is like, but he’s as likely to think, no PIV intercourse, no foul, as to agree with his wife that an emotional affair is a breach of the marital agreement. Monogamous couples are typically expected to not only reserve sexual intimacy for one another, but also other kinds of intimacy.

  4. wellokaythen says:

    I try to take an objective approach to stories like this. I like to test some of the conclusions by seeing where they lead, to see how much of it I can agree with. With this piece, I kind of buy it, kind of don’t.

    In this case, I couldn’t help but notice that the author is a parent herself. She has a son. If her father’s infidelity had a profound influence on her relationships, then presumably her infidelity will have a profound influence on her son’s relationships. Her son may be unfaithful someday because she was unfaithful.

    In principle, it would be logically consistent for her son to be able to blame her if he cheats on his wife later in life. At some point in the coming decades, he could present a very similar story online, struggling with the role that his upbringing played on his development. He could write in to a women-centered site warning women about the effects of mothers’ infidelity on their sons. If he has children and they have marital problems, they can then write articles about him as well.

    • I think that’s what she means by this, wellokaythen:

      ” I am certain any parent’s infidelity affects children of both sexes, and I don’t want to pass this legacy on to my own children. I want the Truth of me to be that I fought against my legacy, and ultimately made a better choice.”

  5. I am sorry BUT you had an affair, you knew you would, STOP BLAMING your father and take FULL 100% no questions asked responsibility for your own actions.

    Jeez, I am so sick and tired of people of this generation blaming everyone else but themselves.

  6. While I can appreciate this being written as a letter to fathers of daughters to let them know how their behavior affects them I’m wondering why this isn’t perhaps also being written as a letter to daughters of fathers on what behaviors not to pick up (advice on how to “veer off that map”).

    • That’s a good point. That could apply to any addictive and/or destructive behavior that seems to be linked generationally. I think that’d be a brilliant piece for someone to write: A child of an addict or adulterer (or abuser, or whatever) and how they didn’t grow into what their parents chose.

      Personally, my husband’s father was physically abusive and a drunk, and my father, too, was an addicted adulterer, like the author. I don’t know that either of us could write on how to grow away from these legacies perfectly due to the fact that neither of us did grow away from them perfectly. My husband is sober for fifteen years and has never hit any of us, and I have never had any problems or temptations with addictions (pure luck, probably), but have encountered issues of fidelity in the past.

      For us, we use a term called “provocative” and we both know that this means, “This situation/person/conversation/whatever is bringing up old shit to me and I’m trying not to let it provoke me.” If I do something and he says, “This is really provocative to me,” I know this is triggering old wounds and try to give him space or help him resolve the trigger.

      Recognizing the triggers of our historical issues is 100% necessary in healing old wounds. It isn’t an *excuse* for my husband to say that he drank too much partly because he has a genetic tendency and also because he was raised in alcoholism (and coping with the abuse he endured/witnessed), it’s simply a recognition of something that is very scientifically documented: alcoholism runs in families.

      So while you could say my successfully sober husband would be a great one to write a piece like that, these posters above would probably call him out for having been less-than-moderate with alcohol for so long and then referencing his father’s alcohol abuse as a factor.

      The person who has a legacy of pain, addiction, abuse or whatever, who never struggles and never faces that past, probably has a pretty ugly surprise awaiting them somewhere in their future.

      • Recognizing the triggers of our historical issues is 100% necessary in healing old wounds. It isn’t an *excuse* for my husband to say that he drank too much partly because he has a genetic tendency and also because he was raised in alcoholism (and coping with the abuse he endured/witnessed), it’s simply a recognition of something that is very scientifically documented: alcoholism runs in families.
        I see this come up in talk about Domestic Violence a good bit. I have no first hand experience on how the counseling of (male) abusers goes but outside of the counseling office and on the street and in the forums people are often too quick to recognize those triggers. When a man who was abuased as a child is abusive to his own family a lot of people are very quick to write off his even mentioning his past abuse as an excuse (in fact I have actually seen pamplettes for DV support lines that literally call an abusive man’s past abuse an excuse).

        Now that’s not to say that such past abuse should be used a justification for what he did. However as you say here it must be recognized. There’s a good chance that said man was abused as a child and never got the help and support he needed to properly heal from it.

