They Cheat Because Their Souls Were Starving (Oh Brother)

I needed the perspective. I needed the REASON why he did it. Much like you his only answer was selfishness. That wasn’t good enough for me. You say there’s no good reason but there is. You were lonely and sad and you felt unloved and unwanted and you were HUMAN; you were human searching for someone to feed your soul after a long time of starving. You say it’s not a reason but it is. Your wife has a responsibility in it just as I did. Leaving someone’s soul to starve and decimate over time no matter how depressed we were is still cruel; it’s still not ok. In its own way we should have let you go instead of handcuffing you to a dead person. Isn’t that the same thing as leaving someone before you cheat? They are both actions that denote consequences for another that is detrimental. If you refuse to accept your wife had some part in this I don’t see any hope for you.

I was bored this morning and wanted to languish in my comfy bed, surrounded by snoring dogs, so I read old posts from others I follow and I clicked on links and came across this. It was a comment on a cheating spouse’s blog.

As you can probably glean from the comment the actual cheater was not making excuses for the behavior. It was a betrayed wife who was making the excuses.

As far as excuses go I think this is the one that gets the most traction and the one I find to be the biggest load of bullshit.

I’m going to take a wild stab at this and guess that almost everyone who reads my blog has had a job at one point in their life.

Let me ask you, those of you who have had jobs, if you begin working for a company and over time start to believe you are underpaid does it ever occur to you to embezzle from that company? Do you ever start to think, “Wow! The pay and benefits here are horrible! They really should pay me more. I might be able to make more money elsewhere but I really don’t want to put forth the time and effort to job hunt. I know! I’ll just embezzle from them. Maybe fudge a few expense reports. If they paid me more I would have never done this.

I’m genuinely curious because I do happen to know three embezzlers. Good grief, I’ve lived a colorful life! Thankfully, none of them were close friends. One was a friend of my mother’s and  happened when I was a child. One was the first wife of Pastor Fake. The third was actually an ex-boyfriend. To be clear, I was not dating him at the time.

All that aside I can honestly say it has never once occurred to me to steal from my place of employment because I didn’t think I was getting paid enough. My thought process has always leaned more towards, “Hmmm…. I should look for another job.”

Yet this seems to be a common refrain in the reconciliation industry. No, you aren’t to blame for your spouse cheating but you must honestly examine your marriage and see where the cracks were that led to the cheating. No matter how many different ways you try to spin it the question at heart becomes: What is it that you were doing wrong to make your spouse cheat? What are your faults? Where were you lacking? What can you do to improve?

I think that’s a very slippery slope you start to go down when you begin to explore that. Why? Because again, what it all leads back to is you are responsible for your spouse’s behavior. Your behavior determines whether your spouse will be faithful or will cheat.

Did your spouse feel abandoned by you? Like nothing more than a handyman and a paycheck? Did they feel like a cook and a maid? Did they feel like they couldn’t depend on you? Did they feel like they couldn’t talk to you about deeply personal issues? Did they feel like they couldn’t be their true selves around you? Were they lonely? Feeling sexually neglected? Did they feel like the two of you were nothing more than roommates? Were you focused solely on the kids? Did you no longer wear makeup or do your hair, or belch and fart in front of them, thus erasing the magic of your romance? Did you shut them out? Did you make them feel less than? Did you have poor communication?

Oh, ok! We can work with that! Just stop doing whatever it is that you did and then your spouse won’t ever cheat on you again.

The problem with that thinking is it doesn’t get to the underlying reason of why the cheating spouse thought that an affair was an acceptable solution to all of that. What happens when something else occurs in your life to take attention away from them? What happens if they begin to feel abandoned or betrayed or unheard or unappreciated again?

We don’t do this with physical abuse. We don’t ask the wife, “What did you do to make him mad?” Then when she goes through the litany of answers:  Oh, I didn’t have dinner on the table… I talked too much… I wouldn’t back down in an argument… My clothes were too sexy and he said I was flirting with other men… I blocked his view on the TV… I argued with him… I put mushrooms in the pasta sauce… He couldn’t find his favorite shirt… We don’t nod wisely and then suggest, “Stop doing that then! If you would stop arguing and be a better wife he wouldn’t beat you.”

We don’t ask a person what they did to cause their spouse to physically abuse them, so why do we continue to ask a person what they did to cause their spouse to cheat on them?

That brings us to the second problem with that kind of thinking. You’ve just told the person who betrayed you that ultimately they’re not responsible for their own behavior. YOU are responsible for their behavior. Your actions are so powerful that they will determine whether or not your spouse cheats.

Let me be very clear. I don’t think there is a problem with looking at a relationship and seeing where things went wrong. Acknowledging that you didn’t communicate well, or you never made time for yourselves as a couple, or you fought dirty is all good and fine. Work on the communication. Make time for yourselves as a couple. Resolve to stop fighting dirty. But don’t ever let anyone use those as excuses and justifications for infidelity. You were both in that relationship.

