By: Katie Lersch: I’m still always a little amazed at the number of people who are participating in very inappropriate behavior with someone who is not their spouse and who will still insist that they aren’t doing anything wrong, and are definitely not cheating. Almost always, their spouse disagrees and most definitely feels betrayed. People tend to be very skilled at justifying their behavior, until their spouse refuses to accept this. And then the debate begins.
Someone might say: “my spouse is now calling me a cheater and saying that she might want a divorce because of my ‘affair.’ I am being completely honest when I say that I never ever believed that I was having an affair. Yes, I was in touch with an ex-girlfriend from many years ago. And yes, I kept this from my spouse. But that is because I knew that my spouse was going to jump to the wrong conclusions. I kept in touch with her because she was going through a rough time with one of her kids and I have experience with this and was offering her some advice. I also offered her money in order to get the help that she needed. I knew that my wife would not understand this. Most of our talks were written where I was trying to give her written advice and support. I admit that the talks took up a good bit of time and took up a lot of my thoughts. I admit that there was some mild flirting going on. I met the woman face to face to give her money and we did hold hands and kiss goodbye, but that was it. She took a photo of us and posted it on social media. I had no idea about this, but the photo got back to my wife and now she is calling me a cheater. She keeps referring back to the ‘affair,’ but I maintain that I never even had one. She’s talking about counseling or divorce. This is ridiculous. I have never slept with anyone else during our marriage. This is not an affair.”
I am certainly not an expert, but I have been through infidelity, conducted a whole lot of research, and hear from many people whose marriages are struggling due to marital betrayal. This is only my opinion, but I would strongly encourage you to not focus on semantics. Sure, you can sit there and argue endlessly with your spouse as to why what you did was not technically cheating. But what would be the point of that? None of that matters if your spouse feels injured or betrayed. None of that matters if your marriage is going to struggle.
Again, this is only my opinion, but if you are doing something that you could not do right in front of your spouse and you are actively hiding the same, then you know in your heart that your actions were wrong or you would not be actively hiding this. Your wife knows this, which is why she is so upset, hurt, and angry.
Imagine if one of your friends came to you with a photo of your wife and another man. And it was a photo or an encounter and a relationship that she actively hid from you. How would you feel? Do you think you’d feel betrayed? I suspect that you would because that is the experience of most people. Whether you call it an affair or not, I think most would agree that it’s a betrayal that could potentially harm or even end your marriage. So no matter what you call it, I’d suspect that it needs your immediate attention. And it would be a good idea to honestly ask yourself why you would be able to keep something like this from your spouse – or why would feel the need to. Because often, when people get their needs met by someone outside of their marriage, this typically says something about them, about their marriage, or about both.
Before you act, it makes sense to ask yourself where you want to go from here. The fact that you’re upset about your wife’s characterization of the ‘affair’ could indicate that you’re still emotionally invested. If your marriage is still important to you, I’d suggest that you worry more about helping your wife to process this and to heal rather than worrying about who is calling it an affair.
Yes, hearing yourself being called a cheater is probably hurtful and it makes you feel defensive. But this is just a word your wife is giving her process of feeling betrayed. Worry less about the words and more about the message behind them. And the message that she is giving you is that she’s hurt and she’s angry and she feels that you’re dismissing her very valid concerns.
You can agree on semantics later, but most people agree that carrying on a secret relationship behind your spouse’s back is wrong. Having that picture up for all to see had to be very hurtful to your wife. It’s understandable that she is reacting to that. Your getting defensive does nothing to address this, doesn’t help, and it just adds additional problems onto something that is already problematic.
The words that you use to describe what is happening doesn’t matter nearly as much as the actions that you use to solve this. If I were the wife in this scenario, I’d probably react most positively to a heartfelt apology and a thorough explanation. And that’s just a start. You can read more about martial recovery after betrayal on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com
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