Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

The Seduction of Blame

This week, we’ll look at how blame works, or rather how it doesn’t, from the vantage point of an unfaithful male. Our most popular Affair Recovery blogger, Samuel, will walk us through how blame was not only intoxicating but a weapon he used to justify his actions and push away his guilt and shame. It’s a very normal response to infidelity by an unfaithful spouse who has allowed themselves to grow deeper and deeper into deception. As you’ll read, Samuel was finally able to quit blaming his wife for his affair and take responsibility for his actions, which created space not only for healing but for both personal and marital transformation:

Early on, I blamed Samantha for my affair; plain and simple. If only she hadn’t been so rejecting, and if only she wasn’t so unaware of how hard I was working to please her, to provide for the family and to be a good leader, I’d have surely never allowed it to happen. The ‘if only’s’ were not only endless, but enticing to say the least. I was coping with my failure by blaming her and justifying my affair to both myself and to Samantha.

That’s the seduction of blame. It helps to push away the guilt, and serves only to tighten the hold of dysfunction and deception. The longer I blamed Samantha, the more I was able to keep my own vulnerability under lock and key. I didn’t know that at the time, but I now see how it operated and offered me a false sense of peace. You can see how twisted and crooked blame is, because it actually provides the direct opposite of peace for both spouses.

The more I blamed, the more I pushed away the guilt and the remorse. The more I pinned it on her and how she rejected me, the more I was able to stay clear of having to truly own what I had done to her, and give myself to humility and change. My world was spinning out of control and no one could make sense of it for me. I knew I had hurt Samantha, and I knew that I had failed, but it just wasn’t clicking.  Looking back, I can see how I was paralyzed by my juxtaposing desires: to avoid pain and to heal the breech. I wanted to be healthy, and I wanted to help Samantha heal, but what I wanted to do and what was happening were two entirely different things. Everything I tried to do or say just blew up and made her feel worse. I was confused, but felt as if I couldn’t talk about my own pain for fear that I would be making it all about me. I was extremely frustrated, yet I knew I wasn’t right emotionally. There was this perpetual numbness about me in everything I did, said, thought or tried to facilitate. I wasn’t consciously telling myself, “blame Samantha, and that will keep me strong and help me not to crumble.” It was really more of a process of deception over about two years. I just couldn’t see clearly what I had done. I wasn’t healthy enough to really come to my senses without outside help. I was blinded by the blame I hung on Samantha and used that as an excuse to justify why I pursued my affair partner and why I allowed it to go on for so long. For two years I had lived a double life. To think I was simply going to wake up out of it and see clearly right away was even more of a dream world.

Blame is so seductive, so blinding, because we are able to take tiny nuggets of truth and blow them up and deceive ourselves into believing that this is why I had an affair. There was some truth in the blame I was trying to offload my guilt with. Samantha did reject me. She was unkind and was difficult at times. Her libido had basically disappeared; she wasn’t encouraging and didn’t appreciate the things I did for her or the kids. She certainly didn’t appreciate or applaud the success I experienced in work or ministry. (She owns all of this by the way.) It seemed I was successful everywhere but inside my own home. At home it was as if I was the fourth child, continuing to get on her nerves, never feeling good enough or affirmed.

Though these are hard truths that she has owned, they in no way excuse me having an affair. I made that choice all on my own in a state of complete self-centeredness.

My deception seemed to empower me, which only reinforced how deep the deception and confusion was internally. I felt justified in my anger for what I had experienced, yet wasn’t in touch nearly as much with guilt as I was with justification. I was in a dark place emotionally, mentally and spiritually and literally saw no way out.

Upon relocating to Texas for help, we were directed to a counselor who was rumored to be one of the best marriage counselors in Austin. We walked in, shared our story which took about 40 minutes or so, and sat and waited for his response. He was clearly dumbfounded. He had no clue what had just walked into his office and his reaction was hard to hide. He quietly asked if Samantha was OK and if she was in any danger emotionally or physically. He asked a few more questions, and said our time was up. We were stunned at how awkward the time was and wondered what we would do next.

