The “It Just Happened” Excuse For Cheating: What Can You Do If You Just Don’t Buy It?

By: Katie Lersch: In a perfect world, your spouse would take absolute responsibility for his cheating – no matter how it happened. This is true whether the spouse planned out the cheating or not. Unfortunately though, many spouses believe that their offense isn’t as bad if they never planned to cheat.  In other words, they think that the lack of premeditation makes a difference. And many of them don’t understand that their lack of planning doesn’t negate their act.

For example, I might hear from a wife who says: “I don’t doubt that my husband is sorry for cheating. I know that he wishes that it had never happened. I know that he worries about what is going to become of our family. But he stops short of taking complete responsibility for it. He keeps repeating that he isn’t a bad guy because the cheating ‘just happened.’ He says that he didn’t care a thing about the other woman and that it was not going to be a long term affair. My husband is a pilot. Because of bad weather, he got stuck in a destination and could not get out. Also, there wasn’t enough rooms, so the crew had to share. He ended up having to share a room with another pilot – but this pilot was a woman. Apparently, one thing lead to another and they had a one night stand. My husband said he doesn’t even find this woman attractive and will stay away from her. He says he’s never cheated before and never will again. And he feels that because it ‘just happened,’ mostly because of experiences outside of his control, I should give him a bit of a pass. Quite frankly, I could care less how it happened. I don’t care if he planned it or intended for it to happen or not. It doesn’t matter to me in the least. What matters is that it did happen and now I hate that my husband’s job takes him away on overnight trips because I feel like I can not trust him. And I wish that he would take more responsibility. Because until he does, I have doubts about him and I’m not sure if I even want to keep fighting for my marriage. What do you think of the ‘it just happened excuse?'”

I have to say that I agree with this wife. Because frankly, as any point, the cheating spouse can stop the act. Yes, they might find themselves in a compromised position that they did not intend. But there is always the opportunity to stop and say “I’m sorry. This is wrong and I need to stop and remove myself from this situation.” It is a choice to continue on with the act and to actually cheat on your spouse. No, this husband could not control the storm and the circumstances. These things were not his fault. But it was his fault that he chose to act on those circumstances and cheat on his wife. And, he is not doing himself any favors by depending on this lame excuse.

Because the truth is, whether he intended to cheat or not, he did. And his cheating is going to potentially damage your marriage in the same way it would have even if it was a long term affair where he had chance after chance to stop but didn’t. The trust is still damaged. The pain is still there. The betrayal still hovers.

Sometimes, a man will figure this out all on his own when it becomes obvious that his excuse is not going to fly. And sometimes, you are going to have to address this and spell it out. You might consider saying something like: “It seems pretty obvious that you seem to think that the circumstances of this negate your blame and your responsibility. That’s not correct. I know that the storm and the accommodations weren’t your fault. But the fact that you cheated is your fault. You could have stopped it at any point. But you did not. And regardless, I am still struggling with the knowledge that my husband has cheated on me.  I still struggle with the fact that the trust in my marriage is potentially shattered. In order for our marriage to make it, we need to rebuild. And in order for me to even want to rebuild, I’m going to need for you to take full responsibility instead of you giving me excuses. Because whether you believe your excuse or not, it only delays our progress. No matter how many times you explain it, the truth is, it still comes back to the same thing. You betrayed me. You slept with someone else – whether you expected it or not. We need to work through this, but we can’t start the process until you drop the excuses.”

The good news is that most people do eventually abandon these lame excuses once they see that you are not going to fall for them. Just stick to your convictions and make it clear that your opinion is not going to change, no matter how many times he repeats his excuse.

I had to use this same technique in my own situation.  At first my husband clung to the fact that he was in a strange place and far from home when he cheated.  So what?  It didn’t matter and it still doesn’t.  Eventually he came to understand this and we were able to move forward.  You’re welcome to read more on my blog at

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