My Husband Said He Had An Affair Due To Loneliness. How Is This A Valid Excuse?

By: Katie Lersch: I sometimes hear from wives who are struggling with the reasoning or the justification that their husband has provided for having an affair. One example of this is that of loneliness.

A confused wife might tell this story: “for several weeks, my husband could not give me a straight answer when I demanded to know why he would have an affair – especially regarding the person he cheated on me with. I know that I am going to sound mean and spiteful when I say this. But the other woman is ugly. No, that’s not even accurate. She is absolutely hideous. She doesn’t even try to look good. She’s overweight and she wears clothes that are way too tight. She looks like a sausage coming out of the casing. I guess she thinks she looks good or she is showing off her body. But it is not a good look. Anyway, I do not get it. I am much more attractive than her. And I am a good wife. So I would ask my husband to please explain this to me because I just did not understand. He would give me stupid vague answers like ‘well why do men cheat? I guess I am no different.’ I never bought this, so I kept at him. And one day I guess he got irritated with the questions and he blurted out: ‘I cheated because I was lonely, OK? I cheated because I was so lonely that I just could not stand it. No one ever listens to me or cares what I am feeling. The other woman may not be all that much to look at, but she is the best listener that I have ever known. I could tell her anything.’ Now, nothing he could have said could have shocked me more. I was bracing myself for him to tell me that sex with her was off the charts. But no, instead he’s telling me that he’s wildly attracted to her listening skills. None of this makes any sense. I talk to and listen to my husband all of the time. He is surrounded by people he has known his whole life at his work. My kids are very close to him and they all gather together in the evenings to watch sports together. He has an entire church community that loves him. My husband is not a loner. He has plenty of friends. He is constantly expressing himself. Lonely? That one just takes the cake. How is this a valid excuse by a man who is always around people who love and care about him?”

I have to be clear when I say that I don’t condone any excuse for cheating. And I really don’t care what it is. But the whole “lonely” explanation actually comes up quite a lot. I hear from a lot of men who use it. And I don’t believe that they mean the word lonely in the way that you might assume.

As I understand it, they don’t mean that they don’t have anyone to listen to and sympathize with them. What they mean is that they don’t always feel understood – and frankly, this is sometimes no one’s fault but their’s. They can begin to feel like no one sees the real person outside of the persona. They perceive that no one knows who they truly are on the inside.  You know the saying “you can feel lonely in a room full of people,”  well, that saying applies here.

I don’t know if you’ve read any of the data about how much social media affects our society and actually leaves us feeling quite lonely even though, on the surface it appears to connect us. Sure, we may have a lot of facebook “friends” but allowing us to communicate by “liking” something or by tweeting a limited number of characters is quite limiting in terms of feeling connected.

And this extends outside of our facebook friends. We are drastically changing our level of connectedness as a whole. As a society, we do not deeply connect in the way that people did before there was email, social media and texts. People used to have knock on one another’s doors, sit on one another’s porches and really talk. We don’t have that today. And we feel this void.

Sometimes, I think that people assume that women feel this void more deeply than men. But over and over, I see that this is not the case. Men want to feel seen, heard and appreciated just as much. I’m particularly fascinated by the work of Gary Neuman, the marriage counselor who was often on the Oprah Winfrey show who insists that according to his research, the top reason that men cheat is for emotional reasons instead of sexual ones.

I am not in any way saying that your husband was justified in feeling any of these things. It is not your fault that he didn’t take advantage of your presence when he felt the need to connect. The fact is that many of us can feel really lonely, but frankly, this is partly our fault when we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable and we don’t seek out the connection that we say that we want.

In healing, I’d suspect that your husband would want to address this. But he’s probably not telling you that he doesn’t have family, friends or loved ones. He’s likely telling you that he’s stop reaching out and therefore he doesn’t feel seen and understood. This isn’t your fault. And it doesn’t justify his cheating. But it might at least give you a starting point.

As I alluded to, in our society today, we have to be very proactive of establishing connections.  This doesn’t happen on its own anymore.  Even in families.  Even in marriages.  I try to be very aware of this in my own work on my marriage. You’re welcome to read more about my experience on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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