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Family Dynamics

Infidelity: A Survival Guide by Don-David Lusterman, Ph.D.

Dr. Lusterman is a regular contributor to the website. His book, “Infidelity: A Survival Guide” has been extraordinarily well received by reviewers. Dr. Lusterman has spent thousands of hours counseling clients who needed help coping with infidelity. In this book, he shares what he has learned in a step-by-step format that helps readers cope with the emotional impact of the affair, decide what it tells them about their marriage, and to either choose to break up or begin to rebuild their relationship.

Don-David Lusterman, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist specializing in marital and family therapy in private practice in Long Island, New York. A frequent media guest, he has appeared on NBC’s Today show and Oprah, and has been the subject of numerous radio and print interviews.
Some of those who have reviewed “Infidelity: A Survival Guide” are listed below:

"A wise and thoughtful book that will help many people write a happy ending to a pain-filled story.”
~Rabbi Harold Kushner

“…a wonderful guide for couples dealing with the aftermath of an infidelity.”
~Constance R. Ahrons, Ph.D.

To purchase "Infidelity:  A Survival Guide," click here:  PURCHASE the BOOK 

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March 25, 2010 - 5:50pm

Dr. Don-David Lusterman

Thank you for your question, Jodi. Let me begin with what is probably good news. There are many statistical estimates of how often infidelity occurs. Estimates vary, but it is interesting that almost all estimates find that men appear to have some kind of extramarital sex about twice as often as women. The good news is that while some see 45% of men and 25% of women having had at least one extramarital experience in the life of their marriage, the study I respect the most (because it surveyed 1500 people each year for many years) finds about a 15% incidence, including 21% men and 12% women. One of the problems is that there are no direct statistics about womanizers, who are very different from people who have affairs. So if we are talking about 21% of married men, many of whom had affairs, the percentage of womanizers is a still smaller number. This is a long-winded way of saying: Tell your friends that it’s a great exaggeration to say that most men do. A better answer is that a small minority of men and a somewhat smaller number of women play around. Your friends gets an A+ on the Tiger Woods question. It wouldn’t be much of a story for the National News to reveal that your neighbor Bill had played around -- that doesn’t sell papers. So if you are looking to be “outed” -- be sure to be famous first.

March 23, 2010 - 2:43am


My friends tell me often that most men play around, and the only reason people like Tiger Woods get "outed" for it is because they are famous. Is it true that most men play around?

March 3, 2010 - 4:18am

Dr. Don-David Lusterman

Thank you for your questions, Ms. Reich. Please begin by reading my response to Diane, which outlines many of the characteristics of womanizers and their marriages. As to Tiger Woods' honesty, i can only say that I have watched his statement many times, and find it similar to genuine statements of remorse I have witnessed in men I have treated for womanizing. Of course, there is the possibility that he was very well coached, but that doesn't indicate that he was not experiencing remorse. Now let us consider the possibility of change: One of the first things I ask my patients is: Do you believe that, for the most part, people are remediable and redeemable? I believe that it is a strong possibility, but only if the person experiences remorse. Being "sorry" is a tiny hill that can be traversed many times without change, Remorse is a cruelly difficult mountain, one that most people do not wish to climb again. . It is a profound and transforming experience, uniting a new understanding of one's own values with a profound feeling of sorrow about the wrongdoing and its consequences. Given remorse, yes, people are capable of profound change. Dr. Don-David Lusterman

March 1, 2010 - 5:18pm

Dr. Don-David Lusterman

Thank you, Diane, for these excellent questions. I will try to answer them, but please remember that since I have not ever treated Tiger Woods, all I can talk about is general principles. I have no way of knowing the particulars of his case. It is possible to imagine that this was nothing more than a staged event. I have watched this interview a number of times, and with each repetition I become more convinced that, despite my belief that he was well-coached, he was nonetheless sincere. Let's begin with a brief explanation of how and why some men become womanizers. Many parents of boys who become womanizers have difficulty providing the consistent, loving attention that creates in the growing child a sense of safety and security. Some parents provide a degree of emotional attention, but in such an inconsistent way that it confuses the child. The result of these types of upbringing may lead to a tremendous sense of emotional emptiness (narcissistic deprivation). Less frequently, parents, and sometimes an entire family, so adore a boy that he comes to believe he could do no wrong (narcissistic surfeit). Ironically, these boys also experience emptiness -- not because they had so little, but because they had so much that they felt entitled to continual praise and support. They come to expect adoration from all, and are sorely disappointed as they mature that the world doesn't provide it. The womanizers we are most likely to hear about are those who have achieved fame, in a sport, in government, entertainment or similar professions. These are men who suddenly have the power, prestige and opportunity to do what they wish with little fear of its consequences. Their earlier sense of loss and emptiness is then replaced with an almost intoxicating sense of privilege. A question I ask almost every person that I treat or teach about family therapy is: Do you believe that, for the most part, people are remediable and redeemable? My hope is that the answer will be "yes." When I meet a couple where the wife has discovered her partner's womanizing, I look for possible strengths that might help them to move to a new path. For example, most womanizers, once exposed, will proclaim that it was "a victimless crime." They state with great seriousness that that they love their wife, their kids, their home, their car -- and they mean it! Remember -- the careers of most of these men began long before they married -- often in mid-adolescence. Men who womanize will often tell me it is "second nature" to them, and often they have done it many times and gotten away with it. They are often shocked and frightened when they are discovered. When a man like Tiger Woods, an intensely private person, is pressed to express remorse, he will refuse -- unless he has begun to grasp the pain that he has imposed on all who care about him, including himself, and begun the painful task of taking responsibility for his actions. Remorse, once deeply felt and expressed, is a transforming experience. It is remarkably different from appology. If you come to the point of profound remorse, you do not ever want to put yourself in that situation again. This is when he is ready for the intense work, often through treatment, that will give him the tools to maintain and strengthen change. The best possibility of a good outcome occurs when the wife becomes strong enough to make it clear that she will no longer tolerate this behavior, and that he is not welcome in her llife or their home until she is sure his goal is change. Your final question asks whether a man whose behavior so disregarded his wife can ever change. Remember that in all likelihood his attitude and behavior preceeded their marriage. In some way, just as he lied whenever he needed to self protect, she was either in denial herself, or knew about but tolerated it. As they work together, there is good reason to believe that if each takes on these new responsibilities, both will have changed, and they will agree that his disregard for her was in their past, but not in their present.

February 26, 2010 - 3:28pm


Do you believe that Tiger Woods was being honest in his presentation? Even if he was being honest, would it make any difference? Could someone like him ever change?

February 26, 2010 - 11:01am

Maxsa R

Could Tiger's wife ever trust him again? Would you ever try to help her?

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