My Husband Is Trying To Downplay His Affair. What Now?

By: Katie Lersch: I often hear from wives who don’t think their husband is taking the repercussions of his affair seriously. This can be extremely frustrating when the wife is taking it so seriously that she can think about nothing else. And when a man doesn’t think that your feelings and your pain are important, this can be almost as hurtful as the affair.

I heard from a wife who said: “my husband admitted to me that he had an affair early on in our marriage. I guess he hoped that because so much time had passed, I wouldn’t be as angry and he wouldn’t be as accountable. But I am angry and he should be accountable. However, every time I want to discuss the affair, he downplays it and acts as if it’s no big deal. He’ll say things like ‘that’s ancient history’ or ‘that relationship meant nothing to me. It wasn’t a big deal. Are you really going to punish me for something that happened years ago and meant nothing?’ This just infuriates me. I don’t care when he had an affair. He still cheated on me and I still deserve answers and remorse from him. How do I handle this? It’s not fair that he can just downplay the affair and I’m supposed to just drop it.”

The wife was absolutely right. This situation was horribly unfair. But nothing said she had to accept her husband’s attitude or the way that he was handling the situation. In the following article, I’ll offer some tips on how to handle it when your husband downplays the cheating or the affair.

Make It Clear That Your Feelings And Your Reactions Aren’t Under His Control: Your husband can posture all he wants. But he shouldn’t (and doesn’t) have control over your feelings. You are entitled to handle this in any manner that you see fit. He may not think the affair was or is a very big deal, but the fact that you believe it is should be all that matters.

Often, his downplaying the affair is at least an initial attempt to manipulate your reaction. He hopes that if he can make the affair seem like some insignificant event in the distant past, then you will gloss over it  more quickly than you might otherwise have. However, if this is not agreeable to you, then you are entitled to give the affair as much attention as you feel it deserves. Your feelings and reactions are not up to him. They are up to you.

How To Handle It When Your Husband Downplays The Affair: As I see it, you have a couple of choices. You can react in a genuine way based on your own perception of the affair. You can be influenced by his posturing and react accordingly, or you could go with some combination of the two.

Regardless of which way you want go, it makes sense to make your feelings very clear to your husband. You might say something like: “I know that you’re saying that the affair happened too long ago to matter and that it really meant nothing to you. But you need to know that no matter whether the affair happened ten years ago or last week, it matters to me. And whether you were madly in love with this woman or only in it for the sex, I still consider it a huge betrayal. It may not have meant much to you, but it means more to me than I can possibly express. If you love me and want to save our marriage, you will understand that this is important to me and you will stop downplaying it. Because if it is important and hurtful to me, then it should be important to you. I need you to take this seriously, starting right now.”

What If Your Husband Still Won’t Take The Affair Seriously?: So what happens if you say the right things and make your position clear and your husband still won’t take all of this seriously? Then you need to decide if you’re going to hold firm or if you’re going to let him pressure you into backing off a little bit. This is a decision that only you can make. But if you can’t even fathom allowing him to just away with this free and clear, then you may say something like “I can see that you’re still not taking this seriously. And that’s your prerogative. But I don’t think we can heal our marriage until you take responsibility and stop downplaying your infidelity. Until you show me that you care enough to make my struggles your own, then I’m going to continue to question your love and your  commitment to me.  That means our marriage will probably continue to deteriorate.  If the roles were reversed, I would be taking full responsibility and I’d be willing to do whatever you needed for me to do to prove my commitment and love for you. But when you don’t take me seriously, I question if you are doing the same for me.”

Then just pause and evaluate his reaction. Often, your heartfelt words will drive home how self centered he has been and he will reevaluate. And sometimes, he needs to see first hand that you are not going to change your mind or make any progress until he lets go of his insistence that this isn’t really a big deal. Because it most definitely is. That’s not to say that you can’t rehabilitate your marriage even when his attitude is not ideal. You most certainly can. But it’s going to be more difficult if he doesn’t take this as seriously as you need him to.

Because of my own very strong reaction, my husband did take the aftermath of the affair seriously, but he still continued to claim the affair meant nothing to him.  Honestly, this assertion didn’t help his cause because it made me wonder what type of person would have sex with someone when no emotional feelings were involved.  So that was one more thing we had to work through.  If it helps you can read the story of our infidelity recovery on my blog at

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