Yes, Their Affair Was Your Fault

MyFault

The Blame Game

Over the years we’ve talked to a lot of faithful partners after they have discovered their cheater’s affair. Most people who visit us are trying to understand why their partner has cheated and how this happened within their relationship. At this very painful point in their lives, people understandably want to seek advice, support, and counsel from sites like this.

Our collective experience when talking to the faithful partners, however, has highlighted a saddening and common theme in so many of our visitors to our Chat Room. Many faithful partners who visit us seem to be seeking confirmation of their own immediate ideas about the cause of their spouse’s infidelity, and the general nature of affairs and cheaters. That, in and of itself, isn’t surprising – people generally like others to validate their thinking and confirm that what they’re feeling is normal. What has been surprising to us (and upsetting, quite honestly) is the nature of what many faithful partners are seeking to confirm: That they are at fault for their cheater’s affair.

What might be more surprising is that when people are reassured that their partner’s affair was not their fault, they react with anger and vehemently reject any logic or critical thinking that might support that fault starts and ends with the cheater.

Let’s Play the Yes Game

The Yes Game

The reaction we see is unfortunately common and, in the face of this (often) quite extreme anger and attachment to their self-blame, we have been prompted to question what the reaction would be if we DID agree with these views.

Using real examples of statements made in our Chat Room, let’s play the, ‘Yes, Their Affair Was Your Fault‘ game to see what that agreement might look like.

He looks at you like you’re someone he’s never met before, much less someone he once loved with high passion. The irony is, you can hardly blame him. I mean, check yourself out. You’re a pathetic mess, unrecognizable even to your own eyes.
~ Elizabeth Gilbert

1. Play the Yes Game: they cheated because I didn’t love them properly

Yes, that is exactly why they cheated on you – you failed in how you love them. When you aren’t even capable of loving them correctly why would they possibly want to be in an exclusive relationship with you? They need to supplement their love life from elsewhere to satisfy their needs.

If you had loved them properly of course, they wouldn’t have had to go looking for love elsewhere. They would have been faithful and content but you failed them, because the only significant and valid influence in their life was you and your imperfect love of them. Their unhappiness is understandable.

Since you don’t love them the way they deserve, can’t you at least show them love by supporting them as they find others ways to supplement love for themselves? Isn’t it a proper love to want them to experience those wonderful feelings of being loved with abandon at some point in their life, even if it’s not with you?

You brought this upset upon yourself by your own failings and flaws that you did nothing to correct. What right do you have to now complain about it? It’s pain of your own making.

2. Play the Yes Game: I love them unconditionally

Yes, and it is that unconditional love that will bring them home to you.

Loving someone without condition is a what real love should be. Some might call it codependent, but ignore those naysayers because they have never truly loved someone unconditionally as you do – they simply do not understand.

It is concerning though, that you seem to be placing a condition of fidelity on your cheater. How is it unconditional love to insist that they are faithful to you? Loving them through their affair, regardless of any attendant abuses, will rekindle what you once had. Their affair changes nothing because love can conquer mountains and that power will return your cheater to you.

3. Play the Yes Game: love means putting their happiness before yours

Yes, and putting your cheater first in this way, despite their affair, is commendable.

It must be difficult though to realize that their affair means that they aren’t putting your happiness before theirs. You are being incredibly brave in the face of this evidence that they don’t love you at all.

Your upset is selfish – try putting it in perspective. Instead of being upset about your cheater’s affair, why not look at how happy it must be making them? In fact, instead of hating or disparaging the other woman/man, why not try to learn from them? They clearly know how to make your cheater happier than you do – perhaps you can model yourself on them, since your cheater’s happiness is the only thing that matters?

4. Play the Yes Game: this person isn’t the person I married.

Yes, and something terrible must have happened to your real spouse to cause this total transformation of character. Your real spouse wouldn’t have ever lied, been selfish, been mean, or shown poor impulse control etc.

Were you too busy and self-involved to see that something awful happened to them? Were you so busy with your own life, or your kids, that you didn’t get your cheater help? It’s important that you recognize your own part in their affair – had you paid more attention, they might not have turned into a cheater.

Maybe the cause of your spouse’s sudden and complete personality change was something like a TBI, or Alzheimer’s, massive dopamine spikes, alien abduction, or drugs etc? Such a complete and overnight transformation of their personality will also be affecting every aspect of their life, of course. They will be similarly abusive to their boss too (heck, they’ll probably be fired soon if they haven’t been already), their own family, their best friends, and random strangers. It’s only a matter of time before they’re arrested for fraud or assault.

However, if these awful new behaviors are only being directed towards you (and the people who support you against your cheater and their affair) it has to be a mental health disorder. It could of course be sudden-onset narcissistic personality disorder, or sudden-onset bipolar disorder or multiple personality disorder, or even sudden-onset self-esteem issues. However, you should also evaluate if your cheater is crazy – if you think that your spouse’s affair is caused by insanity or by some other disorder, you’re probably right. If you love the real them, as you say you do, you will do everything it takes to get them professional help. The insane rarely recognize their insanity and so most will fight the idea of seeing a mental health professional, or volunteering for a psychiatric evaluation. Perhaps it’s necessary to get them committed so that they can be properly cared for, before they detonate any more of their life? If you love them, this is the least you can do, even if they hate you for it. After all, when they are treated and return to being the person you knew, the hate will go away too.

What if they don’t get better? What if they stay in this altered state, never returning to being the real person whom you married? What if their new personality turns out to be more compatible with the other woman/man? Isn’t it kinder and more loving to let them go, wish them love, happiness, and health with the other person, and move on amicably? You might even consider double dating later, just to show that there’s no hard feelings, because they couldn’t help whatever change they underwent.

5. Play the Yes Game: bad relationships cause affairs

Yes, and therefore the relationship that your cheater was in with you was undeniably bad, as evidenced by them having an affair. This affair must have been the sole blot on your own experience of your relationship with them – up to this point there couldn’t have been a single problem or dissatisfaction on your side at all. Otherwise, a bad relationship would have caused you to also have an affair.

Since the bad relationship was only bad on the cheater’s side, you clearly caused it. Your cheater must have created a perfect relationship for you, so you should own that you were the only one at fault here. You caused the bad relationship for them, ergo, their affair is your fault.

6. Play the Yes Game: people make mistakes

Yes, and an affair is just one of those mistakes. Since we ALL make mistakes and get things wrong, isn’t it rather unfair and two-faced of you to have a problem with this mistake specifically? After all, didn’t you once forget to buy bread at the supermarket? And didn’t you once forget to mail your third cousin’s (twice removed) birthday card so that it got there a few days late? You might also have accidentally spilled some red wine on that beige carpet at your friend’s house … or maybe miscalculated a tip and left 15% instead of 20%? Nobody is perfect.

Mistakes happen and we shouldn’t be beaten up for them, or judged harshly and maligned for them. Sometimes good people just make bad mistakes and everyone deserves a second (or third, or fourth) chance. If you were a good person, you would forgive and forget, and just accept that you’ve made mistakes too.

7. Play the Yes Game: the other woman is brainwashing him

Yes, and your frigid, sexless behavior opened the door for her to do that. Men have sexual needs and desires and when you neglected to keep him happy sexually, this witch took advantage of that. Factor in that men are notoriously weak-willed and can be lured into an affair because they are easily flattered by female attention, especially when it promises sexual release.

However, she’s also a manipulative, lying harpy who has managed to sink her claws into your husband, stealing him away with some sob story that made him feel sorry for her. He only went to her because he felt rejected by you, and he didn’t mean for it to go this far and become an affair. But she wants your life and a husband, and is prepared to snare yours in a web of lies and sex to get it, and your neglect of your cheater laid the groundwork for her. She probably spends a lot of time poisoning him against you, telling him what a controlling, ungrateful moose you are, and how he is just a paycheck to you.

When a cheater is really a just a good guy, trapped by some conniving bitch, he doesn’t want to hurt her by ending it. Real men find it incredibly difficult to hurt a woman … and that’s why it’s been impossible for him to end it with her. What does it say about you if you blame him for acting honorably towards her?

Emotional Triggers after InfidelityDid That Make You Feel Better?

I HOPE NOT! … yet it seems that so many would prefer to hear this version of events rather than hold their cheater directly accountable.

Affairs are NOT the fault of the faithful partner, and they are not caused by imperfect relationships or alien abductions. Affairs are the result of a cheater’s view of the world, how they perceive they fit into that world, and what they believe they are entitled to from life.

We understand that there might be places where the views and opinions about affairs echo or encourage some (or all) of our dramatized ‘Yes Game’ responses in this post. I will stress that the responses above are mock agreements that are in complete opposition to the actual information and views that you will encounter at this site.

(NB: Whilst all the ‘Yes Game’ mock responses were heinous, I specifically apologize if anyone was offended by the deliberate use of sexist nonsense illustrating point 7. That mock response was (sadly) derived from actual examples of wives using sexist thinking like, ‘boys will be boys’ to mitigate/excuse their husband’s affairs.)

The Attraction of Self-Blame

So why do people seem so intent on blaming themselves for their spouse’s affair? Why do they so readily seek and accept such uninformed and damaging culpability for the actions of someone whom they do not control?