        I recall an episode of The View a few months ago where American Vice President Joe Biden was on talking about the VAWA. At one point after pretty much disregarding a point Whoopi brought up about abusive women Biden commented that nearly all the men in prison for violent crimes grew up in a home where they witnessed dad abusing mom. I don’t know how true that is (and frankly I’ve never seen any data on it) but thing that is true is that lot of the men in prison for violent crimes were themselves abused.

        If nothing else doesn’t that serve as a warning to start paying more attention to abused children (espcially boys)? It just seems like when a boy is abused (especially by a woman) people don’t seem to care as much as they will 15 years later when that boy is grown up and is now abusing his wife/kids. Yes he’s wrong and should be punished but if we TRULY want to stop him from abusing again then why not give him a chance to heal from the pain he’s been carrying for so long?

        • Justin Cascio says:

          This is getting closer to the truth about why letters like this are important. Whether you are a parent, we’re all children of someone. We learn things without realizing what we’ve learned until we are forced by our circumstances and/or personal resolve to see our behaviors in a larger context. It doesn’t excuse a bad decision to explain where it arose; it alerts me to the sorts of situations in which I am likely to make bad choices, so I can work at being more aware the next time I’m tempted. Whether your outlet is smoking cigarettes, cutting, some other kind of self-harm, or sending the abuse outward in some way, we shouldn’t judge people for figuring out the causes of their behaviors. It doesn’t automatically mean that a person is trying to squirm away from deserved guilt. I think it even helps separate harmful shame from useful and manageable guilt.

  7. Somehow, somewhere, in America there must be a person left of either gender under the age of 45 who wants to own his/her life and not place culpability for their behavior with their parents, their economic status, their gender, their race, or popular culture. Whenever anyone makes such a claim, they fail to account for the many, many more individuals from identical circumstances who do not transgress.

    What shall we say to the millions of women whose loving fathers were adulterers who did NOT choose to become adulterers themselves? “We can veer off that map, toward health and strength instead of your legacies of mistakes, but it’s very hard, like paddling up-stream on a raging river.” No, sorry. It is not hard. Not if one wants to be faithful.

    Moral choices like fidelity are not supposed to be easy. That’s why getting laid takes 2 bourbons, bad lighting, and 15 minutes, but a solid marriage takes a lifetime.

    • Marcus Williams says:

      No, sorry. It is not hard. Not if one wants to be faithful.

      Moral choices like fidelity are not supposed to be easy.

      Looks like you changed your mind during the paragraph break.

  8. Tom Matlack says:

    What a powerful and provocative piece. I am not sure that this is as gender specific as fathers/daughters. A close friend had a dad who cheating and he himself lost his first marriage when he was found cheating despite his anger at his dad’s behavior. The scar of infidelity witnessed by a child is something that is hard to get beyond, no matter what your gender.

  9. Um, taking responsibility for your cheating would be something I would imagine feminists would encourage, not discourage- blaming it on Daddy seems to me to be infantalizing, which is pretty anti-feminist. Just saying, no need to feminist-bash.

    I wrote a bit about this on my blog here-

  10. There is a lot of talk on here about ethics and responsibility. The way I read this article is that the author IS taking responsibility for her actions. Responsibility is not something cut and dry. You can sit behind your computer and dish out all the moral idealism you want. Frankly, down in the real world nothing is ever that easy. The author was thrown into a situation that she, over the course of her life, had to work out and deal with.
    This author in my view is a clearly ethical person. I mean that in the sense that she always had an ever present sense of guilt, which just shows how morally upstanding she actually is. Think of this article being written by someone who said “I married my husband, cheated on him, and felt no remorse and I would do it again.” That is the truly unethical person.
    This author dug deep inside herself to try to find out how it was she could be a more ethically responsible being. I think she did that not because she thought marriage as an institution should be respected, but rather because she truly loved her husband and her children and feels a responsibility to them to be a better parent then her parents were for her. She understands what true morality is about, which is that we can always be more responsible. She is working at that. I think it takes a great amount of insight and courage to admit and then write down and share the things that she did.

  11. What’s that bitter taste in my mouth? Must be from all the righteous indignation up in this tread. Moralizing people? I thought this to article to be refreshingly honest and expressed in a matter free of the “shoulds and coulds” that unhealthly restrict many of us from the type of deep and meaningful introspection of its author. She is struggling to understand her motivations… Dont you think that her effort serves her best when time comes again to make the choice to “cheat”? Or would you rather her just “man up” and blindly follow the rules, never challenging them and walking like a zombie to her death? Each of us can benefit from this story… We can accept that our live can be lived with urgency. And that in the end it is only you that must answer the question: did i live fully and freely, honestly and authentically? Did I balance the burdens of freedom and choice with those of my responsibility? Quit the shaming and blaming… You’ll live more fully.

