In his new book, The Truth about Cheating, Gary Neuman elucidates the causes of male infidelity: Apparently, they're not just sex.
The Florida-based psychotherapist and rabbi interviewed 100 faithful and 100 unfaithful husbands over two years and emerged with some grim statistics: 93 per cent of cheating husbands do not confess, and 81 per cent deny it when pressed. Seventy-seven per cent have a close friend who cheated, meaning infidelity rubs off.
Still, Mr. Neuman found that most men don't find their mistresses much more physically attractive than their wives, but do feel more loved in their company. This and the book's subtitle - Why Men Stray and What You Can Do to Prevent It - have drawn the ire of critics who say the author is blaming wives for their husbands' indiscretions. We reached Mr. Neuman in the Catskills Mountains, N.Y.
What surprised you most about cheaters?
It was phenomenal to learn that the men who cheated actually saw themselves as very emotional beings. Women have to understand that men are far more insecure and impressionable than they let on. Men very much want to please their wives. Appreciating [husbands]is not going to give them a free ride - it's quite the opposite. Men keep telling me that when they felt they could win at home, when they felt that their wives were admiring or appreciative, that motivated them. … Many of the men that cheated said they felt that no matter what they did, they could not win at home … whereas with a mistress they felt they were getting verbal and emotional support.
You keep reiterating that cheating is not about sex.
Only 8 per cent of the men said that sexual dissatisfaction at home was a primary contributor. The No. 1 answer, 48 per cent, was emotional dissatisfaction at home. And that fit with another amazing statistic: 88 per cent of the men said the mistress was no better-looking or was not in better shape than their own wives. It's not about sex. It's much more about a lack of thoughtful gestures at home.
What kind of gestures are you talking about?
They were verbal first of all: "I like that." "I appreciate how hard you worked." "What a good dad you are [for]the time you take with the kid and me." Whenever I ask people to write an appreciation list about their spouse, it's a very short list. The most common things missing are, "Great dad, great career person, makes money for the family." People always say to me, "Well, he's supposed to do that." You only get appreciation if you are above and beyond the call of duty. That's unfair, for men and women. Beyond that, it's the little things. It's the call to say I love you, it might be cooking or getting the particular food item that he likes. It might be having sex. It's sending that message: "You're a winner for me and I want to be in love with you." That message will come back to you if you take the first step to do that.
You say cheating is not about sex, but 32 per cent of the cheaters you interviewed said they were sexually dissatisfied, 68 per cent said the sex was "different" with a mistress and 22 per cent noted that the mistress offered sexual options that the wife did not. Clearly, sex is a factor.
I don't mean to underestimate and say that sex is not an issue. … Women are bombarded with media messages that they have to have a PhD in prostitution education or else their husband's going to cheat. Men are not unsatisfied with the sex they're having. They just want to have more sex. That's how they connect and that's meaningful to them.
Do you think wives should work to be more like mistresses?
No, that's too general a statement. It means wives being more understanding of the appreciative concept. … It's not about being more like a mistress, because that's a very different relationship. [With]mistresses, because of the lack of living together, dirty diapers and financial issues, it's easier for somebody outside of the relationship to focus on the positive stuff. To their discredit, too many men gobble that up, especially when they feel lost in their emotional relationships at home.
Your critics say you are blaming the victim.
I'm not blaming women or the victims in this situation. Clearly, cheating is not an appropriate option under circum-stances and that's not what the book is about … Any criticism that I've received has been from people who literally judged a book by its cover. Obviously, the subtitle is trying to say, yes, you can prevent it the same way that in any relationship we can steer the energy in a positive or a negative direction. … I want women to feel that they do have an ability to better understand their mate and create a relationship that does bring the odds down that there would be tragedy.
About 69 per cent of your cheating husbands said they never thought they could be unfaithful. Why do you think women have it in them to safeguard a marriage if men are blindsided by their own indiscretions?
I think that was fascinating because a lot of the men, the cheaters themselves, were surprised. … They never thought that they would be that enticed, they never thought they'd be that impressionable. When I was on Oprah a few years ago … we had the ex-wives of firemen from 9/11. These men had gone to help the widows of their fallen comrades and ended up loving them, moving out and moving in with them. I said, "You can't say these men are bad men. I mean, these are heroes." And yet they did this. I think for a woman to put her head in the sand and say, "My husband's a good guy, he's just going to do the right thing no matter what's going on at home," that's a very unsafe position to take.
Is keeping your husband happy the whole answer? Happy husbands cheat too.
It's statistically untrue: Only 12 per cent of the men in my study said that. Of course, you can have a woman who is emotionally connected, a terrific person, a terrific marital partner, and he'll cheat. But that's not true for 88 per cent of the [cheating men polled] A better relationship at home reduces your odds of cheating.
Have you ever cheated?
I have not. Thank God. The reason my wife and I have not cheated and have the relationship that we have for 21 years and five kids is because we work on our emotional relationship a great deal. … The reason we don't need private investigators is because we don't allow the relationship to go through these periods of weeks and months where we are emotionally disconnected and we have the energy for somebody else. If our emotional energy is being drained to somewhere else, we would know because we connect enough during the week to know that something's up.