Affairs are not exempt from the complex power dynamic and shifting control issues within a relationship. An affair can result in the faithful partner feeling powerless and as if they have no control over their own lives, while the cheater might be reveling in (and exploiting) the power imbalance. When they learn of their spouse’s affair, most faithful spouses react with a knee-jerk desire to fix the problems that caused the infidelity.

So why turn the blame inwards?

  • When your cheater is telling you why their affair is your fault, it’s easy to believe them. Having our failings thrown at us can drown out our positive self-view.
  • When an affair doesn’t make any sense, many turn to what they know and can understand – their own flaws.
  • Maladaptive responses like self-blame when you are not at fault are often learned growing up and can easily resurface in adulthood in the face of significant emotional upset.
  • Depression, when coupled with self-blame, can lead to broad (and inaccurate) generalizations about personal failings (I am not loved by this one person, therefore I am awful and completely unlovable).
  • Being honest about your cheater’s character (and any unwillingness to change) can force you to consider unpleasant and difficult scenarios for your future with (or without) them.
  • When you feel powerless in a situation, even blaming yourself can give you a sense of control. Accepting blame and then choosing whether you wish to change the ‘faults’ that led to the affair are at least your own choices.

If you take responsibility and blame yourself, you have the power to change things. But if you put responsibility on someone else, then you are giving them the power to decide your fate.
~ Deja King

Common Responses to an Affair

We observe that many faithful partners appear to be the fixers in their relationships, and are frequently the decision maker and/or the dominant personality in the couple. They might describe themselves as controlling, or a neat freak, or as a detail-oriented personality type. They might even say that they have a higher moral code than most, or perhaps find themselves complaining that they have the burden of being the responsible adult in the relationship.

The faithful partner wants their cheater to behave in certain ways after the affair, and this often includes:

  • Reassurance that they are loved, special, and nurtured.
  • Re-commitment to them and proof that they are loved (often in the form of a grand gesture).
  • Assurance of a stable, loving, and secure home for the family.
  • Seeing the cheater lead the active repair of the damage they caused.
  • Demonstrations of remorse.
  • Visible and genuine self-reproach.
  • Actions to help wipe away the hurt and abuses that an affair inflicted.
  • Visible anguish, pain and regret for their choices.
  • Immediate and sustained evidence of the cheater’s empathy, healing and change.

When the cheater doesn’t do these things of their own accord, the faithful spouse is again left feeling powerless to fix the relationship, because the necessary changes aren’t happening. It’s not uncommon for them to feel therefore that they are not worthy of these efforts being made for them. When they are themselves unable to repair what is broken, rather than fail it can send them into a frenzy of ‘fixing it’ … even if fixing it requires self-blaming first.

Reality Check

Reality CheckAn affair in your relationship can jettison your self-worth. You can easily fall into the trap of needing your relationship to survive so badly that you are willing to excuse and justify your spouse’s behavior. Rational and reasonable challenges to that view can result in you feeling defensive and angry.

It can be tempting to believe that if your cheater’s affair was caused by your faults, then you would have the ability to end it and/or prevent another one. All you have to do is become a better spouse, more like the partner whom your cheater claims you must be if you are to meet their needs and keep them faithful.

You did not cause, and are not to blame for, your spouse’s affair. They did not cheat because of your faults or failings (though of course that does not mean that you do not have any faults or failings). Yes, you contributed to the tone of your relationship, and you are responsible for your part in any dysfunction or difficulties; it is reasonable to own your own share of any problems in your relationship, but the point at which your cheater chose to go outside that relationship is where your responsibility ends. That is on them and only them.

His lying is not contingent on who you are or what you do. His lying is not your fault. Lying is his choice and his problem, and if he makes that choice with you, he will make it with any other woman he’s with. That doesn’t mean you’re an angel and he’s the devil. It does mean that if he doesn’t like certain things about you, he has many ways to address them besides lying. If there are sexual problems between you, there are many resources available to help you. Nothing can change until you hold him responsible and accountable for lying and stop blaming yourself. 

The lies we tell ourselves to keep from seeing the truth about our lovers don’t feel like lies. They feel comfortable, familiar, and true. We repeat them like a mantra and cling to them like security blankets, hoping to calm ourselves and regain our sense that the world works the way we believe it ought to.

Self-lies are false friends we look to for comfort and protection—and for a short time they may make us feel better. But we can only keep the truth at bay for so long. Our self-lies can’t erase his lies, and as we’ll see, the longer we try to pretend they can, the more we deepen the hurt.” 

~ Susan Forward

Blaming yourself spares you from an eyes wide open view of your spouse that could find them lacking. Blaming yourself allows you to hide behind your unilateral growth and repair, and avoid what might be otherwise revealed about the nature and future of your relationship.

I can’t repeat this enough: Your partner’s affair was not your fault, your choice, or your doing. We talk with many cheaters here and discussions reveal that many of them claim that their spouse was their perfect partner, and yet they still cheated. You cannot fix what led them to their affair and you cannot prevent them from making the same choices in the future by changing yourself. If the cheating is going to change it’s the cheater who has to make the change themselves.

Fear of losing a relationship can be a powerful, blinkering force. I’d ask you to consider if your dreams for yourself include a relationship where the faults, flaws and misdeeds of another are your burden to bear, firmly and forever. Would hearing affirmation about how this was your fault really make you feel better about your spouse’s affair?

You may also like:


  • My Affair Was Your Fault

  • Affair Rationalizations: Who Stopped You?
  • Avoid Marital Therapy
    What Therapy Teaches Cheaters
  • The Cheater Script - Rewriting History
    Rewriting History
  • Don't Pet the Snakes
    Don’t Pet the Snakes: Dealing With Cheaters

Wayfarer

“I'm not a teacher, only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead - ahead of myself as well as you.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

47 Comments:

  1. Hi again MYR!

    I am not entirely sure if you intended to comment on this post, but shall work on the assumption that you’re referencing another one: Affair Fog Theory: Character Change

    The article is saying that there are patterns to our behavior and personalities, informed by our experiences, world view, and personal narrative. It’s saying that where different behaviors and personality develop, these changes are NOT overnight changes and that they come from PRE-EXISTING foundations in personality and thinking.

    We all have the capacity to change of course – it’s part of the natural development and growth of us as individuals. The article is not saying that people can’t change – it is addressing the common claim that a cheater abruptly and spontaneously changes into an entirely DIFFERENT person when they begin an affair, and then magically and abruptly change back into the first entirely different person when the affair ends and they return to the marriage.

    I don’t doubt that you’re noticing that your husband has exhibited or emphasized different aspects of his personality – ones that have perhaps been less noticeable in the past, or even hidden from easy view.

    I too have encountered many cheaters who appear confused and nonsensical – this has been easily uncovered as their attempts to project and/or say one thing (often what they think I want to hear or that they’re supposed to say), when their actual thinking and beliefs conflict with that. (For example, “I accept responsibility for my affair though I would never have done it had my wife met my needs.”)

    Long-term change is possible of course – if your husband has developed enduring aspects of himself that were previously not significant and that you now view negatively, that’s a good reason to take inventory of what kind of person you want in your life. Even if he is personally motivated to change and grow, it’s not an overnight process, any more than initial change is an overnight process.

    In my experience, faithful spouses struggle to accept negative change in their lives, and it’s understandable. When you sign up to a relationship with someone whose personality and declared values seem compatible with your own, their unilateral decision to cheat can confuse your understanding of who they are, especially in light of how this might impact your life. It’s entirely understandable how this causes internal conflict – the faithful spouse doesn’t want change that negatively impacts their life – they want the comfort of what they thought they had. Finding and clinging to explanations that allow them to rationalize the new reality, while keeping their circumstances UNCHANGED, is understandably attractive.

    MYR, none of this is easy I know. I encourage people to approach this mess with eyes wide open, and to be skeptical of convenient or comfortable explanations for a cheater’s behavior.

