Affairs & Emotional Abuse

Canary in a Coal Mine

Affairs: Canary in a coal mine for abuseMost faithful spouses agree that their cheater’s behavior in an affair would constitute emotional (and sometimes, physical) abuse. However, most would also claim that any such abuse is a departure from the norm in both their cheater and their relationship. Many claim that there was no remarkable dysfunction in their relationship whatsoever.

Unfortunately, our experience suggests an entirely different reality: Infidelity and its attendant abusive behaviors is often part of an escalating pattern of emotional abuse that has characterized the relationship for years. The faithful spouse might not even cognitively understand that there is abuse in play and may have been lulled into tolerating and accepting gradually accelerated/intensified abuse (that is difficult to discern as a result).

When an affair comes to light, the first response of the faithful spouse -once the shock wears off- is often to try to salvage the marriage. That’s wholly understandable, but more often than not the affair is simply a canary in the coal mine, a signal to back off and take a good hard look at the relationship and your partner.

Below is some excellent information on the issue of emotional abuse. It has been reproduced here on IHG in full, with the kind permission of its author, Steve Hein at EQI.

EQI: What is Emotional Abuse?

Abuse is any behavior that is designed to control and subjugate another human being through the use of fear, humiliation, intimidation, guilt, coercion, manipulation etc. Emotional abuse is any kind of abuse that is emotional rather than physical in nature. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics, such as repeated disapproval or even the refusal to ever be pleased.

Emotional abuse is like brain washing in that it systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under the guise of “guidance,” “teaching”, or “advice,” the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and more lasting that physical ones. In fact there is research to this effect. With emotional abuse, the insults, insinuations, criticism and accusations slowly eat away at the victim’s self-esteem until she is incapable of judging the situation realistically. She has become so beaten down emotionally that she blames herself for the abuse. Her self-esteem is so low that she clings to the abuser.

Emotional abuse victims can become so convinced that they are worthless that they believe that no one else could want them. They stay in abusive situations because they believe they have nowhere else to go. Their ultimate fear is being all alone.

Emotional abuse can also be called psychological abuse, mental abuse. If it occurs within a family it can be called psychological incest or emotional incest.

EQI: Types of Emotional Abuse

Abusive Expectations

  • The other person places unreasonable demands on you and wants you to put everything else aside to tend to their needs.
  • It could be a demand for constant attention, or a requirement that you spend all your free time with the person.
  • But no matter how much you give, it’s never enough.
  • You are subjected to constant criticism, and you are constantly berated because you don’t fulfill all this person’s needs.


  • Aggressive forms of abuse include name-calling, accusing, blaming, threatening, and ordering. Aggressing behaviors are generally direct and obvious. The one-up position the abuser assumes by attempting to judge or invalidate the recipient undermines the equality and autonomy that are essential to healthy adult relationships. This parent-child pattern of communication (which is common to all forms of verbal abuse) is most obvious when the abuser takes an aggressive stance.
  • Aggressive abuse can also take a more indirect form and may even be disguised and “helping.” Criticizing, advising, offering solutions, analyzing, proving, and questioning another person may be a sincere attempt to help. In some instances however, these behaviors may be an attempt to belittle, control, or demean rather than help. The underlying judgmental “I know best” tone the abuser takes in these situations is inappropriate and creates unequal footing in peer relationships. This and other types of emotional abuse can lead to what is known as learned helplessness.

Constant Chaos

  • The other person may deliberately start arguments and be in constant conflict with others.
  • The person may be “addicted to drama” since it creates excitement.


  • Denying a person’s emotional needs, especially when they feel that need the most, and done with the intent of hurting, punishing or humiliating (examples).
  • The other person may deny that certain events occurred or that certain things were said. confronts the abuser about an incident of name calling, the abuser may insist, “I never said that,” “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” etc. You know differently.
  • The other person may deny your perceptions, memory and very sanity.
  • Withholding is another form of denying. Withholding includes refusing to listen, refusing to communicate, and emotionally withdrawing as punishment. This is sometimes called the “silent treatment.”
  • When the abuser disallows and overrules any viewpoints, perceptions or feelings which differ from their own.
  • Denying can be particularly damaging. In addition to lowering self-esteem and creating conflict, the invalidation of reality, feelings, and experiences can eventually lead you to question and mistrust your own perceptions and emotional experience.
  • Denying and other forms of emotional abuse can cause you to lose confidence in your most valuable survival tool: your own mind.


