When dealing with infidelity, it’s useful to know who initiated the extramarital relationship. Was it the unfaithful spouse or the other woman/other man? Here, I want to talk about the latter case: where the other woman/other man pursued the married person.
It’s a sobering thought, but the unhappy fact is that an otherwise loving and devoted partner can fall prey to spouse poachers or to what I call “partner predators.” Partner predators find sport in seducing someone else’s spouse or partner, and may go to great lengths to do so. They can be masters at exploiting another person’s kindness, vanities, weaknesses or personality traits.
Spouse poachers – or “partner predators” – find sport in seducing another person’s husband or wife
Take the classic case of a “lonely, heartbroken” man who seduces another man’s wife by playing on her feminine sympathy. He might tell her how his ex-wife cheated on him and how much he wishes he could have met a woman like her instead.
He looks at her with those lovesick puppy-dog eyes until one day he steals a passionate but forbidden kiss. He knows it’s wrong and he begs her forgiveness, but he can’t help himself! She’s just too beautiful and he cannot resist her any longer!
Before you know it, she’s swept up in his passion and desire for her and the affair is underway. It’s intoxicating. Of course, it’s a bunch of bullshit. To him, it’s all a game. He’s managed to steal another man’s wife right out from underneath him, and that’s quite the ego boost, isn’t it?
And then there’s the classic “damsel in distress”
Another classic example is the “damsel in distress” who seduces another woman’s husband by playing on his masculine desire to feel needed.
She bats her eye-lashes at him and laughs at all his jokes, telling him what a wonderful man he is and how lucky his wife is to have him. Oh, if only she had such a strong, sexy man in her life!
She begins to “rely” on him for more things, until he begins to feel responsible for her. If she isn’t asking him to fix her computer or help carry something heavy, she’s asking him for his advice about her love life, planting seeds of intimacy.
And then one day as she’s crying on his shoulder about how poorly yet another man has treated her, she manages – through her pretty tears – to place a soft, stolen kiss on his lips.
Before you know it, he’s swept up in her need and love for him and the affair is underway. It’s overwhelming. Of course, it’s a bunch of bullshit. To her, it’s all a game. She’s managed to steal another woman’s husband, and that’s a real power trip, isn’t it?
When the “thrill of the hunt” is gone
But what do partner predators do once they’ve “caught” their prey? That is, what happens when the betrayed spouse ends the marriage, thereby removing all obstacles to the affair?
Well, the partner predator then releases its prey. The thrill of the hunt is gone.
I sometimes compare partner predators to my cat Frosty. Frosty is a very spoiled animal. He has everything he could want; however, he loves the thrill of the hunt and even though his belly is always full, he will hunt mice in the back field and leave them on the doorstep just to prove that he’s “still got it.”
He never eats these mice. Sometimes he’ll gnaw on their tail for a bit, but it’s just for show. Once he’s caught them, he doesn’t want them anymore. He leaves them lying on the doorstep while he trots off, tail in the air, in search of another victim.
So why does he do it? Because it’s in his nature. He’s a cat. He’s a predator.
The ugly truth is, some people are like this, too. Partner predators have nothing to lose in this game; however, they know that their “prey” has everything to lose. And that is part of the fun. That adds to the thrill of the hunt.
The science behind the seduction
There is science to back this up. Research has demonstrated that some people are more attracted to members of the opposite-sex when they know the person is married or otherwise committed. When told that a certain man or woman is “taken,” these predator types experience a pleasurable rush of excitement caused by the brain chemical dopamine.
Dopamine – called the “pleasure and reward” hormone – is produced in increased amounts when a person is “in pursuit” of a potential romantic partner. Partner predators can become addicted to this rush of pleasure and excitement, motivating them to “catch and release” prey over and over again.
I’ve seen this play out many times. Sometimes the partner predator will grow bored and leave its prey on the doorstep as soon as something sexual happens. Mission accomplished.
A more vicious species of partner predator will wait until its prey leaves his or her spouse and/or family – believing he or she has found true love – before being satisfied that the hunt is over. It then abandons its prey on the doorstep and sets off on a fresh hunt.
His or her baffled prey – the unfaithful spouse – is left to wonder what the hell happened. “I thought you loved me?! I risked my marriage for you, and now you’re just going to walk away?!”
This discussion is in no way meant to excuse the actions of an unfaithful spouse. A person who has broken his or her partner’s trust is completely responsible for his or her own choices. There’s no point blaming or trying to persuade the other person to back off. This isn’t about the other person. They owe you nothing, and if it wasn’t them, it would just be someone else. This is about you and your spouse – so always make sure the focus stays there. Don’t give the other person the satisfaction of your time or emotion.
This is between you and your spouse, so use this insight to strengthen your marriage
Rather, this discussion is meant to provide relevant and valuable insight into a scenario that I often see play out when it comes to infidelity.
Frankly, it’s useful to know that partner predators are out there. It’s always wise to know your enemy. If you can spot a partner predator from a distance, you and your spouse can work together, as allies, to reinforce and guard a fortress of devotion around your marriage and family. I’ve tried to give Frosty’s prey that kind of heads-up. He now wears a flashing neon collar with a bell so that hopefully his prey can see and hear him coming.
Remember that even in the best of marriages and with the strongest of fortresses, partner predators can come sniffing around from time to time. You never know when or how they’ll strike or which spouse might be their prey. But unfortunately, they are very good at what they do and their “wolf in sheep’s clothing” ways can be very seductive.
Don’t give up! Things can get better
If you’re facing this problem, don’t wait until things get worse. Many spouses have been where you are right now and have decided to handle things smartly – instead of just angrily or emotionally – and they’ve seen the return of a more loving, mature and devoted partner.
If you need help to make that happen, consider my Marriage SOS™ series of online crash courses, including one for betrayed spouses who are facing this kind of situation. With its high success rate and practical application, it may be precisely what you need to turn your situation around, starting today.
Debra Macleod, BA, JD, is the founder of MARRIAGE SOS™, a proven and no-nonsense way to save a sinking marriage. She has served as an expert resource for major media around the world, from The New York Times and Entrepreneur to ELLE and Men’s Health.
Visit her homepage to see all Marriage SOS™ Online Crash Courses or book a phone consult.