To both our chagrin and amazement, the next day the counselor called and said he could not work with us and that we were “out of his league.” He also noted that this was one of the worst situations he had ever encountered and wanted to send us to someone else. Samantha and I immediately felt a new wave of hopelessness and shock hit us, that we were one of the ‘worst situations’ he had ever seen. Little did we know he would be sending us exactly where we needed to be, with Rick Reynolds and Affair Recovery.

Slowly but surely the walls came down and my blaming Samantha didn’t work anymore. We had found someone who had been right where I was. The relief I felt after the very first meeting with Rick is hard to explain, but for once, we both felt understood, validated and affirmed.  I asked Samantha after our first meeting with Rick how she felt. She cried while she said for the first time since D Day (which was about 3 months earlier), that she felt hope and felt safe. That was good enough for me.

Essentially, until a betrayed spouse feels the unfaithful spouse is willing to accept responsibility for their affair (without any justifications), they won’t be able to get past the initial pain of the infidelity enough to see into their own missteps along the way. Blaming your spouse for your actions assumes no responsibility for your behavior and furthermore, causes the betrayed spouse to remain stuck in their pain. They feel further violated by any unwillingness on your part (the unfaithful spouse) to admit that your behavior is purely your responsibility. While the actions or indifference of a betrayed spouse may have made them vulnerable to an affair, it surely does not in any way serve as justification to go outside the marriage to fulfill one’s needs. Chances are you were both failing each other in some way and only one of you had as affair. A major culprit in recovery will always be a refusal to take responsibility for our actions, only adding to the time a betrayed spouse needs to heal, forgive and reconnect. The pathway to healing is one where both parties take responsibility for their actions, however the unfaithful must exercise humility and grasp that their actions were a result of choices made completely void of love, not the result off anything their spouse may have done.  

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Comments

I was different

I have never, ever ONCE blamed my spouse on my infidelity. I knew it was wrong, I knew it was all my fault but I just kept going. How horrible and selfish of me.

Good for you

How wonderful of you to OWN it- I hope that you and your true love are healing!!

Rick, this was another OUTSTANDING article everyone should read

God has given you a wonderful platform to share your thoughts.

God bless,
Jerry

This was a very good article.

This was a very good article. I would guess most unfaithful spouses have affairs for very similar reasons. However, I would like to see some articles that address a situation where one spouse is sick, has some health reason they cannot be sexual with their spouse and the spouse chooses to be unfaithful. In this situation the betrayed spouse did nothing wrong, other than to get sick, which they had no control of. How do you heal after something like that?

I also feel I have a

I also feel I have a different story. My husband don't blame me for his affair, he has just found a more suitable help mate for him. Is this a form of blame? Of course I say a lot of "if only s" for myself.

You are not alone...

Kathy,

This may not help answer your question, but you are not alone. My mother, who works as a CNA at a local hospital, and is an older wiser person, tells me that OFTEN -- MANY times she has seen or heard of spousal abandonment (including through exit affairs) because one or the other of the spouses became sick. She says she has seen and heard of even terminally ill patients having their spouse just leave them all alone in their terrible pain and bewilderment. People can be so cruel to one another. Self-pity is a vehicle whereby many justifications are made, and patently used. "This is My commandment (Yeshua/Jesus's) that ye love one another," takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to facing infidelity and abandonment.

In a way, though this is the height of cruelty to justify an affair when your spouse is sick, at least you can rest in knowing you did nothing to "cause" the affair, whereas those who had some blame in marital breakdown -- can be ill-used repeatedly that they are to blame for the affair, because there was a breakdown of communication or happiness beforehand, because they were part contributors to that.