  • Someone wants to control your every action. They have to have their own way, and will resort to threats to get it.
  • When you allow someone else to dominate you, you can lose respect for yourself.

Emotional Blackmail

  • The other person plays on your fear, guilt, compassion, values, or other “hot buttons” to get what they want.
  • This could include threats to end the relationship, totally reject or abandon you, giving you the the “cold shoulder,” or using other fear tactics to control you.


  • The abuser seeks to distort or undermine the recipient’s perceptions of their world. Invalidating occurs when the abuser refuses or fails to acknowledge reality. For example, if the recipient tells the person they felt hurt by something the abuser did or said, the abuser might say “You are too sensitive. That shouldn’t hurt you.” Here is a much more complete description of invalidation


  • Minimizing is a less extreme form of denial. When minimizing, the abuser may not deny that a particular event occurred, but they question the recipient’s emotional experience or reaction to an event. Statements such as “You’re too sensitive,” “You’re exaggerating,” or “You’re blowing this out of proportion” all suggest that the recipient’s emotions and perceptions are faulty and not be trusted.
  • Trivializing, which occurs when the abuser suggests that what you have done or communicated is inconsequential or unimportant, is a more subtle form of minimizing.

Unpredictable Responses

  • Drastic mood changes or sudden emotional outbursts. Whenever someone in your life reacts very differently at different times to the same behavior from you, tells you one thing one day and the opposite the next, or likes something you do one day and hates it the next, you are being abused with unpredictable responses.
  • This behavior is damaging because it puts you always on edge. You’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and you can never know what’s expected of you. You must remain hypervigilant, waiting for the other person’s next outburst or change of mood.
  • An alcoholic or drug abuser is likely to act this way. Living with someone like this is tremendously demanding and anxiety provoking, causing the abused person to feel constantly frightened, unsettled and off balance.

Verbal Assaults

  • Berating, belittling, criticizing, name calling, screaming, threatening
  • Excessive blaming, and using sarcasm and humiliation.
  • Blowing your flaws out of proportion and making fun of you in front of others. Over time, this type of abuse erodes your sense of self confidence and self-worth.

EQI: Understanding Abusive Relationships

No one intends to be in an abusive relationship, but individuals who were verbally abused by a parent or other significant person often find themselves in similar situations as an adult. If a parent tended to define your experiences and emotions, and judge your behaviors, you may not have learned how to set your own standards, develop your own viewpoints and validate your own feeling and perceptions. Consequently, the controlling and defining stance taken by an emotional abuser may feel familiar or even conformable to you, although it is destructive.

Recipients of abuse often struggle with feelings of powerlessness, hurt, fear, and anger. Ironically abusers tend to struggle with these same feelings. Abuser are also likely to have been raised in emotionally abusive environments and they learn to be abusive as a way to cope with their own feelings of powerlessness, hurt , fear, and anger. Consequently, abusers may be attracted to people who see themselves as helpless or who have not learned to value their own feelings, perceptions, or viewpoints. This allows the abuser to feel more secure and in control, and avoid dealing with their own feelings, and self-perceptions.

Emotional abuse victims can become so convinced that they are worthless that they believe that no one else could want them. They stay in abusive situations because they believe they have nowhere else to go. Their ultimate fear is being all alone.

Understanding the pattern of your relationships, specially those with family members and other significant people, is a fist step toward change. A lack of clarity about who you are in relationship to significant others may manifest itself in different ways. For example, you may act as an “abuser” in some instances and as a “recipient” in others. You may find that you tend to be abused in your romantic relationships, allowing your partners to define and control you. In friendships, however, you may play the role of abuser by withholding, manipulating, trying to “help” others, etc. Knowing yourself and understanding your past can prevent abuse from being recreated in your life.

Reproduced from EQI with kind permission


  1. Nothing ever happens to the abuser. Always the victims suffer. I’m one and have been for 35years now and tried to get help and just get pushed aside. My own family doesn’t care either. Their on his side. Life is a joke. I don’t understand why I have been put on this earth. What to be used and abused !