    Sending you my support and well wishes through this difficult time,

    ~ Wayfarer

  2. hi I really hope this thread isn’t too old to get a response. I’m really glad I found this resource and this has been very helpful for me especially this article. I had some really unique and specific circumstances leading up to and surrounding my husband’s affair that I don’t really understand how to classify in the sense of this article. My husband and I had been developing some really open honest communication about our sexual incompatibility and decided to explore the idea of a “monogamish” relationship where he could get some of his needs met outside our marriage. We discussed some ground rules and left it at that. A few days later he asks me if he can take dancing lessons with a girl he knows at work. I said fine and we discussed ground rules, which were separate from the monogamish rules because of course this was a whole separate issue. These ground rules were not to have sex with her (I thought she was too young), not to fall in love with her, and not to let her fall in love with him. I know! It was a tall order but we committed to remain open and honest. Fast forward a few months, and I was beginning to perceive signs that he was checking out emotionally from me so I snooped a little and found very passionate poetry etc he was writing about her. I confronted him, he admitted that he loved her, and that he was extremely conflicted about what to do. I became almost instantly insanely jealous which was very weird and unexpected for me because I have never been a jealous person, but then he had never fallen in love with someone besides me during our 22-year marriage. I went to counseling, he went to counseling, he started having really tumultuous emotional issues related to explorations in therapy of his childhood sexual abuse and to our relationship problems, specifically the jealousy, anger, and fear that I was experiencing. I finally told him i coulfnt continue like that and to choose between me and her, and he chose me. He ended it with her about a month ago. We are of course still having lots of problems, especially trying to explore our past patterns and relationship problems that created all this distance and incompatibility between us. I still don’t know what I/we want longterm but I know we don’t want to pitch ourselves off a financial cliff and destabilize our son’s family life by divorcing right now. My question is this: since I consented to large chunks of the actions that led to him having this affair, how can it not be in some sense my fault? I knew where he was and what he was doing. He never lied to me. I didnt even mind that he had sex with her – if that’s all he had done I might be a little weirded out about it because she was so young but what really tore me up was that he fell in love with her. And I also feel guilty for asking him to choose, knowing he would choose me, and now I feel sorry for him because he lost out on a chance at some sort of happiness with her, or at least the freedom to keep dancing with her which is something he really enjoyed. Did I send him down those roads? Did I allow this to happen? Did I betray him by freaking out when it all came to light?
    Thanks in advance,
    Anna

    • Mahalia: IHG Staff

      Hi Anna, the explanation “it just happened” is a line we’ve seen repeated over and over again–and it is invariably very far from the truth. Given what you’ve described, it’s really difficult to not come to the conclusion that your husband rather effectively engineered all of this, including your “permission.” Cheaters often have many things in common, not least of which is a strong sense of entitlement and a flare for manipulation. I would bet that he was already inclined to step outside your marriage, had identified who he wanted to do it with (the girl at work), and then exploited your own open-mindedness and urge to hang on to your marriage. So now, instead of feeling entitled to your own quite valid sense of betrayal and outrage, you feel guilty because you’ve deprived him of his affair and are questioning whether or not you betrayed *him.* I’m feeling both impressed and a bit queasy.

      So in a nutshell, no: you didn’t “allow” or cause this to happen;he chose and orchestrated it. People don’t accidentally cross lines–they have to be willing to go there in the first place.

      It’s pretty obvious that your “monogamish” agreement was for his benefit–but correct me if I’m wrong. I don’t see anything in what you’ve written that suggests that you wanted to explore ways to alleviate your own sexual tension outside your marriage. And I’m further guessing that you agreed to this to help keep him in your marriage, not because it sounded like something you’d enjoy. From my own perspective, that looks uncomfortably like emotional blackmail. Your “jealousy, anger, and fear” aren’t relationship problems, they are authentic, and reasonable reactions to this situation. I would respect and pay heed to those feelings.

      Anna, his childhood abuse didn’t make him do this either, any more than your marriage did. Further, you can successfully reduce distance and improve communication in your marriage, and it will have little to no affect on his ability and willingness to cheat. Infidelity is part of bigger behavior patterns, and it is generated from someone’s worldview and the sort of personal narrative that he or she creates about himself and others. Infidelity is an ethical problem, and not significantly different from other forms of transgression. Cheaters are cheaters because they want two seemingly incompatible scenarios: the advantages of their primary relationship, and the excitement of an affair. So to facilitate having both, they need to control and manipulate–such power plays are part and parcel of cheater behavior. Further, cheaters often need to see themselves as “good” people, so they frame their infidelity as a marital problem, or blame it on childhood issues, their partner, the affair partner, or even call it an “addiction.” In your case, your husband solved his own internal tension and the ethical question by manipulating you into quasi-enablement. Unfortunately, it sounds like his therapist, like so many do, is actively encouraging his lack of accountability.

      With all of that in mind, forcing him to “choose” one of you doesn’t really solve anything, because the core issues here are his own ethical standards and sense of entitlement.

      I would encourage you to take a step back from the drama and focus squarely on what you want in your own life, and the sort of relationship you wish to have. I would recommend tabling efforts to “work on the marriage” or even investing in the marriage until you see real evidence that your husband is genuinely taking responsibility for his own conduct–including his manipulation of you. Not doing so simply to avoid divorce merely puts you in position of continuously looking the other way, and shouldering responsibility for his own choices. That is no way to live, and I’m sure that it’s not something you wish to teach your son either. Children can weather a bit of instability, however, the templates they form for relationships can last a lifetime.

      We have resources in the forum that you might find useful–I’d encourage you to do a bit of reading there. Also, we have a live chat where we’d be happy to talk through some of these issues. However, whatever you do, trust that sense of outrage and part of yourself that says ‘this isn’t right.’ It’s all too easy to dismiss logic in favor of whatever we’re feeling, but in situations like this, rational, clear-thinking is your best tool.
      Take care!

      • Hi Mahalia – it took me a long time to get back here and see your reply to my Jan post, but thank you for it, I’m so glad I found it!
        I’ve spent the last 5 months in an extremely slow-motion step-back-from-the-drama that you mentioned but haven’t gotten the space yet to really do the focus-squarely part.
        It’s super interesting that the other replies in the thread were talking about the Affair Fog theory. I have a new take on that at this point: I think I was the one who was in the Affair Fog thru this whole ordeal. I am normally a high functioning creative and optimistic person, but i went into some kind of codependent trance starting one year ago when all the monogamish discussions and then the dance lessons started. Then a steep slide into the one of the most debilitating episodes of sadness, anger, and doubt i’ve ever experienced. Possibly clinical depression. I am struggling to come out of it. That’s why finding your reply now is so helpful it helps me remember where I’m coming from and reminds me where I want to go. Thank you!

        • Mahalia: IHG Staff

          Hi Anna,

          Thanks so much for checking in again, and you’re very welcome. Your phrase “codependent trance” so aptly describes what many of us have experienced. Depression is another common fallout from these situations, so much so that I really wish that more attention were paid to it. I hope that you feel ok about seeking help if the struggle continues.

          We would love to know how you’re doing, so please drop into chat anytime to say hello, or leave a note here. There’s no need to go through this alone.

          Take care,
          Mahalia

  3. Also just to clarify, he never pursued any of the monogamish experiences that we discussed prior. He told me that dancing had relieved the sexual tension that had been bothering him. Dancing became an extremely important outlet for him, and he initially characterized his relationship with the girl as friendship/mentoring. He now says he doesn’t know how it happened that he fell in love with her, it “just happened.”

  4. Hi Anna,

    I too want to reinforce how often we hear ‘it just happened’ as an attempt to minimize the reality of what did happen. Cheaters use this as an attempt to relieve themselves of a degree of ownership of their choices and decisions, inferring that some other ‘force’ (whether that is some divine being or simple happenstance) was partially responsible for their situation.

    Clearly, he didn’t ‘fall in love’ with her in the blink of an eye. Feelings towards another take time to develop and he had sufficient opportunity during that time to recognize that the ‘friendship’ risked crossing the lines which he had agreed with you. He didn’t put the brakes on because he didn’t want to.

    I too find the timing of his interest in taking dance with this woman highly convenient. It’s quite possible that he hadn’t planned to develop an emotional connection with her, but I suspect that him approaching you for an open marriage was entirely predicated on his sexual interest in this young woman.

    It is important to keep the issues of conscious choice and unethical behavior front and center. And I see no way in which YOU are to blame for either his choices, or his lack of ethics.

    Don’t let yourself be flimflammed by desire -yours or his- to hold your marriage together. Whatever you choose for yourself, make those choices eyes wide open, and with his unethical choices squarely in the crosshairs.

    ~ Wayfarer

  5. this information is priceless! thank you so much for your well presented arguments and logical reasoning. my husband had an emotional affair with his first love/girlfriend. after three children and being married for over 25 years, he had a dream about his ex girlfriend and the following day he found her in a social network (married/lives in a different country). after corresponding for two years on and off, he met her on a business trip and had a handful of encounters culminating in the last night together in a hotel, naked, but unable to consummate due to his lack of erection. as i susspected his behaviour, i pressed and he confessed to be torn between both of us… after my initial “horror” i encouraged him to follow his heart/her. he “chose” me and is regretful/sorry/doing his best to rebuild my trust in him. i chose him because of lifestyle but i’m really pissed off… he doesn’t know why and his explanation is about him always doubting/unsure of decisions and the”what if” scenario… he recognises that his ex girlfriend has been a bit of an obsession for him (thinking on and off about her during our marriage) and he’s not sure if he is in his “right mind” as they feel connected/soul mates… he also questions why i’m with him if he’s such a bad person.
    i’m giving myself time to work on myself and would like to take some distance from the events to “know” if leaving the relationship is the way to go. but i’m finding hard to work on my plan and not to get attached to him. sex is good, he is a good provider and we’re good friends. any advise?

  6. Hi Gabs – going through this can be so painful and destabilizing – I am sorry that you’re having to navigate such a difficult time. I am glad that you’re finding the reasoning here valuable.

    It’s great that you’re taking some time for your own growth, but you haven’t mentioned what steps he is taking towards his own and I would suspect that this might be part of your issues today. It’s a common situation that we encounter frequently: the cheater cheats, says sorry, and it’s the faithful spouse who commits to self improvement. Clearly there’s something wrong with that scenario!

    You haven’t mentioned what post-affair agreements you’ve made, who undertook to do what, and how you both see your new future. But from what you have said, I am concerned that he is following a pretty predictable Cheater-Think script/pattern that isn’t very encouraging.

    I would strongly recommend that you register with our forum and post this story to the blog boards there – I think there is a lot to talk through with you about all of this. If you don’t want to register with us, my advice would be to really start to identify what his patterns are, what they tell you about him, and what observable change to his thinking is taking place.

    You might also like to read this because it addresses why change to the cheater’s thinking is so important: Once a Cheater

    Take care Gabs – I wish you well.

    ~ Wayfarer

  7. wow… so prompt and to the point

    • Interesting site and love the articles on the fog. Was a member of another site and was so sick of that dogma spewed over and over. Never understood it. Also never understood the “my life is over I can’t believe they did this” . There are no guarantees in life. So you make sure you trust you and you control you, your actions, your choices. Don’t alow others to disrespect you. If they do you take care of you. Learned that one as a kid. If my parents could abuse me then anyone could. Guess I best take care of myself and certainly never make excuses for others or let myself off the hook. Pretty simple yet so difficult for some to get.

      • Hi Tessa

        I’m so glad that you liked our Affair Fog series. It was important to us that we offered a critical review of the popular ‘fog hypothesis’ – we observe its blind acceptance and absorption by the infidelity community, despite its evident flaws and its tempting deflection from the real issues.

        We find the issue of faithful spouses enduring abuse, disturbing. Unfortunately, so many find themselves rooted in place by fear and codependency that they are more outraged by the involvement of a third party than they are about the inherently abusive nature of the affair’s attendant behaviors. In our experience people have often acclimatized to pre-affair abuses (and many can’t see their situations as abusive when they clearly are) and have an ingrained belief that they cannot navigate life alone. This type of thinking is often the foundation for why so many endure their marriages, despite increasing dysfunction.

        We also see a strong negative reaction to the idea of protecting your self-interest in the face of such abuse. Many have been fully indoctrinated to believe that self-interest is negatively connoted selfishness and this often results in a determination to suffer the dysfunction ‘for the kids’ etc etc. It’s a complex societal and religious mash-up that seems intent on keeping the faithful spouse in place, behaving, and taking it on the chin, while simultaneously praising them for enduring the abuse and dysfunction – and exposing their children to the same.

        There are no guarantees in life – we agree. We also accept a cheater’s right to cheat. We reject, however, any notion that anyone ‘should’ put up with/remain with someone whose choices are so fundamentally misaligned to their own ethical framework. They have a right to cheat – the faithful partners have a right to respond in their own interests, and that response might be to leave.

        I really appreciate you taking the time to add your own voice to the issues of self-interest and self-protection.

  8. Wayfarer,

    I find your articles very well written, insightful and helpful. Just wondering, did you used to post on the Marriage Builders forum? I think there was someone by your username who used to post there. If so, what do you think of their program? I did find the forum helpful in going no-contact with my XH, but they do subscribe to the affair “fog” and “unmet needs” theories behind affairs.

    Thanks,
    K

    • Hi Kay

      Thank you for the kind words.

      No, I have never provided material for Marriage Builders or participated in their forum. I am, however, aware of the MB system/philosophy and am vehemently opposed to it. I could write an entire post on the horrors I see in the MB doctrine, but will try to limit this to a few comment-length appropriate thoughts. 😀

      My view on the trite ‘love bank’ language aside, MB is clear: the faithful spouse failed to meet the cheater’s ’emotional needs’ and that led to the affair. Fault is firmly placed at the feet of ‘the marriage’ and the faithful spouse (yes, there is a small nod to the cheater’s own role in the how ‘the marriage’ failed them). Essentially, MB blames the faithful spouse for failing to keep their cheater’s ‘love bank’ adequately funded.

      Contrary to MB’s teachings, affairs are not mistakes, they are not addictions, and they are not caused by some trite idea of a deficit of love units in a love bank. Nights away from a spouse are not invitations for an affair, fog is nothing more than excuse smog, individuals do have a right to privacy in a marriage, and advice to ‘not bring up’ an affair if you’re in reconciliation is absurd nonsense.

      The MB philosophy holds marriage up as an entity that is of greater importance than the individuals within it. It does not recognize the validity of self-interest and sees it as unacceptable within their narrow view of what marriage ‘should’ be. It’s worth noting that Harley profits from the marital recovery industry, where the couple are discouraged from -even ethically- identifying or pursuing alternatives to the marital relationship. The industry requires that fear and convention keep people trying to work though dysfunction and MB, like so many similar programs, also encourages people to remain in dysfunctional relationships in order to ‘save’ the marriage.

      “It’s financially beneficial to them to have you stay together, to ‘work on your marriage’, and for them to institute a long-term ‘treatment program’ for any resultant dysfunction and conflict. Your mess is their pay check.”
      IHG: What Therapy Teaches Cheaters

      MB, like its counterparts, fails to address (or even approach) the issues of the cheater’s unethical behavior and choice, entitlement, power plays, and manipulations. It similarly ignores the issues of abuse and dysfunction in relationships, or the rampant sexism at the heart of its own philosophy (HNHN).

      Equally disturbing, it actively advocates control freakery, questionable ethical action, and wholly manipulative behavior in the faithful spouse. The two-phase plan it sells is reprehensibly manipulative, as is its carpet bombing aka nuclear exposure approach to affair exposure, and its presumption that the marriage is what is ‘best’ for the cheater.

      As a separate word on ‘Plan A’: Notwithstanding its unethically manipulative intent, I find it damaging, demeaning, self-effacing, and dangerous. It’s scrambling, it rewards the cheater, and is the equivalent of telling someone to have sex with, love, and nurture their abuser. Ethics aside, it is entirely contrary to our own position of authenticity, empowerment, self-worth, self-protection, and personal growth.

      In my view, the MB approach represents and perpetuates the widespread failure of reconciliation by employing these questionable (though traditional) marital recovery programs. Worse, it promotes damaging and unethical behavior in both parties.

      I didn’t do so well in keeping it short, but I hope that answers your question! 😀

  9. Hi Wayfarer,

    Found that my spouse was cheating. I was working out of state, but traveling regularly back home and calling and texting my wife daily. She ended the relationship via email and an attached voice file. This stemmed from an argument we had 2 years ago, but I have always said she was emotionally dishonest by never addressing the things that bother her in the moment. I would get blindsided by some several months later. So, I get the email and voice file and when I tried to talk to her about her reasoning for her action, she tells me not to contact her anymore and cc’d her attorney on one of the emails. Mind you, just 5 days prior to that, she says she wanted to put my on her medical insurance if I wanted to end my remote job, and that we should go see a movie together, etc. 2 months prior though when I came home for milestone birthday for her dad, she says she needed to get “used to me”. We dated for 3 years and have been married for almost 4. I called and told her she was cowardly in her handling of this and in no way did I deserve to experience this via email. Life will move on and I will give my spirit time to heal, but I would be remiss if I didn’t want to get a voodoo doll and stick it a few times. Torments me that she thought so little of me and our 7 years Sorry for venting.

    Art

    • Hi Art

      I’m sorry you’re going through such a difficult time. It can be entirely destabilizing to try to deal with an active cheater and reasoning with them can be akin to trying to nail jello to a tree. It’s not worth the energy or emotional investment.

      Whatever is going on with her, it’s about her, not you. She has given herself permission to behave this way and probably feels entitled to do so because she’s built a narrative about some perceived wrong-doing towards her or disadvantage in her life that is caused by you/being married. Please remember that when a cheater seeks to justify their behavior, the faithful spouse is a really good whipping boy.

      What most cheaters crave is centrality, Art. Indulging it can magnify really hideous behavior. However, refusing to be the source of their jollies can be hugely effective – not just in terms of their behavior towards you, but in terms of your own protection from it.

      My general advice to faithful spouses is this: If your cheater shows you who they are, believe them and act accordingly. If your cheater tells you that they’re done, believe them and act accordingly. Scrambling to ‘keep’ them is highly ineffective in doing that and generally results in more of what you’re trying to stop.

      Disengage, Art. Don’t be available to her, don’t contact her, don’t chase. She is showing you and telling you who she is – believe her.

      I know how difficult it is – protect yourself legally, emotionally, and financially as best you can. If you haven’t yet seen a lawyer, please do so ASAP. Act in your own best interests Art and gather a support network around you. (There is a forum here you can register with, if you wish.)

      I wish you well.

  10. Hello, my husband has been with the OW for 7 months. Our marriage wasn’t perfect but I never expected this!!! He totally blames me for everything!!!!! He doesn’t see that his business & financial problems took a big toll on our marriage! I can’t understand how he could move out of our home & immediately start a relationship with someone he knew 20 years ago! He was so cold to me, cursing me out, calling me names etc. He stopped paying the bills in our home leaving me strapped with everything and a 7 year old child. We were married for 12 years and I just can’t begin to tell you what the past 7 months has been like for me and our child!! I even at 1 point confronted the ow as she laid in his bed telling me he didn’t want me. Let’s just say that day for him at least wasn’t good, I smacked the dog poop out of him. I never want to get to that place again! Now a month later it’s a little better, but he can’t look me in the face. After all of this drama, I can honestly say I don’t want him back, there’s been too much disrespect! I do want him to take responsability for what he has done and be a man in this messed up situation!!!!

