By: Katie Lersch: Many women see their husbands very differently after he cheats or has an affair. This often involves perceptions of what is on the inside – which is something that you can’t see. Sometimes though, there is a change of perception about what you see on the outside. And this change can come from the man himself. He can see himself differently (and more positively) because he internalizes the approval that he thinks he is getting from the other woman.
A wife might describe this situation: “my husband has always been a decent looking guy. But he has never been vain. That is one thing that I always loved about him. I always thought he was gorgeous, but he never seemed to think this about himself. He could look good without even trying. He has no self awareness and he would wear clothing he picked out in about two seconds and wouldn’t take any care with his appearance. Outward looks really never meant much to my husband and that was a big appeal to me. Well, since he had an affair, suddenly how his looks matter a great deal to him. That was actually one reason that I suspected that he was having an affair. Suddenly, he started going to a stylist instead of his usual barber. Instead of ordering his old standby clothes from a catalog, he began shopping at the store where my son shops which caters to a much younger crowd. He traded in his SUV and got a sports car that is much too small for our family. I catch him primping in the mirror all of the time. He almost struts when he walks. It’s as if he thinks he’s a male model instead of a middle aged father. Honestly, I had thought I wanted to save my marriage, but his preoccupation with his looks is now a huge turn off for me. I’ve never been into men who are conceited and full of themselves and that is just how my husband is acting – like he thinks he’s hot stuff. He’s good looking. But Brad Pitt has nothing to worry about. My husband is still a middle aged man. And he doesn’t seem to get that.”
I know how frustrating this can be. He “doesn’t seem to get” that he’s a middle aged man because he simply doesn’t want to – at least for right now. In fact, much of the time, this is what the affair is all about. It doesn’t have much to do with the other woman. But it has everything to do with him desperately attempting to prove to himself that he is still worthwhile and he is still in the game. Many men have affairs at a time when they are seriously doubting their own attractiveness. So when the other woman tells him how good looking he is, (or at least says this with her actions) it’s sometimes just exactly what he was wanting to hear.
Many of us don’t appreciate that men have doubts about their looks in the same way that women do. And many of us women will feel that a man who worries about his looks is pathetic and vain. I understand this and I had the same thoughts. But one day I was in the bathroom and applying heavy moisturizer and feeling a little down about it. And I realized that this was actually the same thing that my husband was probably going through. Many things about aging are wonderful. We often realize life truths that have long eluded us. We are often settled and more confident in some areas. But we all look in the mirror and know full well that our looks are changing. Men are no different.
I am not trying to defend your husband. But I am trying to offer you reassurance that this doesn’t always last forever. This will often end about the same time that the affair does – particularly if your husband is the one who broke it off. I know very few men who are still acting this way years after the fact. This is one way that they externalize what they are feeling inside. Once the novelty wears off on the inside, you usually see it change on the outside.
One way to help you to have a little patience with this (and not to be as turned off) is to try to see him for what he truly is – a middle aged man who is struggling with insecurity. It might look like conceit on the outside, but it is really insecurity. And we all have insecurities as we age. And many of us will try different skin care regimens or hair styles or ways of dress in a way to counter this and make ourselves feel better.
Yes, your husband has taken it way too far. But I suspect that it won’t last. I know that you may be tempted to tell him how stupid he looks, but this may make him feel even more insecure and actually reinforce the behavior. You might seem him primping more instead of less. I think it’s better to try to see him as someone who is struggling and know that it is probably going to pass. It’s more important to decide where you want to go from here than to focus on his primping.
Unfortunately, emotions tied into how we look become magnified under the scope of infidelity. I experienced this also. And for a while, I did focus on improving my appearance because his affair hit my self esteem. This did make me feel better at the time and improved my confidence. Feel free to read more on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com
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