Changing Yourself After Discovering the Affair
Have you found yourself vigorously scrubbing the toilet with your toothbrush, considering giving yourself an industrial strength Lysol swirly, as the words, “You’re a terrible housekeeper” ring in your ears?
Maybe you’ve swathed yourself in foil and plastic cling wrap like a modern-day mummy, to help melt away a few pounds while you’re scrubbing your toilet to a shiny shade of awesome, because, “You’ve let yourself go“?
Perhaps you’ve enrolled in Clown School and have already added clown shoes, prank water-jet flowers and multi-colored wigs to your wardrobe, to overcome your chronic kill-joyness as you double over from the body punch of, “You’re so boring and don’t have any outside interests”?
Do you maybe have a bookcase full of, ‘How to Give Her Ultimate Pleasure’ self-helps, in light of a scathing evaluation of your sexual inadequacies? Have you started to practice your technique on various fruits and vegetables, and now smell vaguely of mashed banana?
What about that nagging you’re always doing? Do you have a plan for that? Maybe you have a glossectomy scheduled to resolve that unpleasant trait?
Compare and Contrast
When your cheater ‘explains’ why they had their affair, they put your faults and failings front and center, and often in direct comparison with the perfection that is the affair partner:
“She’s a vegan who eats healthily and runs every day, and you stock the fridge with butter and Hellman’s, in between watching reality shows on TV.”
The cheater doesn’t require that their accusations about the ’causes’ of their affair are reasonable or consequential – all they require is for you to buy into their rationale so that they can shift the blame to you. It doesn’t matter that they were the ones eating butter and Hellman’s sandwiches, while sitting beside you, shouting and throwing popcorn at the Real Housewives of Outer Mongolia. That’s beside the point, can’t you see? The mayonnaise made them do it – the affair blame lies with you for having it in the house. Who knew the power that mayonnaise could have over a person?
Your response to this attack may well be to examine the accusations to see if you can
- recognize a grain of truth in the accusations and
- rush to fix all these horribly awful things about yourself.
Surely if you restock the fridge, turn into a health nut, stop watching TV and become a marathon runner, that will bring your cheater back to you?
The Affair Hot Potato Game
Dumping that steaming pile of brown into YOUR hands is the name of the game for the cheater.
Making the affair your fault, the dog’s fault, the kids’ fault, the mayonnaise’s fault means that they were JUSTIFIED. Any reasonable person faced with the Heinous Hellman’s Horror would do the same thing, right? It doesn’t make the cheater a bad person – no, it makes YOU the bad person for not being who they wanted you to be, and for not meeting their needs.
“Blame the economy, blame bad luck, blame my parents, blame your parents, blame the Internet, blame people who use the Internet.”
~ Gillian Flynn
When your cheater throws you the hot potato, it might be your natural instinct to launch yourself across the room to catch it. Catching the hot potato gives you something to hold onto, something tangible, something ‘real’ that you can have to explain their affair: Your faults.
The problem with catching the potato of course, is that it is going to burn you. Turning your cheater’s affair on yourself is self-destructive and will do nothing to improve the affair situation.
And let’s not mention that there are other steaming piles of brown that are not baked potatoes at all, but a particular kind of sandwich – minus the bread.
Don’t Reward Bad Behavior
It can be tempting to scurry around trying to fix the litany of failings that your cheater has kindly (ahem) pointed out to you as forcing them into their affair. If you accept this blame, it can skew your thinking: If they cheated BECAUSE of your faults and you FIX those issues, your cheater will come back to you, right?
Rushing around to make yourself and life at home perfect while your partner is in affair, is self-effacing and counter-productive. The affair partner will be showing the best of themselves to the cheater, and here you are, scampering around cooking their favorite foods, dotingly ironing their socks, being sexually adventurous, and presenting a perky, happy, smiling face whenever the cheater comes home.
When life’s good for a cheater because they also get rewarded at home for their affair, where’s the motivation to quit either relationship?
Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in the cheater’s narrative about how badly they’ve been treated, or how terrible life has been for them, or how they deserve whatever they want in life because of some perceived cosmic payback for all the ills they’ve suffered. Their affair has not been caused by their past – it has been caused by how they’ve framed their life in the present.
“The world has long ceased to be the author of your anguish.”
~ R. Scott Bakker
Understand that if you allow your reality to be manipulated by an assertion that an affair is an inevitable and reasonable response to an imperfect life with you, you are setting yourself up for a lifetime with a serial cheater.
Instead of rewarding bad behavior, choose instead to only respond to positive behavior.
Making Changes After the Affair
There is no doubt that your partner’s affair will have you questioning who you are, your life, your relationship, and your lack of perfection. Taking a pause to reflect on what you like and dislike in yourself is a good thing, as long as you’re careful not to let yourself be entirely negative. Force yourself to be as objective as you can, and honestly observe your positive traits too. If you struggle to identify positives in yourself, enlist the help of those who love you.
Don’t compare yourself to the magical and mystical creature that is the other person. No matter what you do, you will never measure up to the fantasy that you yourself have created about your cheater’s affair partner. In your mind, they never fart in bed, never overcook the steak, and never slob around the house stuffing mini hotdogs into their face like peanuts in-between playing scratch and sniff with their crotch. In your mind they are a version of perfection to which you can only hope to aspire.
If you do decide to make changes in yourself, don’t do so in the hope that it will lure your cheater back to you. Identify who you want to be, where you want to be, how you want to be, and change only what you want to change for yourself.
The real success of your soul searching and self-critique is that YOU emerge as someone that you are happy to be alone with, and who you are proud to be. THAT is the person who is attractive, not the tearful, lysol stained version of you, sobbing over a baked potato analogy.