    • I also don’t understand the people saying that we would treat this story differently if it were written by a man. Hugo has freely admitted and talked about cheating on 2 of his 4 of his wives. His stories are even more sympathetic than this one.

    • it’s so much easier to be indignant and self righteous and I’m sure we’ve all acted that way in the past but I for one have learnt better than to put anything into black and white terms. It makes everyone look like an idiot for no one is perfect, not their actions, not their thoughts. Never say never. I pretty much believe if you haven’t cheated yet it’s because you haven’t had the opportunity with an attractive enough person.
      Yes Linguist, my husband does know of ‘our ‘ policy and it works very well for us. At the end of the day no one is going to tell me how to live my life, certainly not a society that seems to randomly choose what is allowed and not allowed. I didn’t get married and profess fidelity, I just got married, no vows. We are both committed to each other and the family we have made but it doesn’t mean I own his body and mind nor does he own me. He travels a lot for works and perhaps he enjoys himself sometimes. Good for him, life is short and having sex with someone doesn’t mean the world is going to end nor does it mean our relationship is over. What we have is more important than that and I doubt I could connect with someone else intellectually as well as we do. Sure if either of us became emotionally involved with someone else that would be a problem for the relationship, but I certainly don’t ever put myself in a position where that could happen.
      You know, I am not American but Americans sure are known for being puritans. Thankfully not all of you are. I have lived in Europe a lot of my life, (though I am not European) and it is a vastly common thing for men and women to seek pleasure outside their relationship as well as in it. In France they even have a term for playing away in the evenings, le cinq a sept. So you see your lover from 5 to 7 then go home to your family. Maybe if more countries like the US, the UK, Australia etc were more tolerant and less inclined to stop people from enjoying a lovely part of life – seduction and pleasure, they’d be less overweight. You tend not to let yourself go when your libido is still in whirring. Sounds like a thesis for someone right there…

      • OOOOOk can we not get fatphobic here please? kthnx

        • agreed. I have a beautiful wife who is a bigger woman, she eats well, walks daily and we have a healthy happy sex life and marriage. however she did have to grow up with society and the media telling her to hate herself because she didn’t look like a barbie doll. I’m trying to make it that my two girls will be able to see through all that. I hate that fatphobia shit.

    • pillowinhell says:

      You can’t live authentically until you OWN who you are. I applaud her efforts to understand some of the influences in her life, I have a very hard time listening to someone who won’t willingly see that she made her own choice. Blaming daddy and genetics (and a husband who’s distant) isn’t going to help. She really needs to put away the excuses and look at what she values, believes, needs and wants. My guess is that she won’t like some of the answers or the work involved in living her life in a way that matches her actions to her values. We seldom do.

      To the OP: losing someone you really love always cuts to the core. To realize that you’ve become two people whom you’ve held some anger towards is very hard to swallow. But all the pain that this might bring you is a good thing, all rebirths are a struggle. This is your chance to put away the hurt, to reconcile with what can’t be changed and then find peace by knowing who you are. Its also your chance to avoid the hard work and pain, to lay the blame elsewhere and ignore the fact that you will make the same choices over and over. Either path is difficult and only one of them has an end in sight. What will you choose?

  12. maybe im getting it mixed up, but are you saying that in terms of having a husband, being emotionally and physically alone is as good as it gets? If that was your attitude, no wonder you would fall for someone else. everyone deserves to have someone, and it can certainly be better than that. my wife and i have been crazy about each other for 18 years. That’s what my 2 girls see, and I agree with everything else in this article.

  13. Whether cheating is passed on via DNA or through intergenerational transmission, it is ultimately up to an adult “cheater” to be accountable for his/her actions. After reading this piece — which I found incredibly sad and lonely — it seems to me that the author, and perhaps her father, struggle less with monogamy than with love addiction.

  14. Anonymous Male says:

    I can’t sit comfortably in moral judgment, because that would make me a hypocrite. I put myself in a very similar position one time and have taken responsibility for it, and I know what it’s like to be in the middle a bad situation that I created. My room to judge is infinitely small.

