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Do Men Have Excuses to Cheat? And Do Cheating Husbands Make Bad Fathers?

Sandra Bullock’s estranged husband Jesse James has been in the news for months, ever since his cheating scandal broke. In an exclusive interview with ABC’s Nightline this week, he blamed his infidelity on the abuse he received as a child. After a stint in rehab, he came out saying, “I grew up with a huge amount of shame and fear and abandonment on my shoulders from a very young age and I think, you know, the way my mind rationalized [cheating], ‘Well, you know, I might as well do whatever I can to like run her off cause she is going to find out what I am anyway and leave me anyway.'” 

Vicki Mabrey countered that many people who were abused as children go on to be faithful adults. So is it that there are real excuses for cheating, or do men who cheat need an excuse?  British psychiatrist Dennis Friedman, in his book The Unsolicited Gift: Why We Do The Things We Do, thinks that men who were raised by nannies have a natural instinct to cheat. He believes that being cared for by more than one woman as a child introduces men “to the concept of the other woman.” 

Friedman says a boy having a nanny “creates a division in his mind between the woman he knows to be his natural mother and the woman with whom he has real hands-on relationship: the woman who bathes him and takes him to the park, and with whom he feels completely at one. As a result, he grows up with the idea that although he will one day go through all the social and sexual formalities of marriage, he will have at the back of his mind the notion of this other woman, who not only knows, but caters for, all his needs.”  Blah, blah, blah.  These sound to me like the romantic, lunatic notions of a man who, it should be noted, is 85 years old and believes a woman’s place is in the home.  Hear that, girls?  Go get a job – if you want your son to be a sociopath and your husband to have a reason to cheat. 

For the record, James’ father Larry denies rumors of having beaten Jesse as a child.  In an exclusive interview with Radar, he said, “I could have never hurt my son for all the tea in China.”  The interview is very revealing and I have to say, quite believable.  Larry says, “What he said in the interview was absolutely heartbreaking to me.  Why is he saying this about me?  To save his image with Sandra Bullock?”

James, in his Nightline apology, said, “I lived this false self for so long because I, you know, I didn’t want anybody to see the real me,” he said. “I really wish I didn’t have to go through all this and put everybody else through this to get to this place, but hopefully with time and my actions, and the things that I do, I hope people realize that, you know, Hey, I’m human, I make mistakes and I’m sorry for what I did.”

But how many mistakes do men have to make before they are considered a bad influence on their children?  Elin Nordegren, Tiger Woods’ soon-to-be ex-wife, is reportedly “building a character case” against Tiger “based on his serial philandering.”  According to an insider, they plan to share custody of their children, “but she wants permission to take them to Sweden whenever she wants.”

I know there are plenty of men out there who fall under the category (hide under the guise of?) “bad husband/good father,” but should certain behaviors – like rampant infidelity – which may not directly affect the children but may affect them in indirect ways, be held against fathers in terms of custody and visitation?  I’m not saying I know where to draw the line, but it does seem to me that some men get away with an awful lot by relying on the ancient adage, “Boys will be boys.” What do you think?

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