London - When, just two years ago, Jack McNamara spoke of his love for his bride, there wasn’t a dry eye among their wedding guests.
The couple were already doting parents to a four-year-old son and Jack was like a father to his wife’s daughter from a previous relationship. No one among the 100-strong party - least of all the groom - would have guessed that a mere eight months later, Jack would cheat on Dawn.
“I bumped into my first girlfriend, Lauren, in a pub one evening and she made it clear that she still liked me,” says the 27-year-old recruitment consultant from Liverpool. “The attention was nice and so I avoided telling her that I was happily married. I didn’t wear a ring, so she had no reason to suspect.
“We met over the next three weeks and slept together twice before I came to my senses and finished it.
“I love my wife very much. She’s a great mother, very caring and beautiful. The perfect woman, in fact.
“I cannot believe how stupid I was to risk everything we had for an affair.”
Many will find Jack’s adultery repellent. But he is by no means the first to jeopardise a happy relationship for a brief fling.
A controversial new book argues that infidelity and marriage are entirely compatible.
Eric Anderson, author of The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love And The Reality Of Cheating, goes even further.
He makes the extraordinary claim that men have affairs not despite the fact that they love their partners, but because they do.
Dr Anderson, Professor of Sociology at the University of Winchester, interviewed 120 men and discovered that those who cheated did so because they were sexually bored, and not because they weren’t in love.
He concludes that monogamy is an unrealistic expectation, arguing that men cheat - rather than walk out - because they love their wives and want to stay. If they didn’t, the obvious alternative would be to walk out and enjoy guilt-free sex with a new partner.
“Evidence suggests men who cheat are romantically fulfilled, but unsatisfied with having sex with one person,” says Dr Anderson.
“It’s a subversive interpretation, but I’d suggest these men cheat because they do love their partners - they are simply too afraid to take the chance of losing them by expressing a desire for recreational sex with others.”
Certainly this accords with Jack’s experience. He was so terrified of losing the wife he loves that he ended the affair before she found out.
But the damage had already been done. Dawn, 37, was suspicious about Jack’s increased absences and checked his cellphone bill to see which numbers he had been calling.
One number appeared repeatedly. When Dawn rang it Lauren answered.
“Lauren told Dawn that she didn’t know I was married and admitted we’d slept together,” says Jack. “Dawn then rang me at work and told me not to bother coming home.
“She was angry and hurt, which I understood. I hoped she might just need time to cool off but that was last March. She hasn’t had me home since.”
Although the mess is undoubtedly of his own making, it would take a hard heart not to acknowledge that the 14 months since the break-up have been torturous for Jack.
He has contemplated suicide - once coming close to throwing himself from a multi-storey car park. His GP signed him off work for a fortnight and prescribed antidepressants.
While Jack lies awake most nights thinking about his wife and the love he has thrown away, Dawn has petitioned for divorce.
Jack is a “weekend dad” to his son, Ben, a situation he finds deeply upsetting, and the stepdaughter he loves wants nothing more to do with him.
“There really is no excuse for what I did,” he admits. “We had a great relationship and were best friends, meeting for lunch most days so we could spend time together without the children.
“We had a beautiful home, wonderful holidays to America, Spain and Turkey and enough money to enjoy life.”
Having had many months alone to contemplate the reason for his affair, Jack has concluded that he craved attention. As a nursery nurse and a devoted mother-of-two, there were many demands on Dawn’s time and Jack says he sometimes felt neglected.
“Dawn is ten years older than me and I met her when I was 19, so she helped me mature - but obviously I hadn’t grown up enough, or I wouldn’t have done something so stupid as have an affair,” he says.
“But I love my wife and she’s the only woman I want to be with. If I thought for a moment that Dawn might one day take me back, I’d happily spend the next ten years just waiting.
“But she says that while she can forgive my affair she can never forget, and she doesn’t feel that is any basis for a happy marriage.”
While Jack says that sex in his marriage was still good, Francine Kaye, relationship coach and author of The Divorce Doctor agrees with Eric Anderson’s thesis, that many men who stray do so because they’re bored and crave sexual variety.
“It’s not that they don’t love their wives, but they don’t have the emotional intelligence or courage to say: ‘Look darling, we need to up the ante and re-ignite our passion, otherwise I might have an affair’,” says Francine. ‘”hese men are reluctant to hurt their wives by admitting they’re bored, so instead they embark on a fling and hide it from their wives.
“I’ve seen it time and time again. Passion in their marriages wanes, and they think the grass is greener.
“But one body is much like another after a while. What they should do is teach the old body a few new tricks.
“I tell these men they should work on the relationships they have, and making them the best they can be.”
This requires them to take the time to figure out what attracted them to their wife in the first place then try to reconnect with that. This might involve going out on dates, enjoying shared activities and learning to communicate again.
Francine explains: “If she says: ‘He never talks to me’ and he says: ‘She talks the hind leg off a donkey’, he should be turning up the volume and she should turn it down. It’s a matter of adjusting the setting on communication and rediscovering each other.”
Poor communication between Ben Hicks and his ex-partner, Beth, was a factor when he strayed three years into their relationship.
Ben enjoyed socialising, but Beth had a child from a previous relationship and was a homebird, which meant he often went out alone. Ben, 39, a media manager from Daventry, Northants, would have liked them to do more together, but never insisted she join him.
One night, while watching an England match in a pub, he got chatting to a female friend of his cousin and soon afterwards they began an “intense affair” that lasted six weeks. “I suppose all the tell-tale signs were there - me hiding my cellphone so Beth didn’t see text messages, and going into the garden to take phone calls,” says Ben. “Beth suspected there must be someone else and confronted me.
“I denied it but felt so ashamed at the prospect of hurting the woman I loved that I ended the affair.”
But even after his dalliance was over, the guilt proved too much for Ben and he came clean.
Beth insisted he move out.
Ben was devastated that he had caused the break-up of a relationship with a woman he loved very much and spent the next six months persuading her to take him back.
Finally she did, promising to forget the affair, but every time they argued Beth used Ben’s infidelity as a weapon. Eventually, they decided to try for a baby and were overjoyed when their son, George, was born.
However, the arguments continued and in 2005, when George was 14 months old, they split.
“It was all my fault, I was a complete fool to ruin something so beautiful,” admits Ben. “My affair led to so much anger and resentment and to this day I have no idea why I did it.
“I loved Beth and we had a happy life together. It took me years to get over losing her and while my son stays with me regularly, I cannot believe I’m not with him every day. My parents separated when I was only two and I never imagined I would put people I loved through the pain of an affair.”
George is now eight and although Ben is settled in a new relationship, he was deeply unhappy for years afterward and sought solace in a string of brief encounters, as he searched to replace what he’d lost.
Paula Nicholson, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of London, dismisses outright Eric Anderson’s theory that men cheat because they love their wives.
‘” can’t see that it makes any sense at all. When men cheat - and let’s not forget that the majority in long-term relationships do not - they usually do so because they’ve had the opportunity,” says Professor Nicholson, who counsels couples at the Tavistock Centre in London. ‘”f a man goes on a business trip and has sex with someone he meets in a bar, he’s unlikely to be thinking: ‘I’m doing this because I love my wife’. He’s just hoping he doesn’t get found out.”
Having at first agreed to forgive and try to move on following her husband’s affair, there was to be no bright new beginning for 41-year-old Katy Edwards.
Katy, a primary school teacher, suspected her husband was being unfaithful when she discovered photographs of a female colleague, taken at a wedding party, on his cellphone in June 2009.
“We were with our two children enjoying a break at Thomas Land [a Thomas the Tank Engine theme park] when my husband showed me some photographs taken at the evening party, which I’d not been at, the previous night,” recalls Katy. ‘” thought it odd that there were pictures of one of his female colleagues, sitting alone.
“We were staying in a family room at a Travelodge and once the children - then aged four and two -were asleep, I confronted him.
“I said ‘Is there something you need to tell me?’ and he immediately replied ‘Yes’.
“He said he’d been having an affair for six months and that it was a relief to finally admit it.
“It was a horrible shock, I felt sick at the thought of my husband with another woman and couldn’t bear to be near him. I spent the night sitting out in the corridor.”
Over the days that followed, Katy was in a daze as her 42-year-old husband begged her to forgive his affair.
Although hurt and angry, Katy, from Glasgow, agreed to give it a go, for the sake of their daughter and son, and they arranged to attend marriage counselling.
She and Nigel had been married for nine years, having met when Katy was 26, and were drawn together by a shared love of travel.
They spent time together in Australia, Canada and Europe, but this mutual interest, Katy acknowledges, was difficult to maintain once their children came along and the demands of careers and parenting left little time for one another.
However, few would argue that adultery is a constructive solution to a problem so familiar to many working parents.
“We had been doing up our house, turning it into a lovely family home, and Nigel said he’d come to feel like a handyman,” recalls Katy. ‘”ut I was cooking, cleaning and looking after the children.
“All it took was another woman to give him attention and he was willing to risk everything we had together.”
Katy believed her husband still loved her and, as she wanted their children to grow up with both parents together, was able to give their marriage another go.
“I think men can love their wives but still stray because, certainly in the beginning, affairs are more about sex than deep feelings,” says Katy. “That’s what my husband said about his affair during counselling.
“He said he had tried to end it a few times but the other woman got very upset and gradually it developed into more of a relationship.”
Despite the counselling, and her greatest efforts, Katy found it impossible not to be suspicious every time her husband took a phone call or left the house, which put a huge strain on their marriage.
In November 2009, five months after confessing to the affair, he moved out into a rented flat.
The following February, he asked if Katy would take him back and give their marriage another chance.
She refused, all too aware that the lack of trust between them would make it unworkable, and is now waiting for their divorce to be finalised.
“Although I never wanted my children to suffer the hardship of coming from a broken home, the trust had gone and I don’t think we could have ever got it back,” says Katy. ‘”Sometimes love is not enough - when your husband has been unfaithful, how can you not live in fear of him betraying and hurting you all over again?” - Daily Mail