There are compelling reasons why men don’t seek help to end their affairs.
Have you ever wondered why most men seem reluctant or downright refuse to ask for help when they’re stuck in an affair?
After all, being “the other man” is just as painful as being “the other woman” and yet, when you look for information about affairs, it’s usually aimed at two groups of people—the spouses and “the other woman.” It’s not really surprising that most men in affairs—the ones in “the other man” type situations—don’t feel comfortable reaching out for help when they want to end their affairs.
Advice for Ending Affairs Doesn’t Cater to The Other Man
When it comes to affairs and advice and steps for people to take to end them, almost all the advice is for the betrayed spouse and their partner—the first group—to help them stay together. These focus on how a marriage can heal after the affair.
Our culture still sees marriage as something sacred and we pledge ourselves “Till death do us part.” This obviously reflects the effect of religious morality in our cultures.
Then there’s some advice for the second group—the other woman. Though all too often she’s seen as the villain—epitomised by the stereotype of the “bunny boiler,” from the late 1980s film Fatal Attraction. Still, there are resources out there and other articles that portray her as more of a victim, with the cheating husband the one who should be judged.
Advice for “the other man” is practically non-existent. And yet, some research suggests that there are lots of men stuck in affairs or recovering from them. Around 70% of marriages experience an affair. That same report suggests that 60% of married men and 45% of married women have been in an affair. According to one study, 59% of Italian men and 35% of Italian women admit cheating and half of British men and 20% of British women admit cheating at least once.
So that suggests there are quite a few men who find themselves in an affair, though it’s not clear how many are “the other man.” So why then are they practically invisible? One obvious answer is that men don’t ask for help so it’s tough to discern how many are actually in the role of the other man.
But why don’t men in affairs ask for help? If a man is in trouble, and things seem out of control, doesn’t it make sense to find support?
Here are three reasons why men don’t seek help to stop affairs:
In our culture, to be masculine is to be the powerful one and to be vulnerable is seen as shameful.
In his first outing (as Daniel Craig’s) James Bond (after a particularly brutal and violent sequence in Casino Royale) finds Eva Green’s character in the shower, distraught. He steps into the shower and comforts her. He’s unmoved by the violence, by the death. He’s there to protect her. There is no weakness on display.
In another scene, when a woman says she’s married, Bond says that’s just as he likes it.
Men are raised to be tough and powerful. And women are raised to desire it.
In theory, there is nothing worse for a man than to be perceived as weak. It’s still an insult at schools: You’re scared. You’re weak. You’re a pussy. Grow a pair!
Let’s think about the meaning of those words for a minute. Men’s genitals are portrayed as tough, strong, powerful. Women’s are portrayed as weak, something to avoid. At school, there are two common insults for boys: to be a “girl” or to be “gay.” Men learn this as much from their childhood friends or other boys as anyone else. By the time a boy is a teenager, he has generally internalised this idea and is trying to live up to this impossible standard of always being powerful and masculine and not showing any vulnerability.
But Brené Brown, a world expert on shame and vulnerability, reminds us that women, too, help to hold men to these impossible standards. In one of her TED talks, she recounts meeting a man who explained to her that the women in his life would rather that he “die on a hill” than fall off his horse – i.e. Show vulnerability or weakness.
So, for all the challenges to the idea of masculinity that have happened over the years, there’s still an ideal held out for ideal masculine behaviour as powerful, in control, heterosexual, and fearless.
It’s impossible to imagine James Bond asking for help because he’d fallen in love with a married woman. He’s too powerful. Too in control.
What about real-life men, though?
When a man is in an affair with a married woman, there’s a power differential. He’s often waiting—just like the other woman—for the affair partner to leave her husband. He’s prey to all the same abusive tactics of his female affair partner: triangulation (between himself and the husband), intermittent reinforcement (one moment you’re in a
“relationship,” the next she’s back at her house), gaslighting (“We are in a relationship,” every married affair partner suggests, but it’s just not true, you’re a side piece).
This leads to a loss of self-esteem, a loss of a sense of who you are, and—ultimately—a feeling of shame. There is the terrible feeling of not being enough to be really loved.
Shame makes people want to hide away. Shame makes you want a hole to open up underneath you which you can drop into. Shame is all about hiding your true self away.
But real men aren’t meant to show weakness and to ask for help is to show that you’re not completely in control. It means risking being seen as a “pussy.”
Men don’t, historically, talk about their emotions.
To appear powerful and in control, men don’t talk about their emotions but are taught instead to repress them, and deal with them by themselves.
Common emotions that are socially acceptable for men are anger, lust, assertiveness, and excitement. To be “a man” means fear, sadness, silliness and other emotions must be banished. To admit them is to be unmanned.
So many men don’t talk to their friends about their emotions but mostly focus on sport, on politics, and so on—the safe subjects. This is one of the major differences between groups of men and groups of women. Women talk much more about social things like relationships.
Happily, many younger men are starting to challenge this pattern, and are much more open to difference, to more fluid gender roles, to acceptance. But at the same time, there is still a competing parallel to hang onto stoicism, to “stay hard.”
This isn’t all bad, though.
Life is tough, after all, and there’s no point wandering around as a victim or fragile. A lot of people could do with a good dose of stoicism and its principles that we should face our fears and that, through struggle comes strength.
But what happens when a man is in trouble? When he’s not feeling in control? When he’s not feeling strong? When he feels sad, depressed, weak or afraid?
That’s when he needs help—be it a coach, a therapist, or just a good friend with good advice and support. That’s when he needs to be open about how he’s really feeling. That’s not the time to hide his real self.
But that’s what most men do.
Men don’t tend to look after their health and that means their mental health, too
Men are notoriously bad at looking after themselves. They don’t go to the doctor when they’re sick. They often don’t eat as healthfully as women. They’re more likely to drink to excess and smoke. They drive themselves hard and into the ground. As a result, they suffer physically and die younger.
According to some reports, they’re 24% less likely than women to visit the doctor, and 22% more likely to neglect cholesterol checks and so end up having more heart attacks.
So, if men are so notorious for neglecting their physical health, why would they take their mental health any more seriously?
Statistics show that 2/3 of people seeking therapy are women even though the psychological pressures on men are likely just as high. Men are more likely to successfully commit suicide, which should be a warning sign of the pressure they feel.
- They feel inadequate at not measuring up to the image of the “ideal” powerful man.
- They feel inadequate at not having a six-pack and a chiselled jaw.
- They feel inadequate at not achieving public success, in careers or elsewhere.
- They feel like imposters when they achieve that public success.
And yet they don’t ask for support. So, it’s no wonder they don’t ask for help when they’re in an affair.
It’s obvious why men don’t ask for help in ending their affair relationships.
Looking at those three reasons, it’s easy to understand why men don’t ask for help in stopping an affair. They’re expected to be powerful, they suppress their emotions, and most don’t ask for help anywhere in their life (ever been stuck in a car with a man who refuses to ask for directions?).
Not only does this hurt them, but it also hurts other men. It’s one of the reasons that there’s hardly any support for those who are seeking help. They are very nearly invisible, but just like women who are stuck in affairs with men, they need help and support too.
Everyone deserves to heal from an affair relationship—something that almost always ends up as a damaging relationship. The other woman and the other man are usually the ones who are worst treated, most judged, and least supported.
It’s time for that to change. It’s time for men in affair relationships to not only ask for help but to feel safe enough to do so without fear of judgement or disempowerment.
If you’re a man in an affair relationship and you need help, I’m here and I will hold a safe space for you to share what you need to share without fear of judgement.
More information on ending affair relationships: