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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