Why Didn’t He Just Leave Me When He Wanted To Cheat?

Sometimes, wives are at a loss as to why their husband cheated while still married to them. They are adamant that if he was unhappy and wanted to be with someone else, they would have given him a divorce. That way, he wouldn’t have needed to lie and to be so deceitful. Of course, this thinking assumes that the husband actually WANTED a divorce. Not all men who cheat have any intention whatsoever of ending their marriage. Actually, many do not. This is what many wives (myself included) have trouble understanding what they are dealing with.

One might say: “now that I have caught my husband cheating on me, I’ve been doing some snooping. This woman was coming onto my husband two years ago. I have an email between them where my husband admits that he ‘is flattered’ by ‘her offer,’ but he insists that while he is married, he can not have another relationship. He insists that this ‘is just not who he is.’ He basically wished the other woman well and told it might be different if he were not married, but he insisted that he WAS married. I suppose that this should theoretically make me feel better, but it doesn’t. Because two years later, she somehow wore him down. The thing is, though, he did not leave me. He did not end his marriage, which is what he insisted would have to happen. In fact, I honestly do not see a huge difference in our marriage two years ago and now. We were happy then and I thought that we were happy now. We were still having regular and good sex. He was still being sweet and thoughtful to me. But I found a hotel receipt and then an email from her saying she’d been fantasizing about being with him for years and now it had FINALLY come true. According to my husband, it only happened once and it just started. He swears that he WASN’T going to leave me, that he still loved me, and that he just made a mistake after having too much to drink. I don’t buy it. He’s been spending more and more time at the office lately, so I think he’s probably been circling her and trying to get up his nerve. I actually think that he probably made the decision for it to happen (or suspected that it might happen) far sooner than it actually did. I don’t buy that it was just an impulsive, one-time thing that was never going to happen again. So I find myself wondering why my husband didn’t just show the integrity I know him to have and then tell me he wanted a divorce before starting a relationship with her. Why not leave me? Of course, now he’s begging me not to leave HIM. But it’s sort of falling on deaf ears. I certainly would rather not lose my marriage, but I feel the same way that my husband claimed to feel – that if you are married, that’s it. You don’t have other relationships. If you want to have one, then you end the marriage and THEN you have the relationship. My husband swears he doesn’t want a relationship with this woman. He only wants a relationship with me. It just doesn’t make sense.”

I totally get your confusion. Your husband’s behavior does not fit with his words and his character. Unfortunately, I know first hand that men who are otherwise good, upstanding human beings can make colossal mistakes such as this one. In fact, the mistake is so catastrophic that we just can not fathom how he’d risk the very marriage he claims that he wants. I can’t pretend to understand the thought process of a man who cheats. I’m a wife who dealt with this. But I can share what I hear from men in this type of situation.

Some of them will tell you with what sounds like complete sincerity that they love their wife and are desperate to save their marriage. They will cut off the affair immediately and not talk to the other woman ever again. Instead, they will spend their time pursuing the wife that they betrayed. Or they will divorce (because the wife insists upon it,) but they will spend a good bit of time regretting their mistake. I truly believe that there ARE some men who cheat who still love their wife and who never intended to end their marriage. Are they attempting to have their cake and eat it too? Yes. Does this excuse them? No. But they fully believe that they love their wives and they typically beg her not to leave.

I know that it doesn’t make sense. And only your husband can tell you what changed in two years (although he himself may not totally understand this.) He may claim that nothing changed when it comes to his feelings for you. Men will often tell you that they cheated at a time in their life when they were off in some way. This might have to do with their jobs. Or with their aging parents. Or with their health. Or with what they perceive as their fading looks or vitality. But many will absolutely insist that it had nothing to do with their wife.

That’s not to say that some cheating men don’t lie to the wives who have caught them. This must be considered also. Your husband’s behaviors going forward will tell you alot about his intentions. However, I’d suggest that some men are telling the truth when they claim they never planned to leave you OR the marriage. This might not be enough and no one could blame you for that. But many men have affairs or one night stands and still very much believe that they love their wife and are invested in their marriage.  I know that this is a huge, unfair contradiction.  But men can often separate the affair and their marriage in a way that some women never could (myself included.)

Counseling might help him to uncover what motivated him to cheat while in a loving marriage and after already rejecting the other woman once.  That would indicate that he had every intention of doing the right thing, until something went wrong.  And that would bolster his claim that he doesn’t want a divorce.   Of course, you get to decide whether the same is true for you.  Recovery after an affair is possible, but not easy.  You can read about some ways that I ultimately accomplished it on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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