I wanted to re-examine one part of what the “reformed cheater” said and which I took to task. I think I was a little too flippant and simplistic in my approach.
Betrayed Spouses almost always cannot separate “the reason why the affair happened” from “an excuse for having an affair”. They are very different. There is almost always a reason for an affair.
I said the other day they were basically the same thing and that it boils down to entitlement and poor character. I still believe that’s true but I wanted to extrapolate on that a bit more.
It’s not that I don’t think it’s important to discover underlying issues. If you felt like a handyman or a maid or weren’t having sex often enough/too much or felt like your marriage was dead or your spouse neglected you in favor of the kids or you have FOO issues or you had a drinking/drug problem or you were at a low point in your life or you didn’t want to be rude or, or, or…. I applaud you for figuring those things out. But here are a few important questions that need to be asked. 1. What was it in you that made you think cheating was an okay response to those issues? 2. How will you handle it differently if you feel that way again? 3. Do you have any new coping strategies or thought processes to help you cope when life and/or marriage gets tough again? I don’t think it’s so much that those of us who have been cheated on cannot tell the difference between “why the affair happened” and “excuses for the affair.” It’s that, ultimately, it doesn’t matter. XXX made you unhappy and out of all the choices you had you chose cheating as your response to it. You chose to lie and cheat and betray the person who loves you. You chose deception over honesty. You chose the easy way of cheap sex and cake eating over the hard way of honest communication and working on your relationship. When you want to concentrate on “why” you did it you are essentially putting it off on the person you betrayed. You, cheated on spouse, are in charge of my behavior; do better so that I don’t do bad things. I don’t control my behavior; you do!
Remember Bob, Tom and Sam? All three of them could easily have chosen to have affairs when things weren’t “rosy” in their marriages. They didn’t. Bob opted to talk to his wife and go to counseling to work on the issues. Tom realized his wife wasn’t interested in fixing things so he took steps to end the marriage. Sam chose to try to find happiness in other parts of her life and to concentrate on the good and minimize the bad.
Remember also how I said that the only person you control is yourself? Unfortunately for cheaters, that means they, and they alone, are responsible for their choices, their actions, their behavior. Oh, most of them will try like the devil to get you to take responsibility and a lot of the cheated on partners will because hey, if they caused it then they can fix it! But that’s a myth. Again, I tried like hell to get Cousinfucker to eat a turnip. He wouldn’t do it. He wouldn’t even try it. But now I’m supposed to take responsibility for his choice to fuck his cousin? Somehow I’m thinking that the offer of a blow job wouldn’t have persuaded him to eat the damn turnip; I’m equally sure it wouldn’t have prevented him from fucking his cousin.
I was 21 years old when I decided that your past may explain your behavior but it doesn’t excuse it. Too often when cheaters want to explore why they cheated what they really want to do is excuse it.
You didn’t buy me a pony; therefore I felt neglected and unappreciated. I was emotionally needy and didn’t feel you were a soft landing space. I had to reach out to Schmoopie because Schmoopie promised me love and understanding.
Don’t fall for that crap. Put it squarely back in their court.
Yes, I understand that’s why you did it. Now, instead of you giving me a list of things to improve on so that you’re no longer tempted, let’s explore why you felt entitled to have sex with someone else. Let’s examine why it is that your moral compass is so off base that you felt adultery was an acceptable reaction to your hurt feelings.
To misquote the late great David Bowie, “Don’t Dance!”