Cheating Advice

A Word of Introduction

Wayne & Tamara are writing a book about cheating, infidelity and adultery. The tentative title of the book is Cheating In A Nutshell. As they say in the preface, there would be no point in writing the book unless it was different from what is already out there.

woman in bed in lingerie

Cheating In A Nutshell is based on the insights gained from reviewing thousands of letters on cheating from the first 19 years of the Direct Answers newspaper column. From those letters a clear pattern emerges.

What follows is the draft of the preface of Cheating In A Nutshell. The book will be published in 2019.


We never planned on writing an advice column. The creative director of one of the two largest U.S. newspaper syndicates saw something we wrote and asked us to submit sample columns. When we hadn't heard anything from him in a month, we decided we would start the column ourselves. An hour and a half after sending out a few emails, we had our first newspaper. Six weeks later we were in five or six papers in the U.S. and Canada. Two years later the column was in newspapers in twelve countries.

Before long we were getting more letters than we could answer. The letters came from musicians and chefs, ranchers and housewives, factory workers, businessmen, and a minister performing weddings even as he doubted his own marriage would last. Some letters were full of misspellings; others ended with an imposing title and a business address.

One group of letters stood out, not simply because there were so many of them, but because the writers' wounds were fresh even when their injury had been inflicted years before. These were the letters from those betrayed by the person they were dating, living with, engaged or married to.

The letters followed a predictable course, which is not surprising. Though our feelings often surprise us, our emotions follow universal patterns. Betrayal feels like betrayal for a reason, and there are reasons it is so hard to forget.

In Cheating in a Nutshell we retell some of the stories we were told. None of the stories is exceptional; each is emblematic. Many times we balance a story with contemporary research, but the book doesn't depend on that research. Fads in social science change, but the content of this experience does not change.

At the beginning let us mention we are going to say some hard things about the published works of different people. We assume they are well-intentioned. What we say is in the nature of a review of their published work, to the extent we can gauge their meaning from words on a page. It is not our aim to hold them up as straw men so we can knock them down, but to further the dialog about infidelity.

Often their intent differs from ours. That explains some of the differences. What our critique of their work comes down to is a difference of values. We believe our values are more strongly supported than theirs, and our goal here is to demonstrate why, not to demean their intentions. We don't question their desire to be honest. We question their interpretations and, sometimes, their ability to report facts.

We wish we could have answered all the letters we received because we know how much pain the writers were in. Of the many we did answer, we wish we could have answered at greater length. But there simply wasn't the time. If we had found a book on infidelity we could recommend, we would have recommended it. But we couldn't. So we knew in time we would write this book.

Our aim is to give you a book which fits the reality of betrayal. This book is the longer answer we wanted to give each person who wrote us.

Before writing the book we reread slightly over 3,000 cheating letters from the first 10 years of our column. As we wrote we had three groups of people in mind:

1. Those just learning their partner deceived them,

2. Those who stayed with a cheating partner and have now had enough, realizing things cannot be restored, and

3. Those betrayed in a past relationship, who seek deeper understanding of what happened.

To confirm our impressions we looked at another 1,000 letters from the most recent six years of the column. There has been only one change. Today's children and teenagers have never known a time without the internet. They have never known a time without smartphones.

This technology has given these children, often called Digital Natives, a voice about their parent's cheating, and what they say challenges the traditional notion of "staying together for the sake of the kids."

We hope the book will encourage the next generation of researchers—perhaps now only undergraduates—to take infidelity research in a more accurate and factually correct direction. In Cheating in a Nutshell we discuss emotional infidelity alongside physical infidelity, rather than treating it as a separate topic. We do this because the two share much in common and because emotional infidelity is so often only the cover story for deep physical involvement. The damage from each is similar.

Lastly, let us say, if we have a point of view, it is because the facts point in one direction. We cannot find a way to make the case for another side.

In The House on the Strand, a novel by Daphne du Maurier, the main character is a man named Dick Young. At one point Dick says, "Truth is the hardest thing to put across." We agree, and we would define truth as that which corresponds to facts. Truth is not what we wish to be true or what we would hope to be true. Truth is what corresponds to facts.

Thousands of people wrote us. They had a story to tell. This book is the explanation of that story.

Wayne & Tamara