    • Hi Kim

      Insidious long-term abuse erodes one’s sense of self and can be crippling. Reaching out for help is important, but to whom you reach out is equally important. Generally, families aren’t equipped to help you navigate through the very real challenges that abuse presents and often end up as helpless bystanders.

      Please don’t be afraid to contact the emergency services if that’s what it takes to keep yourself safe. Local authorities can help you with physical abuse, but if what you’re experiencing is emotional abuse I would strongly recommend that you find yourself a qualified psychology clinician (not a family therapist) for some support and help. Having a qualified professional psychologist to help you navigate through this and formulate a plan for yourself can be not only empowering, but you will have someone who is solely focused on your best interests.

      Abuse is isolating and that is part of its power. Build yourself a support network to counteract that power – there are lots of communities online for support through abusive situations, and most areas have in-person domestic abuse support groups. Don’t let your family’s lack of support prevent you from finding it elsewhere.

      I wish you the very best.

    • You may need to start fresh and get away from your abuser as well as your family, or least but some grave distance between you & your family.

  2. My husband has been emotionally abusive for years… I don’t know if he even realises he is doing it. Put downs, jealousy, locking me out of the house, calling me fat, boring…. You get used to it and defend them, even when they are rude to you friends. I should have left or forced him to deal with this years ago. I didn’t. I had an affair with someone who cared and made me feel.good. my husband found out. He screamed, smashed my phone off the wall, grabbed and threw me by the hair, shook me by the neck and hit me (not hard). He then decided we’d work through it. I wasn’t sure we could but felt we should try, given he agreed to counselling. Waiting times are long… In the meantime he hacked my social media (not just guessing password, actual hacking…) and accessed my messages. He then drip fed his findings until I could barely breathe in my home. I left to stay with a friend for a couple of nights… He seemed ok but then posted screen shots of my personal messages on his facebook account. Having already sought advice from Women’s Aid, I contacted the police. He will now be charged with domestic assault and possible computer offences. I feel utterly awful. The affair was my fault entirely. He is hurt, panicking, bereft and frightened and will now be interviewed by the police. I’ve been reassured by friends and authorities that his behaviour has brought this upon him but I also did wrong and even though I’ve been unhappy for years still feel I am responsible. My life is wrecked and i want to protect him, despite everything. I never wanted this end, even though I’m frequently unhappy.

    • Hi Fiona

      There is never an excuse for abuse -emotional or physical- and while I understand that you feel terrible about taking legal steps to protect yourself, taking those steps is a rational and reasonable response. I want to be clear: you are not responsible for his response to his anger and stressors.

      There is never an excuse for cheating, either. While I understand that you were unhappy, being unhappy doesn’t entitle you to cheat – it entitles you to leave, or to attempt to resolve the issue honestly and ethically. Again, I want to be clear: your husband’s behavior didn’t compel you to cheat – he is not responsible for your response to your unhappiness and stressors. As explored in the article, My Affair Was Your Fault, you did have other options.

      When there is reluctance to end such a long-term dysfunctional relationship -especially one with abuses from both parties- it is worth perhaps exploring the issues of codependency, the security of familiarity vs the fear of change, and any practical issues you might feel are tethering you both to such a harmful relationship environment (e.g. finances, kids, housing etc). When the issue of your unhappiness becomes an issue of your abuses, and when the issue of his anger becomes an issue of his abuses, that is damaging to all involved, kids included. However, I appreciate that it can be extraordinarily challenging to make a decision to part ways, even when that decision seems like an obvious one.

      I wish you both well.

  3. I divorced my husband for cheating. In fact he got the papers a week after I found out.

    Although the main reason for the divorce was, obviously, his adultery, he had been really nasty to me during the 8 months of his affair. This made me see another side of him that I didn’t like and made me question a lot of his previous behaviour.
    In addition I hadn’t been happy in the marriage for some time but couldn’t work out what it was that was wrong.

    I realised that I had been subtley abused in ways that were so low key that they’d slipped under my radar, as it where. Also, he was a shift worker and wasn’t physically present for well over half the 6 years we were married. Possibly if it had been a 9 – 5 marriage I would have been more aware ?

    He went on to marry his affair partner 5 years after I divorced him when she got pregnant. He stopped working shifts. They have been together about 20 years.