CF told everyone that he was nothing more than a paycheck and a handyman to me. He told me we were nothing more than roommates. He pointed out that we had barely spoken or had sex in the last 6 months to a year. What he didn’t point out is how his own behavior led to any of this. What he neglected to acknowledge is that we were both in that marriage and yet only one of us began an affair with our cousin.

That was the first time around! That was the time when I was eagerly hopping onboard with this idea that it was a marriage problem and if we resolved all of the issues that made him unhappy and led him to seek out another person then all would be okay.

Does anyone else find it absurd that he cheated and yet I was the one with the checklist of things to fix? I was faithful but I needed to fix this. He cheated but he had reasons and therefore nothing to fix.

The second time around was even more bizarre. I was accused of hating him. He’s a crying, drinking, isolating-himself-in-the-bedroom mess, and I’m running around like that guy who tries to keep all the spinning plates from toppling off the sticks and crashing to the ground. I’m taking him to the psych ward. I’m visiting every day. I’m bringing him goodies. I’m taking care of the house and the kids while he’s having a break down. I’m making his appointments. I’m going with him to those appointments. I’m cheering him on. I’m hoping to God he’ll come out of this slump and we can finally start to do things again as a couple. Meanwhile, he’s telling everyone how horrible I am and fucking around with his whore cousin. If anyone had a reason to cheat it would have been me! So no, I don’t give much credence to this thought that the cheated on spouse has to own their part in their spouse’s infidelity.

You can examine every inch of your relationship backwards and forward. You can see every flaw in your relationship, every crack that existed and even nail down who did what to whom and when. It still comes down to one person unilaterally making the decision to cheat. No one made them do it. It is a choice they freely made. I don’t care if they were lost. I don’t care if they were weak. I don’t care if they were manipulated. I don’t care if they hadn’t felt human touch in twenty years. Ultimately this person decided they were entitled to cheat. They decided that “job hunting” would be too much trouble so they were going to embezzle instead. Sadly, they have a whole army of people lining up to pat them on their little heads and tell them that it’s not their fault; they wouldn’t have done any of this if only their spouse had done things differently.

If you choose to believe this line of thinking I would suggest you ask yourself one more question: What has changed in this person so that the next time a crisis occurs or they aren’t feeling loved and special they don’t opt to go fuck another person?

Maybe because of my own experiences with being betrayed, forgiving, and then being betrayed again I am jaded. Or bitter. Pick whichever one makes you feel better. Nonetheless it is stunningly obvious that despite the fact that I was willing and eager to “own my part” and “look at what led to the breakdown”, despite the fact that I made all of those changes he asked for, while he made none, and despite the fact that I uprooted my children and agreed to move us 2000 miles across the country so that he could be happy, when he was faced with another moment of unhappiness/disappointment/crisis he resorted right back to his first response- cheating. He didn’t talk things out with me. He didn’t try to fix things. He took no responsibility. He simply resumed his relationship with Harley and blamed everything on me.

6 thoughts on “They Cheat Because Their Souls Were Starving (Oh Brother)

  1. Although every situation is different, your question seems the most important: “What has changed in this person so that the next time a crisis occurs or they aren’t feeling loved and special they don’t opt to go fuck another person?”

    I’m working on digging into that every day. Not for C’s benefit but for mine, but if C ever asks me I know the answer.

    Also, you wrote, “despite the fact that I made all of those changes he asked for, while he made none…He didn’t talk things out with me. He didn’t try to fix things. He took no responsibility. He simply resumed his relationship with Harley and blamed everything on me.”

    Change requires pain and loss. Why should he look to his own behavior if, as you said, you are carrying all the weight? I carried the weight of secrets and an escalating series of lies that, by the end, I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror.

    That is not C’s fault. Where I stuck my dick is not C’s fault. The fact my pride and ego wouldn’t allow me to ask for help is not her fault.

    None of that is her responsibility.

    If I were C, I wouldn’t take me back either without a significant change in my approach to relationships, my sense of entitlement, and some brutal honesty about my motives. There needed to be consequences.

    It took me three years to build the lie I desperately worked to avoid being revealing. For over twelve months after the affair ended I said and did things trying to keep K from contacting C. In those 12 months you find my ugliest lies and secrets and the result of a lifetime of communication issues and personal trauma.

    In reality, it is going to take more than 10 months to clean it up. Old habits die hard. New skills need to be learned. With or without C, it still needs to be done.

    I’d like to practice with C but I understand why she doesn’t want to practice with me. As I said, I wouldn’t take me back either. I’m proud of the way she was able to walk it off. She is truly amazing. What she did was the most loving thing for her, me, and Us in our situation…but that is not the best solution for everyone.

    However, after 10 months apart, and having plenty of journaling, counseling, and hard work, I know I wouldn’t go back either. I know I’m not ready.

    I also know there were fundamental flaws in the foundation of our relationship that had nothing to do with my betrayal. Although I’m doing the work necessary to heal and learn, I won’t return to half a relationship either.

