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Why Do Pro Athletes’ Wives Put up With Cheating Husbands?

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It’s one of the things that wives of professional athletes have to confront in their marriage. What happens when the wife discovers that her man has been unfaithful to her? Why do women put up shameless, serial philanderers? Why do they endure public humiliation, as was the case with Kobe Bryant’s wife during that infamous ski resort sexcapade in Colorado?

Why do wives put her own personal safety at risk, á la Dwyane Wade’s ex-wife, who alleges that he gave her a sexually transmitted disease? Or even Magic Johnson’s wife, Cookie, who obviously could have contracted HIV because of her husband’s rampant sexual affairs? Dr. Steven Ortiz, a professor of sociology at Oregon State University, says a “culture of adultery” has long existed in professional sports. Ortiz claims that there is a “fast-food sex mentality” among professional athletes that makes infidelity tragically inevitable.

As part of his doctoral study at the University of California-Berkeley in the 1990s, Ortiz came up with the following reasons women tolerate their athlete husbands’ infidelity:

1. Show Me the Money: Tom Cruise is not the only one to ever scream this statement. According to Ortiz’s study, there is a category of women who marry their men more for the glamour, lifestyle and money than for love. “It may be that women who marry the ‘athlete’ more than the ‘man’ tend may be more accepting of their husbands’ affairs,” Ortiz said.
2. Security: Many athletes’ wives quickly become very accustomed to the security that their husband’s exorbitant salaries provide. For others, the lifestyle becomes an addiction as powerful as crack, as in the tragic case of Steve McNair’s young murderer.
3. Lack of Self-Esteem: There is no question that many of the athlete’s wives who tolerate their husband’s philandering ways may be classified as ‘beautiful’ by the average man, but many also possess low self-esteem. Ortiz is quick to point out, however, that women who marry their husbands before they become famous multimillionaires have very low tolerance for long-term booty calls on the side.
4. Naïveté: “The majority of the new wives truly didn’t know what they were getting in for,” Ortiz said, “and often they have to learn the ropes from the veteran wives.”
5. Denial: Just like in marriages between average couples, the woman often ignores the small, subtle signs that her husband is cheating. Denial can be a form of defense mechanism to cope as she struggles to confront her worst fears.

Whatever the reason women tolerate the sexcapades of their professionally athlete partners, they all become painfully aware, at one time or another, that there is a price to pay — and sometimes that price is too steep for what they receive in return. –terry shropshire