    We are told that these type of people (abusers) don’t change. I am wondering how she has tolerated him for all this time?

    People tell me that she is just better at tolerating his $hi£ than I was, but this seems too simplistic.

    Any answers? Thank you.

    • Hi Puzzled

      There are a few questions that might help you answer this:
      1. When you first started dating your ex, did you see his abusiveness?
      2. Did you equate what you now identify as ‘subtle abuse’ as abusiveness at the time?
      3. If you had not discovered his cheating, would you still be married?

      It’s worth considering:
      1. Abusers aren’t immediately identified as abusers because they don’t immediately present as abusers. Most people starting out in relationships try to show the best version of themselves and it’s generally when people feel secure and comfortable that other aspects of personality and character become visible. Healthy people who see abusiveness at the outset of a relationship tend to discontinue that relationship ASAP.
      2. We all excuse and justify poor behavior in others, to greater and lesser degrees, especially in those we love. (You might like to read this: Affair Fog Theory: Character Change.) To use the trusty frog analogy: dysfunction, suppression, being demeaned etc., isn’t overt at the relationship’s outset – it heats up slowly, often over years, and is accommodated by our small -seemingly inconsequential- rationalizations and justifications for that behavior (e.g. we all have our faults, she doesn’t mean it that way, they might have a point about that, he’s allowed to screw up, etc., etc., etc). We become accustomed to the new temperature and our tolerance of it signals that it’s okay for the heat to be turned up even more … and so the cycle takes hold.
      3. Most frogs will happily snooze in the slowly increasing heat, until it starts to boil, or until they are woken up by a dousing of ice cold water. Your discovery of his cheating was the deluge of iced water that brought his conduct into focus for you.

      Something we see every day here is this: “My spouse might be an asshole, but as long as they’re MY asshole, I will tolerate it.” We are greatly concerned about what this means in terms of abuse in relationships. The slowly escalating mistreatment is so often excused: it wasn’t always like this, maybe they’re having a hard time, I know who they really are, when they’re nice they’re awesome, it’s not like they’re hitting me, it’s not THAT bad, my life is rather nice and this isn’t worth losing it all over, everyone is entitled to a bad day every now and then, etc. And then BAM, an affair is discovered, and all of a sudden the response is very different. There is outrage. There is upset. There are threats to leave. Divorce is suddenly on the table.

      When we really look at it, we have to ask ourselves the (crude) question: “Why is the act of him/her having sex or emotional intimacy with someone else what motivated me to action, but all the attendant abuse and historical abuse was something I tolerated?”

      This is what we’re trying to get people to really think about at IHG, because it’s tied up with all kinds of cultural skews: Why is mistreatment so often rationalized as passable/livable but infidelity is what is intolerable? On the scale of Things That Are Acceptable, why is a cheater’s abuse of others less important than with whom they have sex/emotional intimacy? It’s concerning, isn’t it?

      So, to answer your question: Is she better at tolerating his shit than you were? I suspect not, because snoozy froggies tend to tolerate the slowly ramping heat equally well – you and she may be more similar in that than you might care to believe. I think it’s also fair to say that their interpersonal dynamic will be different to your dynamic with him, and that will also be a factor. However, I think the primary difference here is likely to be that she, so far, hasn’t had the bucket of ice water poured over her head.

      I hope that helps you answer your question.

      I wish you the very best.

      • Hi Wayfarer and thank you for your very comprehensive and lucid response which has given me food for thought.

        My response to Q.1 = No
        To Q.2 = No. I did not see it as “abusiveness”, I saw it as an undesirable part of his personality that I didn’t like.
        To Q.3 = I’m not sure.

        All of this begs the question as to why I did not see his behaviour as “abuse”? The answer, as I see it, is that because of my family background I was brought up to see verbal abuse as “normal”.
        My mother was verbally ( and occasionally) physically abusive to me as a child. From this I leaned early on to keep quiet, not to intellectually challenge her, not to cry or show any emotions, obey adults, do as I was told and work hard at school.

        So I grew up to be a model child with good academic achievements. I left home as soon as I could to go to Uni and get away from here – I never went back.

        So when my ex-husband walked away when I was upset, refused to discuss issues I had, was cold and distant and ignored me, I tolerated it. Because it was familiar.