    My criticism here is with a huge logical blind spot in this article. I wonder if anyone else noticed this.

    The message is for fathers to be aware that their behavior influences their daughter’s lives. Their father’s infidelities may have a profound influence on their children’s view of marriage. Okay, I’m with you there. Good general wisdom, seems to me.

    But, I can’t help but notice that the author has a son. I’m wondering if she’s written to women-centered sites warning women about the effects of marital infidelity on their sons?

    If her son cheats on his wife at some point in the future, will she be able to accept blame for that? That would be a consistent extension of her argument.

  15. Its interesting that an article of this nature is coming from a woman. Monogamy is not Natural, its a contraption just like a car, democracy, free market, created to define humans as higher intelligence creature an element of Civilization. Author, If you stay faithful in a relationship its because you are ethical. I applaud the you for your honesty, and you didn’t cheat because cause another woman under the same condition would say fuck it i would seduce him. But the question here is, Are you happy?. How long would you continue goggling the internet looking for excuses not do it. just tell your husband and handle it as a couple.

  16. What?? My mother cheated on my father, and I have the desire to have sex with people who are NOT my partner… Do I blame it on my mother? No.

    You have an odd way of looking at things.

  17. The issue with proper accountability is not that there are no mitigating factors that diminish, to some varying level of degree, the ability to make a full and conscious choice, rather, it’s that everyone can lay claim to some level of mitigating factors. So I blame my dad, he blames his mom, his mom blames her father, her father blames the magistrate of the village who then blames the appointee of the region who points to a biblical passage dictated from God herself.

    The assumption that everyone is exposed to some level of persuasion and/or coercion does not strip away the notion of free will. Rather, the whole concept of free can only exists in a context where persuasion and coercion nip at your ass on a daily basis.

    • wellokaythen says:

      Very well said.

      I think it’s an important step for a person to realize where some of her influences come from. I have NO problem with tracing some of that back to a person’s past in an attempt to understand why she does what she does. That’s all good. The problem I have with this article is that it seems to stop there and go no further, largely laying responsibility at the feet of other people. The last paragraph kind of moves towards suggesting taking responsibility, but it’s still not very big on owning her choices.

      Seems to me the ideal way forward is to try to understand some of the influences to one’s actions AND to take responsibility for those actions. People have external influences AND they have agency. Utlimately you make choices, even when it doesn’t feel like you’re making choices.

      If something is all my father’s fault, that means that really no one is to blame at all. He’s a product of his parents, who are products of their parents, ad infinitum back to the Big Bang, so really it’s just the fault of this crappy universe, which apparently mandates that I cheat….

      • I agree very much with both of you. On a site like this, though, which wants personal stories, I saw it more as an explanation and rant, rather than an excuse–but I could be wrong. It’s now started to remind me of how when a man sleeps around on his wife, everyone just goes…well he did because…he’s a man and…cavemen. Yes, 2 million years ago some human predecessor went out and paid a transvestite to give him a blowjob (I know that’s an exaggerated story, but still)? It’d be worth it to look into the past or your genes to help you understand what you’re doing, but it’s ultimately up to you to make the right choice, both as men and women.

        • wellokaythen says:

          To be fair, I think the title was probably not the author’s choice, but an editorial decision meant to grab the reader’s attention. It doesn’t quite match what the author says in the body of the piece. I’ve almost gotten used to that practice by now, but not quite.

          • Good point. Misleading titles and taglines are a common thing.

          • wellokaythen says:

            And, now that I look at it again, the title just says he made her “want to cheat,” not “made her cheat.” It’s not a total abdication of responsibility.

            Perhaps that’s where I was hoping to see a bigger distinction within the author’s point of view. Wanting to do something and doing it are two very different things. If there’s no difference between desiring someone and having an affair with someone, there’s a big problem with not recognizing one’s own agency.

  18. Henry Vandenburgh says:

    Welcome to the human race, OP! My theory is that many more of us are like this than we say.

  19. Sally,

    Does your husband know about the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy? Or is that also covered by the “don’t tell”?

    I have a perverse admiration for people who like this poster do something wrong and write honestly about it. But I agree with others – that women are allowed to excuse their own bad behavior by blaming some man somewhere. In this case, it isn’t the poster who is at fault, but her father?

    No man would get any sympathy for an article like this. I’m encouraged that for the most part this author isn’t also.

