By: Katie Lersch: When you first find out that your spouse has been cheating, you probably expect for HIM to be the one who is sorry. Unfortunately, many wives are very surprised to find that their husband also expects for them to be sorry. If this isn’t disappointing and confusing enough, many find themselves shocked to feel genuine remorse – even when they are not the spouse who has done the cheating.
Here’s what I mean. Someone might say: “let’s get one thing straight. My husband is the one who cheated. I have never been unfaithful to him and I never would be. I take my commitments seriously. But after I caught him cheating, he tried to paint me as a terrible wife. He said that he always felt like I was judgmental and critical of him. He said that I never built him up. He said that being married to me was like being married to an abuser. He recounted specific fights where I said mean things to him and he says that I have done nothing to keep our sex life exciting and frequent. He told me that over the last two months, we’ve only had sex three times. And he says he knows this because he has counted. He told me that I have no idea what it is like being married to me. At first I was very angry that he would say these things to me. But as I calm down, I realize that some of what he says has a tiny bit of truth in it. And then I started to remember back to some of the incidents he talked about and I felt guilty. And then I started to feel like a bad person. And now I feel so completely remorseful that I almost see how he was justified in cheating. How did he do that? How did he turn the blame away from himself and make me the bad guy instead of him? How did it turn the tables like that?”
This Behavior Is Extremely Common And Predictable: What your husband has done is a very common tactic that most people try when they are caught cheating – even if they do not realize that they are doing it. Because it is just human nature to want to defend yourself when you have done something for which you should feel an overwhelming amount of guilt. Every one is going to want to minimize what they have done even if they know it is their fault.
Taking responsibility for something as hurtful and heinous as cheating on your spouse is painful all the way around. It’s natural to want to minimize the hurtful feelings that come with this. And one way to do that is to look for someone else to at least share the blame.
Drawing The Line About How Much Responsibility You’re Willing To Take: Let’s be clear. No one has the perfect marriage. Every one does things in their marriage that they regret. I’m sure that some of the criticisms that your husband has are accurate in his eyes. Some of the things that he is saying might end up being constructive criticism that motivates you to make some positive changes, even if you chose not stay married. And there is nothing wrong with this.
But if you allow him to place the blame on you, then he’s not taking responsibility for his own actions and this may slow or even thwart your healing.
Further, remorse is an emotion that is useful only if you use it to make change. So while I don’t think you deserve all of the remorse you’re feeling, one way to ensure that this all isn’t a waste is to calmly examine each one of his claims to see which are valid and which are not.
If you think it’s worthwhile, you can certainly work on those areas that are relevant. But you don’t have to just accept every criticism that he makes if the criticism is not valid. You have to keep in mind that he is in panic mode and that is he is trying to save himself. So he’s going to spew a lot of things at you and hope that some stick.
To set the tone, you might have a conversation like this one: “in the days to come, I’m going to sit down and examine what you have said to see if I want to make any changes based on this. But for now, this is about your actions. I don’t claim that our marriage was perfect. We both know it was not. But no marriage is perfect. And ideally, in an imperfect marriage, the unhappy spouse approaches the other as an adult to work out their problems. They don’t use cheating and lying as a solution, while placing the blame on someone else. In order for us to move forward, you are going to need to take responsibility for the choice you made. Sure, I wasn’t perfect. But I did not cheat. I’ll be looking at my behaviors that may have contributed to this, but I expect for you to do that also.”
You don’t need to be harsh about this, but in my experience, you do need to be calm and firm. He needs to know that you are not going to accept the blame, although remorse in understandable. Because sometimes, the remorse you feel is more for what has been lost than for your own behaviors. If it makes you feel better, you can take an honest look and then make some changes. But the actual cheating is the responsibility of the person who cheated. Because there were many other options available to your husband. But he did chose to cheat. And he should own that.
At least that is the way that I see it. But it’s only an opinion. I was culpable in some of the things that lead to the affair, but I do not consider it my fault. I do not take responsibility for the fact that my husband chose to cheat, although I did make some changes as a result. You can read more on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com
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