        I moved 300 miles from home to marry. I knew no-one in the town, and had a job I disliked. My husband wouldn’t socialise, so I was isolated from people. I grew more miserable and unhappy in the marriage but blamed my job.

        Then things changed for me as I think I started to wake up. I got a better job where there were people my own age and I listened to how they talked about their husbands. I realised that my marriage wasn’t like theirs.

        So I started to challenge him and ask for more for myself, I stopped backing down and demanded fair treatment. I told him I was fed up with being a sexual housekeeper. The little grey mouse that he married turned into a lion and had started to roar.

        About this time he started his affair. I think.that he knew he was loosing control of me and was looking for a “replacement”.

        I believe the affair was a catalyst for me to make the final break. How long it would have taken me to leave the marriage without that “cattle prod” I can’t say.

        His “replacement” was a girl much younger, single, who had be brought up in a home where her father abused her mother. At the time my husband started the affair her parents were divorcing. So her idea of marriage/family life was also skewed.
        If my self-esteem was low, then hers was in the gutter, otherwise she wouldn’t have agreed to be an affair partner.

        I believe there is a pattern here.

        As you say, perhaps his new “little grey mouse” hasn’t leaned to roar yet?

        • Hi Puzzled

          What you’re describing is horribly prevalent in abusive relationships: a history of ‘normalized’ abuse, stoicism, and a replacement abuser who identifies the patterns and vulnerabilities in someone else, isolates them and makes themselves powerfully indispensable. It’s a highly fertile scenario for escalating abuse.

          On top of that, there is significant cultural pressure on abuse victims (in which I include victims of infidelity) to endure their situations out of a notion of unconditional, selfless, devotional love – if you’re a ‘good person’, and if you love them ‘properly’, you will love them through it, because they’re flawed, or broken, or mentally compromised. It’s insidious, and we see it evidenced in faithful spouses time after time.

          If she is experiencing similar mistreatment, I do hope she learns to roar, but after so long it may well be that this has become both normal and acceptable to her.

          Infidelity is but one form of maltreatment and, as you say, it can be a cattle prod to exit the relationship. Unfortunately, though, for so many more it is nothing more than a cattle prod into redoubling their efforts to remain shackled to their cheater-abuser. So many faithful spouses scramble to try to keep their cheater-abuser – they walk on eggshells, try to be ‘better’ versions of themselves, focus on love and loving the cheater through it and making the cheater happy, and they rationalize why staying with them is the ‘best’ option for all involved.

          We battle this very issue daily, and it’s horrifying how many people try to dilute the message here by trying to replace it with the message that is already deeply -and dangerously- embedded into the faithful spouse’s psyche – that message is that cheaters (and abusers) are broken and confused, reacting autonomically to their own internal torment and demons, as much a victim of their own past as the faithful spouse is a victim of the cheater’s abuse. I consider that a very dangerous (and erroneous) message indeed.

          IHG’s message is that cheating is not an autonomic, ineluctable outcome of anyone’s history, angst, or mental health. The cheater sees infidelity as an attractive option, but it’s just that – one choice in a buffet of choices. Those who select the tasty infidelity morsel from the silver salver do so consciously, deliberately, and in the full knowledge that they do have other options. That they purposefully choose the unethical and highly damaging ‘Fuck You’ of infidelity, and compound that with supplementary mistreatment, is not the result of brokenness – it’s the result of assholery.

          Take care and keep roaring against abuse, Puzzled.

          Best wishes.

  4. Hello. Im 36 years old and been married for 13 years. My husband emotionally abused and controlled me obsessively for the last 2 years of that. I felt alone, depressed, inferior, worthless, and my very spirit was broken. I unintentionally met a Christian man during this time and we became close friends. We read thd bible together and spent alot of time together. He lifted my spirit and began to heal my broken heart.
    We fell deep in love but me being married and all my lies caught up to me. My husband discovered my infidelity and the results almost caused us to divorce. I ended the 7 month amonth, and my husband and I have been working on our marriage. We have been blessed with a baby after many years of infertility. Things are good at times, however he keeps throwing my affair in my face and refuses to acknowledge the emotional damage hes done to me and believes my affair is far worse.
    I recognize that I hurt my husband, and although hes made some change for the better I still see him stonewalling and some of his old ways still show up. I also feel guilty because I hurt the one man who got me through my tough time and saved my life. I need any light that can be shed on my situation? The constant arguing and distance is eating our marriage alive

    • Hi Marie

      The issue of abuse is such a difficult and sensitive subject, and can be especially difficult to address when a victim of an abusive relationship perceives that abuse was the cause of their affair. In making a distinction between precondition and cause, I don’t seek to dismiss the egregious nature of abuse but instead wish to keep central the issue of individual agency and choice.

