How Much Personal Responsibility Does The Faithful Spouse Have To Take For The Affair When They Are Not The Ones Who Cheated?

By: Katie Lersch: Sometimes, when we are reeling from the discovery of a spouse’s affair, we also have to deal with questions about what role we, as the faithful spouse might have played in all of this. Sometimes, even our friends or loved ones ask pointed questions about ourselves and our about our marriage – almost insinuating that we did something wrong, that maybe we didn’t keep our husbands happy or didn’t maintain a nice home life – all of which might have lead him to stray. It can begin to feel as if society can put at least some of the blame on the faithful spouse, which can lead you to wonder if you have to take any responsibility for someone else’s actions.

A wife might ask: “is it just expected or assumed that a wife who has never been unfaithful still has to stand up and take responsibility when her husband has an affair? My family, my friends, and even my therapist make little comments that clearly indicate that I played some role in the decline of my marriage and therefore I should not be surprised to learn that my husband has been cheating on me. I sort of take exception to this. No, my marriage wasn’t perfect. But I have always been faithful and loyal, which is more than I can say for my husband. To me, this feels like a double kick in the teeth. First, I must deal with my husband cheating on me and then I am told that it is partially my fault. How much responsibility does the faithful spouse have to take? And how is this fair?”

I agree with you that it is not fair. I struggled with this also. And I can only tell you my opinion.  You may or may not agree, but I believe that it is up to you as to how you want to evaluate yourself and your marriage in this puzzle. There are no rules. That said, I believe that in some cases, it is beneficial for you to examine any behaviors and tendencies.  But that is very different from taking responsibility for someone else’s actions. I do not think that there is ever justification for cheating. I believe that the blame lies with the cheater.

Admittedly though, I do think that something can be gained by looking at all of the factors that lead up to the cheating, including the roles that both spouse’s played in the marriage. And this is not to shift the blame or to offer up excuses and justifications. This is simply to help you in making sure that the affair doesn’t happen again.

In a sense, you are doing a little detective work to determine what caused the perfect, destructive storm that lead up to the affair. You are looking at all of the pieces of the puzzle. This is necessary so that you can avoid this happening to you again – even if you don’t save your marriage.  Regardless, you are going to have to deal relationships for your entire life.

And here’s something that people rarely talk about. I think it’s somewhat helpful to look at your behaviors because you may be repeating these patterns in other areas of your life or in other relationships. I will use myself as an example. One reason that my husband gave for his affair was that he felt that I pressured him to earn a certain kind of living – which required travel and loneliness. I rejected this. He was the one who pursued his career and although I certainly wanted my family to be safe and well cared for, I didn’t have specific requirements.

In this ongoing conversation, my husband brought up my somewhat controlling nature and used my tendency to over parent and be overprotective of our family as an example. I rejected this too, but because it was brought up to me, I started to watch my behaviors more closely. And I found that my husband had a valid point. I actually asked my family about this and it was confirmed that I have a tendency to be controlling. I worked on this and my family life has improved dramatically.

Does my tendency to control justify the affair? Absolutely not. But it was helpful for me to see this and to address it. My relationships are much better and I feel less stress because I’ve let go of trying to control everything. So while I certainly did not excuse my husband’s behavior because of this contribution, I am glad that the affair brought my attention to this.  Because it has improved my life.  It is a relief that let that behavior go.

Again, this is only my opinion. But I don’t feel that you need to take on any of the affair onto your own shoulders. Adults who have relationship problems should work out that same problem with the other adult instead of cheating on them.

But if there were things about yourself or about your marriage that contributed to your spouse’s mindset and you can use this information to make things better, then I really do not see the harm in that, as long as its clear that none of this means that your spouse’s own responsibility is diminished.

I can look back now and see that my marriage was vulnerable.  And I’ve tried to end those vulnerabilities by changing some behaviors.  But, none of this excused my husband and I made sure that he understood that. You can read more on my blog at

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