By: Katie Lersch: I sometimes hear from women who are having a hard time believing that a man feels guilty for cheating or having an affair. Often, it is the wife who had her doubts. But other times, it is the other woman who eventually can’t help but notice that the husband seems to think he’s entitled to his behavior.
Common comments from wives are things like: “my husband claims that he is sorry and guilty about having an affair, but I have my doubts. He cheated on me with a much younger woman from his job. He made her all sorts of promises and gave her money in order to cover her living expenses. And he lied to both of us. He told her that our marriage was in name only. And he told me that she had left the job to go back to school while that most certainly was not true. When we both caught him in his lies, he supposedly broke off the affair. He promised me that he would go to counseling and that he would prove to me that he could be a good husband. He hasn’t done any of this. He says he’s sorry, but his life hasn’t changed any, really. I asked him if he feels guilty and he says that he does. But his actions don’t really indicate that he is telling me the truth.”
In contrast the other woman might say something like: “the guy that I ended up having an affair with told me that he wasn’t married. He told me that he had just gone through a nasty divorce. Imagine my shock and horror when his wife saw my information on his phone and called me. She had no idea and she seems like a really sweet woman. I broke it off with this man and I told him that he should be completely ashamed of his behavior. He apologized and said he does feel guilty, but part of me wonders if he will just do this to someone else. Do men really feel guilty when they behave this way?”
Well, I have to disclose that I’m not a man who has cheated. But I have spoken with many men who meet this description and some of them leave comments on my blog. Granted, my focus is on saving your marriage after infidelity so it’s probably fair to say that only a certain type of man is going to be willing to dialog with me about this. With that said, I can tell you that many men do feel guilty but they keep this to be almost a closely guarded secret. I’ll tell you why below.
Many Men Don’t Want You To Know How Guilty They Feel Because They’re Afraid You Will Use This Against Them: Men who are caught in an affair will often feel a bit defensive. They know that they are in the wrong and they know that they are deserving of whatever reaction you might have. But at the same time, they are embarassed and ashamed. And they don’t want to continue to have to keep talking about this. They don’t want you to keep picking at the scab. So they will appear to be distant or cold, all in the hopes of keeping you at arm’s length.
Because they are concerned that if they show you any weakness like guilt, you are going to pounce on it and then dig to determine what exactly they have to feel guilty about.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that they get a pass. You need to see their guilt and feel confident that they actually feel it. Because feeling guilt shows you that they know that what they did was wrong, which is one thing that might ensure that this doesn’t happen again. It also typically means that they still care enough about you to feel remorse that they have hurt you.
With all of this said, I will say that repeat cheaters are often less guilty. Because they have cheated more than once, they have found various ways to justify their cheating, which means that they are less likely to feel remorse. But men who have never cheated before are, at least in my opinion and experience, likely to feel some guilt.
How To Get Him To Open Up About His Guilt: It’s very understandable that you want to believe that he feels genuine guilt. But at the same time, it’s also understandable that he might not want to bear his soul on a daily basis. So you might just want to have an open conversation about this by saying something like: “I just need to believe that you truly feel remorse and guilt. And I don’t want this because I want to hurt or shame you. I want to see this because it helps me to know that you still care enough to feel these things and it helps me to feel confident that you know what you did was wrong. Because if both of these things are present, I know that you are less likely to cheat again. I don’t expect for you to fall to your knees and declare your guilt, but I’d just like to see your remorse in the way that you treat me and in the way that you approach our marriage.”
Hopefully, this will clear the way for him to be more transparent about his feelings. But to answer the question posed, yes, many first time cheaters do feel a great deal of guilt about their actions.
My husband didn’t show his guilt at first. But once it became obvious that I wasn’t interested in using his guilt against him, he became more willing to let it show and this truly helped in our recovery. If it helps, you can read more on my blog http://surviving-the-affair.com
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