My Husband Says He Feels Guilt Over His Affair, But No Remorse. He Says There Is A Big Difference

By: Katie Lersch:  Most every wife I know (or have known) who is dealing with a cheating husband wants him to feel both remorse and guilt.  The wives want these emotions because they feel that he deserves to feel badly and they hope that these emotions mean that he might think twice about cheating again.

However, it is often like pulling teeth to get a man to admit to feeling these emotions.  People who have affairs often feel a need to justify them.  So you may get him to admit a few things, but he will often stop short of claiming every emotion that you would like for him to feel.

An example is the husband who might admit to feeling guilt, but who insists that he has no remorse.  Here is what I mean.  A woman might say: “It has honestly taken me about three weeks to get my husband to admit to feeling any guilt at all about having an affair.  This blows my mind.  There are times when I just can not believe it.  How can you not feel completely crushed by the knowledge that you did this horrible thing to your spouse?  Anyway, my husband will finally admit that he DOES feel guilty because he understands that cheating in general is a pretty deplorable thing to do.  But when I press him on whether he feels remorse, he says that he does not.  I ask him how you can feel guilt and not remorse, since they are emotions that seem to go hand-in-hand and are so closely related.  He says that the emotions are very different.  He say that he theoretically knows that cheating is wrong – thus the guilt.  But he also says that the relationship did offer him some things that he needed at the time.  And he said that in its own way, the affair was a special relationship that he would not have wanted to pass up.  He says that even though it is most definitely over, it changed him for the better in some ways.  What am I supposed to do with this? He claims that he wants to save our marriage, but without him feeling remorse and regret, I’m not sure how we are ever going to make it.  Is it even possible?”

Understand That His Thinking Is Very Flawed.  But It Also May Change: I think that saving the marriage is possible – at least eventually.  I think that your husband might have to make some progress in his thinking, but I also know that his thought process is extremely common and possibly could change.

Here is why.  As I alluded to earlier in this article, people who have affairs need a life raft in their thinking.  In order to not just feel complete self-hatred and devastation, they need to be able to justify their actions – at least in their own minds.  They need to believe that their mistake was worth the risk.  Otherwise, their behavior would be crazy and self destructive.  And no one wants to think this way about themselves.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that your husband is a bad or selfish person.  It just means that he’s desperately trying to make himself feel like not-so-bad-of-a-guy right now, while trying to make the decision seem to make some bit of sense on some level.

The good news is that eventually, the person who had the affair will often face reality.  They will see the error in their thinking.  Once the affair is no longer fresh and they are no longer actively participating in it, they are more able to step back and see it objectively.  In the beginning, they can be too wrapped up in trying to protect or defend themselves in order to have this objectivity.  And I need to be clear.  I think that this objectivity, this facing of reality, and the remorse should eventually come in order for him to have the mind-set that he needs to have for marriage-saving.  But I also know that many people do not have it initially.

Can You Force Remorse On Him?:  I’ve seen many wives try to shame, guilt, or force their husbands to feel great remorse – so much so that it’s almost like they want their husbands to feel as if he is the worst spouse / person to walk the face of the earth.  I’m not necessarily knocking this approach.  I tried it myself, which is part of the reason I know that it’s not likely to be successful.  Most of the time, it will only reinforce his desire to hold onto his justification.

I have come to believe that you are better off standing your ground, but with some plan in the back of your mind.  I think it’s normal and OK to make it clear that you are disappointed and angry, as anyone would be.  But you also want to conduct yourself with grace and focus on your own healing.  Because if you conduct yourself in a way that is above reproach, he has less motivation to try to defend or justify himself and he will eventually need to let down his baggage and just see that he was completely in the wrong and should now be deeply sorry.  He may not see this immediately.  And he may not always make a big announcement about it, but this realization often does come in time.

My husband did try to do some minor posturing in the beginning.  But I just repeated my assertions that I didn’t buy his reasoning and then I distracted myself with other things (because I had plenty to worry about.) I felt pretty sure that deep down, he knew how wrong he was and was going to be deeply sorry for the same.  I ended up being right about this.  But the full brunt of it did not hit my husband instantly or immediately.  It did come, though.  You can read more about that on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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