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The Script by Vicky Mainzer and Elizabeth Landers

Has anyone read this book? I saw it mentioned on Oprah's website in connection with a show about infidelity.

The book, The Script by Vicky Mainzer and Elizabeth Landers says that all men follow a blueprint when they cheat: "Unfaithful men all act alike. Just like they were following a script. Every woman who experiences an unfaithful husband feels confused and baffled by his contradictory statements and behavior. She starts believing that she really must be crazy, unappealing, selfish and unloving, just as her husband says. It's all a part of the script."

Brian had an affair with a woman at work for two-and-a-half months until he decided to confess to his wife. He believes that the ideas in The Script are pretty accurate. "There's not too many roads you can go on differently in an affair," Brian says. "It's pretty hard to come up with creative ways to cheat."


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Every man who cheats basically follows the same script, according to Elizabeth Landers and Vicky Mainzer, They criticize you, tell you that you have problems and need to see a professional. They may encourage you to take a class, go to the gym or be more independent, or they buy you extravagant gifts for no special occasion and tell you they would never cheat on you. They start to work out, work late, go in early and set all their ducks in a row.

We have found that almost every woman who finds out that she has an unfaithful husband remembers her husband saying several years before, “I Would Never Do That,” while commenting disapprovingly on a man who has just been unfaithful.
A script for philanderers? That all men follow? Sure, it seems like an oversimplified notion about a complex subject. But Landers and Mainzer only developed their theory after listening to a string of friends vent about their unfaithful guys. In each woman's story, the men delivered the same lines, in the same order. Intrigued, the pair started talking to jilted wives nationwide. And in hundreds of interviews, they continued to hear...the same lines, same order.

Landers says that for most men, following the script is a subconscious thing, not some kind of vast masculine conspiracy. "By the time a husband starts down the road to adultery," she says, "he's already heard the explanations and rationalizations that other husbands have used. So he picks up the lines from them." Sure, some evil cads might knowingly quote from the script, but most men are unaware that they're defaulting to it.

Anywhere from 22 percent to 60 percent of husbands are likely to stray, depending on which study you read or which expert you ask. But here's what the majority of experts agree on: Most affairs happen in marriages that are already in trouble -- whether or not the spouses realize that's the case. So do listen for these lines from The Script in your own life; they may or may not be hard evidence that your man's going to cheat -- but they are sure signs that your marriage could be headed for tough times. Here's how to recognize them so you can interrupt the script (no matter who starts it, it takes two to act it out) and challenge your husband to work with you to get through your relationship's rough spots together.

The Preemptive Denial

He says: "I would never do that to you."
Michael Stern,* a 39-year-old record executive, still recalls the day he said these words to his wife. "We were talking about President Clinton's affair," he says. "I laughed at the idea that I'd ever be unfaithful." But a year and a half later, he strayed.

A man who says this line probably believes his own comforting words, Landers notes. But on some level he's following the script, which teaches him to establish his "character" -- the loving, supportive spouse -- early on in his marriage. This comment, says Landers, "throws their wives off track, so they're less likely to believe it when an affair does happen."

The Concern for Your Well-Being

He says: "You need to see a psychiatrist."
Jim Cannon didn't cheat on his wife, but three years ago, the 32-year-old came close. He was attracted to a coworker who was always full of energy. "My wife can get really tired and frazzled," he says. "I know she has a very busy schedule, but I decided that her stress was starting to have an impact on me and our two kids. In my view, she wasn't putting enough effort into our relationship. So can you blame me for my office flirtation?" He suggested that his wife talk to a doctor about going on antidepressants. (She refused.)

In their interviews, Landers and Mainzer found that nearly all of the husbands told their wives that they were troubled or depressed; in many cases, the man would suggest that his wife seek professional counseling. "He may not even realize he's doing it, but he's starting to build a case," says Landers. "He's painted you as the one who drove him away." Of course, some of these women might have actually needed medical attention. "But the you-need-help comment was so pervasive that it couldn't always be true," says Landers.

Luckily, Jim Cannon's office attraction didn't evolve any further. "The more I got to know the woman at work," he says, "I just wasn't interested enough to risk my marriage for her." Meanwhile, when his wife's own office workload lightened, her demeanor did, too. Jim realized that his wife's "depression" wasn't chemical, but a natural reaction to a hectic life situation. And he had reacted by pulling away -- and falling into the script. "I was quick to jump to conclusions about my wife's mental state," he says. "And my judgment was obviously clouded by my interest in the woman at work," he says.