    • Hi Redd

      I would honestly advise you to really disengage from the drama of it all. If you’re done, lawyer up (if you haven’t already) and file – get your life moving forward again without keeping yourself embroiled in his life.

      I am not entirely sure what you mean by ‘be a man in this situation’ – if you mean that you want him to behave how you would like, that’s not about his gender but about your expectations. Those expectations might -under the circumstances- be a) unrealistic and b) inappropriate. He is going to behave as he wishes, regardless of what you want or not (as his affair and subsequent behavior has evidenced). Clinging to some desire for him to suddenly demonstrate some growth, introspection, and ownership of his choices only serves to keep you frustrated, engaged, and invested in him and his behavior and choices. Let it go, Redd. If you’re done, be done and wave him goodbye with a cheery wave of your extended middle finger. Walking away is so much easier if you’re facing the direction you’re going, not the direction you came from.

      Take care and lawyer up! I wish you well.

  11. Hi, In 2013, I found out about my wife’s affair with a wealthy Arab and her plans to move to the Middle East with our son. This has all now happened, we are divorced and our son has been poisoned against me. He is now 15. My advice is simple: the cheater has a choice, they make a choice, they justify everything by demonizing the faithful one and also justify the affect on the child/children. Faithful ones: there is nothing you can do. It all hurts enough; don’t hurt yourself still more. See the cheater as a person who does not love you, is not able to truly love. Does not know or understand sacrifice and the inevitable cycles of life. Please do not hold yourself responsible for their actions. Live by your values, have faith in truth and focus on the rest of your life. I understand your pain faithful ones. Believe in you and your values and life your future based on those principles. Stay strong and find any way to enjoy the present moment.

    • Hi Rich

      I am so sorry that you’re going through this.

      You might like to seek some legal advice in your jurisdiction to see if you can bring a Parental Alienation case against your wife. Her interference with the parental relationship you have with your son might be something you can address through the legal system.

      I don’t agree that a cheater’s affair demonstrates that they don’t know how to love, or that they don’t understand the cycles of life and the sacrifices that come with a relationship. In my experience, most cheaters are fully aware of these things and often use that as part of their affair rationale: they don’t believe that they should be deprived of all those heady ‘falling in love’ feelings for the rest of their lives. Many want to experience it again and tell themselves that their new relationship will be able to sustain those passionate, driven, head-in-the-clouds feelings long-term. Of course, the biochemistry of bonding with a mate means that those exciting feelings are soon replaced with a calmer, less swoon-inducing relationship – those cheaters who refuse to accept that often become serial cheaters.

      However, you’re right – the faithful spouse is not responsible for the actions of the cheater. Affairs are caused by the cheater’s view of the world, what they believe they are entitled to, and how they fit in – and they exercise their own agency in order to pursue their desires based on that personal narrative.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment – it can make people feel less alone when they see others going through similar situations.

      I wish you all the very best, Rich.

  12. “The cheater” – labels stink! Scarlet letter anyone? Think of all the mistakes you ever made in your life and then attach that sin to yourself as though it is all you are. . . Sometimes wives cheat too. After years of being treated like garbage, being abused, being told “go ahead, you’d be doing me a favor” after putting all your hopes and dreams on the back burner for a very selfish man who does not care about what you need, feel, want – the one and only time in your entire life (before or since) and yet, you get the scarlet letter.

    This article here is oversimplified and does not seem to touch on the reality of the horrible situation of infidelity. Don’t tickle people’s ears. Yes, the person who goes outside the marriage is responsible for their own actions, but nothing happens in a vacuum. Are there any professionals here? Labels stink and are not always accurate!

    • Telling comment, Labels Stink.

      It’s not uncommon for a cheater to object to having the noun ‘cheater’ attributed to them, especially where they consider themselves to be somewhat exempt from the ‘label’ – it’s the, “I’m a better class of cheater because I had cause” mentality that is pretty standard fare in cheater-think. Most cheaters like to believe they had ‘justifiable cause‘ – but the parallels between a cheater claiming ‘justifiable cause’ and a spouse-beater claiming the same are troubling.

      I will respond to your comment point by point.

      1. I call cheaters ‘cheaters’ because it is accurate in the context of infidelity. It’s certainly not the ‘worst’ term I could apply because cheaters seem to object even more to these ones: adulterer, user, abuser, liar, manipulator – I could go on. What I won’t do, though, is provide some palliative pandering to your delicate sensibilities by using such euphemisms as ‘wayward’ or ‘wandering’ spouse/partner.

      2. To have an affair and then expect or demand that you are not negatively judged or labeled for that unethical and damaging behavior, is absurd.

      3. The ‘sin’ is simply a manifestation of who you are and how you think – it speaks to how you view the world, your character, and your personal narrative. Who you are is why you cheated and until you change/resolve that (and this comment evidences that you are still steeped in cheater-think) you are as likely to have an affair tomorrow as you were when you did cheat, should the right combination of circumstances arise again. If wearing that label protects others from the harm your character-driven choices cause, perhaps that’s not a bad thing.

      4. Yes, wives cheat too, almost as often as husbands. That infidelity is not a gender-specific issue is clear throughout this site, and even in the comments on this article.

      5. Being in a dysfunctional, unhappy relationship doesn’t entitle you to cheat – it entitles you to leave.

      Non-exit affairs aren’t about leaving a bad relationship. On the contrary – they are about maintaining all the benefits of that relationship through deceit and manipulation, while getting your jollies elsewhere too. When faced with unhappiness and dissatisfaction in a relationship that is so unbearable, the reasonable and intelligent (and honorable) response would be to leave it. Since your marriage was so awful, so intolerable, and so dysfunctional, is it safe to presume that you are now happily divorced/divorcing, free of the abuse and insufferable dysfunction?

      6. Some labels do endure but fortunately for cheaters the term ‘cheater’ tends to have a shelf life, and so ‘ex-cheater’ can often apply – abusers, for example, don’t get the same dispensation. Ex-abuser? Ex-murderer? Ex-embezzler? Not so common.

      7. This article addresses why faithful spouses are so often desperate to hold themselves accountable for their cheater’s choices when those choices are not theirs to own – and that most certainly is a reality. The cheater-equivalent article (written for cheaters who blame their spouse/marriage) can be found here: My Affair Was Your Fault There are many articles here that also address the realities in infidelity – and all of them will similarly hold you wholly and personally culpable for your own unethical, self-serving choices.

      8. Infidelity is relatively simple: it’s abuse by manipulation, deceit, control, and exposure to physical and emotional harm in the pursuit of self-satisfaction. It’s only complicated by spurious attempts to mitigate, justify, rationalize, and excuse.

      9. If by ‘don’t tickle people’s ears’ you mean that I should apportion some blame to the faithful spouse, I can see why that would be an attractive notion to you and your fellow cheaters. However, I will not perpetuate any such absurdity, nor will I be complicit in damaging the faithful spouse further, mitigating the issue of personal choice and agency in the cheater, or engaging in victim blaming.

      10. Ahh, the hackneyed, ‘It didn’t happen in a vacuum’ defense. The imperfect nature/tone/quality of a marital relationship and infidelity are not cause and effect. If they were, we would ALL be cheating because we all have imperfect relationships. Regardless of how you perceive your relationship -and your partner’s contribution to it- you had choices. The choice you made was unethical, damaging, entitled, and manipulative. There are consequences to the course of action you chose, and one of those consequences is that you might be negatively judged by others -with valid cause.

      11. Yes, there are professionals here.

      12. Some labels are not accurate, I agree: Saints are not examples of goodly perfection, homophobes are generally not fearful of homosexuals, and having an affair does not make a person wholly ‘bad’. But cheating does make the label ‘cheater’ accurate, appropriate, and contextually relevant. If one doesn’t relish the aroma of that particular label, I’d advise that one simply does not engage in behavior that invites it and makes it both correct and fitting.

      Like your affair, your predictable and pedestrian inclination to dodge the label -and the negative judgment and connotations that come with it- by blaming your partner, speaks to your character and who you are, not your husband’s faults and flaws as a spouse.

      “In the space between yes and no, there’s a lifetime. It’s the difference between the path you walk and the one you leave behind; it’s the gap between who you thought you could be and who you really are; it’s the legroom for the lies you’ll tell yourself in the future.”
      ~ Jodi Picoult
      IHG: Affair Rationalizations: Who Stopped You?

  13. My husband is having an emotional affair with a woman who rejects him (and is my coworker). He is clearly delusional, but he will not let it go; he believes that she truly does love him and desires him and will be there in the future, but is afraid for her job hence her rejection of him. Not to mention she is about to get married and is not attracted to men. What HURTS is his affair ALL IN HIS HEAD and the fact that it still hurts me. I have already gone through anger, talking with him, therapy (for me), and am depressed. We have wonderful small children and he is a great father. He says he wants to stay married to me and work on our relationship. He says that this girl and his love for her will bring US more happiness and make OUR marriage better at the end. He is in love with her, but just doesn’t have that kind of heart for me yet. Whatever/whenever that is. I don’t know how this sounds becuase I am depressed and have chest pains from all this. Any advise?

