Why Do I Feel So Guilty For Cheating On A Spouse Who Deserves It?

By: Katie Lersch: There is an assumption that people who cheat don’t feel all that guilty about it. After all, if there was any guilt, they probably wouldn’t cheat in the first place. If it helps, I can clarify that I hear from some of these folks and I can tell you that many of them feel so guilty that they are looking for tips on how to manage the feelings – which are negatively affecting their lives. Many of them wonder why they feel so guilty. Because some of them feel at least somewhat justified in cheating. They feel that their spouse wasn’t holding up their end of the bargain or was acting in such a way that he (or she) deserved the betrayal.

A wife might say: “quite honestly, for the last five years, my husband has been horrible to me. He is not supportive. When I lost my job, instead of comforting me and telling me that he would pick up the slack, he encouraged me to take any job that paid right away. As a result, I’m very unhappy in my dead end job but he never seems to care. After I lost a pregnancy, I caught him chatting with people online rather than supporting me. His excuse is that he was only flirting with these people, but that he would never meet them face to face. He doesn’t show me the compassion and care that most people show for their spouse. I often feel ignored. So yes, I did cheat with a man at my dead end job. I honestly think that this was a coping mechanism. And I didn’t expect to feel guilty about it because my husband is so awful, that I don’t see how he could ever expect my loyalty. The thing is, I do feel guilty. Awfully guilty. Every time I lie to my husband or every time I come home late from being with the other guy and he is sitting at home where he should be, I feel just horrible about it. And I do not understand why this is. He deserves any bad behavior that comes his way after the way that he has treated me. So why do I feel so badly about it?”

I can only speculate, but I certainly have a theory. After my own husband’s affair, I was so awful to him. I never cheated in retaliation. Frankly, I didn’t want anything to do with the opposite sex whatsoever at that point. But I was extremely sarcastic and critical. I had no problem calling him awful names and attacking him personally. And I would sometimes get finished berating him and I would go in my room and cry.

I didn’t understand why “getting it all out” didn’t make me feel better and instead made me feel worse. This went on for a while until it dawned on me why I was feeling so badly. I was conducting myself in a way that was not in alignment with the type of person that I considered myself to be. I was stooping to a level that I never wanted to visit.

Did my husband deserve my unkindness? Absolutely. But honestly, that did not make my behavior right. I had a recent experience that further proves my point. My family was on vacation and this sour, nasty, mean woman actually butted my child in line. She literally pushed him out of her way and said something that I can’t even repeat here. I tried to approach the situation calmly, asking her what the problem seemed to be. Well, the only way I can accurately describe her response is to say that she went off – screaming and yelling obscenities. I wish I could tell you that I took the high road. But I did not. I was so shocked and angry that she would act this way at a family outing with children around that I yelled right back. One look at my family’s shocked faces stopped me, and I eventually muttered “clearly, you have bigger problems than this family outing.” And I walked away in a huff.

But I found myself crying after that incident, too. And I believe the reason is that I knew that I had stooped to her level and this is not the kind of person I want to be. I was matching her very bad behavior with behavior that is very bad for me. I want to be in control of my actions. I do not want to model this kind of behavior to my family. I let myself down. Even though I was justified.

I suspect you are going through the same thing. You know that your husband’s behavior makes your cheating somewhat understandable. But, you still know that it is wrong. You still know that you have broken a promise to yourself and to your spouse. Because quite honestly, there really isn’t justification for cheating.  So, you know that, in a way, you’ve let yourself down because this is not the kind of person you want to be.

With all of this said, what is done is done. You can’t change it. You can only make it right at this point. And ultimately, what you decide to do with your marriage is up to you. But I suggest that you deal with your marriage rather than retaliate because of it – even if your husband’s behavior is so bad that you would be justified if you didn’t.

Why? Because if you conduct yourself in a way that is different from your own life standards and ideals, you know it in your gut. And you will take that regret and that sorrow into your next relationship or into your marriage if you choose to save it. And life is too short for that, especially when you are having such strong feelings of guilt.

After a while of being deplorable to my husband after his affair, I realized that in order to really heal, I needed to act like the mature adult that I knew myself to be.  This required me to take the high road, but I always felt at peace with that.  I always felt worse when I conducted myself badly and better when I conducted myself well. You can read more on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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