The Blame Game

He says: "I keep telling you to..."
Kelly Hanson's husband said these words so many times that she blamed herself when he ended up having an affair. The 28-year-old had opted to take time off from her career as a home-furnishings designer in order to care for their 1-year-old son. "Ken kept telling me I should go back to work," she says. "I actually wanted to -- I was going stir-crazy in our tiny apartment. But I also wanted to stick to my decision and give my baby another year with me full time."

Landers recognizes the scenario. "He's telling you to improve yourself in some way. Go back to school, join a gym, take time off, whatever," she says. It may look like tough love, say Landers and Mainzer -- your guy is urging you to pursue a goal that will fulfill you. But often his motivation for doing this (whether or not he's conscious of it) isn't so altruistic. One: He's sticking with the script's premise that he's the positive, high-minded spouse -- after all, he's only trying to help. Two: He's positioning you as the one who needs help. But you won't listen. And if only you would, you'd be happier and better off -- which in turn would make him happier.

Kelly, who's now divorced, says she missed this early warning sign. "Ken acted like he was concerned about my feelings about staying home," she says. "But what he was really getting at was that he wanted me to be more than just a boring housewife. And I'd better do something about it, or else."

The Plea for Attention

He says: "What about me?"
Most men won't say this exact line, but it's what they're thinking. The sentiment -- that he's being undervalued by you -- is expressed in other forms, such as, "Can I get a thank-you once in a while?" or "I never get to do what I want to do." Or he might silently sulk, which is what Jim Cannon did. "I didn't feel like my wife appreciated me," he says. "The house was always messy, and on weeknights she spent more time in the kids' beds -- getting them to sleep -- than in ours. Meanwhile, I felt like I was keeping my end of the bargain, making the lion's share of our income and driving the kids around on weekends."

No doubt Jim's wife had a very different perspective, but for a man who's following the script, that's beside the point. "He's feeling like nobody cares and that his contributions to family life aren't valued," says Landers. But it's hard to know how deeply these feelings run if he doesn't tell you.

The Big Drift
He says: "I've grown and you haven't. You don't understand me."
This is a pivotal scene in the script. He's no longer just hinting at a disconnection between you; he's telling you that you two are drifting apart. The plot hasn't changed much -- he's continuing to frame himself as the stronger one, while you've failed to evolve in some way -- but the tension is higher.

The accusatory nature of this line also ends up reinforcing his argument, since a wife often responds with anger. When Kelly heard these words, she says, "I felt like I was being attacked, and then, of course, we started arguing. I came off like the defensive one, the whiner who just wasn't 'getting' what he was saying."

In fact, "I've grown and you haven't" is one of many comments that a man might use to spark a disagreement. "He's forcing you into acting unpleasant or irrational, which further drives a wedge between you," Landers says. "It makes him feel less guilty about spending time away from home."

The Dramatic Pause

He says: Nothing.
At a certain point, there seems to be a break in the script. He's not talking to you -- maybe not even looking at you -- as much as he used to. "Even before I was officially seeing the other woman, I was sharing more with her than I was with my wife," says Michael. "It was just easier to talk to her." Basically, he'd found a new confidant -- a more supportive one.

The husbands of the women Landers and Mainzer interviewed all began to look elsewhere for the appreciation they felt they were missing at home. In their book, the authors call this "talking to A BMW (Anyone But My Wife)." The only information that A BMW has to go on is what he tells and shows her about himself -- so she sees, say, his quick wit, not his hair-trigger temper. As for his wife, "She knows too much about him," says Landers. "So, from his perspective, any other woman is more likely to be supportive."

The Vanishing Act

He says: "I'm going to need more time to..."
He needs to put in extra hours on a work project. He has to spend more time training for a big race. In Jim's case, it was simply: Work is crazy. I have to put in long hours. "My wife didn't know that I was staying late to hang out with a female coworker," he says. The "I need time" announcement comes late in the story, but sometimes before the affair actually begins. His decision to cheat might not be 100 percent certain, but he's preparing just in case. "He's diverting his wife's attention and buying himself some time," says Landers. "This way, he can put off having to answer questions about his whereabouts later."