This article is good that it addresses how the betraying spouse hinders what they would like to see happen by "blame" for a wrongful, injurious act (or lifestyle) that is essentially outside the box of the marriage altogether. It is unfair to blame the spouse for your decision to go outside the marriage, period. There is nothing a person CAN do to deserve infidelity, whether sick or not. They can have problems in their marriage due to lack of libido (or ability to perform) or misunderstandings in communication, but this does not warrant infidelity. The only thing that does warrant infidelity is infidelity itself, but even with this -- seeking revenge will NOT have any kind of desired effect. I am a Bible believer so I hear all kinds of quotes coming up as I write. Like vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, I will repay.

Most of us don't desire vengeance, only healing, but blame can hurt so badly that we are tempted to want to do "something" to get even. To find that not only was this shocking, heinous, crime committed against us, but now we are being "blamed" for it, can make a normally, fairly, nice person feel quite mean. I believe this is clearly why divorce was allowed, but even that causes great pain.

It is necessary therefore, for healing of both parties, for the unfaithful to take responsibility (not give lip service to it only) for originating the tearing apart of the marital fabric through the breech of infidelity -- which is equal to nothing else the injured spouse could have done or had happen to them, or their health.

Some betraying spouses might even be able to "formulate" a "blame" against their injured spouse for "becoming" sick, for "choosing" to become sick. But remember that this is a formulation, not the truth. I believe this is a terrible travesty what this kind of betraying spouse does in their mind, not only to others, but even to themselves. The longer they hold onto it being someone else's fault for their committing the crime of adultery, the longer it hurts even themselves and keeps them spiritually stagnant, and unable to truly love.

All unfaithful spouses need to come to grips with the fact that they have broken a sacred trust, a covenant, and are guilty, and that no one "made" them do anything. This is the only way they can healthily relate to anyone down the road, so it is to their benefit, and will speed up the healing process for both parties, as well as the desired reconciliation and rekindling of love in the marriage (if the injured spouse is willing to work on restoration). It works.

What doesn't work, and I know from my own experience is for the injured spouse to "cleanse" themselves of all guilt, by much confession and sorrow, and to take on the guilt of being to blame for their spouse betraying them as well. There is something so inherently wrong about this that the injured spouse simply cannot heal. And the injured spouse not healing (being locked into pain) in turn frustrates the unfaithful spouse who thinks they are being unfairly punished forever for their little "mistake", so that the unfaithful one becomes locked into their self-deception. Things are not yet "equal". The only way matters can become equal between the spouses is for the unfaithful to come to grips with their decision to commit the sin of adultery, the crime of infidelity, and to know that cheating is called cheating because it IS unfair. Self-deception is a tremendously terrible state of mind, and sets a person up for sorrow down the road. Not only might the marriage they are in not survive, but it can effect future relations as well. And it is entirely possible if they do not come to grips with the state of self-deception that they will "burn" the current marital partner completely through blame, start a new marriage, and have the same pattern of "blame" keep them from ever becoming a fully intimate, emotionally responsible, and vulnerable, mate.

I state this from the point of view of having been on both sides of this coin. Speaking to the infidel, the unfaithful spouse, I would say: Blaming others for what sins you decide to do against them, just doesn't work because you are actually sinning against yourself as well. Blaming others hinders your relationship with God, as well. Take responsibility, start imagining how YOU could have made better choices all along the way, and let yourself off the hook through taking responsibility! Use this occasion to grow. Don't take the pattern into a subsequent relationship, thinking it was all someone else's fault, or you may end up making your new spouse "vulnerable" through your thoughtlessness, or find yourself walking down a repeating cheating path with many regrets. Get free through admission, and sorrow to change. Be grateful (if this is your case) that you still have a mate (though very injured) that still loves you enough to hope for healing, and help him or her heal!

I appreciate this insightful article, Samuel. Thank you. You are a man blessed, and courageous in turn to assist in this way. Thank you also, Rick, for the idea & platform, likewise are you blessed and courageous. Admitting wrong-doing is not easy, but essential.

Thank you

That was me for a much longer period of time. I am thankful my husband stuck with me during the lengthy time that I remained stuck in blame.

This article has affirmed

This article has affirmed that our path to recovery is on track and there is tremendous hope. Thank you.

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