How Do Men Remember Their Affair When They Look Back On It?

By: Katie Lersch:  If you are a wife whose husband has had an affair, it’s a fair bet that you want him to look back on it with negative feelings.  You don’t want him to think that there was anything redeeming or good about the affair.  You want him to see it for the colossal, destructive mistake that it was.  You want him to cringe when he thinks about it so that he never, ever, thinks about repeating it.

Unfortunately, not all wives have full confidence that this is what their husband is feeling.  Many of them worry that their husband is going to look back on the affair with longing or that he even might wish that it had never ended.  Some worry that he will miss the experience so much that he might start up another affair to replace it.

A wife might say: “immediately after I caught my husband having an affair, he defended it.  He made it sound like a special, once-in-a-lifetime relationship.  He conceded that he knew that he needed to end it, but he very obviously did not want to.  Then, while in counseling, he proceeded to tell the counselor that although he knew that he was wrong, he was grateful for some of the self-realizations that he gained through the experience.  He said that it had left him changed.  Now that a couple of months have passed, I decided to ask him how he felt about it today.  I was hoping that he’d say that it was his biggest regret.  Instead, his response was ‘well obviously, it was a mistake.  But everybody makes mistakes and I just want to move on.’   This is not the response that I had hoped for. And it makes me worry that he does not regret it enough and that he will cheat again. How do most men feel when they look back on the affair?”

I believe that it really does depend on far out they are post-affair.  What I mean by that is that when the affair is still fresh and the emotions are still high, many men feel a need to justify their actions.  As a result, they will try to make the affair more than it was.  Their feelings are magnified.  The pixie dust hasn’t worn off yet.  In order to not feel totally awful about themselves and what they have done, they go into self preservation mode and they get defensive and they try to justify.  And this is when you are most likely to see them thinking about the affair in nostalgic terms.

However, when time passes and they suddenly have the ability to feel more objective, this is when you will see the reality of their mistake hit them.  The need to be defensive has passed.  They have literally seen and felt the pain that they have caused.  (And assuming that they have been away from the other woman for a while, the relationship is not as fresh and they are no longer under the spell.)  It is at this time that they can often see the relationship for what it was – not something special, but a crutch, a distraction, and an awful mistake.

When this realization happens, men can be quite ashamed or embarrassed.  They often do not want you to know this or to see it, and this might be when you see them retreating into themselves or acting distant.  But just because they don’t make a huge declaration about this, that doesn’t mean that they don’t realize how much they have messed up.

I can’t say that every man feels the same way.  I can’t promise you that every man doesn’t miss the other woman or pine for her, or wish that the affair had never ended.  Some do, but I feel that the majority realize that the relationship was wrong and truly never stood a chance.  All you have to do is to look at the statistics about the longevity of affairs to know that many are doomed before they even get started.  Most husbands are smart enough to realize this.  But they may not share these realizations with you.

I know that it’s tempting to push for this admission, but frankly, you are more likely to get the admission that you want if you just place your focus on healing your marriage.  Once your marriage is healthy, once your husband is feeling empathy for you, and once he feels as if he has done the work to facilitate recovery, that is when he is going to be the most likely to unleash his feelings and admit his deep regret.  But when you try to force this out of him or shame him, he’s going to be more likely to hide his feelings because he doesn’t want to give the satisfaction of the admission.  It may help to know that most men do feel regret.  Your husband likely feels it, and he may express it once you’ve made more progress so that he is comfortable doing the same.

Believe me.  There were times when I wanted my own husband to fall at my feet and proclaim what a loser he was to ever put our marriage at risk.  It was a long time before I got this kind of remorse.  But I did eventually get it. You can read more on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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