    • Hi Malgorzata

      I am a little unclear about the level of her involvement with your husband. If she is literally the object of his unwanted affections and does not welcome nor encourage his attentions, might this be better described as harassment and/or stalking, than an affair? An affair suggests some form of reciprocity, or mutuality in pursuit of an extra-marital relationship – if there is none, to call it an emotional affair is a perhaps dangerous misnomer. If he is trying to force a relationship with her in this way I would highly advise you to seek legal advice.

      Either way, his pursuit of someone else (whether unrequited or otherwise) is NOT the product of your marriage – its cause and consequence is the product of your husband’s mindset and worldview. ‘Working on your relationship’ is applying an incorrect tool to the issue you’re facing: him. I fail to see any connection between his pursuit of someone else and an improvement to your marriage – that’s absurd.

      The stress and upset of all of this is very real, and I am so sorry that you’re having to face all the physical and emotional fallout that his choices are causing you. Please do seek medical help as appropriate – these things can quickly worsen, so please get the help you need.

      I wish you well.

  14. This sounds crazy to me. Cheaters cheat of their own free choice. It is NEVER caused by their partner. If there are problems in the relationship, the healthy, mature thing to do is talk them out. If they cannot be worked out, then the sad truth is that divorce/break up is the best option. If there is hope, each of the two must dedicate 100% to fixing it. Cheating is the weak way out and there is no way a person should blame themselves for the weakness and bad decision making of their partner.

    • Hi Zelda21, thank you for taking the time to comment.

      It’s saddening how often we encounter people who are determined to accept responsibility for the choices their partner has made, either solely or jointly with the cheater.

      The ‘shared blame’ approach taken by the marital recovery industry supports this and can be attractive to all involved – this is why it is so easily accepted and widespread, despite it not having any reasonable or rational basis. Unfortunately, both the cheater and the faithful partner buy-in:
      1. For the cheater, shifting blame allows them to feel justified in their abusive choices while preserving their self-view.
      2. For the faithful spouse, if they claim some degree of ownership of the problem then they can also claim some degree of the cure – and most faithful spouses are eager and desperate fixers. What can a faithful spouse fix? Themselves. Claiming partial responsibility is misguided, but stems from a sense of: “If I am the problem then I am also the solution, therefore I have some control.”

      The marital recovery industry relies entirely on the dysfunction of couples to sustain it, and infidelity provides dysfunction in spades – especially if the cause of the problem (the cheater) is not addressed and the couple are instead encouraged to blame things which were NOT the cause (the spouse, the marriage, the failure to be pandered to, the price of fish, the neighbor’s garden gnomes etc).

      People reading this might also find this post helpful:
      My Affair Was Your Fault

      It’s not a difficult concept: you can’t own someone else’s shit.

      Best wishes.

  15. I married in 2011. After one year of marriage, I discovered my wife was having an affair with a much older married man with 2 children from another state. The affair was occurring throughout the engagement/wedding planning and one year of marriage. After I found out and confronted her, she ran off to another state and filed for divorce from me. About 6 months later, that affair must’ve ended and she contacted me that she had made a mistake. We reconciled with counseling, etc., and remarried in 2014. Well, sometime in 2015, the affair started back up. I found out in 2016, and the same pattern happened. She ran and filed.

    I question whether she is borderline or at least having traits thereof. Each time she ran she cut contact from me and maintains the affair. I doubt the married guy will leave his family, but who knows.

    I believe I was a pretty good husband. I always planned things to do, dinners, trips, etc. Why do I focus just on me? Was I controlling? Wasn’t I giving enough attention, etc. Why can I not see her for who she really is? Everyone that knows the story screams to me “it’s not YOU.. it’s HER!” Why can’t I see that?

    Cheaters really have no idea the mental anguish and torment they cause. I don’t think I will ever really heal myself after having gone through what I did. Sad thing is is that she’s left me with about zero closure and truth as to what our relationship was or wasn’t.

    I feel like a major crime was committed against me, but I’m the one doing the time. Some days I feel literally insane in thinking about everything. Not to mention I lost 8 years of my life whereby I wanted children and a family of my own.

    • Hi David

      Faithful partners can feel like they’re drowning in a sense of helpless confusion and for many, the way through it is to turn the blame to themselves. Feeling duped and used is a distressing and uncomfortable sensation. It’s normal to seek relief from those feelings, and rationalizing is common:
      ~ It wasn’t that my spouse deliberately screwed me over – they’re mentally ill and couldn’t help it.
      ~ It wasn’t that they’re an unethical and manipulative user – it was that I was a bad husband
      ~ It wasn’t that they chose to do this for their own jollies – I forced them into it because they had needs that I failed to meet.

      Unfortunately, what you’re describing is someone who consciously acted to deliberately avail herself of the benefits of a relationship with you while deceiving you about the nature of that relationship. She wanted all the great things about being with you, without having to give up whatever jollies she gets from her relationship with him. As we explore in Affair Fog Theory: Mental Health, even where cheaters are suffering from mental health disorders (and despite what is often touted, very few cheaters are actually mentally ill) that doesn’t cause, justify, or excuse their behavior.

      It saddens me how often the marital recovery industry fails those who have already been through the devastation of an affair. As I wrote in the article, 10 Steps to Coping With Infidelity:
      “Many couples remain married despite infidelity and this is often celebrated as marital success by both the infidelity support community and marital therapists.

      What is discussed less often is the quality and nature of the post-infidelity marriage – unfortunately many are little more than Divorce Avoidance Plans, not successful Happy Ever After Reconciliations.

      The traditional approach to coping with infidelity might initially prevent divorce but the long-term outlook for the relationship isn’t encouraging.

      In our experience, the traditional approach itself is directly responsible for the widespread failure of post-affair reconciliation attempts.

      We must stop promoting reconciliation as ‘the successful’ outcome and instead recognize that cheater and marriage-centric strategies are responsible for promoting divorce avoidance despite dysfunction, abuse, or incompatibility.

      An affair is an opportunity to legitimately press the pause button on the relationship, creating space to devise a rational, informed and authentic strategy to avoid unhealthy emotional ricocheting.”

      Unfortunately, very few post-infidelity resources and support focus solely on the cheater and their mindset, ethics, and worldview. Instead there are a lot of pretty-sounding consequence-free concepts about shared responsibility, unmet needs, forgiveness, remorse, and improving the marital relationship – far more attractive to both parties than facing the bald truth of a cheater’s character.

      Reconciliation must be contingent on a cheater’s meaningful and measurable change. It must be contingent on their sole ownership of their conduct and choices, and on the cheater’s internally motivated and internally rewarded change. If it’s not, the same thinking and worldview that caused the first affair is the same thinking and worldview that will cause the second (and third, and … well, welcome to serial cheating).

      Cheaters are manipulative and they are willing to use others in pursuit of their own gratification. Expressing remorse as part of a loss avoidance strategy is incredibly easy for a manipulative user. I suspect that is what you’ve been dealing with. You might find this article interesting: Remorse Carrots & Reconciliation

      Cheaters want both, David. That’s the basic premise for cheating. They choose both, neatly avoiding the loss of either relationship. They do this while pretending that their commitment to fidelity is in place, because they value their jollies more than they value their commitment to their primary relationship, and more than they value the emotional and physical wellbeing of their spouse. Knowing this, in my view, is perhaps closure and truth enough.

      I wish you all the best. If you find yourself in a position where you are again considering reconciliation with her, you might find registering with our forum useful to help you work through that.

  16. OMG #1 I didn’t love them properly, they told me how I didn’t d this or that, and got me believing it, and found myself trying to do more for them, I don’t deserve this, deserve better, thank you.

    • Hi Mechanicdaniel

      I am glad that you found the article helpful! Let’s face it, if someone isn’t ‘loving you’ the way you wish or treating you the way you wish, that doesn’t justify cheating – it justifies either fixing it or leaving.

      I wish you all the best.