    • I would give a man the same reaction for an article like this as I would a woman. It’s not an excuse, but our past can be used to explain or make sense of how we act and think. And as for Sally, it’s not her daddy that makes what she does ok, it’s the agreement that she has with her husband, which seems like a very good one to me. Honesty is usually the best, but a lot of partners don’t want to know absolutely everything, even in an open marriage. A marriage doesn’t have to be monogamous to be a good marriage, and the definition of monogamy varies from couple to couple.

  20. I’m all for bringing tough to discuss issues into the light, which is what this article did. So in that vein, bravo.

    But that’s where my admiration ends.

    You’re in your 30s and by your own admission didn’t start cheating until recently. As Eric pointed out, you’re not a girl or even in your early 20s. You know right from wrong. Hell, given your dad’s infidelity you should know it more than most. If anything, you should have a clearer notion of why cheating is so destructive.

    But instead, you do research specifically with the goal of being able to pin it on genetics so you won’t feel as bad. And it appears you haven’t mustered up the intestinal fortitude to do the right thing and tell your husband what happened, even though you’re perfectly content to tell all of us anonymously on the Internet. And yet you describe your husband as “distant, cold and quick-tempered.” I have news for you, you’re a thousand times worse based on your actions.

    One of the main themes I’ve seen over and over again at Good Men Project is a failure to take responsibility for one’s own actions. It’s not a black person’s fault he’s in jail, blame it on society. Women never act crazy, it’s because men engage in “gaslighting.” And now grown women shouldn’t be blamed for cheating, it’s daddy’s fault.

    There’s a fine line between discussing important issues and whining that our screw-ups are someone else’s fault. You pole-vaulted over that line in this case.

    • “It’s not a black person’s fault…” if you would’ve just said a person, then you it would’ve been easy to hear your point. I mean, I agree with it but you don’t have to racialize it. This reveals your own agenda here. Be careful with the race comments.

  21. Oh and Paul, we have a don’t ask, don’t tell policy so it’s not technically cheating.

    • I think what a lot of the comments here are trying to say is that choices are just that, choices. They are the responsibility of the chooser. Trying to blame parents, society, or whatever is ridiculous. As for hypocritical and unreasonable, how is it unreasonable to expect someone to take responsibility for themselves and their choices? It is hypocritical to point a finger of blame or responsibility at others, regardless of whether ‘most people don’t quit when they turn 30’ is true or not.

      You are a cheater. Period. You entered into a marriage and are having extra-marital affairs. This is cut and dried. If you want to be married, and therefore committed to another person, fine. If you want to sleep with lots of people also fine. Just don’t try to eat your cake and have it too, all the while putting the blame on someone else for your choices.

    • Yeah, how is it backstabbing if you don’t have a don’t ask don’t tell policy? That actually sounds like a great arrangement. Complete and brutal honesty can cause a lot of jealousy and fighting, while full monogamy cause cause a lot of frustration and fighting. As an adult, a parent’s actions are not an excuse, but can certainly be an explanation. While they don’t make everything we do ok, a lot of our experiences, especially as children shape how we act and think (for better or for worse). For example, my mother’s extremely conservative views on sex caused me to rebel and go into the opposite direction. I’m an adult now and can try and change my views if I want to, but it’s worth it to understand why the thinking is there. If this article were written by a man about his mother, I would have had exactly the same reaction. I’ve heard a lot of men (both in media/stories and in real life) who mention their mothers’/fathers’ cheating when talking about their own cheating–or why they will never cheat because they were closer to the parent who got cheated on.

      • Sophist–she clearly stated that she and her partner have a don’t ask don’t tell policy. That gives her license, not her dad. She doesn’t have to excuse anything–but this site features a lot of personal stories, so she’s allowed to explain, as I’ve said in my above comment.
        Sally–I understand. Though I’m in a very happy and sexually awesome relationship, it’s hard not to look at other men (and sometimes, women) wherever I go and just want to…*clears throat*. It gets to the point of being highly distracting at times. I haven’t cheated on my partner and don’t plan to, but I understand the impulse. I know you’re joking, but please don’t start wolf whistling though…it’s creepy and would be very mean and disrespectful to your husband. 🙂

      • I don’t understand how qualifying it as an “explanation” rather than an excuse makes it any better.

        If I’m hungry, I can eat a piece of cheesecake, or I can eat a salad. No matter which I choose, the explanation for why I’m eating is “I’m hungry” yet one is still a healthy choice and the other not so much.

