Did You Cause the Affair?
The reactions to discovering an affair are manifold, but the immediate reaction to the discovery of an affair is generally not, “I did this, I caused this.” The initial reaction is more commonly one of an outraged, “How could you?!” In this reaction is the truth.
The question of how could they do this to you is founded in your initial, fundamental, and correct understanding that you did nothing to cause it, that you did not deserve it, and that you did not drive the cheater into their affair.
It’s not until you realize that you can’t make sense of the affair nonsense that you begin to blame yourself.
When you struggle to find a reasonable and rational explanation for the affair, you turn to what you know - your own faults. And of course, you are also being prodded into this by your cheater regaling you with all the reasons why your failures and flaws were the cause of their affair. It seems to make sense … yes, you are imperfect and you behaved with misdeeds and missteps. You suppose that these failings are therefore the cause, the reason, the explanation for the cheater’s affair. It’s disturbing how quickly and willing we are to turn on ourselves.
Finding yourself in a swampy post- or mid-affair mess can addle your thinking. Your cheater, the media, advice columns, agony aunts, ‘infidelity experts’, the other person, save your marriage websites … they will all gently (or not so gently) suggest that you were the problem, that you were somehow a catalyst for the affair. You end up feeling a bewildered confusion between reality and your newly learned response that the affair was about what you did, how you failed.
When looking for help and support you will inevitably find traditional advice for healing from an affair that would have you rushing off to therapy to learn new, relationship-saving ways to communicate with your cheater.
Therapy can sound like some kind of magical ‘fix’. But while you’re beginning to believe your cheater’s (often subtle) blame of you and your faults, inside, what you really want is for the therapist (an authority figure) to shred your cheater, to tell them how wrong they are, to castigate them, shame them, blame them, and make them understand what they’ve done to you.
The insidiously creeping messages that it’s your fault have taken seed, and yet you want justice and vengeance and vindication. It’s all so confusing.
When you arrive at the therapist’s office, you would be kindly and sagely advised to create an environment that enables your cheater to safely express how you failed to meet their needs. You would be expertly guided through identifying the vulnerabilities in your relationship, in order to immunize it against another affair.
Well, put your co-pay back in your wallet and take a breath:
- Your lack of Collaborative Dialogue communication skills v2.0 is not why your partner cheated.
- Not all relationships should be saved, including possibly your own.
- In the aftermath of their affair, it should be your cheater creating a safe and secure environment for you.
- We are each responsible for our own happiness.
- Your relationship wasn’t vulnerable to an affair, your partner was.
- Anyone is capable of cheating under the right circumstances.
- An affair doesn’t seek to resolve relationship issues and is not the effect of an imperfect relationship.
- What is this magical cheating-immunity vaccine held by therapists, and why haven’t we seen it on the news or at least in an infomercial?!
Rather than wasting money and tossing your self-esteem into the insatiable maw of a cheater’s ‘needs’, understand:
- You are not broken; you are hurt and being hurt isn’t fatal.
- You are not responsible for your cheater’s choices, they are.
- You did not cause their affair, they chose it.
The Therapy Alternative
Dashing off to the nearest available therapist is an understandable reaction - the pain and fallout of an affair can seem too big for you to manage alone. That helpless feeling is a bewildered confusion of emotions and thoughts, and really, you just want to make it all go away and for the world as you knew it to be restored.
Couples’ therapy can be damaging:
- Not all therapists have any training whatsoever in dealing with infidelity.
- Uneducated couples’ therapy can give a cheater a ‘sanctioned’ platform for their excuses, justifications, and blame of their partner.
- It can teach a cheater all the right words without changing the underlying mindset.
- It can perpetuate and escalate inequity in the couple, it can be founded entirely in the therapist’s own agenda, and it pre-supposes that the relationship should be worked on.
In the immediate aftermath of the discovery of an affair, if you feel that you need the support of a therapist, find a well-qualified and experienced psychotherapist and attend individual counseling sessions with them. Couples’ therapy can be something you consider later, when you’ve regained your balance.
Upcoming posts will start to address how you can return balance, sanity and peace to your life, for free. In the interim, don’t buy into uninformed, popular thinking, or the self-doubts and self-blame designed by the ‘save your marriage’ industry to panic you into buying your ‘rehabilitation’. It is an industry that has created the need so it can sell you the solution.
“Where instinct fails, intellect must venture.”
~ Jim Butcher, Storm Front
I have said it before and I shall unashamedly say it again: Faults in the faithful partner do not cause infidelity. Infidelity causes infidelity. Trust your gut and your reason, see a personal therapist for your own growth if you think it will help, but don’t invest in a relationship with a cheater who blames you for their shortcomings.