      Marie, what you’re describing is clearly an abusive relationship where the abuses are being perpetrated by both parties. That is an unhealthy and unsafe dynamic for the adults involved, and particularly worrying with the addition of an infant to that abusive environment.

      His mistreatment of you was unacceptable, just as your mistreatment of him was unacceptable. That it has become something of a competition for whose conduct was worse suggests that:
      a) you’re trying to justify your own conduct and dodge responsibility for your conscious choices and
      b) he’s trying to redirect attention from his own conduct and choices, using your affair to deflect from it.
      Let’s declare that you both win the questionable prize of ‘worst conduct’. Instead of engaging in this game of dodging, blaming, and counter-punching, why not both -separately- get some help to work through your individual issues? (I wouldn’t recommend marital counseling at this point.) Abuse has long-reaching tendrils for both the victim and the abuser, and psychotherapists who specialize in abuse could be beneficial to both you and your husband if you’re both committed to working through the emotional and psychological morass.

      It’s concerning, though, that reconciliation and infidelity seem to be the primary focus of a relationship in which you describe historical and ongoing abuse. I would advise you both to take stock of your situation and really consider if a continuing relationship under these circumstances is viable or sensible. With a history of abuses on both sides (some aspects of that abuse persisting into the present day) and a current and consistently dysfunctional and combative dynamic, it is rational and reasonable to re-evaluate the soundness of remaining in the relationship, particularly when that also exposes your child to an unhealthy and unsafe environment.

      If you do decide to continue to try to reconcile despite the abuse you describe, you will be faced with the additional issues that most reconciling couples experience. One significant factor in reconciliation is the cheater’s failure to understand and address their own thinking and conduct. If you decide to reconcile, it’s important that you understand that your affair was the result of your behavior, thinking, and conscious and deliberate choices, not his. I emphasize this because while I note the obligatory ‘working on the marriage’ phrase, I also see that you haven’t mentioned any specifics about addressing your own ethical and character deficiencies (from which you gave yourself permission to cheat). You haven’t mentioned what you’re doing to resolve those internal issues that you have, and what plan you are implementing to repair the damage you brought to your marriage by your affair.

      There will be a lot for you both to work through, but I would highly recommend resolving the issue of abuse before you make a decision for yourself and your child to remain in a relationship that exposes you all to harm.

  5. Thank you for your thorough response, it means a great deal to me at this time. I realize my affair was wrong and it almost ended our marriage. I agree seperate counseling could be effective. My husband and I both want our marriage to work we still love one another, and learning that we cannot display abusive actions around our baby. Having our son has been a blessing to us and gives new hope for the future.

    I ended the 7 month affair, but we talk here and there, Because I struggle at times. I feel that I owe the man I had an affair with something. He was there for me when I was spiritually broken and hurt by my husband. I dont know how to fully find closure with him. I find myself even missing him at times. I know its not right and I want to be the wife Im suppose to be.

    I will take your advice and do what is necessary it will just take time. I hope I dont sound like a terrible person I just needed some help and a way out of this confusion.

    • Marie, despite your assertion that you ended your affair, you evidently have not.

      Disappointingly, you are doing what so many other cheaters do by claiming the end of their affair while continuing to engage in the affair relationship, under the weak and self-serving guise of closure, guilt, and emotional struggles. Continuing the emotional aspects of an affair -however intermittently- is still an active and deliberate participation in an affair relationship.

      That you feel justified in continued contact with your affair partner ‘because you struggle’ and ‘because you owe him’ is so banal that it really is a cliché. Be clear: You are actively choosing to continue your unethical and harmful conduct because you like what you get from doing it, regardless of how this affects others (your AP included).