        Your own story is also an example: you rebelled “because of your mother.” But if you had conformed, it would also be “because of your mother.” So really, no matter what choice you made, the explanation would be the same.

        If the author’s father had been the model of monogamy, could she have cheated on her own husband out of “rebellion”? Why didn’t she choose to react that way? What use is an explanation when it can result in such wildly diverse outcomes?

  22. What an excellent article! Since my mother once had an affair, I now have license to cheat on my SO as much as I like.

    Oh wait… that excuse only works for women blaming Daddy for their infidelity? Darn.

  23. So Paul what you’re saying is the article shouldn’t have been written at all? The point of this site is to discuss subjects that are meaningful but divisive. If I reacted as harshly to other articles where men are incredibly rude and offensive written on this site as you have to this one nothing would get written and no open discussions that could possibly change behaviours and/or minds would ensue. Are you this harsh with men who cheat or think about cheating or do you reserve your rancour for women only…. I suspect the latter.
    At the end of the day we all blame our parents for something and most people don’t quit when they turn 30. Let’s not be hypocritical and unreasonable. Nobody is perfect.

    • Where was I rude? I didn’t use any personal insults (like calling her stupid) I disparaged her actions. If you post something on a public forum, you are explicitly inviting people to comment on it, whether they agree or don’t. If the author didn’t want to face negative feedback on her ideas, then she shouldn’t have posted.

      And damn right I would be ” This harsh with men who cheat or think about cheating.” You have no call tthink otherwise, other than some need to paint me as a bad guy (because, I suspect, I touched a nerve.) Though the fact of the matter is, I wouldn’t have a need to be, because a man would never get away with writing an article like this.

      And like I said, if your husbands cool with your “activities” more power to you. The Author, on the other hand, gave no indication that this was the case with her marriage, and every indication that it wasn’t.

  24. I’m going to have to agree with the author whose story is almost exactly like mine. In fact the first half I wondered if I’d somehow woken in my sleep last night and authored it myself….
    My father was a cheater and turns out I am too. Men like to think only men do it. Perhaps they think it makes them more powerful, more in control, they can call the shots in their relationships – to cheat or not to cheat as if they are the only ones who feel desire, lust or seek connection through physical acts. Turns out many women do too. I am deeply happy in my marriage (which includes children) and unlike the author have never sought out an emotional relationship with anyone else however I have slept with two men in the 10 years I’ve been with my husband, both in the last year and I find myself more and more attracted to other men. Wherever I go, to the shops, a bar, the playground, the beach I check men out all the time, kind of assessing whether I’d like to have sex with them or not. I wonder if I have too much testosterone running through my body! Soon I’ll start wolf whistling as men walk down the street..
    But seriously, given that I am happy in my relationship and we still have a fantastic sex life I wonder if I cheat because then if he cheats it won’t hurt as much as it hurt my mother when she found out my father had been cheating on her?
    But then I conclude that I’m probably over thinking and it’s simply a question of does one believe in monogamy or not and does one truly like sex. Turns out I think it is great when you are having children but once they get to a certain age I’m not convinced it is absolutely necessary in a relationship. And that age is not 18 more like 4 or 5. I would caution against emotional attachment to others but pure sex that doesn’t cause you to want to leave your partner, what is wrong with that? Perhaps in a few hundred years time they’ll look back at our so called monogamous society and laugh at how we deprived ourselves of something natural. Either way, I’m sure my father’s regular cheating played a part in making me the cheater I am today. He did also influence me in good ways, hopefully they outweigh the bad.

    • Whatever you have to tell yourself to sleep at night Sally. Have you told your husband about your “extramarital activities?” If not, why? If sex is no big deal, as you say, then why keep it a secret?

      I ain’t a prude, if your husband’s cool with it, by all means go for it. But I can’t abide liars and backstabbers.

      As for this article, I gotta side with Eric and James. Once you’re past 18 it’s time to grow up and accept that everything you do after this point is your owm damned fault. Can you imagine the response if a man had written this article, blaming his mother for his being a cheater? The phrase “man up” (However disgusting a phrase it is) doesn’t exist for nothing, after all.

      • “Once you’re past 18 it’s time to grow up.”

        But how does one do that? It’s always easy to see what others must do. But the way is not always obvious from the inside looking out. It seems to me this author has shown great courage and insight in confronting her past. I wish I could look at my life with the same ruthless honesty.

