Should you stay with a man who goes astray?

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Helena Frith Powell (pictured) said it would be foolish to give up a long-term relationship for a 'little side dish'

Helena Frith Powell (pictured) said it would be foolish to give up a long-term relationship for a ‘little side dish’

YES

By Helena Frith Powell

Would I ever trust Dominic West again if I were his wife? There she was at home with their four children, when pictures emerged of him staring admiringly at a lovelorn Lily James.

He stroked her cheek, snuggled up against her on a scooter (and, what does a 50-year-old man actually do on a scooter?)

Despite all this, Catherine FitzGerald has decided that she can trust her husband again. After a few comforting weeks in Lamu, an idyllic island in Kenya, she has agreed to take him back, on the condition that he never has contact with Lily again. I think she did the right thing.

Many women will disagree. They will see it as anti-feminist and weak, even foolish. They will claim that once a man has gone astray, he will do it again. And again.

In my opinion, it would be more foolish to give up on a relationship that started when they were college students, and a life with four (still relatively small) kids, because what one of my friends describes as “a little side dish.”

Infidelity is often the result of circumstances rather than personality. Sure there are some serial adulterers, but it is ridiculous to sentence someone to a life sentence of suspicion for going astray once.

After sharing a few bottles of wine with a beautiful girl over lunch, how many men would be tempted to stroke her cheek, just like Dominic West did?

What about a business trip where you end up in bed with someone you will probably never see again? Do these, or countless other circumstances that can lead to infidelity, make a man (or a woman) untrustworthy? I do not think so.

Don’t end a marriage with a little side dish

What if you refuse to trust your partner again on the basis of something that actually meant nothing at all? Thus, you are both deprived of a truly meaningful relationship and a happy living together.

A man who goes astray may well do so in search of his true partner. I have a friend who is married to a man she had an affair with while still having an unhappy relationship with his now ex-wife. As far as I know, he’s been faithful for twenty years and counts.

I would be more upset if my husband announced that he would rather spend time with and talk to another woman than have a quick affair in Rome. Although I would rather if she wasn’t a 32-year-old movie star.

Lucy Cavendish (pictured) argued that a person who cheats cannot be trusted

Lucy Cavendish (pictured) argued that a person who cheats cannot be trusted

NO

B.and Lucy Cavendish

Fifteen years ago I was in a pub with my then boyfriend. He looked at me pleadingly and held my hands.

“I promise I will never do it again,” he said with tears in his eyes. I was shaking with shock and pain when I first found out that he was having an affair during our long-term relationship. I told him I would never trust him again. But he was adamant.

In the end I decided to continue my relationship with him. I told myself I knew what womanizers looked like. They were shrewd, charming types who had (at least) two cell phones, disappeared for days and came back with lipstick on their collars. My friend was none of those things. So I took it back.

A year later . Well, I don’t have to spell it. This time I walked away with the words my mother once told me – “a leopard never changes its place” – ringing in my ears.

She knew this very well, since my charismatic father couldn’t fully commit to one woman either. He loved my mom, but he just couldn’t resist a pretty face and flattery. He was also good at begging and grand gestures.

So no, I don’t believe anyone who cheats can be trusted. Once they cross that rubicon (the first time they stray), they don’t stop.

The problem is that the cheater enjoys cheating. They may well say they don’t, but even the most remorseful unfaithful husband knows deep down that making a promise not to do it again – never to contact that woman again – is an impossibility.

Witness Dominic West telling his wife that he will never see or speak to Lily James again, with whom he is said to have had an affair. It might have kept them together, but I doubt his wife sleeps easily at night.

Cheating is medicine – the tension is just too alluring

Because cheating is all about drama. It’s here and there are exciting little get-togethers as well as illicit sex. It’s a powerful medicine. The thrill of the subterfuge is just too alluring.

Some men are born serial adulterers, believing that it is their right to admit their priapic tendencies. Some do it out of arrogance and ego, others because of a collapsed ego.

The only time I’ve seen men kick the habit has been in my role as a relationship counselor, where couples work hard to look at the cause of the cheating. But there are very few cheaters who are ready for this level of control and commitment. Cheating is avoiding commitment.

Whatever the reason, once the forbidden fruit has been bitten, it’s nearly impossible to forget how good it tastes. Hence, it is a habit that is nearly impossible to kick.