I Feel Like My Spouse Should Be Groveling After His Affair. But He Isn’t

By: Katie Lersch: When our spouse makes a very big mistake, we often have the expectation that he will apologize profusely for that mistake, explain what lead up to it, and do everything in his power to assure us that it will never happen again. This is particularly true if the mistake was a life-changing one – like cheating or an affair, for example. Most people have the expectation that their spouse will pull out all of the stops. And when this doesn’t happen, there can be a lot of anger and confusion.

A faithful wife might explain: “my husband has always known how I feel about cheating. My father cheated on my mother. And as soon as he did, I cut him out of my life and out of my children’s lives. I am very open and clear about my feelings on that topic. Last fall, I had a significant amount of stress with my job. My company was down-sizing so I was working two jobs and then some to ensure that the company didn’t pick me to let go. I was very open about this with my husband. He understood why I had to work so much and he encouraged me to do so because obviously, losing my job would have affected both of us. Well, about six months after that, my husband got transferred. His new job is actually closer to home, which is a good thing, but it pays much less. He really didn’t have a choice about it. We’ve been getting by just fine and just as I was thinking how proud I was that we worked through this together, but then I saw a text on my husband’s phone that made it clear he had been cheating. He was outside working on the car. And when he came inside, I held up his phone and confronted him. I fully expected him to out and out grovel. Knowing how much I hate cheaters, I would have thought he would have been reacting with fear that I would leave him. I can’t imagine he wants to break up, since neither of us could make it without the other’s income. However, he did not grovel. He simply said that he was sorry that he did this and that maybe in time we can try to work it out. But then he said he had his reasons and that he was not a bad person and that he wasn’t going to let me vilify him like I have vilified my father. He said he was going to apologize once and then he expected that to be the end of it. Well, it’s not the end of it for me. And how dare he act like he gets to call the shots. Shouldn’t he be groveling right now?”

I agree with you. He is the one who made this awful mistake. He made this choice. So he should stand up and take responsibility for it. However, in his mind, he may believe that he has already done that. And he may be trying to set the tone because he is afraid of you berating and criticizing him in the foreseeable future. He’s hoping that by acting cold and matter-of-fact about this, he will communicate to you that he doesn’t plan to react well if you treat him like your father. So, in a sense, he’s trying to avoid the behavior that he does not want to deal with.

You may think that it is not his right to dictate your reaction like this and you would have a fair argument. But I have to tell you that many men will cite a controlling and overbearing wife as the reason that they cheated. So I think it’s important to be careful to not allow yourself to be characterized that way. You don’t want to feed right into his strategy.

Instead, you want for him to feel and express genuine remorse. Otherwise, you will just feel anger and resentment toward him, which certainly doesn’t get you anywhere. So you may want to address this before it gets any worse.

You might try: “well, that doesn’t sound like too much of an apology to me. There is no genuine feeling in that. Instead, I hear a bit of warning that I am to keep discussions about this affair short and sweet. I hear a warning that I am allowed to bring it up only once and very briefly. That is not going to work for me. I don’t plan to repeatedly berate you about this. But we are going to need to discuss it much more than once. I need a lot of information from you and if we are even going to entertain recovery, we are going to have to have some lengthy conversations. The stance that you have chosen almost leads me to believe that you aren’t up for this. I hope that you are just on the defensive right now. Because we don’t appear to be off to a great start. I’d ask you to start being real and to stop posturing. That isn’t going to get us anywhere.”

See if this makes some difference. He may have just needed you to clarify that his strategy of shutting you down before you can criticize him just isn’t going to work. He can’t realistically expect for you to be fine with a quick apology and then a closing down of all future discussions. If you want to fix things after an affair, there is a lot of talking and communication in your future. If he’s trying to shut that down immediately, that’s not a good sign.

But most likely, he is posturing and trying to set the tone. He doesn’t want for you to treat him the way that you treated your father, so he’s trying to protect himself from that in the future.

I certainly had to shut my own husband down when he tried to diminish my reaction and down-play the affair.  He got the message pretty quickly. You can read more on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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