  17. Going on four years after my husband emotionally cheated on me he still wants me to accept my responseibilty in why he cheated.
    Our relationship was in bad shape. For many years we were not meeting each other’s needs. He wanted the stereotypical marriage of the wife cooks, cleans and takes care of the kids with dinner on the table when he gets home kind of life. Except the reality is I work a full time job, always have and still did my best to do most of that. We were in a tug of war between if you won’t do for me I won’t do for you. He was willing g to “help me” do all of the things around the house if I just gave him a list to do. He wasn’t a partner to me, he was a 4th child. No matter how I tried to tell him I didn’t feel his requests were reasonable requests of a partner he disagreed. So that’s what we did all the time disagree. Eventually I shut down. Did the minimum required of me on a daily basis. Became very depressed and slept, all the time. We couldn’t go out as a family because he was so miserable the kids hated to be around him. We would go away alone a d things would be great. I started believing once the kids were older, we didn’t have to work so much, expenses allowed us to have more Ali e/away time things would be better, and I just shut down. Not willing to fight for what I wanted anymore. Not willing to give him what he wanted. Just waiting for the time to be right for US.
    Now enter the poor hard working stereotypical woman he’s always wanted. A boyfriend who just isn’t meeting her needs and the two became close. Her giving him “advice” on how to reengage with me and him doing the same for her. After a few months of this it just happened, they realized THEY were in love. They couldt explain it. They tried to fight it off by showing each other how horrible they really were inside but they both realized they were right for each other.
    One day seemingly out of the blue he says he doesn’t want us to be together. No mention of this woman just that we are no good for each other. It took me only one day to know there was someone else, he was very good at keeping his relationship with her hidden, but I do know him well enough to know he isn’t strong enough to be alone. I lost my mind. Begging him to stay. Begging him to work things out. I poured my heart out to him. Then this man I never met showed up, my husband became the most emotionally abusive person I’d ever met. I didn’t see it through my own mental break with reality then but slowly started to see it. After almost a YEAR of long talks and discussions about the future we decided to stay together. Problem is this woman is his coworker, stuck with her for as long as they both work at the same company.
    Things have been much better, he was transfered to a different location and their interaction over the last three years has been minimal. He has been open about them working together and if there is a business need for them to be in contact. Now a week ago, he is being transfered back to working with he full time.
    He can’t handle the guilt of what he has done. He want ME to accept my part in his cheating, although he won’t actually admit he cheated. He wants my say so that he is not like every other man who “goes looking for” another woman “it just happened”.
    I refuse to accept my part in his actions. I am fully aware of my part in the relationship failing and have constantly told him this. Today I found this website trying to fin how this is my fault to “help” him with his guilt. I am extremely greatful to find this. I am not wrong. This is not in any way my fault. Whether he wants to see it or believe it he is just like every other cheater. I have forgiven him for the cheating, but how do I forgive him for wanting me to take blame in his actions. Until the last few days it hasn’t come up and I thought he accepted his responsibility, but I see he has not.
    I am very relieved for finding this information. It has put a new light on my situation.

    • Hi Jen

      Ahh, the cheater go-to whine about how you failed to ‘meet their needs’. You might find this article useful: Their Needs, Your Faults

      A cheater who doesn’t accept that they are a cheater is a real issue. What I am hearing here, though, is an absurd wrinkle: he’s not a cheater, I only cheated because you didn’t have my dinner on the table for when I came home. How does that little magic act work in his head? I am not a smoker, I’m puffing away on these Lucky Strikes because you went to work today? It’s just asinine nonsense. If he expects you to accept this, that augurs poorly for the kind of work necessary to reconcile successfully.

      Cheating is a choice, not a mistake or an accident. It doesn’t just happen. It is a conscious and deliberate choice at every interaction with the affair partner, and a conscious and deliberate choice every time the cheater pretends that the agreement of fidelity is being upheld when it isn’t. You cannot reasonably hold yourself accountable for choices he made, especially when you would have vetoed those choices had you been given a say.

      Reconciliation with a cheater who blames you and exonerates himself from the very fact that he is a cheater? That is of serious concern and a Very Bad Idea Indeed. Cheating is the result of a mindset and view of the world – without a change to that, you will be reconciling with a cheater. If he will not accept his own agency in his own conduct, how can he then identify the thinking that enabled his affair, and then work to change it? How can he change what he won’t even acknowledge?

      I would advise you to be highly cautious and take a long hard look at what all of this tells you. Reconciliation in these circumstances is, in my view, very likely to fail.

      I wish you well.

      • I totally agree with Wayfarer on the statements of this being a constant and deliberate choice. For awhile after discovery, my husband kept saying “I don’t know, it just happened”. Wayfarer’s comments are similar to those told to my husband by our marriage therapist who said “This did not just happen, You consciously wanted it to happen and you then took all the actions necessary to make sure it did happen. Then, everyday you made the decision to ensure it continued to happen. If you do not determine your personality flaws that allowed you to give yourself permission to do this and correct them, you are likely to just continue these bad actions”. I would be concerned that anyone who cheats and blames anyone else isn’t recognizing that the flaw is in them. Not to say it is the situation with yours or any other marriage, but if there are reconcilable problems in a marriage, they need to be addressed in a healthy, mature way. If irreconcilable, it’s the same. No creating an escape world.

        • Thank you for taking the time to comment, Saspousehelp.

          It can be difficult for people to accept that infidelity is a conscious and repeated act conducted in full knowledge of the harm it will likely cause their spouse. Unfortunately, without facing that head on and making reconciliation contingent on meaningful change, the same behaviors simply resurface later on.

          • You are so right about the harm to the spouse knowing that information. In my case, my husband said the knowledge of what it would do to me didn’t hit his radar screen because he didn’t bother to think of me at all, just did what he wanted to do. That’s just as hard to hear — that I didn’t even matter enough to be considered. But, I firmly believe that a wife has a right to know all of this so she can be totally informed in making decisions for what to do in her own future.

            • “I firmly believe that a wife has a right to know all of this so she can be totally informed in making decisions for what to do in her own future.”

              Therein lies the issue: cheating is about wanting both and deciding to have both.

              Secrecy, deceit, and manipulation are the tools employed by the cheater to create the environment necessary for them to have both. I have never once encountered a cheater who hid their infidelity (even for a short time) who did not understand the impact their affair would have if discovered. Your husband might not have been concerned about what his conduct would do to you, but he sure as all hell knew how it would affect him if you knew about it. Cheaters lie because it is an effective tool to control and manipulate their spouse.

              The issues of power and control are fundamental in infidelity. The cheater prioritizes their right to choose above their spouse’s right to choose. Controlling the narrative and managing the flow of salient information is how the cheater secures the unaware spouse in the marriage. It allows them to have both the marriage and the affair relationship, without having to deal with any of those pesky consequences.

  18. My husband left me 7 months ago for his affair partner. He filed for divorce and is living with her. We have two children. And all he keeps telling me is that he has no respect for me, how he despises me it’s like he changed overnight. We used to be happy until he went out and met this girl and now I am nothing. I guess I just can’t understand why everything is my fault. I did nothing wrong.

    • Hi Kayla

      What you’re going through is both confusing and devastating – I’m sorry that you’re having to deal with this kind of situation in your life.

      What is not usually discussed on infidelity support sites (particularly reconciliation apologist sites) is the undercurrent of resentment that exists in infidelity. Many cheaters feel unfairly disadvantaged by their marriage (despite it being the choice they made for themselves) and -particularly in exit affairs- their disenchantment and dissatisfaction is turned onto the faithful spouse. Why? Because it provides an expedient narrative for the cheater that ends with, “… and that’s why I am entitled to my affair.” Unfortunately, that narrative usually has a post-script of, “… and that’s why I am entitled to behave like an abusive asshole to my spouse.”

      I want to be clear here: The cause of his affair wasn’t you – the cause of his affair was him. He is responsible for the choices he makes in response to his dissatisfaction, not you.

      His tone and attitude towards you is intended to keep you wrong-footed and hurt, Kayla. It’s punishment for not being [insert his complaints] – he wants you to feel responsible, and feel miserable. Why? Because it gives him power and centrality. If you’re devastated and blaming yourself, pining for him, begging, pleading, and promising that you’ll change in his version of a Stepford Wife, he will translate that as evidence of his utter awesomeness, preening with an inflated sense of desirability. This will confirm for him that he deserved better all along, and that he was so right to have his affair – he was owed better. At the same time, he will be meting out your punishment by dismissing you, demeaning you, criticizing you, and playing on your fears and self-doubt – and he will know all your soft spots, too. It’s ugly, and it’s manipulative, and it’s fully intended to hurt. It’s not uncommon, either, for the cheater to ramp up the abuse to satisfy the affair partner. It’s often intended to underscore the cheater’s vehement rejection of the spouse and to prove their luuuuuurve of their affair partner. I know – it’s hideous.

      I will caution you, Kayla. When a cheater turns on this kind of deliberate viciousness, that generally translates into the legal approach they take too. Please expect him to fight hard and fight dirty. Don’t expect him to be fair in a settlement, or make things easy, even for the sake of the kids. If you haven’t already done so, please hire a lawyer who is experienced in and equipped to deal with someone who delays, uses starve-out tactics, runs up unnecessarily large legal bills, and tries to screw you over at every turn. If your lawyer doesn’t have the stomach for a bloody fight, please consider finding one who is.

      I would also suggest you read these, Kayla:
      My Affair Was Your Fault
      The Infidelity Megafecta
      Don’t Pet the Snakes
      Character Change

      I know this is awful to deal with. Please make sure that you have a good support network around you, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from others when you need it.

      I wish you the very best.

  19. Hi, not sure I can write this without feeling sick to my stomach (again) but I WAS the other woman…yes, I went outside my marriage vows & I could offer 100&1 reasons why I thought it was okay, but deep down I knew it wasn’t.

    The ironic thing was that after talking to each other, sexting, & having 4:30 am phone calls to watch the sun come up together, we (the man I had the affair with & I) meet. We had a fantastic night of non-stop sex but I could tell that next morning that he couldn’t get dressed & out of my house fast enough.