    Regardless, if she does speak to me I will be able to answer your central question: I know what has changed that will ensure it won’t happen again.

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  2. I am the last person to defend cheaters since my son’s father cheated on me twice (and beat me). The first time I caught him, I moved in with my mom for 9 months. He asked me to come home and go to counseling to save things. After going back home with him, I discovered he was cheating with a new woman. I wasn’t there too long before he threw a straight edge razor at my head and I ended up with staples living a domestic violence shelter. I waited 3 years to date.

    The next LTR was a man who 6 years later I discovered was a sex addict: hookers, gangbangs, Craigslist hookups, AA 13th stepping, swingers, apparently a few men too. He was hopping on things that weren’t even nailed to the ground He was a sadist who was like 50 shades of gray but instead of Christian Gray think Charles Manson. He beat me more than an egg with a whisk.

    My first ex described his affair like it was an accident and his pants fell off as as a car losing its breaks on an icy road. “I don’t know how it happened,” he said on D-Day when confronted with the evidence, “it just did.” He spoke the words like he was disconnected from the events like some bystander watching the wreck. Our then 9 month old son and I were just collateral damage.

    It’s easier for survivors of multiple sexual infidelity to resort to black/white thinking, shove their ex partners in a villain bin and call it done. Why? Because of the pain. It is so fucking painful.

    I think victims of infidelity are off-put by that first comment in this post. It can’t hold any veracity we may think. However, we should try to be careful not to take a cookie-cutter approach to how we look at this. For we are not cookie-cutter individuals. There are innumerable realationahip dynamics and family of origin crap behind those which factor in and exist.

    While I agree no one “makes a person cheat” , the cheater alone does that, I do believe that a relationship is comprised of two people and therefore needs to be viewed as such. The cheater cannot be viewed in a vacuum. It’s less common that one person is solely to blame.

    I look back at the climate of that first relationship and see what ways in which I failed and what I could have done differently.

    I was no picnic to live with. I was an intense, hen-pecky, domineering hot mess at times. Perhaps I was unintentionally metaphorically handcuffing someone to myself? To not think that I couldn’t have been a variable in a long polynomial equation is absolute bullshit.

    I thinks people’s souls can starve, that’s completely valid. Mine sure was starving during all my relationships.

    Still, no matter what I did or didn’t do in those relationships? I never deserved to get cheated on for it.

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    1. I think your last sentence says it all. No matter how much you may suck as a partner you don’t deserve to be cheated on. Would anyone tell an abused spouse, “You know, you were always very argumentative. I’m sure that drove him crazy. I’m not surprised he resorted to punching you. There were two people in your relationship and you both fed into that dynamic,”? Or, “No wonder she came at you with a kitchen knife. You nagged, nagged, nagged all the time!” No. It would all be on the person who was abusive.

      There are always other options. If your soul is starving do something about it. Get therapy, find other things that fulfill your life, or leave. Having an affair and then justifying it because you weren’t happy is not acceptable. Just as embezzling from your company because you don’t feel you’re getting paid enough is unacceptable.

      If you want to think that perhaps your shortcomings as a partner somehow figured into your ex’s decision to cheat I’m not going to try to talk you out of it. But I absolutely refuse to believe that anything I did played into CF’s decision to cheat on me. I could probably list a few things that I did that caused him to justify what he did- having my alternate FB page, not being the best housekeeper in the world, falling asleep on the couch after being granted “permission” to sleep in the same bed as him, growing frustrated with his new habit of drinking, not being willing to forgive the in-laws for keeping in contact with Harley, letting him run out of clean undershirts and underwear. The reality is he could have had a conversation with me. We could have either talked it through or he could have said he wanted to separate, but he didn’t. He chose to go behind my back, siphon off money to the whore, lie to me, and play me for a fool for months. As I always like to point out, he was no picnic to live with either, yet somehow I managed to keep my clothes on and my legs closed to other men.

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  3. I am not correlating character flaws with causality. No spouse’s defects pushes their partner to cheat. I think the cheating would happen independent of what kind of partner the cheater is paired up with.

    That said, if the betrayed partner doesn’t work on their own issues they brought into the relationship at the beginning, including but not limited to: codependency, nit-picking, being controlling, passive-aggressiveness, inattentiveness, monopolizing conversations, spending all their time with the kids, not spending enough time with kids, letting themselves go, preening oneself too much, trash-talking spouse to friends, being too frugal, compulsive shopping, over-spending, lack of trust from prior relationship, spying, whatever …. then when D-day finally comes; and it creates the giant trust, pain and destruction, it is going to make it that much harder for the cheater to rebond with their spouse if the spouse has never worked on their crap.

    It goes without saying that we never deserved the betrayal, but I realized I had the OW whisperering all my failings and shortcomings to my man , reminding him of the reasons why he strayed in the first place. After D-day , along with his own shame and guilt, my own shortcomings, although certainly not the reason he cheated, were widening the gap of why he did not want to return to me.

    Does this make sense?

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