Entitled to an Affair
One common characteristic of those who embark on an affair is a sense of entitlement. Often the underlying reasons for someone’s choice to have an affair are masked by personal justifications and excuses which typically place the blame on the relationship or partner/spouse.
Lurking in the background, cheer-leading the way into an affair, resides entitlement. It is a powerful ingredient in the goopy soup of infidelity rationales and is sprinkled over the challenges of life with liberal abandon. It becomes like magical fairy dust, blanketing any pesky thoughts of betrayal, wrongdoing or personal fault in a glittery, sparkly coating of deservedness.
During the secrecy of an affair, the sense of entitlement is often supported and nurtured by the affair partner gently cooing how the cheater deserves to be happy, or how his wife treats him so terribly, or how people shouldn’t ignore true love or a small piece of happiness.
There is a nauseatingly endless supply of mashups of this kind of mutual moral licensing:
- “God wouldn’t have put you in my life unless it was to pursue our love”
- “You can’t help who you fall in love with”
- “What she doesn’t know can’t hurt her”
- “This isn’t an affair, it’s love”
- “It doesn’t mean anything, therefore it’s harmless”
- “Oral sex isn’t cheating”
Patterns of Behavior
It isn’t a surprise to find multiple examples of entitlement tendencies in someone who is having an affair, and it’s foolish to believe that their sense of entitlement is confined to their affair behavior alone. It is more likely to be part of a bigger pattern of behavior and thinking which can be discerned in other aspects of their lives.
The faithful spouse generally will claim that their cheater’s affair is completely out of character, and it can certainly feel that way. But if you start to peel back the layers, you can start to identify patterns in their behavior that are echoed in their affair mind-set. After a while it becomes obvious that the affair is just an extension of already-present attitudes and world view, it’s just that you had no cause to really examine it before.
In her article, “9 Types of Entitlement Tendencies and How to Overcome Them“, Dr Alice Boyes gives some examples of entitled thinking, that we’ve summarized here:
- Feeling exemption from societal rules
- Expecting favors from others without reciprocation in your own behavior
- Expecting others to be interested in you/your agenda
- Ignoring rules intended for everyone’s comfort
- Causing inconvenience to others
- Being offensive
- Expecting credit and respect more than others
Change in the Cheater
Dr Boyes also detailed five ways in which issues of entitlement could be tackled. However, her final point in the article is the sticky wicket with cheaters:
People with entitlement tendencies come in two types – (1) those who feel ashamed of their tendencies and feel motivated to change, and (2) those who see no reason to change.
Dr Alice Boyes
The overwhelming majority of cheaters fall into category (2).
Active cheaters are not concerned with changing themselves – many have an incredible capacity to behave abominably and still consider that their pursuit of their own satisfaction is normal, unremarkable, and a basic right of all beings. They do not view their behavior as needing change or correction, and it’s not uncommon to find that they believe that everybody else is similarly prepared to put their own enjoyment above the potential harm it does to others.
One might assume that a former cheater would have an entirely different perspective, especially when confronted with the pain and devastation of the faithful spouse. However, it’s an unusual cheater who takes a genuine look at their faults and flaws and who then decides to pursue personal growth and change.
Most typically, a former cheater finds ways to shore up their internal narrative about why they cheated, why they felt entitled to that course of action, and examples of how their situation in some way compelled into it. This narrative tends to follow the lines of unmet needs, compromised mental health, sex addiction, or ‘the marriage’. They re-write history and blame their spouse all while attending weekly therapy to ‘work on themselves’. However, it’s rarely admitted, even internally, that entitlement was an underpinning issue for their choice to have an affair.
“The abusive man’s high entitlement leads him to have unfair and unreasonable expectations, so that the relationship revolves around his demands. His attitude is: “You owe me.” For each ounce he gives, he wants a pound in return. He wants his partner to devote herself fully to catering to him, even if it means that her own needs—or her children’s—get neglected. You can pour all your energy into keeping your partner content, but if he has this mind-set, he’ll never be satisfied for long. And he will keep feeling that you are controlling him, because he doesn’t believe that you should set any limits on his conduct or insist that he meet his responsibilities.”
~ Lundy Bancroft
(It’s worth stressing after that quote that entitlement is a cheater issue, not a gender issue.)
When considering reconciliation with a cheater, unless you make their change to their thinking the minimum requirement to your participation you are unfortunately setting yourself up for a repeat of the same behaviors.