1. Tears Don’t Move Active Cheaters
We can’t understand how our upset and devastation can be so cruelly and cavalierly dismissed or ignored, and yet it happens time and time again. We sob and wail and gnash teeth. We guilt and accuse and reproach. And yet, it’s as if they’ve been coated with some sort of emotional Teflon! All our grief and distress slides off them like a fried egg in a non-stick pan. It doesn’t even stick if we break apart.
An active cheater will do anything they can to separate themselves from any form of histrionics. They might tell themselves that it’s just manipulative melodrama, designed to make them feel badly about what they’re doing. They might even enjoy warm and fuzzy feelings that they’re so desirable that they have you swooning and fighting over them. They are most probably vilifying you and sharing your anguish as a source of great amusement and delighted ridicule between them and their affair partner.
If you don’t find yourself crying through this at some point, something’s wrong. Tears are your physical expression of your emotional state, and even if they don’t make you feel better, there is some relief to releasing the emotional floodgates.
“It is some relief to weep; grief is satisfied and carried off by tears.”
If you do cry, don’t make a performance out of it for your cheater. Take yourself somewhere quiet and cry, scream, and vent it out, just for yourself.
2. Your Commitment Doesn’t Trump Their Entitlement
Part of remaining stuck in the worst of it is your refusal to accept your new reality. It’s incredibly difficult to understand why they don’t reciprocate when you’re committed and faithful. The Why? question can become such a huge obstacle that you just can’t see beyond it, roadblocking your path forward.
“Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.”
~ Elizabeth Edwards
A cheater who continues an affair after it has been exposed or discovered, feels entitled to do so. They might believe that they are in love with their affair partner, or they might believe that you would never leave them, or that it’s so complicated and confusing that they don’t know who to choose. Many cheaters, though, believe that they are entitled to their affair because:
- the pursuit of love and happiness is societally accepted as one’s right (and even duty)
- that they deserve their affair as some karmic balance for some hurt or misfortune in their life
- they have some kind of special dispensation because ‘the rules’ don’t apply to them in some way
- they reject ‘the rules’ as having any validity, but that they deserve all the benefits of their spouse and marriage anyway
No matter their reason, your continued investment and love won’t effect change in them. They have committed to a course of action, they’ve already decided that their affair is more important to them than the loss of you and their marriage. They may even enjoy having you at home, cooking, cleaning, washing their socks, and looking after the bills and the kids – in fact, you might be giving them all the at-home support that they need to be able to continue their affair.
3. There Can be Real Kindness in Strangers
Don’t underestimate the depth of compassion and support you find in infidelity support forums, and other support groups. Don’t underestimate how willing perfect strangers can be to offer you real and practical support and assistance.
I tend not to personalize the posts to this site, but I am going to take this opportunity to thank the strangers who reached out to me with offers of financial help, care packages, and going out of their way to whisk me away from the madness for a few hours, and even buy me dinner. My gratitude to these people is immense – their kindness and support humbles me to this day. Not all the people who did let me lean on them will ever read this post, but the sentiment is out there in the cosmos, and this site exists partly in their honor.
4. Compassion Comes in Many Forms, and it Doesn’t Always Agree With You
Have you found yourself being irritated, angry, or upset with someone in an infidelity support forum, who has posted something that made you uncomfortable or annoyed you? There are a lot of good people on forums like these, whose perspective and experience gives them a different insight into your situation. Many people can see an alternative reality to the one that you see. Other people can view holes in your rationale, inconsistencies with your thinking, and when your choices seem unhealthy. That someone cares enough to take the time and make the effort to respond to you is their gift to you.
It’s easy to only see compassion in those whose views, beliefs, and style mirror your own, but people in support forums are there because they want to help others through a difficult situation. In my first 12 weeks, I found that no matter how different the views were to mine, people were there to listen, respond, and listen some more. People give up their free time in support forums willingly, and without an expectation of any reciprocation or compensation. Those people were a lifeline for me then – our differences did not lessen their concern and compassion, nor my gratitude for it.
6. Looking Through Your Wedding Photographs is a Terrible Idea
Enough said really. It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that you know better, that it won’t affect you negatively. It will – there may not be an immediate fallout, but the tears and the upset will come. Yes, I speak from specific experience!
Try to put these types of photographs and memorabilia out of the way while your cheater is still in their affair. Keep them safely (don’t burn them in a fit of pique) until you’re emotionally ready to make a decision about keeping them or otherwise.
7. Laugh Often and Loudly
I know, it can feel like you will never laugh again, but you will, I promise you. Try to have some fun away from the affair drama – if you want someone to lift your spirits who understands what you’re going through, you are always welcome in the IHG Chat Room. Just pop in and say that you need some distraction from the gravity and angst of it all. Call a friend, go out for coffee, go to a movie … anything that will redirect you and let you laugh a little. It’s worth it.
8. There’s Always Someone Trying to Impose Their Agenda on You
Some view your marriage remaining intact as the primary goal post-infidelity. Others may have a personal stake in your relationship and perhaps a personal axe to grind with your cheater. People give advice based in their own version of an ideal outcome for you – and that outcome might not be in your sole or best interests.
This site is no different. We do have an agenda, and it’s scrawled in bold type on nearly every page of the website. Our agenda is that you emerge from the affair with clear thinking, empowered to move forward in your life towards your own goals, your self-esteem intact, your own welfare secured, and you fully aware of the implications and authentic reasons behind your own decisions.
We won’t judge you negatively for deciding to stay for financial reasons, or leaving because you can get a really fantastic divorce settlement – in fact, we give you props for not shrouding it in inauthentic – though perhaps more ‘socially acceptable’ – excuses.
