I Agreed To Forgive My Cheating Spouse, But Instead Of Being Grateful, He’s Mean And Distant

By: Katie Lersch:  Sometimes, when you are not the faithful spouse, you think that forgiveness is easy to come by.  Friends, family, and even the cheating spouse can all think that if the faithful spouse can just find it in her heart to forgive, then everyone can move on.

Many people think that forgiveness is just words.  Just little words that can begin the process of healing.  And so they pressure the faithful spouse to offer this to make things easier for all involved.  As a result, eventually, the faithful spouse starts to think that perhaps forgiveness is a small price to pay to have her life and her husband back.  She thinks that it’s a small price to pay for things to feel normal again.

And so she offers it.  And she assumes that her husband will be grateful and relieved. Following this relief, she assumes that he is going to be so relieved that he becomes the husband that she deserves.  She assumes that he’s going to be loving and supportive.  Unfortunately, this isn’t always what happens.  Sometimes, after forgiveness, the husband becomes resentful, distant, and even a little unkind.

A wife might explain it this way. “I did not speak to my husband for weeks after I found out that he was cheating.  I wanted nothing to do with him. I would not take his calls.  I even distanced myself from his family.  He refused to give up, though.  When I wouldn’t take his calls, he would send me letters.  He would email me – anything to communicate – and ask me to meet him in person.  Finally, he wore me down a little and I started talking to him.  We became friends again first and eventually, we started back in a relationship.  Throughout this entire time, my husband was charming, sweet, and kind.  I thought that if I ever entertained the idea of allowing my marriage to get back on track, this was the man that I was going to get in return.  Eventually, as we began to invest in our marriage again, he asked me to forgive him.  I told him that I was going to need some time and he agreed to give it to me. Slowly, I entertained the thought and eventually, I gave in.  I did tell him that I forgave him.  And once I did, it was as if a switch had been flipped.  He was no longer sweet. He became sarcastic toward me and distant.  It was almost like once he got what he wanted, he turned on me.  I’m so disappointed.  I was sure that once I forgave him, I’d have that sweet, patient man and we’d try to fix our marriage.  Instead, I have a man who seems mean and mad at me for giving him what he said he wanted.  Why is he acting this way?”

I know that this isn’t pleasant, but it isn’t all that uncommon.  I have some theories as to why it happens. But of course, the most qualified person to tell you why it is happening is your husband himself or a qualified therapist.  From what I’ve seen, this behavior doesn’t always last.  And I suspect that this could be your husband’s way of trying to balance the perceived power.

I’m not saying that he is correct in his assumptions.  But, in this situation, many men feel that they have to “grovel” to get your forgiveness.  They lay on the charm because they have a goal in mind.  And even though they do the very best that they can, many wives make them work long and hard before they offer the forgiveness.  This is understandable.  I did the same. I was not going to forgive my husband until he showed me that it was safe to do so and that he was worthy of my forgiveness.  But the men in this situation can feel a little resentful of having to work so hard to get in your good graces again.  They can feel like they’ve had to give you all of the power in the marriage.

So when they finally get your forgiveness, they can feel as if they want to take a little bit of that power back. Or perhaps that want to show you how it feels to work so hard for someone’s love and have that same person be cold and reluctant. They may not even be aware that they are doing this and it may not even be their intention. But it happens as a result of working for your forgiveness for so long.

Sometimes, you don’t have to do anything because this treatment is short-lived and it ends on its own.  If it doesn’t, sometimes, having an honest conversation about it helps. You might try something like: “I can’t help but notice that once I forgave you, your attitude toward me changed.  The sweet, patient guy who was working so hard to gain my trust is gone.  And he’s been replaced by someone who is not nearly as kind.  I liked the kind version. And that is what I thought I’d get once I forgave you. But that hasn’t been the reality.  I know that I made you wait a while before I could forgive.  But I wanted to be sure that I could honestly offer my forgiveness. However, I offered it to the sweet man who was patient with me, not the one who is being unkind now.  I need to see the person you were before or I am going to feel as if I’ve been fooled.  I know that you may feel some anger that I made you wait so long, but anger isn’t going to help us.  We both need to be kind to one another moving forward so that our marriage is the loving and nurturing one that we both want.”

Hopefully, this will allow you some headway. And often, once your husband sees that you don’t intend to punish him, his resentment will hopefully fade and you will see less of the not-so-desirable behavior.  That really is the key – you have to be clear about what you want. And sometimes, you have to bring his attention to behaviors that he may not be aware of.  I had to call my husband on many of his behaviors.  It’s important to bring it up at the time the behavior occurs or it just looks as if you are complaining after the fact.  You can read more about my own recovery on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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