    I do believe in Karma, & sure enough it came around quick & deep…he dumped me 2 days later via text message that he was struggling with “the guilt” of infidelity – supposedly the 1st time ever, but he wasn’t too worried about his infidelity when he was packing an overnight bag or stopping at the adult toy store to buy $250 worth of “playthings” for us to use that night. Yep, I got “played & laid”…

    Afterwards, he wouldn’t speak to me, his texts were full of “it’s not you, it’s me” as he practically raced out of my life without a backward glance. I understand, I made this choice; no one held a gun to my head…1 of my fatal mistakes was in believing the lines he fed me in the month prior to our meeting. His wife is no more “frigid” & “probably lesbian” than I am….

    if I am honest, I have to admit that I am staying in a marriage that needs major work on both sides. That doesn’t excuse any of my behavior, I know. I wanted this & I didn’t care if I hurt someone else in the process of getting what I wanted. To be honest, I never considered that I would be the one hurting so badly….

    I couldn’t believe I felt treated like a Kleenex that he “blew his nose into”, crumpled up & tossed aside. It made me realize how devastating it must be to our partners to be getting only the “leftovers” of someone’s feelings.

    I haven’t confessed the affair to my spouse but am in counseling myself to figure out where I go from here.

    I just wanted to write to share my mistake with the hope that others would learn from it. No 1 night or affair, no matter how alluring it seems is worth the pain & suffering it eventually causes.
    Thanks for letting me share this.

    • Hello Ci

      Thank you for taking the time to post a comment.

      I did find it somewhat interesting that you seem to prefer to identify as ‘the other woman’ rather than saying, “I am a cheater.” It’s a telling slant that screams your focus: your affair relationship, how you got used, and your pain and suffering as a result.

      It might be worth you delving into how infidelity actually does harm the faithful spouse, because there are other aspects that cause far greater damage than just getting the ‘leftovers’ of the cheater’s feelings. The real harm comes from being mistreated, manipulated, put at risk, disrespected, devalued, demeaned, and blamed for someone else’s choices. The cheater uses the faithful spouse as a commodity for their convenience, comfort and benefit while they pursue their jollies elsewhere. The primary harm is that these things aggregate into abuse not that they weren’t the sole recipient of the cheater’s love. You might like to read these:
      The Infidelity Megafecta
      Disclosing an Affair: To Tell or Not to Tell
      The Protection Defense

      If you haven’t already done so, I would suggest that you task your counselor with helping you with a no holds barred exploration of your ethical framework and your own willingness to use others for your own gratification – you can’t reasonably object to being used by this guy, while simultaneously using your husband.

  20. My husband cheated and left me for another woman. I am struggling with feelings of blame. He told me years ago that he thought something was wrong with our marriage and we needed help. I ignored it. I don’t know if I can believe it’s not my fault. If I would have agreed to counseling everything could have changed.

    • Hi Ashley

      You wrote: “He told me years ago that he thought something was wrong with our marriage and we needed help. I ignored it.” Ask yourself this: What did your husband do to enlist some help? What prevented him from sourcing and setting up appointments with a counselor himself? What did he do, other than once voice some vague concern that ‘something was wrong’? What steps did he take to identify and resolve the issues, if he felt they were real and problematic?

      Answer: Nothing? He mentioned it some years ago and then continued to enjoy the benefits and convenience of the marriage, despite some woolly, unspecified misgivings? Doesn’t that rather suggest that he also ignored any issues? Doesn’t it suggest that they were inconsequential enough that he bumped along quite happily for years? What in that suggests any degree of desperate and unavoidable misery that was so harrowing to him that he was steamrolled into the sole option of an unethical and dishonorable way to exit life with you?

      Some more questions to ask yourself:
      a) Why was the onus on you alone to leap in to resolve a concern that he had? Why did he not take control of the situation himself? Why didn’t he express that he had real concerns, and that he was serious about addressing them with you? Are you saying that he did this and you dismissed it out of hand and refused to work with him and seek support? I suspect not.
      b) When nothing changed, why -if he was so unhappy- didn’t he either i) do something about it or ii) exit the relationship as ‘not working for him’?
      c) How are you responsible for choices he made, when you were neither informed, consulted, nor given the right of veto on them?

      “If they had come to you and said, “I am unhappy and considering an affair – can we talk?” it’s unlikely that your response would have been a dismissive wave of the hand and a request to take the trash out.”
      IHG: Affair Rationalizations: Who Stopped You?

      You share a responsibility for the tone and issues within your marriage – you share them with your husband. However, there are two important aspects in this:
      1. He is solely to blame for the choices he made the moment he decided to cross the boundaries of your monogamous marriage.
      2. He had other choices – cheating is neither an inevitable nor reasonable act in response to marital dissatisfaction.

      Imperfect marriages don’t cause infidelity, Ashley. If they did, we would all be cheating … YOU would have been cheating! Imperfect marriages can, of course, give rise to dissatisfaction. How one chooses to respond to that dissatisfaction is wholly on the individual. Nobody else causes someone to cheat – cheaters make a deliberate and conscious choice to do so themselves, in pursuit of their own gratification.

      An affair is a convenient and expedient way to pursue personal satisfaction, regardless of the risk and impact on others, regardless of the cheater’s commitments and obligations, and in suspension of integrity, ethics, and respectful treatment of others. Cheating fully intends to enjoy an affair relationship while continuing to enjoy the benefits of the marriage. Marital dissatisfaction didn’t force him into taking risks with your health and well-being. Marital dissatisfaction didn’t compel him to suspend ethical, respectful, and right treatment of you. Marital dissatisfaction didn’t relieve him of his obligations and his duty of care toward you.

      Cheating is an indication of broader issues such as character, mindset, and value/priorities. Cheating is not an aberrant, new behavior – it is one expression of someone’s worldview, one symptom of how they think and how they navigate their way through life. As is explored in Affair Fog Theory: Character Change, cheater-think can be traced back to other behaviors and, in hindsight, the faithful spouse can usually see how they have previously accepted, excused, and normalized less egregious expressions of the cheater’s thinking. Those issues are rarely addressed in marital counseling.

      In addition to the articles I linked in my reply, you might find these articles interesting:
      The Infidelity Megafecta
      How Could You?
      Driven to an Affair

      There are ethical and reasonable responses to marital dissatisfaction, but “I cheated because I was unhappy in my marriage” doesn’t pass the test of reasonableness. A spouse unhappy in a marriage isn’t driven to cheat by the faithful partner. A spouse dissatisfied with a marriage has a variety of options they could choose in response to their situation. Choosing to cheat is entirely on them.

      I know this is difficult to absorb, and that blaming yourself for your inaction allows you to believe that you had the power to prevent his affair. Truthfully, the only person who had that power was him.

      I hope that helps in some way. I wish you the very best.

      • Have to disagree on this one. Her husband DID do something about it. He brought up the issue and she choose to ignore it. She continued to offer the “benefits of marriage” knowing his disclosure of feeling the marriage wasn’t right. Nowhere does it say he was not willing to do more, so why that assumption? As someone who has brought up the same to my spouse and been ignored, I can say, takes two to mend a marriage. Not that it justifies cheating, but ignoring it when your spouse makes a comment like this sends a clear message of disinterest in doing anything to help the situation.

        • Hi Mary, thank you for the comment.

          Conflating responsibility for an affair with not taking a spouse’s expression of dissatisfaction seriously, is flawed; as you have rightly pointed out, it doesn’t justify cheating.

          While I did actually offer the possibility that he may have tried to seriously address it and that Ashley may have refused to work with him on it, in my experience that is not usually how these situations play out. My presumption in this case was made from context and experience and if I am incorrect, fair enough. However, I trust that Ashley hadn’t neglected to mention that she had repeatedly refused to attend marital counselling sessions that he had set up and had instead gone bowling, or that she rejected out of hand the self-help workbooks he begged her to work through with him, preferring to watch Matlock repeats, or that she went clubbing instead of going to the sessions he arranged with their religious counselor, or that she decided to watch paint dry rather than agree to sit and discuss it further with him.

          The point I was making is that Ashley’s husband had the option to do something more/something else other than cheat if he really wanted to address his concerns (however much he actually did), and if he felt he had exhausted his options or that doing more wasn’t going to work for him, he could have chosen to file for divorce. My point to Ashley was that at no point was her husband’s affair compelled or justified by her inaction, nor was it a reasonable and ethical response to whatever marital dissatisfaction he felt. He had options, but what’s clear is that rather than progress an honorable exit from the marriage, he chose to supplement it with an affair.

          I agree – ignoring a spouse’s concern about the state of the marriage could signal disinterest. Certainly, imperfect beings in imperfect relationships can give rise to dissatisfaction in both parties. Yes, feeling under-appreciated, unheard, or little more than a commodity in the marriage can give rise to upset, anger, and discontent. However, cheating has absolutely nothing to do with trying to help the situation or mend a marriage, unilaterally or otherwise.

          There are reasonable and ethical responses to marital dissatisfaction, but cheaters prefer to deliver a deliberate, well-placed, and fully punitive Fuck You to the faithful spouse’s solar plexus (either overtly or secretly).

          It’s important to stress that the person to blame for a cheater’s infidelity is the cheater. One spouse’s apparent disinterest in marital improvement isn’t justification or cause for the other’s infidelity … though it might be reasonable justification and cause to leave.

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