9. Affairs Highlight Patterns
Once you’ve had a few months of standing back and observing and questioning your active cheater’s behaviors, you will start to see patterns emerge.
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. Maybe you can identify your cheater’s traits in these?:
- I am always hard done by and downtrodden, treated badly by everyone, even though I’ve done nothing to deserve it.
- I want the kind of good life I see in others and in the media so will take it where I can in that new TV, or designer suit, or big house. I deserve/am owed this minimum happiness.
- My dysfunctional childhood has affected me and that’s why I can behave badly, but if you love me, you’ll understand me and make allowances.
- I have an issue with impulse control and that’s why we’re deeply in debt.
- I’ve always flirted and like to be the center of attention – it’s harmless.
- I am edgy and deep and have a greater understanding of the meaning of life than others.
- I am not constrained by conventional societal rules and structures, and I am amused and superior to those who buy into such artificial constructs.
- My world view is one that I shall never change, and I will not be swayed into changing my attitudes, approach, views, or opinions.
Related Article: I highly recommend that you read the following article in tandem with this section on a cheater’s character: Affair Fog Theory: Character Change
10. You are Not the Person They Married
We all change over time, and we often change as a result of our changing circumstances. Being single, living by your own say so, under your own financial steam, and loving your independence while having fun in your relationship might be where you started.
2.4 kids, a dog, and a mortgage later, laundry bins overflowing, bills piling up on your desk, the car dying, a job you hate but pays well enough to support the family … life has taken its toll. You probably stopped hobbies you loved, lost touch with people you loved and had fun with, you might not be able to afford to keep going to kick boxing and cooking cruises … all these things change you.
Use this time to start to relearn how to be you. Discard the parts of you that you collected along the way that you don’t like so much, and focus on the parts of you that you love. Do things that bring out your verve for life, your fun side, your aspirations and flights of fancy. Don’t let their affair turn you into a shriveled, angry, codependent shadow of yourself.
11. Let Go
I am not suggesting you give up if you harbor dreams of a future with your active cheater, but I am saying that you have to look at this eyes wide open. They’ve chosen. They’ve chosen their affair over your relationship, and I know how it hurts to read that. A good friend of mine told me, “You lost, accept it and move on.” Ouch. But he was 100% on point.
Clinging on to an active cheater will likely cause them to ricochet further into their affair, and further away from you. Let go. Start to focus on your own life – don’t hold onto theirs by stalking them (or the affair partner) on Facebook. Stop trying to stay involved in your cheater’s life and relationship by checking their phone, reading their emails, trying to engage them in meaningful discussions about your marriage. Don’t weaponize your kids against them. Let go.
A cheater may return, they may not. The question isn’t what they’re doing – the question is about YOU and YOUR life, and how you want to live.
Let go – start living in singledom – figure out how to fix the faucet, go where you want when you want, start living a life – plug back into who you are. Leave them to it. If they come back, it shouldn’t be automatic that you accept them – by then, you might prefer life without them, to life with them.
12. Affair Fog? Are YOU in it?
Affair Fog Theory seeks to explain a cheater’s deliberate choices as the result of confused, clouded, and compromised thinking. Our series examining this notion of affair fog concludes by rejecting it as explanation of cause for a cheater’s affair. In my experience, it’s the faithful partner who is far more likely to experience confused and emotionally compromised thinking after affair discovery. You’re ricocheting around between all the issues that the affair presents, your emotions fueling your fear, stress, panic, and obsessions: your emotions are a bad influence on you right now. I know, you feel how you feel and you can’t switch that off very easily, even if you wanted to. However, if you removed the emotions that are clouding this whole situation and really looked at your cheater, who they are, how they behaved when the chips were down, how they responded to your anguish, it’s probably an ugly picture.
Two questions I often pose in the Chat Room here, are these:
1. If you met this person (your active cheater) for the first time, and saw all of this in them, would you even date them, let alone commit your whole future to them?
I haven’t yet had a single person answer that affirmatively with any seriousness.
2. If you were a multi billionaire, would you be making the choices that you are currently making?
Again, I have yet to hear anyone answer that they would make identical choices.
Our responses to this mess are influenced by our emotional state, our circumstances, and our personal values. The problem with our emotional state affecting our responses is that our feelings change, they’re mutable. Positive or negative feelings can wax and wane, and as such, they’re a really poor foundation upon which to base your decisions.
The reality that you face of financial insecurity, dependence, your home, your children, your future, is real. Try to put aside your emotional clouding and make choices that improve on each of those situations, preparing for the eventuality that you could well be facing life without your cheater. Think of how you feel today as an illusion that will change with time … because your feelings will eventually change towards an active cheater flaunting their affair.
You can’t predict your future, but you can make robust and sensible plans that will assure your security, well-being, and independence. You know your circumstances today, and you know if they provide you with independent means, an ability to provide yourself a home and support yourself without reliance on anyone else. If that is NOT where your life is, that is where to start heading. Your life and happiness is not contingent on your active cheater and THEIR choices.
Get your life on track and viable in its own right, and then, if your cheater comes to you, cap in hand, you will have a new kickass attitude, a new focus, and a new sense of self-worth that says, “You know what? If you think you’re a good potential mate for my future, prove it.” And who knows, by then you might be dating someone else, who has never cheated on anyone, and you might find you prefer it.
When your world implodes you have to adapt to survive and thrive. You have to seize the opportunity to become who you want to be, who you are proud to be, even if your newly shaped peg doesn’t fit into the mold of your old hole.