    • Men don’t think that only men cheat. We know better. The feminist led media want EVERYONE to BELIEVE that only men cheat, and when women do cheat, it must be the fault of men. Just like this article does. The truth is women are just as lustful and dishonest as men. Equality!

      • Luckey,

        I agree with you…and I’m a feminist. It’s true that women can be just as lustful and dishonest as men.

        But where in the world did you get the idea that “feminist led media wants EVERYONE to BELIEVE that only men cheat”?? That would be *extreme* feminism, but not mainstream. Feminist is for equality, valuing women and men the same (while recognizing their differences, because, of course, we’re different!).
        Keep in mind there are extremists in everything: from feminism, to religion, to personal values & beliefs. So I’d appreciate it if you withheld yourself from making sweeping generalizations about feminism (or any other group, for that matter).

      • Oh for heaven’s sake. Of course women cheat. Strict monogamy really doesn’t seem to work. I can’t think of a single woman’s magazine that hasn’t had articles on the problems of “getting caught” “being the other woman” as well as men’s cheating issues. Humans sneak around and justify it all the time.

        This is simply a POV piece about one woman’s discovery about family dynamics that influence her life and relationships. I could write a POV piece about being raised by a mother after my father died and title it, “Daddy please don’t die.” and list all the dynamics I’ve uncovered in my life due to a) his death and b) my mother’s choices after the fact and would you all then say, “Oh golly and women never complain about it when women die!”??

        I think kids absorb all kinds of dynamics from the family of origin/family systems theory ( that they play out later. She figured out at 35 she patterned a few things that didn’t work well. She’s dealing with that. Better at 35 than at 55, I say.

      • Wait, there’s a feminist-led media?! What channel?

  25. Eric is completely right. And if a man had authored the same piece, again, no sympathy from me and id completely reject the reasoning offered. Daddy’s fault???
    Siu, if you fell for this, then are you very very vulnerable to manipulation

  26. I loved this article. I come from a divorced family because of an affair as well..however with turned tables. However when its the mother that has the affair.. you want to do everything in your power to not do what she did.. Another thing as well… we have a tendancy to forgive and accept our male influences more easily and completely then our female influences(if female). its one of the idiosyncracies of human nature. Excuse my spelling as well.. I speak and write a different language more so then english and I am gettying rusty.
    Bravo Good Men Project, your articles are unique and a breath of fresh air.

  27. Fathers do influence their sons and their daughters, no doubt.

    But, when you’re around 35, lived with one man for 3 years, married another man, divorced him, and then married another man for 8 years, you a grown-a** woman who knows right from wrong very well.

    Way too old to blame it on daddy or the devil. Neither one made you do it.

    • Eric, maybe you should read the last paragraph again. Here’s an excerpt: We can veer off that map, toward health and strength instead of your legacies of mistakes, but it’s very hard, like paddling up-stream on a raging river.

      • I see your point but the title of the article and much of the content lays the blame squarely on her father’s shoulders. If she were a very young person as the time (teens or early 20s), I could be persuaded that his actions had more of an impact than she could resist, but when you’re 35 or older on your third marriage, you don’t suddenly start to cheat because of your father’s actions.

        Had she said that she established a pattern of cheating in her teens and maintained that pattern into her 30s, that would be a different story.

        • Had her father lead the way, she might’ve gotten a leg up on healing herself. Instead, she had to go thru all those failed relationships and this crush-of-all-crushes before she recognized the problem and began to heal.

          • Or, she’s a human, and human beings tend to rationalize poor choices. Rationalization is especially frequent in instances where a person knows the choice is bad beforehand and makes it anyway.

            And when we see someone trying to rationalize away their mistakes, it’s not wrong to call them out on it.

    • (r)Evoluzione says:

      Eric M,
      Don’t you know that women aren’t responsible for their own behavior? It’s teh eeeevil patriarchy. Always.

      You need to go back to feminism 101. Obviously you failed that class at the local PC University.


  1. […] the line was sex, but I’ve heard enough stories from women now to realize that at least for some, an emotional connection outside the marriage can cross the line into cheating territory. In particular, it’s the sex talk I don’t know what […]

  2. […] post My Father Made Me Want to Cheat on My Husband received a great many comment that talked about how responsibility one individual is in the midst […]

Speak Your Mind