      Against this backdrop, you then write here that you’re ‘working on your marriage’, and complain that your husband ‘throws your affair in your face’. Nonsense. Your affair is ongoing, so you clearly aren’t ‘working on your marriage’ in any meaningful way. As for your complaint that your husband is not letting it go? Expecting your husband to put your affair in the past while the affair relationship is ongoing is asinine. It’s reprehensible to claim commitment, love, and working to end abuse, while simultaneously indulging yourself with your affair partner (however dialed back it is), as you continue to knowingly disrespect, hurt, and mistreat your husband by your conduct.

      I don’t see any degree of confusion here. What I see is that you want to continue to enjoy the emotional salve provided by the other man, without losing the benefits of marriage to your husband. That’s not confusion – that’s the knowing use and abuse of others, in pursuit of your own gratification.

      To justify a cheater’s continued shitty conduct, cheaters and faithful partners alike often use this woolly notion that it takes ‘time’ for the cheater to stop lying, to end an affair, and to behave decently. It does not. Ending an affair does not require days, weeks, or months – it can be done instantly. Time is not a necessary component to the ethical, honest, and respectful behavior of others – you choose to behave that way in the moment and then act accordingly in the moment, now and in the future. Using ‘it takes time’ is poppycock and it really means, “I don’t want to stop but I want to avoid the consequences of continuing.”

      If you really wish to commit to your marriage, end your affair, repair the damage you caused, and work to resolve your own deficiencies in character, values, and ethics, then do so. If you don’t want to end your affair, that is your choice. However, shrouding your horrible choices in justifications and language about spirituality, victimization, and ‘working on your marriage’ might sound pretty, but it doesn’t hide the uglier reality that you’re still active in you affair, despite how it harms others.

  6. The truth is the truth…..I need to do the right thing and end it all. Therefore, I can be dedicated and honest in my marriage like it used to be. Thank you.

  7. Wayfarer I’m just wondering why you seem harsher about an affair rather than being abused? It seems as though you’re viewing Marie’s cheating to be a bigger sin compared to abuse she’s probably endured for years, and because she’s been in an abusive relationship she likely doesn’t have any friends or family to talk to.

    • Hi Norma

      It’s interesting that your question focuses on the issue of whose conduct was worse, especially since that is a major thrust in Marie’s first post. That, coupled with some other factors, suggests to me that Marie/Norma are one of the same.

      However, regardless of my suspicions on that front, I’m happy to answer the question and expand on some of the thinking behind my responses.

      Firstly, I will reiterate: I see no value in participating in or encouraging the ‘whose abuse was worse’ contest in this situation. As I said to Marie in my first response:
      “His mistreatment of you was unacceptable, just as your mistreatment of him was unacceptable. That it has become something of a competition for whose conduct was worse suggests that:
      a) you’re trying to justify your own conduct and dodge responsibility for your conscious choices and
      b) he’s trying to redirect attention from his own conduct and choices, using your affair to deflect from it.
      Let’s declare that you both win the questionable prize of ‘worst conduct’. Instead of engaging in this game of dodging, blaming, and counter-punching, why not both -separately- get some help to work through your individual issues?”

      Marie chose to post specifically to an infidelity support site, not a general abuse support site, and made her affair central as she focused on:
      a) justifying her affair as caused by her husband’s mistreatment of her,
      b) his conduct for the last two years,
      c) asking for input about reconciliation.
      It’s unsurprising, therefore, that a response here would seek to address her infidelity with her.

      Marie’s primary concern is how her husband’s conduct is damaging the relationship/reconciliation. My primary concern is the safety and well-being of those exposed to abuse, particularly as it relates to infidelity and the attendant patterns of abuse in infidelity-affected relationships. Marie, in continuing her affair relationship, is consciously contributing to the current, unsafe dynamic and environment for all involved, including their child. Equivocation in a response to that would have no benefit.

      If interaction on this site has any capacity to influence behavior and effect change in someone’s thinking and conduct, it will be with those who engage with the site, not their partners. Candidly commenting on Marie’s own conduct, using direct, unequivocal language has a greater chance of impacting her choices and conduct than tsk’ing about her husband’s conduct will have on impacting his.

