Does He Cheat? is a depressing little handbook. A mostly honest look into the habits of cheaters, the book describes each sign of cheating, followed by an explanation by a confessed cheater and a word of advice from the authors, Sterling Anderson and Stephanie Dart. The interviewed cheaters are men from various walks of life that have divorced, separated, or remained married.
Much of the book’s pages simply point out the obvious. Strip clubs, pornography, and a cheating father figure are not surprisingly common traits of a cheater. There are also more novel examples given, like going into the office early instead of staying late, keeping cocaine in his car, and an excessive golf habit. The authors weren’t seeking to unearth clues the slyest of unfaithful partners leave behind, but rather to provide a wake-up call to women who are too-easily deceived.
In addition to pointing out blatant signs of infidelity, Does He Cheat? also pokes holes through many excuses men are given in our day. Although men are protective and secretive with their multimedia devices, it’s noted that “electronics are not proprietary in a secure, committed relationship.” We’re also given the truth that ogling is not acceptable, and that the cultural message of women as toys is a dangerous lie. “Some cultures encourage extramarital affairs,” the authors harp, “But you ask any woman in those cultures, and she will tell you it’s a lie — it only comes from the men.” The “bro code” is diminished for lacking this sentiment: “…it takes a real man to be loyal, honest, and loving toward your wife, girlfriend, or partner.” These are all needed reminders for a society bent on devaluing women, commitment, and the marriage covenant.
There are very interesting glimpses into the minds of adulterers throughout. It’s interesting, but not quite surprising that cheaters justify their behavior. (“My wife just never pays attention to details. It makes me feel like she wants me to cheat.”) The “cheat” is less about the partner and more about the prohibited act (as in the divorcé whose ex became his new mistress). The once a cheater, always a cheater idea holds up anecdotally. It also comes as no surprise that the other woman often sounds pretty repugnant rather than exotic. And through pages of sad stories, the most irritating trait is the selfishness of the cheater. “A four dollar receipt from the local convenience store almost cost me hundreds of thousands in divorce fees,” said one interviewee, more concerned with his legal and financial obligations than his marital bond.
While the book succeeds in observing the nature of adultery, so prevalent in our society, it fails in offering a real solution or any real hope for husbands and wives. The “men are pigs” trope is about all the explanation one could extrapolate from the various episodes, and the “women are too darn naïve” concept recurs constantly. Basically, one reading gets the impression that they are either a sucker, a cheater, a loser, or just lucky. There is no hint of the marriage ideal of mutual submission and self-sacrifice that would trump the base desires and weaknesses that corrupt so many broken relationships.
The naiveté card is the most common. The authors presume that there is a natural trust inherent to females, and that this is a problem. After a slew of gotcha strategies to catch an unfaithful mate, the reader is pronounced “…now an empowered woman. Use your new knowledge wisely.” There might not be a much sadder picture of marriage than a wife welcoming her husband home with Trojan hugs and kisses disguising her attempts to discover any foreign smells on him. Or a wife’s generous offer to caddy for her husband extended to call his bluff, rather than actually enjoying something he loves with him.
In addition to calling women to snoop or be suckered, the book also sets up a dichotomy between desired object and unwanted loser. After we are introduced to Geoff, who found his marriage worthless since his wife wouldn’t commit to multiple partners, a tragic solution is given to those with prowling spouses: “Since he wants a new partner, give him one — in you.” If he’s dressing to impress someone else, you are told to break out some different underwear of your own to keep him from getting so distracted. These unhelpful tips discount the positive ambitions the book at times strives for, laying an awful lot of blame on the “boring, stupid wife” just as the adulterous husbands do.
The book, referred to earlier as a handbook, is actually in full paperback form, despite each page ranging from one sentence to one paragraph — it’s the shortest 166 page book you’ll ever read. This was a poor layout choice for a book that would have worked much better as a small pocketbook for flipping through, with humorous quotations and an attractive design. Instead, it’s a big book of empty spaces with painfully minimalistic design, and no sustained humor. Instead there are a few wanting attempts at coining catch phrases like “If he disrespects his mom, he will disrespect you” and “…take this BS as a Bad Sign”.
Does He Cheat? is a decent, if clunky, guide to the symptoms of cheating. As an aid to curing the illness beneath cheating habits, or advice for dealing with suspected or confirmed cheaters in a healthy way, it is sorely lacking.