      Even if I were so inclined (and I am not), declaring Marie’s husband’s behavior as worse than her affair without access to the details of their behavior towards each other, has no value. Additionally, doing so would have no material impact on her husband’s conduct since,
      a) Marie cannot change or control her husband’s behavior, and
      b) her husband isn’t seeking our input.

      Most cheaters like to believe that they had ‘justifiable cause‘ for their affair – Marie is suggesting that her husband’s abuse of her gave her justifiable cause or excuse for her own abuse of him, supporting that narrative with her belief that her own abuses were less egregious than her husband’s: The parallels between a cheater claiming justifiable cause for their mistreatment of their spouse and a spouse-beater claiming the same, are troubling. Acceptance of that narrative is dangerous as it accords legitimacy to the notion of justified abuse … and that’s a very slippery slope indeed.

      To also emphasize a couple of points in my prior posts:
      1. If there is abuse in a relationship, resolve that before entering into any kind of reconciliation post-affair.
      2. The cheater’s part in successful reconciliation is pivotal, and requires at the minimum:
      a) an honest reckoning of the deficiencies in their character, ethical framework, and their worldview, and
      b) internally motivated, meaningful, measurable change to the thinking from which they gave themselves permission to cheat.
      NB: That kind of change and work in the cheater is not possible when an affair relationship is ongoing.

      A cheater’s narrative of justified mistreatment of their spouse essentially claims that their fidelity is in the faithful spouse’s control, not the cheater’s. It implies that the cheater’s fidelity is contingent on their approval of the faithful spouse’s conduct – if you displease me, or if I am dissatisfied with my life with you, then I am justified in cheating. It is from that thinking that serial cheating becomes part of the relationship. It would be remiss of me to not tackle these matters.

      Hopefully, explaining those background issues will answer your question somewhat.

  8. Struggling and defending

    I am struggling with myself, i have told him he is emotionally abusive nonstop and he simply says i try to portray myself to be perfect. Today i have cheated with 10 different men and that is daily, every day.Texts all day while i`m working about negativity or otherwise disappears or hates talking with a normal conversation.i feel like he wants to force me to say all these horrible things i haven`t done, i use to cave in just to stop it but then the lie i lied about was used against me even more. He uses my departure against me, having my own life and new relationship that i was completely treated equal in, but his cheating while together is justified. Seven years on and off and no change. He will apologize and realize everything to get me back in his life but when im back its the same cycle of accusations, blaming and verbal abuse constant belittling and even no care to my emotions i feel like im not a person with feelings or a mind.he will want intercourse but only for his satisfaction and i am made to feel guilty and called names if i want to be satisfied too. He cheated and had a child and i feel like he favors kids. He will use my appearance against me and say men only want me for that. So i really dont think anything of myself, i had tons of friends growing up. now i prefer to be alone all the time just because i feel guilty for interacting or uncomfterable and unworthy to have normal conversation and confused of why he wont let me leave. He knows nothing about me, much less a favorite color or birthday. I have been left stranded several times but he demands help with enormous issues. If i say im tired of being treated bad he says i must be cheating. I am tired of defending myself over every little thing.

    • Hi Struggling and Defending

      What a horrible situation – I am troubled that you’re going through this.

      It isn’t difficult to see that this situation isn’t working for you and that it is highly damaging. I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to do anything other than advise that you take steps to safely extricate yourself from this situation, and to reach out to people to give you the tools and support to do so.

      I would encourage you to connect with a psychologist to help you with that, and to explore your own patterns of thinking that have resulted in you returning to the relationship repeatedly. Having the tools to identify patterns of behavior and thinking and make different choices for yourself can be empowering. I hope that you decide to work with someone who can help you with that.

      You didn’t specify, but you referenced that he won’t let you leave. Firstly, he doesn’t have the power or the right to prevent you leaving. If he is physically preventing you from leaving, or making threats towards you if you try to leave, that is something you can resolve. You might find the tips about leaving discussed here useful.

      However, if his ‘prevention’ of you leaving is more that he sweet-talks you into staying (or similar) that is something worth unpacking and addressing. Exploring that with a psychotherapist could help considerably.

      I am sure you already understand how damaging these situations are, and how easily they can escalate. Keep yourself safe, be discreet in finding yourself some local support, and do everything you can to remove yourself from this unhealthy, harmful situation.

      I wish you the very best.

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